Sunday, November 6, 2011

Operation Bumblebee and Topsail Island - A World War 2 History Lesson!

Howdy everyone! Recently, my weekends have left little time for kayaking adventures. Either Rachel and I are going on college open house tours with our youngest son... I'm busy with yard work... or Mother Nature has been uncooperative with damp, cold, and blustery weather!

This past weekend (Nov 5 - 6), with things so crazy, Rachel and I took off for a long weekend in Wilmington! We had a wonderful and relaxing time together... no worries about work or sticking to a schedule... we did what we wanted to - when we wanted to! There was no kayaking... again off shore wave and wind conditions were not favorable for paddling... but we had a great time exploring places and towns we had never visited.

In one of our "land adventures," we stopped at Topsail Island, and discovered "strange" concrete towers scattered around the island, especially near and in the town of Surf City.


I had no idea why these towers had been build on Topsail Island or what purpose they had once served? But upon my return home, I conducted a few Web searches (ain't the Internet something?), the mystery was solved!

"At the end of World War II the Navy 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."

"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 above ground 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."

- Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms


Observation Tower #2 (Circa 1945)

One of seven observation / instrument towers that remain standing. This building has been modified with the installation of glass windows. Originally, it looked like the unaltered Observation Tower #2.


View looking from the Atlantic Ocean side.

Another observation / instrument tower. Note how this tower has been altered. Looks like the ground floor of the structure has been gutted, it may be missing a top story and crude windows have been chiseled out of the concrete .


And it would not be a beach setting without those humorous (and sometimes witty?) house signs that decorate these beach retreats?

Anyway, with me being a World War 2 history buff, I was really excited about the discovery of some war "history" on this island in North Carolina! Hopefully, on our next return trip, we can get in some paddling, as I also discovered some excellent looking marsh and tidal areas for kayaking!

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