Living history at Fort Miles

Delaware Defenders Day returns historic area to World War II days
April 20, 2024

The Fort Miles Historical Association and Delaware State Parks hosted the annual Delaware Defenders Day April 20 at the historical area in Cape Henlopen State Park.

Nearly 100 reenactors, including many from the Harbor Defenses of the Delaware Living History Association, set up a camp, complete with a church, post office, mess hall, field hospital, radio station, communications center, barracks, motor pool and news service unit.

The day's events included music, firing demonstrations and a re-enactment of the May 14, 1945 surrender of German U-858 submarine at Fort Miles. The Fort Miles World War II Museum was open for tours.

The 32 guns, minefields and searchlights of Fort Miles played a key role in nation's coastal defense during World War II. The defense of Delaware Bay and Delaware River was critical to the war effort. As many as 2,000 soldiers were stationed at the fort, which was the most heavily fortified military installation on the East Coast.

Volunteers put on two, 3-inch gun firing demonstrations. During the war, Fort Miles had eight of the guns stationed along the coast.

U-858 was part of a last-ditch effort by the German high command to attack the eastern United States coast. Thanks to Allied detection of the plan, four of the six submarines were sunk. When the war ended, the remaining two sub crews were ordered to report to the nearest Allied base.

Just after Germany surrendered, U-858 was ordered to report to the nearest Allied port. After a southern journey from Canada, the submarine was boarded off the coast of Atlantic City, N.J., where most of the crew was removed. A small crew to operate the submarine stayed on board and eventually ended up anchored at the breakwater in Delaware Bay at Fort Miles. The remaining crew members were detained until 1946 and released.

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