Fort Miles

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Fort Miles
Part of Harbor Defenses of the Delaware
Sussex County, Delaware
Type Fortification
Site information
Owner Public - State of Delaware
Controlled by Cape Henlopen State Park
Open to
the public


Fort Miles Historic District
Battery 519 at Fort Miles, Circa 1973
Fort Miles is located in Delaware
Fort Miles
Fort Miles is located in the US
Fort Miles
Location Cape Henlopen State Park, Sussex County, Delaware, USA
Nearest city Lewes, Delaware
Coordinates 38°46′50″N 75°05′30″W / 38.78056°N 75.09167°W / 38.78056; -75.09167Coordinates: 38°46′50″N 75°05′30″W / 38.78056°N 75.09167°W / 38.78056; -75.09167
Built 1940
Architectural style Other
NRHP reference #


Added to NRHP September 30, 2004
Site history
Built 1940–1942
Built by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
In use 1942–1991
Materials Reinforced concrete, earth
Battles/wars World War II
Garrison information
Current view of Fort Miles from the historic Tower 7, which was one of the many fire control towers that were made during WWII to spot enemy ships approaching the coast.
Restored World War II observation tower.

Fort Miles was an American military installation located on Cape Henlopen near Lewes, Delaware. Although funds to build the fort were approved in 1934, it was 1941 before the fort was constructed. It was built to defend Delaware Bay and the Delaware River and to protect domestic shipping from enemy fire within the capes, particularly from the German surface fleet. The fort also operated a controlled naval minefield to prevent ships entering the Delaware River estuary.

World War II[edit]

The fort was completed days before the attack on Pearl Harbor; Battery 118 (Battery Smith) being declared operational on December 4, 1941. The United States declaration of war on Japan compelled the U.S. Army to man the fort with the 261st Coast Artillery Battalion, who days before were slated to leave. Fourteen vessels, including USS Jacob Jones, a U.S. Navy destroyer, were sunk off the coast of New Jersey during the first six months of 1942. Numerous batteries (ranging from 90 mm guns up to 16 inch) were installed at the fort and a large mine field[2] was laid in the waters off Lewes, Delaware in the following years, but the fort was to see no action during the conflict. In May 1945, the soldiers would receive the surrender of U-858, a German U-boat that was part of Wolfpack Seewolf at the time of the German surrender to Allied forces in Europe.

At its peak, Fort Miles was home to over 2,200 soldiers, men and women, including the 261st Coast Artillery Battalion, the 21st Coast Artillery Regiment, the 52nd Coast Artillery (Railway), the 198th Coast Artillery (AA) and the 113th Infantry Detachment.

Fort Miles never saw any major action during World War II, firing its guns many times in practice and achieving high marksmanship ratings but never using those guns to engage an enemy. A 16-inch gun was fired exactly once in testing, and the resulting recoil damaged the emplacement, resulting in no further shells fired from Battery Smith.

Fire control towers, four to five story round-base concrete towers with flat observation decks, were set up as baselines to triangulate the position of suspicious ships or submarines. Five such towers still exist within the current boundaries of Cape Henlopen State Park, including one (#7) that has visitor access. Many bunkers were also constructed to house guns and other weapons. Barracks, administration buildings, and a pier were also constructed as part of the fort.


The four largest coastal batteries at Fort Miles are Battery 118 (Battery Smith), Battery 221 (Battery Herring), Battery 222 (Battery Hunter), and Battery 519. Due to the late date of its completion, Battery 519 was never formally named and was only designated by its Army Corps of Engineers construction number.

Batteries at Fort Miles[3]
Number Name Completed Abandoned Armament Range (Yards)
5 31 August 1942 four M1903 3-inch guns on pedestal mounts 11,300
5A 15 June 1943 four (two fixed and two mobile) 90 mm guns 7500
5B 15 June 1943 four fixed 90 mm guns and 2 mobile 40 mm guns 7500
20 Rail A December 1942 5 April 1944 four MK VI M3A2, 8-inch guns mounted on M1A1 Railway Carriages (8-inch Mk. VI) 35,300
21 Rail B June 1942 5 April 1944 four MK VI M3A2, 8-inch guns mounted on M1A1 Railway Carriages (8-inch Mk. VI) 35,300
22 15 June 1942 "upon completion of permanent batteries" four 155mm M1918M1 guns on Panama mounts 19,100
118 Smith 31 October 1942 1958 two MK II MI Navy 16-inch guns, mounted on Army M4 barbette carriages 45,150
221 Herring 31 August 1943 1958 two M1903A2 6-inch guns on shielded barbette carriages 27,100
222 Hunter 29 October 1943 1958 two M1903A2 6-inch guns on shielded barbette carriages 27,100
519 31 August 1943 1958 two M1895 M1A2 12-inch guns on M1917 barbette carriages 29,300

Cold War[edit]

Most of Fort Miles was declared surplus in 1948 and 1949, but the Army continued to use portions of it through the early 1990s as a morale, welfare and recreation (MWR) area for active and retired military personnel and their families, with the facility coming under the management of Fort Meade. In 1964, 543 acres (2.2 km²) of federal land were donated to the State of Delaware to establish Cape Henlopen State Park. Over time, more land was transferred to the state park until Fort Miles ceased operation as a military MWR facility altogether in 1991, as part of the BRAC process. Fort Miles, consisting of approximately 96 acres, was transferred to the State of Delaware only for public park or recreational purposes. The State of Delaware reimbursed the Army Morale, Welfare and Recreational fund $14,369 for expenses expended to improve the property. [4] Its last official usage was as a bivouac for soldiers who had just returned from the first Gulf War.

In 1963, the U.S. Navy took control of a portion of the southern end of Fort Miles, including Batteries Smith and Herring, to establish a SOSUS listening facility. Naval Facility Lewes ("NAVFAC Lewes") was established on site and would continue to operate there until September 30, 1981. Since the SOSUS program was not officially declassified until 1991, the actual operations of NAVFAC Lewes remained classified for the duration of the facility's existence.[5]


Battery Smith originally housed the two 16-inch guns and is now in use by Cape Henlopen State Park for storage. Battery Herring, originally covered with sand like all the other batteries, was excavated and expanded for use as a U.S. Navy SOSUS station during the Cold War as part of NAVFAC Lewes. It is now abandoned. Battery Hunter is in use currently as a Hawk Watch station. Battery 519 originally housed two 12-inch guns. It is currently being renovated for use as a museum, celebrating Delaware's part in World War II. Tours began in 2004. It has a restored 12" cannon similar to the original mounted at the south gun block. Additionally, it is being used to house a German built 20 millimeter anti-aircraft cannon that had been captured from U-858 after its surrender. Four Panama mounts still exist at Battery 22, located near the Beach House within the park.[6] Walking tours of the bunkers and other facilities currently being restored are available during the summer. The project falls under the purview of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). Historic interpreters can be seen at the park during special events. These events are designed to give the public a demonstration of military life at Fort Miles when it was still in operation. Reenactors at the fort portray the 261st Coast Artillery Battalion (New Jersey National Guard) and Detachment A, 1252nd Service Command Support Unit (Quartermaster Corps).[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ Mine Field page at
  3. ^ Archives Search Report Findings, Fort Miles Military Reservation (Final), May 1997, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Louisville District
  4. ^ [1] An Act to Authorize Appropriations for Fiscal Year 1991 for Military Activities of the Department of Defense, for Military Construction, and for Defense Activities of the Department of Energy, to Prescribe Personnel Strengths for Such Fiscal Year for the Armed Forces, and for Other Purposes, US Government Printing Office, 1990, p 1793
  5. ^ SOSUS The "Secret Weapon" of Undersea Surveillance". Undersea Warfare (US Navy) 7 (2). Winter 2005. Retrieved 2018-07-26.
  6. ^ Images of America: Fort Miles, Dr. G. Wray and L. Jennings, Arcadia Publishing, 2005
  7. ^ Reenactor information at


  • Berhow, Mark A., Ed. (2004). American Seacoast Defenses, A Reference Guide, Second Edition. CDSG Press. ISBN 0-9748167-0-1. 
  • Lewis, Emanuel Raymond (1979). Seacoast Fortifications of the United States. Annapolis: Leeward Publications. ISBN 978-0-929521-11-4. 

External links[edit]