Fort Casey throws a party: Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Big Guns in Washington

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August 1, 2018

Want to know what happens when you try to buy two vintage 125-ton guns and ship them across the Pacific?

The staff and friends of Fort Casey Historical State Park can’t wait to share the extraordinary and captivating tale of the Big Guns with you!

So, round up the kids or your favorite military history buff, pack a flashlight (for exploring) and block out the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 11. Make a day or a weekend of it on beautiful Whidbey Island, and celebrate the historic 50th anniversary of the Big Guns arrival at Fort Casey.  

Beginning at 1:30 p.m., the Army National Guard Band kicks off the ceremony with rousing music, and the volunteer Ninth Artillery will do a Presentation of Colors. Elected officials, community members and Washington State Parks leaders will speak, and a panel of experts who helped bring the guns to Fort Casey will share their stories from 50 years ago.

After the formal rededication, volunteers will demonstrate how the guns worked and the types of communications processes used before firing them.

Refreshments will be served, and you can tour the batteries and interpretive displays on your own.

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The story behind the Big Guns at Fort Casey is one of persistence, luck and a lot of elbow grease. Take a peek into the past — and present — at Fort Casey and ignite your curiosity with these historic and recent photos of the Big Guns’ incredible journey!

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Disappearing guns are designed to fire and recoil behind their concrete emplacements. They were the height of military technology in the early 1900s.

The current 10-inch disappearing guns at Fort Casey are the only two of their kind in the United States. They are among four left in the world. A pair of guns of the same make and vintage (late 1800s) lived at the fort from 1902 to 1942, but were scrapped for metal during World War II. State Parks brought the current guns over from Fort Wint in the Philippines to help interpret the history of Fort Casey and the U.S. Coastal Defense system.   

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After Fort Casey became a state park in 1956, a tip revealed that two 10-inch disappearing guns still existed at Fort Wint in the Philippines. The effort to bring them to Fort Casey took more than a decade and cost $30,000. Some parts were hauled by mules from Fort Wint to the loading dock on Subic Bay. The above photo shows one gun barrel being placed on a barge at the Duwamish waterway for transport to the Bremerton shipyard in June 1968. Photo: Washington State Parks Collection.

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During the passage from the Philippines to Washington, a freak storm at sea caused the cargo ship San Francisco to roll 40 degrees. One of the 33-ton gun barrels broke loose, flew across the deck and wound up dangling over the side of the ship.  This photo shows it strapped in and arriving safely in Bremerton in June 1968. Photo: Washington State Parks Collection.  

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There was no instruction manual for disassembling and reassembling the weapons. Some parts were assembled in Bremerton, while others were put back together at the park. In this photo, workers emplace the guns at Fort Casey in July 1968. Photo: Washington State Parks Collection.

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The Aug. 11, 1968 dedication at Fort Casey State Park, shown above, took place with great fanfare. Dignitaries, military officials, industry captains and the public all attended the ceremony. The 50th anniversary rededication will follow that program, with a few modern twists. Photo: Washington State Parks Collection.

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Fort Casey is known for its scenic beauty and recreation as well as its historical significance. Views of Mount Rainier and the Olympic Mountains astound visitors on clear days. Photo: Washington State Parks Collection.

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There is much more to explore!

Don’t stop exploring after the Big Guns’ ceremony. Fort Casey and Whidbey Island have a great deal to offer. Go to the beach, unpack a picnic, take a hike and tour the Admiralty Head Lighthouse. Or take a trip to Fort Ebey State Park to round out your experience of Puget Sound military forts. Stop off at Joseph Whidbey State Park for the sunset or South Whidbey State Park for a walk in the woods.

Do you have a favorite memory of Fort Casey Historical State Park? 
Share your story here.

Feature photo: Present view of the Big Guns at Fort Casey with Mount Rainier in the distance. Washington State Parks Collection