Historic defense system built to protect Puget Sound becomes instant white elephant | KNKX

Historic defense system built to protect Puget Sound becomes instant white elephant

Dec 7, 2019


In the late 1800s, the U.S. government constructed three state-of-the-art defense systems: Fort Casey on Whidbey Island, Fort Flagler on Marrowstone Island and Fort Worden in nearby Port Townsend. They were built to thwart possible intruders from entering Puget Sound.


“The three of them in combination form this triangle, which has come to be called the triangle of fire,” said Sam Wotipka, who works for Washington State Parks.


If you are in a boat on the water and you pass by these forts, you will not see any signs of artillery. The 600-pound metal shells were out of view, as were the guns that sent them through the air at over 1,500 mph.


Everything was stored in concrete bunkers. The side of the fortifications that faces the water is covered in earth and grass. From a distance, it looks like any other green hillside.



Construction of Fort Casey started in 1897. The structure became obsolete around the time of its completion in 1901 with the invention of airplanes and accurate weaponry on battleships.
Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX


But when these structures were built, some amazing things were happening in other parts of the world. The Wright Brothers were testing their new flying invention, and more powerful guns were being developed that could be mounted onto ships.


“What we’ve arrived at is really the story of technology and how change can happen very rapidly and make huge investments suddenly obsolete,” Wotipka said.


In the end, these defense systems never took part in any battles. Instead, they were used as training facilities for soldiers and as sets for movies. The film, "An Officer and a Gentleman," was filmed at Fort Worden.


Today, these forts are state parks. Instead of holding shells and artillery, the dark rooms of the concrete bunkers are visited by everyone from hikers and musicians to kids playing flashlight tag. 



One of the Fort Casey disappearing guns overlooking the gateway to Puget Sound.
Credit Parker Miles Blohm / KNKX