Did you know Cape May was a beehive of activity during World War II? Home to a Naval Air Station, Coast Guard Base, shipbuilding of tugboats and dredges, Cape May was also part of Fort Miles. Built as a series of fire control towers, gun batteries, and barracks on both sides of the Delaware Bay, the men at Fort Miles had the job of spotting enemy ships and submarines.
14 Fire Control Towers were originally part of Fort Miles with 11 on the Delaware side and 4 on the New Jersey side. In New Jersey only the Tower on Sunset Boulevard in Cape May remains intact. The towers in North Wildwood and Wildwood Crest are gone, and the Grand Hotel was built around the tower on Beach Drive in Cape May.
Last weekend, while in Cape May for a family wedding, we decided to visit some of the World War II history in the area. My 10 year old son is a huge World War II history buff, and my 8 year old son loves reading about military history, too.
We’ve been to the bunker on the Atlantic side of Cape May by the Lighthouse. Though the bunker is not open to the public for safety reasons, you can walk around the outside of the bunker.
One of the two Fire Control Towers in Cape May is down the road from the Lighthouse and near Sunset Beach. You can park across the street from the Tower or along Sunset Boulevard. Be prepared to climb metal stairs, though the Tower is not as tall as the Lighthouse. Along the way you’ll see photos and panels explaining the tower’s history and function during World War II.
Built in June 1942, the Fire Control Tower was built on site using a sliding tube-shaped form. The entire process only took 2 days to complete.
Near the top of the Fire Control Tower is a Wall of Honor paying tribute to the local Cape May residents who served in the armed forces during World War II.
Behind Fire Control Tower no. 23 is the Eternal Flame Memorial for veterans of all wars, not just World War II.
When we arrived at The Grand Hotel for our stay, we noticed the tower on the roof top. Being a building engineer, my husband speculated that it was a roof-top unit. Boy were we surprised to learn the tower was actually a World War II Fire Control Tower!
Love hearing about a hidden gem in the Delaware Valley?
Find more day trip ideas on my Delaware Valley Museums, Attractions, and Nature Walks for Kids page, and my Family Day Trip Ideas Pinterest board.