Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Death Trap: American Pre-fab Pill Box

I'm posting this on my Iphone from Honolulu, so please excuse any unusual formatting!

I took these shots at the Fort deRussey Museum in Waikiki. This is a little known American item from early WWII. The intent was to mass produce an easy to place machine gun pill box for defense positions on Pacific islands. They were installed on American held Islands where there was a threat of Japanese landings. The cast steel turret rotated like a tank turret and provided 360 degree .30 caliber machine gun fire. They were buried up to the bottom the turret in expected enemy avenues of approach. The two man crew entered by way of a buried steel culvert several yards to the rear of the pill box. The culvert was the only means of escape should things go bad for the good guys.

I've seen these in place on Midway Island. They are still there, guarding against enemy invasions that never came. There were hundreds of others installed on American held islands.

To my knowledge, none of these ill-concieved death traps ever saw combat.

As an old Infantrman, I can say that manning one of these would have been considered a suicide mission. The turret will stop rifle, machine gun fire and grenade fragments. However, bazookas, shaped charges, and tanks would have opened this like tin can. A squirt of fuel from a flame thrower would drive the gunner out of the turret.

There was no way for the crew to defend itself from the rear or flanks. A grenade into the culvert would have collapsed the only way to safety.

The pill box in the picture was recovered from a defensive site on Oahu.

American Pre-Fabricated Pill Box on Display at the Fort DeRussy Museum in Waikiki

Diagram of How the Pill Box Was Installed

1 comment:

  1. Great piece! That said, not sure I'd call them death traps, any more than any fixed beach defense system. It all comes down to use. They MIGHT have served a purpose of initial defense against amphib invasion. I say "might" since apparently none were ever put to the test, so we'll never know.

    Let me add that at my first A-camp in RVN (Katum, SFODA-322), we had a 75mm RR sandbagged in on the team house roof. We kept 3 or 4 beehive rounds with it, figuring that was the absolute most anyone would get off if the camp were being overrun. The standing joke was that there was a Silver Star pinned to the barrel for anyone who went up there during a ground attack with penetration and fired it off.