The Coast Defense Study Group (CDSG) is a tax-exempt organization dedicated to the study of seacoast fortifications.
The CDSG promotes and encourages the study of coastal defenses, primarily but not exclusively those of the United States of America. This study of coast defenses and fortifications includes their history, architecture, technology, strategic and tactical employment, and evolution. The goals of the CDSG include educational study, technical research and documentation, interpretation of sites, and providing assistance to others interested in the study of coast defense.
Our key missions include the preservation of coast defense sites, equipment, and records, and conducting charitable activities that promote this preservation.
We endeavor to achieve these goals by publishing the Coast Defense Journal and the CDSG Newsletter on a quarterly basis and by holding annual conferences at various U.S. harbor defenses and special tours to coast defense sites around the world. We have also formed two special committees further our goals. The first is the CDSG Press to reprint key books on coast defenses and provide documentation prepared for past CDSG Conference and Tour Notes to allow our members access to these important documents. Secondly, we have created the CDSG Fund to allow our members to make charitable gifts for the preservation of coast defense sites, equipment, and records for use by current and future generations. Finally, we seek to educate the public about coast defenses through our own website at “cdsg.org.”
As with all volunteer organizations, these activities and services did not appear overnight. It took years of effort and the input of many of our roughly 500 members.
The roots of the CDSG can be traced back to the two people that founded the organization—Bob Zink and Glen Williford at the annual meeting of the Council of Abandoned Military Posts (CAMP) in Charleston, South Carolina in 1977. CAMP’s focus on a wide range of military history resulted in its annual meetings being a “marathon” of field tours that allowed for only limited time to explore each site visited. Bob and Glen lamented that a more ideal tour would be a group that would focus on visiting and photographing coast defenses. At that time they could identify a handful of folks with similar interests, and thought it would be good to have their own occasional meetings and regular communications forum to help share information. It was from these discussions that the idea to form an organization to study coast artillery separate from CAMP was born.
Bob Zink took the lead in gathering a small group for a first meeting in July 1978 in New York, dubbed “St. Babs I” (after St. Barbara, the patron saint of artillerists). Attending were Glen Williford, Bob Zink, Ed Jerue, Nelson Lawry, Charlie Robbins, Tom Hoffman (Sandy Hook NPS), and Russ Gillmore (Fort Hamilton Museum). Also, attending part of meeting was Terry Hahn, Jack Fein and Ray Lewis. This meeting established a basic format for the annual conferences, with field trips during the day to coast defense sites and discussions about fortifications at night. Also created at the meeting was the Coast Artillery Routed Exchange (CARE)—the organization’s first embryonic “newsletter.” This was basically a single large envelope of various coast artillery documents that was mailed from member to member. Each person would in turn take out the old material they had offered to share, copy or note the information added by other members, and place something new in the packet. This service lasted several years, with the addition of Dave Cameron and David Hansen to the routing.
The next St. Babs meeting was held six years later in 1984, when the group again visited the harbor defenses of New York. At that meeting the membership was expanded and an organizational structure was adopted. From this point on the CDSG began having regular meetings each year and started the publication of a more formal newsletter, CDSG News, under the editorship of Charlie Kimbell. The Coast Defense Study Group was informally organized and named during the last evening’s discussion at the third “St. Babs” gathering held at Fort Monroe, Virginia in 1985. Appointed directors at this time were Bob Zink and Glen Williford. By the Portland, Maine meeting in 1986, the CDSG was up and running. At the Boston, Massachusetts meeting in 1988 the editorship of the CDSG News was transferred from Charlie Kimbell to Bob Zink. At the same time, Elliot Deutsch took over the duties of membership secretary and treasurer from Charlie Kimbell. In 1989, the CDSG held the first “overseas” tour to the defenses of Bermuda. The group was formally organized with the adoption of its first by-laws in January 1989 that established a three-person board of directors with rotation via direct election of one director each year. The first elected directors were Alex Holder, Mike Kea, and Terry McGovern.
The 1990s saw a steady growth in CDSG membership—total membership at the beginning of the decade was 143, and by 1999 it had risen to 420. At the 1990 annual conference at the defenses of Baltimore/Washington, the editorship of the quarterly newsletter was transferred from Bob Zink to Joel Eastman. The first CDSG tour to the “Mecca” of surviving American coast artillery, Corregidor Island in the Philippines, was conducted in 1991 with 25 members attending, and visiting the defenses of Oahu upon the return flight to the USA.
The Coast Defense Study Group, Inc. was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) Maryland non-profit corporation on August 23, 1993 and the current by-laws were issued at that time.
In becoming a charitable organization, the CDSG formed the CDSG Fund to allow members to make tax-deducible donations, and for the CDSG to make tax-exempt gifts to organizations that promote the goals of the CDSG. That year the CDSG News changed its name to the CDSG Journal. The CDSG visited another key site for American coast defense by touring the harbor defenses of the Panama Canal in 1993. The new by-laws also saw the creation of several new committees to further the goals of the CDSG. A preservation committee was formed to promote the protection of coast defense sites and equipment. The CDSG Press was created to reprint hard to locate coast artillery manuals. The Nominations and Audit Committees were also established. The editorship of the CDSG Journal was transferred in 1994 to Bolling W. Smith, making him the fourth editor of our quarterly publication.
CDSG Press’ first reprint, Notes on Seacoast Fortification Construction by Col. Eben E. Winslow, was published in 1994. In 1995, the journal was split into two parts with B.W. Smith editing the CDSG Journal and Mark Berhow producing the CDSG Newsletter, which focused on current events and organization news. The year 1997 saw the formation of the Project and Representative Committees to help channel our members’ interests in developing new activities and for our members to interface with local coast defense sites. The CDSG ended the decade by establishing a website in 1998 to provide online information about American coast artillery and the CDSG, and published an original work, American Seacoast Defense: A Reference Guide, edited by Mark Berhow in 1999.
The turn of the new century saw the maturing of our membership and leveling off of the group’s growth.
Elliot Deutsch, after many years of service, transferred the finance duties to Terry McGovern and a few years later the membership function to Glen Williford. In 2000, the CDSG Journal changed its name to the Coast Defense Journal to indicate a broader coverage of the subject. The CDSG organized its first tour to a purely foreign coast defense site in 2002 with a visit to Vladivostok, Russia. The CDSG has held an annual conference every year since 1985, and with the 2012 meeting at the Great Lakes forts, the group has officially visited all major defended harbors in the continental United States. The group continues its meetings with planned conferences through 2020.
The future of the CDSG is depends on volunteer members to organize and run our annual conferences and special tours to various harbor defense locations around the world.
CDSG publications are also based on volunteer members writing or producing the quarterly journal, organizational newsletter, or reprint books. The CDSG looks to each member to volunteer his or her time to staff our committees and activities. After 35 years, the CDSG has become an established organization with a small but supportive membership. The CDSG provides key sources of information on American seacoast defenses and have actively enhanced the availability of information and documentation on the subject. The CDSG continues to seek ways to support preservation and restoration efforts at former seacoast defenses sites around the U.S.