Topsail Island is a 26-mile (41.8 km) long barrier island off the coast of North Carolina, USA just south of Camp Lejeune, the Bogue Banks, and the Outer Banks. It contains the communities of North Topsail Beach, Surf City and Topsail Beach. Along with its thick maritime forests, Topsail Island is also a sanctuary for sea turtles and known for its beautiful beaches. The island lies in Stump Sound Township, Onslow County in the north, and in Topsail Township, Pender County in the south. There are only two ways on and off the island: the first is a high rise bridge on the North End and the second is a swing bridge that brings you into Surf City.
Topsail Island's name is supposedly derived from its nefarious history, however, this is still debatable among the locals on the Island. According to popular belief, pirates used to hide in the channel between the island and the mainland waiting for merchant ships loaded with goods to pass. The pirates would attack the ships and claim the cargo as their own. Eventually the merchants became aware of the hiding place and began looking for the topsail, which was supposedly the only part of the pirate ship that could be seen by the passing 'victim.' There is a legend that Blackbeard hid his treasure on Topsail Island and that prior to WWII, treasure hunters searched for the hidden gems and gold throughout the islands' maritime forests.
At the end of World War II the Navy began a joint venture with Johns Hopkins University and established the US Naval Ordnance Test Facilities at Topsail Island, North Carolina, for Operation Bumblebee, a top-secret, experimental project to develop and test ramjet missiles, which advanced the Nation's jet aircraft and missile programs. So successful were the tests conducted at the Topsail Island site that the ramjet proved its value, opened the way for the advance of supersonic jet aircraft design and brought the United States to the threshold of modern space technology with the Talos, Terrier, Tartar and Sea Sparrow missiles aboard naval vessels. Named after a bumblebee, which although aerodynamically is unable to fly, does not know this and flies anyway, this operation lead to the maturing of supersonic aircraft and shipboard missile design in the mid-20th century.
Topsail Island was the third of three widespread test sites established along the Atlantic seaboard in the closing years of World War II, and the first permanent ground for missile testing. The Topsail Island site, placed in operation in March 1947, incorporated rigid structures that were designed and built for specific uses related to the assembly, firing, monitoring and perfecting of experimental ramjet missiles. The buildings associated with this testing, the Assembly Building, Facility Control Tower and Observation Tower No. 2 possess exceptional importance because they are the only aboveground resources remaining at these three sites where the Nation's burgeoning ramjet missile program grew from experimentation to maturity. The Assembly Building is a one-and-a-half-story masonry building and the Control Tower is a three-story reinforced concrete building. Observation Tower #2 is an unaltered example of the seven instrument towers erected on Topsail Island.
Naval and Marine personnel, numbering 500 men, and led by Lieutenant Commander Tad Stanwick, arrived at the site by mid-1946 to begin installation of the facilities needed for the testing. During the next 18 months, an estimated 200 experimental rockets, each measuring six inches in diameter and between three and 13 feet in length, were fabricated at the Assembly Building, dispatched to the launch site, and fired along a northeasterly angular deflection of 15 degrees to the shoreline for a maximum clear distance of 40 miles. Despite the initial success of the US Naval Ordnance Testing facility at Topsail Island over its 18-month span, its location did not fulfill completely the needs of a permanent base because weather conditions and increased sea traffic interfered with testing, and the facility was abandoned and its equipment moved to other sites. 
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- "Topsail Island Pirates, Treasures and Ghost Ships! – Topsail Island Real Estate & History". Lewis-realty.net. 2012-05-29. Retrieved 2013-06-22.
- "US Naval Ordnance Test Facilities, Topsail". Retrieved 2006-07-02.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Topsail Island.|
- Topsail Beach Home Page
- Sea Turtle Hospital Home Page
- Town of Surf City Home Page
- Town of North Topsail Beach Home Page
- Topsail Advertiser (Weekly Newspaper)
- Topsail Island Info