DNREC Secretary Garvin joins legislators, Fort Miles Historical Association, at ribbon-cutting celebration

LEWES – Renovations have been completed improving the old Fort Miles overlook, which has now become an addition to the existing museum building. This new area enables visitors to experience the same view as soldiers during WWII and the Cold War from Battery 519.

Photo: DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin speaks before the ribbon cutting at the Fort Miles Museum and Historical Area at Cape Henlopen State Park. Seated event speakers, left to right, are Dr. Gary Wray, Fort Miles Historical Association President; Jeffrey Fried, past board president, Lewes Chamber of Commerce; Lewes Mayor Theodore Becker; State Representative Stephen Smyk, Speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives Peter Schwartzkopf (seated behind Secretary Garvin), and State Senator Ernesto Lopez.

“The Fort Miles Museum and Historic Area utilizes a unique WWII coastal battery complex and artillery park, representative artifacts, and educational activities to interpret Delaware’s role in coastal defense, and how U.S. military forces and civilians shaped and influenced community life in Delaware,” said Secretary Garvin. “All of the new improvements at Fort Miles enhance visitors’ experiences, and bring the fort to life. I thank the Fort Miles Historical Association, members of the General Assembly, and the Division of Parks & Recreation for making these improvements a reality.”

The new overlook provides visitors an enhanced perspective of the area, and the Atlantic Ocean. The new event venue will allow for additional programming space for visitors to the museum. In addition, it can also serve as an event area. Other improvements include a new glass wall in the north gun block, a restroom facility, and a geothermal HVAC system for north end of the museum.

During WWII Fort Miles served as the East Coast’s largest military base and a key piece in the nation’s coastal defense. In 1964, 543 acres of the Fort were returned to the State of Delaware, forming the heart of Cape Henlopen State Park. In April 2005, Fort Miles was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Fort Miles Museum encompasses a small but highly significant portion of the Fort’s original footprint. The grounds feature one of the Fort’s major gun emplacements, Battery 519, along with numerous support buildings that housed WWII soldiers. Fort Miles’ armaments comprise a permanent display showcasing Delaware’s first line of defense during the early 1940s. It is the largest exhibit of its kind in the country.

In the coming year, the Fort Miles Museum team will be focused on developing new exhibits and enhancing existing displays, to help bring the stories of the men and women of Fort Miles to life.

Media contact: Beth Shockley, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902.

Vol. 49, No. 188

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Fort Miles Artillery Park to add 90 mm anti-aircraft gun to collection

DOVER – A World War II model M2 90 mm anti-aircraft gun is scheduled to be delivered to the Fort Miles Artillery Park in Cape Henlopen State Park on Thursday, March 30, through a partnership between DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation and the Fort Miles Historical Association.

The gun came from the collection at the National Electronics Museum in Linthicum, Md., which determined the Fort Miles Artillery Park was the best-suited location for permanent placement because of its reputation for interpretation.

“The Fort Miles Historical Association is dedicated to bringing in important World War II artifacts to the artillery park which benefits Delawareans and visitors alike,” said DNREC Secretary Shawn M. Garvin. “We salute the association’s commitment to remembering ‘The Greatest Generation’ that served at the Fort, who kept our country safe during WWII. This latest acquisition also contributes to Delaware’s tourism industry and helps boost our economy by adding to the artillery park’s historic appeal.”

This type of 32,000-pound anti-aircraft gun was used on ships in both the European and Pacific theaters during WWII. It could fire either high explosive or armor-piercing shells weighting 24 pounds at a rate of about 25 rounds per minute. These projectiles would leave the muzzle at a velocity of 2,700 feet per second and were capable of hitting land or water-based targets up to 11 miles away, or aircraft flying up to 34,000 feet in the air.

Unlike the other guns in the collection on display in the park, the M2 is the only type that was actually used at Fort Miles. “This was a model that was actually used at Fort Miles towards the end of the war,” said Jim Hall, chief of cultural resources for the Division of Parks & Recreation. “We know they were being used here for top-secret research starting in early 1944 that involved the ‘Proximity Fuze’ – the development of which none other than Gen. George S. Patton believed was second only in importance to the atomic bomb in bringing victory to the Allied Forces.”

Hall said a radio transmitter inside the “fuze” of an artillery shell sent out and received radio signals, constantly calculating distance – proximity – so that the shell would detonate when it was near a plane or tank instead of making direct contact with the target. Fort Miles served as the proving ground for this highly-classified technology prior to its being deployed during WWII.

Prior to installation in the Artillery Park, onsite restoration of the gun by Fort Miles volunteers should be completed this fall.

Vol. 47, No. 70

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Gov. Markell, Sen. Carper join DNREC in celebrating opening of Artillery Park at the Fort Miles Museum

Ceremony highlights ‘Mighty Mo’s’ 16-inch gun, along with other historic artillery, and commemorates the 71st anniversary of the end of World War II

Local dignitaries and veterans join Senator Carper and Governor Markell (center of photo with hands on ribbon) for the opening of the Fort Miles Artillery Park at Cape Henlopen State Park, with a commemorative event marking the 71st anniversary of the end of WWII. /DNREC photo: Jennifer Fitzsimmons
Local dignitaries and veterans join Senator Carper and Governor Markell (center of photo with hands on ribbon) for the opening of the Fort Miles Artillery Park at Cape Henlopen State Park, with a commemorative event marking the 71st anniversary of the end of WWII. /DNREC photo: Jennifer Fitzsimmons

CAPE HENLOPEN STATE PARK – Among scenic dunes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the Fort Miles Museum’s newest exhibit, the World War II Artillery Park, was officially opened with DNREC and the Fort Miles Historical Association hosting Governor Jack Markell, US Senator Tom Carper, local dignitaries and military veterans including honored guest Robert Sauppee, who was reunited with his personal history Friday morning in Cape Henlopen State Park. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held beneath the centerpiece of the Artillery Park – one of “Mighty Mo’s” original 16-inch guns, a giant artillery piece mounted on the battleship U.S.S. Missouri (the “Mighty Mo”) when the Japanese surrendered 71 years ago today, on Sept. 2, 1945, ending WWII. Mr. Sauppee, who traveled to the commemorative ceremony from his home in Reading, Pa., was also aboard the “Mighty Mo” that day as a young US serviceman.

“The Fort Miles Artillery Park preserves an important part of Delaware’s wartime history and honors the courage and heroism of the men and women who defended our country during World War II,” said Gov. Jack Markell. “The historic treasures and new amenities here will attract families and visitors to the beautiful shores of Cape Henlopen State Park and boost the local economy. The Fort Miles Museum’s unique features exemplify why Delaware State Parks was recognized nationally this year with the Gold Award as the best-managed park system in the nation.”

Today’s event took place at Fort Miles, which during WWII served as the East Coast’s largest combat-ready post and a key piece in the nation’s coastal defense. In 1964, 543 acres of the Fort were returned to the State of Delaware, forming the heart of Cape Henlopen State Park. In April 2005 Fort Miles was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

“Delaware has a long history of protecting our nation, and Fort Miles is a big part of that history,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper, a 23-year veteran of the U.S. Navy. “‘Mighty Mo’s’ gun was saved from becoming scrap metal after a like-minded group came together including folks from the Fort Miles Historical Association, DNREC and my office, to bring it to Delaware. Attractions like this allow the First State’s rich military history to live on, honoring the more than 73,000 veterans living in Delaware today.”

“The Fort Miles Artillery Park, with ‘Mighty Mo’s’ gun and other WWII artillery, is representative of the armaments that were stationed here for coastal defense,” said DNREC Secretary David Small. “We are incredibly appreciative of the Fort Miles Historical Association members, whose spirit and dedication are reminiscent of this country’s ‘Greatest Generation’ who built and manned Fort Miles and protected the region during WWII. Now, veterans, families, students, visitors and history buffs can relive an important part of Delaware history surrounded by the buildings and artifacts that will help make the experience come alive.”

Among the largest pieces of U.S. Naval artillery ever made, “Mighty Mo’s” 16-inch gun weighs more than 116 tons and is 66 feet long. The huge 16-inch barrel could hurl 2,700 pound shells more than 23 miles in 50 seconds, with pinpoint accuracy, in support of U.S. ground troops. Two similar guns were housed at Fort Miles’ Battery Smith during WWII, but later relocated elsewhere.

“The Fort Miles Historical Association is proud and honored to partner with Delaware State Parks on the completion of the World War II Artillery Park,” said FMHA President Gary Wray. “With ‘Mighty Mo’s’ gun as the centerpiece, the Artillery Park is the largest exhibit of its kind in the country. The Fort Miles Museum, when completed, will be the best World War II museum inside a World War II facility in the U.S.”

“With more than a million visitors a year, Cape Henlopen State Park is beloved by Delawareans and tourists from throughout the country,” said DNREC Parks & Recreation Director Ray Bivens. “The Fort Miles Artillery Park is a wonderful attraction that tells the story of the U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps that played a vital role in protecting the region’s coastline during WWII. DNREC appreciates the tremendous efforts of the Fort Miles Historical Association and the thousands of volunteer hours that members have contributed to the Fort Miles Museum.”

“Mighty Mo’s” gun was scheduled to be cut up and sold for scrap if a suitable home for it could not be found. Through a joint plan written by the Fort Miles Historical Association (FMHA) and DNREC, the gun was donated to DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation by the U.S. Naval Systems Command. FMHA’s U.S.S. Missouri Gun Fundraising Committee raised $113,000 through private donations and several key grants from the GM Foundation, Sussex County Council and the Delaware Tourism office, to move the gun by barge and rail from the naval yard in Norfolk to the Artillery Park.

“The U.S.S. Missouri’s big gun symbolizes our local military history and is a fitting centerpiece for the Fort Miles Artillery Park,” said Nick Carter, chair of the U.S.S. Missouri Gun Fundraising Committee and a U.S. Navy veteran who served two tours in Vietnam. “Because of my family’s World War II military service here in Lewes, I was asked to chair the fundraising committee that brought ‘Mighty Mo’s’ gun to Delaware. My sincere appreciation to the organizations and individuals who donated funding and to my wife, Laurie, who coordinated the logistics of moving the gun to Fort Miles.”

The opening of the Artillery Park marks the end of a four-year effort to place “Mighty Mo’s” gun and other armaments at the foot of Battery 519. FMHA raised a total of more than $430,000 for the project, including the funding to transport “Mighty Mo’s” gun to Delaware, grants received from the Longwood Foundation, Community Foundation and Crystal Trust, and contributions from state legislators and almost 100 individuals. State funding for the Artillery Park came from 2013-2015 Bond Bill appropriations provided by the state legislature.

Lockwood Brothers, subcontractor for the Artillery Park contractor Kent Construction Co., moved “Mighty Mo’s” gun barrel to Delaware and mounted it on an emplacement that includes a 90,000-pound concrete base, 70,000-pound slide, and 38,500-pound yoke and other parts. The total weight of the permanent display is more than 300 tons. Bell Terra Landscaping and Lighting installed lighting around the display.

In addition to the artillery, the site features new restrooms and showers for visitors and for future overnight guests, a central pathway, a renovated mess hall and wayside signs that tell the story behind each gun. Another addition includes a new geothermal HVAC system, made possible by two Delaware Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants – one to the city of Lewes and the other grant to Delaware State Parks.

“The opening of the Fort Miles Artillery Park provides further definition of the important role that Cape Henlopen played in the defense of the mid-Atlantic coast during World War II,” said Lewes Mayor Ted Becker. “In conjunction with the numerous other historical attractions in the area, this Artillery Park ensures that future generations are aware of how our region has been key to the defense of this country from colonial times to the present. The Fort Miles Historical Association is to be commended for their extraordinary efforts to bring this to reality.”

“The news of the Mighty Mo’s gun is a fantastic addition to the already wonderful historical attractions at Fort Miles in Cape Henlopen State Park,” said Senator Chris Coons. “The impressive size of the gun gives visitors a unique perspective to how large these ships were, and adds another component that will attract visitors to this wonderful state park. I look forward to visiting the latest installment, the World War II Artillery Park, at the Fort Miles Museum.”

“Fort Miles is a special part of our state’s history, and a reminder of the important role Delaware played in defending our nation during WWII,” said Congressman John Carney. “The Fort Miles Historical Association has done an excellent job of preserving this important piece of our past, and the new Fort Miles Artillery Park is a wonderful tribute to those who bravely served our nation. It will also allow visitors to have a unique, firsthand look at some of the artifacts from the era, like ‘Mighty Mo’s’ gun. I am grateful to all those who helped make this exciting new exhibit possible.”

FMHA continues to provide strong volunteer support to the Fort Miles Museum–by guiding tours, completing complex hands-on restoration projects, helping with special events, and providing marketing support for Fort Miles. The Association completed the first room of the Museum’s Art Gallery earlier this year, which features the works of noted local artists Howard Schroeder, Mary Marshall and Abraxas Hudson. Guided tours of the gallery are set to start in the fall. A new exhibit “Midway to Munich,” featuring the art of noted aviation artist Paul Rendel, opens Oct. 8. That event will showcase, and make available for sale, some of Rendel’s most famous works, and marks the unveiling of a new piece commemorating “Mighty Mo’s” gun placement at the Fort Miles Museum. Proceeds of the event will go to support the Fort Miles Museum.

With the artillery park now complete, FMHA will focus on completing interior exhibits, outdoor programming venues and parking for the Museum. New exhibits will showcase ordinary life in WWII-era Delaware, and the important roles that ordinary citizens played in our nation’s defense through the Civil Air Patrol, Delaware River and Bay Pilots Association and other local organizations and causes. A fall kickoff event is planned to launch a $2.1 million capital campaign.

For more information on Cape Henlopen State Park and Fort Miles Historical Area, visit DNREC’s website, www.destateparks.com.

The Fort Miles Historical Association is a nonprofit group whose mission is to preserve, protect and defend all aspects of Fort Miles working with community and state stakeholders and other interested parties. The association’s goal is to work as an active partner with the State of Delaware to develop the historical potential of Fort Miles.

Contact: Melanie Rapp, DNREC Public Affairs, Melanie.Rapp@delaware.gov, 302-739-9902
Gary Wray, Fort Miles Historical Association, gdwray@hotmail.com, 302-542-1844

Vol. 46, No. 324

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D-Day Program at Delaware Public Archives to Commemorate 70th Anniversary

The D-Day invasion of Normandy is remembered as an American triumph and the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. On Saturday, June 7, 10:30 a.m. the Delaware Public Archives will commemorate the 70th anniversary of this pivotal day in American and World history with a special program at the Archives about the battle. This program will explore elements of the battle often left out of the narrative including the high level of risk and uncertainty faced by American officers and the sacrifices made by the troops on the blood-soaked beaches. How did these soldiers survive situations in which they had to sometimes offset the miscalculations of their superiors with their own raw courage? What was it like, on June 6, 1944, to ride the first troop transports onto the beaches, to land by parachute in the French countryside, or to have to wait in England to find out if the mission had succeeded or failed? Join us at the Delaware Public Archives for this program and find out.

The program is free to the public. No reservations are required. For more information, contact Tom Summers (302) 744-5047 or e-mail thomas.summers@delaware.gov.

The Delaware Public Archives is located at 121 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard North in Dover. The Mabel Lloyd Ridgely Research Room is open to the public Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. On the second Saturday of every month the research room is open from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.


State of Delaware Gets New World War II Memorial

(Dover, Del.) – The Delaware Department of State, the General Assembly and the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs have scheduled a dedication ceremony to unveil a monument honoring Delaware’s World War II veterans on Saturday, November 9 at 12:00 p.m. on the south side of the Legislative Hall grounds in Dover.

“During a trying time in our country, Delaware played an important role in World War II, and we have a lot to be thankful for,” said Paul Lardizzone, Chairman, Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs. “When some of the soldiers returned home from War, we didn’t take time to properly recognize and memorialize their service. Finally, here in our capital, we have a monument to pay tribute to all Delawareans for their contributions and sacrifices during WWII.”

The program includes attractions such as:

  • Remarks by Delaware dignitaries
  • Performance by the 287th Delaware National Guard Band
  • Fly over featuring vintage Twin Beech aircraft
  • WW II Exhibit at the Delaware Public Archives
  • Collection of WW II era military vehicles compliments of the 261st Artillery Reenactors Group

As chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Earl G. Jaques has shepherded several bills through the General Assembly to help veterans, but the retired Delaware National Guard Brigadier General said that “helping secure funding for a monument honoring World War II heroes was a top priority.”

“Unfortunately, Delaware has taken too long to honor the ‘Greatest Generation.’ Many are no longer with us, such as my father, who served in the Coast Guard,” Rep. Jaques said. “This monument not only honors those who served in the military, but also many other Delawareans who helped the war effort — working in the ship yards, military facilities or at the Chrysler plant making tanks. I hope everyone will support their loved ones who had anything to do with World War II. Whether they are still with us or not, let’s keep their memories alive.”

After the ceremony, a gathering will be hosted at the Delaware Public Archives. WWII veterans will be located at the Delaware Public Archives to informally discuss their experiences with people who are interested. Parking will be available all around the grounds of Legislative Hall and Delaware Public Archives.

For more information about the event, contact Tammy Stock at 302-857-3038 or visit veteransaffairs.delaware.gov.