Goroskop Maia 2012
Guardian of the Metropolis

Since Colonial times, New York has been one of America’s most prosperous port cities. At times of crisis it has seemed a ripe military target. Between 1891 and 1906 and again from 1954 to 1961, Davids Island hosted defenses that helped to guard the city.


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Fort Slocum’s fortifications were just one component of the extensive defensive systems protecting New York City. The Navy, joined by the Air Force in the 20th century, provided a distant curtain to keep threats far away. Fortifications around the city, including those on Davids Island, were the city’s final bulwark against military threats.


Coastal Defense Fortifications

Fort Slocum’s late 19th-century fortifications were part of the Army’s ring of coastal artillery batteries encircling New York City. These batteries defended against attack by an enemy navy.

Historical locations of defense works, fortifications and related features at Fort Slocum.

Until the 1890s there were no heavy artillery emplacements on Davids Island. The post had only a few field artillery pieces for training and ceremony. Field artillery was light, maneuverable weaponry designed to be shifted from place to place as a battle unfolded. It was generally used against masses of troops and temporary fortifications.


The artillery emplacements built at Fort Slocum between 1891 and 1904 were something else entirely. These emplacements had large, heavy weapons to use against ships. Once installed, these artillery pieces could not be moved easily from their carefully prepared positions.

Air Defense Installation

In the mid-20th century the Army again built defenses at Fort Slocum. The new facility was a Nike Ajax antiaircraft missile battery, which jointly occupied parts of Davids Island and neighboring Hart Island.

The Nike missile system was designed to counter Soviet bombers armed with either conventional or atomic weapons. Fort Slocum was one of a ring of missile batteries built in the suburbs around New York City in the 1950s.

Quick Deactivation

Both times the Army built defenses at Fort Slocum, they quickly became outmoded. Rapid advances in weaponry and changes in defensive strategies left them out of date or unnecessary, and the Army withdrew them from active service just a few years after completing them.

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The above map was created with Google Earth.
The associated .kml files are available for download here.



Being down on that one corner of the island and the nature of our mission, we didn’t mingle too much with the folks at the rest of the island. We always considered ourselves to be different from the schools and things that were going on at the rest of the island. We were a kind of combat-ready outfit, just by the nature of the missile battery. And it might have been a little bit of pride, too. You know, we might have thought of ourselves as a little more than just information school students or that sort of thing.”

—Former Spec. 4 Rich Lowery, radar technician, Nike Missile Battery NY-15, Fort Slocum, 1959-1961

(interviewed 2007)