Gov. Jack Markell visited Fort Miles June 18, touring Battery 519, praising volunteers for their amazing work and pledging help to increase awareness about the World War II facility in Cape Henlopen State Park.
Dr. Gary D. Wray, president of the Fort Miles Historical Association, told the governor about the group’s success in moving a 16-inch gun barrel from the USS Missouri from Virginia to the fort two years ago, and efforts to relocate other parts to complete a static display of the big gun.
The gun display will be one component of what the association plans for the Battery 519 site: “the best World War II museum in the world,” Wray said.
He showed the governor a plotting table re-created by fort volunteers, and explained that it is used to teach schoolchildren as part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program when they visit Fort Miles. During World War II, soldiers at Fort Miles used information phoned from observation towers along the coast to target enemy surface ships if they approached Delaware Bay.
Harry Winn, FMHA treasurer, showed the governor before-and-after photos of Battery 519, including pictures of decrepit, debris-filled rooms before FMHA began restoration work in 2003.
“You have done an unbelievable job,” Markell said. “This is amazing.”
Wray told Markell that Fort Miles is one of the First State’s best-kept secrets, known to visitors from neighboring states but not as well known to Delawareans.
Markell acknowledged that he had little knowledge of Fort Miles before the tour, but added, “We’ll do our part to make sure people know about it.”
The governor “fired” the fort’s 12-inch gun, pulling a trigger attached to speakers that blared a loud “boom.”
"I’m blown away,” Markell said before firing the gun again. “This is really interesting.”
For more information go to www.fortmiles.org.