Battery Steele (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Battery Construction #102) is a United States military fortification on Peaks Island, Portland, Maine in Casco Bay. Completed in 1942 as part of World War II, it is located on 14 acres (5.7 ha) on the oceanside area of the island, formerly part of the Peaks Island Military Reservation. It is named for Harry L. Steele, who was a Coast Artillery officer during World War I. It was armed with two 16-inch MkIIMI guns and, with a 12-inch gun battery at Fort Levett on Cushing Island, replaced all previous heavy guns in the Harbor Defenses of Portland. It was built to protect Casco Bay, particularly Portland harbor, from Kennebunk to Popham Beach in Phippsburg. According to Kim MacIsaac and historian Joel Eastman in An Island at War, “Battery Steele is not only the largest gun battery built on Peaks Island, but also an example of the largest battery ever built anywhere in the United States.” In 1995, after decades of non-use, the Peaks Island Land Preserve, a community land preservation group, formed to purchase the area and forever preserve it as a public space. On October 20, 2005, the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Other coast defense structures on the island include fire control towers and the counterweight for a disappearing searchlight tower (it "disappeared" when folded down).
|Part of Harbor Defenses of Portland|
|Peaks Island, Maine|
|Location||Peaks Island, Portland, Maine|
|Architect||U.S. Army Corps of Engineers|
|NRHP reference No.||82000745|
|Added to NRHP||October 20, 2005|
|Built by||U.S. Army Corps of Engineers|
|Materials||Reinforced concrete, earth|
|Battles/wars||World War II|
|Garrison||Harbor Defenses of Portland|
Battery Steele was part of a comprehensive program begun in 1940 to replace obsolete coast defenses, many of which dated from the Endicott Program of 1885-1905. In the Harbor Defenses of Portland, the only large-caliber (8-inch or larger) pre-war battery still in use by 1944 was Battery Foote at Fort Levett, Cushing Island, casemated like Battery Steele to resist air attack and armed with two 12-inch guns on long-range carriages. Another two-gun 16-inch battery, Battery Construction Number (BCN) 101, was planned for the Cape Elizabeth Military Reservation near Two Lights State Park, but was cancelled as the threat to the US East Coast from surface ships was nearly non-existent by 1943.
Smaller batteries were also built during World War II. Three two-gun 6-inch batteries were built in Casco Bay, but only one of these was armed. The armed battery was Battery Cravens (BCN 203), also on Peaks Island, now part of a private residence. The other two were BCN 201 in Two Lights State Park and BCN 202 on Jewell Island. Older 6-inch gun batteries retained in service in Casco Bay included two two-gun batteries at Fort McKinley on Great Diamond Island and Fort Levett on Cushing Island. Three older 3-inch gun batteries were retained at Fort Williams near Portland Head Light, Fort Preble in South Portland, and Fort Lyon on Cow Island. Three new two-gun 3-inch batteries were constructed during World War II, on Peaks Island, Long Island, and Great Chebeague Island. Positions for a total of ten Anti-Motor Torpedo Boat (AMTB) batteries with 90 mm guns were constructed in Casco Bay. Each battery was authorized four 90 mm guns, two on fixed mounts and two on towed mounts; the actual number of guns on hand for each battery may have varied. The guns were dual-purpose, able to fire against air or surface targets. The batteries were at Long Island (2), Great Chebeague Island (1), Bailey Island (1), Peaks Island (2), Jewell Island (2), Fort Levett (1), and Fort Williams (1). All US coast defenses were abandoned and most of the guns scrapped shortly after World War II.
- "National Register of Historical Places - MAINE (ME), Cumberland County". National Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
- Berhow, p. 202
- "Battery Steele" (PDF). Oceanside Conservation Trust of Casco Bay. November 2009. Retrieved 11 December 2011.[permanent dead link]
- Schuit, Steve. "Peaks Island Land Preserve". Archived from the original on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 11 December 2011.
- Berhow, p. 224
- Berhow, pp. 202-203, 224-228
- FortWiki article on Peaks Island Military Reservation
- Berhow, Mark A., Ed. (2004). American Seacoast Defenses, A Reference Guide, Second Edition. CDSG Press. ISBN 0-9748167-0-1.
- Lewis, Emanuel Raymond (1979). Seacoast Fortifications of the United States. Annapolis: Leeward Publications. ISBN 978-0-929521-11-4.
- United States Army (1941). Harbor Defenses of Portland, 1941: pictorial history. World War Regimental Histories. 99. Atlanta, GA: Army-Navy Publications.
- Battery Steele, Peaks Island, Portland, 1942 - 1948 Maine Historic Preservation Commission
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
- Coast Defense Study Group
- List of all US coastal forts and batteries at the Coast Defense Study Group, Inc. website
- Battery Steele article at FortWiki.com
- Peaks Island Military Reservation at FortWiki.com
- Gun types at FortWiki