Coachman Inn, Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island

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About the Area

Whidbey Island Military History

While the scene and sites along Whidbey Island are idyllic and peaceful, they stand in stark contrast to the island's long history as a site of military defense for the area.

There are currently nearly 20,000 members of the military and civilian support staff living on Whidbey Island, all in support of the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, located near Oak Harbor.

Because of the island's location in the Puget Sound, off the coast of the mainland, it has the advantage and disadvantage of being one of the first accessible locations to reach and defend the country in the northern seas.

Beginning in the early 1800s, white settlers built small, fort-like blockhouses to serve as a defense against native tribes that would often come down from the north.

In 1890, Fort Casey construction was begun in Coupeville. Fort Casey was one of three forts in a system of defense the Army envisioned to protect the opening of the Puget Sound. It was the last fort of its kind to be constructed by the U.S. Army.

Known for its ten-inch disappearing guns placed at a strategic position well above the Admiralty Inlet head, Fort Casey combined with Forts Flagler and Worden to make up the "Triangle of Fire" on the Olympic Peninsula.

There were 400 troops manning the fort after it opened in 1901, but they never shot those powerful guns in a military conflict. The guns would have been effective, however—they could launch a shell over 10 miles into the sea, should the need arise.

The Whidbey Island Naval Air Station today, was begun in the 1940s. The site was chosen before the U.S. officially entered WWII, as the military was anxious to have a defense on the northwestern shores should there be an attack. The station was envisioned as a place for Naval planes to rest and refuel.

After the Dec. 8, 1942 attack on Pearl Harbor, construction was rushed to a conclusion.

The Air Station has two sections, Ault Field, located just north of Oak Harbor, and Fort Ebey, located near Fort Casey and south of Oak Harbor.

Fort Ebey was a gun placement facility, with an excellent location for defending against any ships headed toward Deception Pass. No enemy ships, however, were ever encountered entering Puget Sound. The area is now a Washington State Park, accessible to all history buffs and nature buffs alike. The site features 28 miles of trails and remnants of the original gun placements.

Ault Field, the landing field at Crescent Harbor, and Fort Ebey had a long history of military defense. However, Fort Ebey was taken out of military use shortly after WWII ended.

Visitors can still touch and climb on replacement guns, see the original officers quarters and bunkhouses (currently in use as a conference center for Seattle Pacific University), and walk through the defense tunnels.

Ault Field continues its military purpose, and has had many missions since WWII.

To enjoy the military history and view the military sites on Whidbey Island, you won't find a better place to stay than the Coachman Inn, where we have been voted Best of Whidbey Island for two years running and awarded the AAA Three Diamond rating, their highest rating for vacation lodging. To check availability, call the Coachman now at 800-635-0043 or click here.

Whidbey Island Marina

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