Strolling up the dunes from Cape Henlopen beach in southern Delaware, you might be surprised to encounter a massive gray cannon. It’s a 350-ton 16-inch (after the size of its barrel) gun that arrived here in 2012 thanks to the work of the Fort Miles Historical Association. Today, the gun points benignly out to sea and sits in the Fort Miles Historical Area, part of the seaside Cape Henlopen State Park. But in the 1940s, Fort Miles was at war and bristling with such heavy weaponry.
During World War Two, Fort Miles was home to over 2000 servicemen and women and an important hub in the United State’s coastal defense network. Though parts of Fort Miles were and are underground – including storage areas and gun batteries – other parts remain on the aboveground landscape, including barracks and Lewes’s iconic “fire control” towers, tall concrete structures used for observing and locating any enemy ships sighted off the coast.
The 16-inch gun that greets visitors to the restored portion of Fort Miles has its own storied history. It was originally was part of a battery aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, a battleship that saw service in World War Two, Korea, and the Persian Gulf War. In 1945, in the shadow of this same gun, a Japanese delegation boarded the Missouri and formally surrendered, ending World War Two. Freshly restored, it is now the centerpiece of the new artillery park and draws visitors to explore the history of Fort Miles.
Visit the Fort Miles Historical Society
Location: 120 E. Wild Rabbit Run, Lewes, DE 19958
Phone: (302) 645-0753
Hours: Summer: Tuesday-Saturday, 10AM-4PM; Winter: weekend hours (see website).
Admission: Admission to Fort Miles is free, but during the summer season there is an entry fee to Cape Henlopen State Park.