During the Spanish-American War of 1898, East Point was used by the Massachusetts Militia as a headquarters and signal station for coastal defense. It was used again during World War One as an experimental station for electronic devices and systems, the most important device being the underwater submarine sound detector. The devices invented at East Point were manufactured at the nearby Lynn General Electric Plant, and when issued and used by Allied Navies were able to detect the German submarines to be dealt with by destroyers and patrol boats. East Point also had a powerful searchlight on Senator Lodge’s estate but it was removed immediately after Armistice Day.
In 1940, East Point had been selected by military engineers and strategists to house the most powerful coastal defense weaponry then in existence. Construction began in 1942 to create powerful gun batteries, observation towers and electronic surveillance systems. Mobile guns were brought to the site and were constantly manned in the event enemy submarines attempted to gain access to the Port of Boston. Constructed during World War II, Battery 104 (John. B. Murphy) contained two massive 16-inch guns capable of hurtling a high-explosive projectile weighing over one ton a distance of 25 miles. The guns were protected by massive reinforced concrete gun rooms and were connected by a tunnel. On the ceiling of the tunnel were overhead rails, or trolleys, to deliver ammunition from the chambers to the gun rooms. Off the tunnel were chambers containing projectiles, gun powder, storage, and a complete diesel-electric power plant. When completed, the guns were each fired four times for calibration.
The Plotting Room for Battery 104 is located behind the Edwards Building. In this underground, gas-proofed, reinforced concrete structure were the means to track, compute and issue firing data to damage or destroy a targeted enemy vessel. Telephones to ten of the observation towers along the Massachusetts coast fed data into the Plotting Room, and a crew of 35 men computed location and the estimated position of the target, wind velocity and wind direction along with many other factors. The resultant computations were fed to the 16-inch gun crews and the guns were trained, elevated and fired accordingly.
Located to the seaward side of the site is Battery Number 206. This was a two-gun battery with the guns in protected armored turrets. The guns were mounted on the exterior of the underground emplacement and were 6-inch caliber. Battery 206, when completed in 1944, became the important “Examination Battery” for Boston Harbor, meaning that every vessel to enter the Port of Boston was under scrutiny of the constantly manned gun battery.
In 1942, the United States Navy constructed two concrete structures built into the cliffs at East Point. One station was used for observation and contained electronic apparatus to detect subaqueous craft attempting penetration of Boston Harbor. In addition to electronic devices, magnetic loops were placed on the seabed running from the station many miles out to sea and coordinating with a similar naval station at Strawberry Point in Scituate. Prior to the station being activated in June 1942, the German submarine U-87 sat a few miles off Nahant observing the shipping traffic. Its location may have indicated that it was almost on top of the magnetic loop system, but it had not been activated.
During the Korean War, four radar-guided 90-mm rapid-fire antiaircraft guns were located in the field between Battery 104 and the tip of East Point, though these were replaced when the Nike-Ajax missile system came into operation at Nahant in 1955. The underground facility at East Point contained three underground missile storage magazines with three above-ground launcher units. The facility had new quarters constructed, a building that is now the original portion of the Edwards building. The missile battery was operational from 1955 through 1961. The missiles at Nahant were not nuclear tipped, nor were they ever fired.
Special thanks to Gerald W. Butler, Captain, Massachusetts State Guard, Retired