The Fort Miles Historical Association is seeking new members, especially history fans, tour guides and willing workers.
The association was formed in 2003 to restore what was one of the largest shore batteries in the United States during World War II. About 2,000 soldiers were stationed at Fort Miles to guard the entrance of the Delaware Bay from enemy warships. The location at Cape Henlopen was critical because war supplies traveled the bay from Philadelphia and Wilmington.
Since the association was formed, progress has been made to restore Battery 519, which housed two 12-inch guns. One 12-inch gun is on display and is a highlight of fort tours. Fort Miles is unusual because the big guns were housed in underground bunkers hidden in the great dunes that overlook the Atlantic Ocean.
The fort is being restored mainly by volunteers who call themselves the Bunker Busters. They meet at the fort most Thursdays and Fridays and are from a wide variety of backgrounds. They are led by FMHA board member John V.H. Roberts.
“We have a sophisticated group of volunteers with skills ranging from carpenters, electricians, metalworkers, researchers and historians. We have a lot on our plate, from building exhibits and determining the historical background of artifacts, to keeping the place standing tall. As we move forward, we need to add to our ranks. Please join our group of volunteers and have fun with us,” Roberts said.
More docents are needed to conduct tours and educate the public about Fort Miles. Docent training is periodically conducted by Delaware State Parks staff, said Shawn B. Heacock, park interpreter.
“The tour program of Fort Miles is the backbone of everything we do here. Tours help to increase awareness of the project and what Fort Miles was in the greater context of World War II,” Heacock said. “Finding people who are engaging, energetic and willing to learn the history of Fort Miles and share that knowledge with others is what we need. Without a solid tour program to enhance public awareness and engagement with Fort Miles, the project would not be moving forward.”
Dr. Gary D. Wray, association president, said the fort is an asset to Sussex County and all of Delaware.
"FMHA is now at the time where we need to expand our docent base as we begin to ramp up our effort to open our museum on a more regular basis. Over the last two years, the Delaware Legislature has given us much support, and our museum is now in its key planning phase and more docents are needed to help interpret inside the museum,” Wray said.
For more information go to www.fortmiles.org.