Fort Miles (1940-1948) Originally established in 1940 as the Cape Henlopen Military Reservation and built out as a Coastal Defense Fort during World War II. Named for Lt. Gen. Nelson Appleton Miles on 3 Jun 1941. Coastal Batteries declared surplus 5 May 1948.
Part of the Harbor Defense of the Delaware. Positioned at the mouth of the Delaware River, Fort Miles provided long range, heavy caliber protection from enemy capital warships as well as rapid fire protection from fast moving subs and torpedo boats. It also provided mine field protection, along with searchlight and anti-aircraft installations throughout World War II.
World War II (1941-1945)
Fort Miles was originally planned to have two casemated 16" gun batteries, Battery 118 and Battery 119. Battery 119 was canceled and replaced in 1942 by Battery 519 and armed with two 12" guns from Battery Haslet, Fort Saulsbury.
Three standard 200 series batteries, each with two 6" rapid fire guns, were built, Battery 221, Battery 222 and Battery 223, as well as three Anti-Motor Torpedo Boat batteries, Battery AMTB 5A - Fort Miles, Battery AMTB 5B - Fort Miles and Battery AMTB 7 - Cape May. Battery 223 and Battery AMTB 7 - Cape May were located on Cape May Military Reservation, a subpost of Fort Miles just across the river entrance at Cape May, New Jersey. The two AMTB batteries on Fort Miles proper replaced an older 3" battery and provided a more reliable, higher rate of fire capability.
In 1942, with the large caliber batteries under construction, 8" railway guns were brought in as temporary protection for the river entrance. Two sets of four emplacements were built for the 8" railway guns. These emplacements were large U shaped sand revetments with railroad tracks built through the rear. The 16" guns and the eight 8" railway guns gave Fort Miles tremendous firepower and made it a very powerful coastal fort. In 1944, as the permanent batteries came on line, the railway batteries were removed.
To support the large caliber batteries at Fort Miles it was necessary to construct a series of sixteen concrete fire control towers along the coast. This was necessary because the range of the 16" guns was far greater than the line of sight required for targeting from the gun batteries. Even with the towers, the line of sight restricted the seaward range of Battery 118 to about 14 miles even though the actual range of the guns was about 25 miles. By stringing the towers along the coast the north-south range of the guns was extended for the full 25 miles. Many of these circular concrete towers still exist and one has been restored and is open to the public.
In 1941 a temporary Harbor Entrance Control Post (HECP) was established in the Bell Haven Surf Club just two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor. The permanent location for the HECP was selected as fire control tower #9 and the move was made on 8 Jun 1943. The successor facility still occupies tower #9 today.
At peak strength, Fort Miles had over 2200 personnel assigned from many different units. To support these personnel several periods of base construction were required, the first in 1940 and another in 1942. Many temporary barracks and other facilities were constructed during during these periods and some of these remain today.
As World War II came to an end in Europe, Fort Miles played a role the surrender of the German U-Boat U-858. The U-858 appeared off the Delaware coast on 14 May 1945 and U.S. naval forces took her official surrender at sea. The U-858 was instructed to dock at Fort Miles and the German crew disembarked there.
In 1948 the coastal batteries of Fort Miles were declared surplus and in 1951 portions of the fort were turned over to the U.S. Navy. In 1961 part of the reservation became Fort Miles Army Recreation Area. Defense Department transferred 564 acres to the State of Delaware for Cape Henlopen State Park in 1964. By 1996 the State Park had acquired almost all of the reservation.
Cape Henlopen State Park, some period guns and some mounts are on display. Two 8" Railway guns are on display and perhaps one is even mounted on a railway car by the time you read this. A 12" gun tube is displayed at Battery 519 and there are several 3" and 155mm guns on display.
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Visited: 3 Aug 2010