Cape Gazette

History comes to life at Fort Miles

Facility played key role in coastal defense in World War II
By Ron MacArthur | May 03, 2013
Photo by: Ron MacArthur Re-enactors portraying a coastal defense artillery crew prepare to fire during a demonstration at Fort Miles.

History came to life April 27 during the annual spring opening of Fort Miles in Cape Henlopen State Park.

The living history event featured dozens of American and German reenactors who showed visitors what World War II camps were like with authentic gear and vehicles. The day also included Battery 519 museum tours, plotting room demonstrations, guest speakers, artillery firings, the operation of a World War II searchlight and a reenactment of the German submarine surrender at Fort Miles in 1945.

Organizers said the event was attended by one of the largest crowds ever.

During World War II, the Delaware River was a chief priority for defense planners because of the access it afforded to the areas in and around Wilmington and Philadelphia. Fort Miles was a key piece in the nation's coastal defense at that time. Fort Miles was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004.

American soldier reenactors portray what members of Fort Miles' 261st Coast Artillery did at the fort during World War II.

Also taking part in the event were reenactors from the 7th Kompanie of the Grossdeutschland Division, the longest running World War living history unit, attending events for more than 30 years. The unit of German solider reenactors prides itself on authenticity. The unit’s motto is “Wenn schon, denn schon,” or if it’s worth doing, it’s worth over- doing.


Tyler Polis of Long Neck dresses the part as he takes a tour of Battery 519, the restored Fort Miles bunker museum. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
A couple gets up close with the USS Missouri gun barrel. The Fort Miles Historical Association is in the process of raising funds to restore the historic gun. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Noah Harshbarger of Long Neck stretches out to reach for the handles of a German gun. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Ray Weston of Valley Forge, Pa., talks about his work in command headquarters of the 7th Kompanie of Grossdeutschland Division. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Cook Dan Campbell of Alexandria, Va., stirs soup to feed reenactors lunch. Campbell is a member of the Grossdeutschland Division. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Fort Miles reenactors in the plotting room demonstrate how triangulation was used to line up shots by the fort's guns. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
World War II reenactors get a birds-eye view of Fort Miles and the surrounding Cape Henlopen State Park from one of the iconic towers. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
German soldier reenactors assemble to provide guard duty before an artillery demonstration. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Ed Decker of Yardley, Pa., is ready for some mock combat. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Smoke fires from the barrel of a 3-inch gun during one of three artillery demonstrations. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
It's all in the perspective. This gun is on display at Fort Miles. During World War II, the fort was among the most fortified locations on the East Coast. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
Reenactor and Fort Miles Historical Association member John Kelley stands as if he's in a scene from the past. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
German officer reenactors take a walking tour of Fort Miles. (Photo by: Ron MacArthur)
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