Anticipating war, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began surveying this site in 1940, establishing a 1,700-acre base by August 1941. Named for a former commanding officer of the Army, Fort Miles was one of the most heavily fortified locales in the United States. Bunker gun emplacements lay camouflaged beneath sand dunes. Eleven tall, cylindrical, concrete control towers directed the fire of eight,twelve-, and sixteen-inch guns in the bunkers. The largest guns could lob a shell twenty miles with a concussion that broke windows in Rehoboth. They saw no action, and eventually Fort Miles housed German prisoners of war. The facility was gradually turned over to the state as a park between 1964 and 1996. Of the 250 original buildings, two thirds have been demolished. About a dozen standardized, concrete-block housing (or “cantonment”) structures survive. The two-story park office was originally Building T-410; the nature center was a Guard House; the fishing pier, a wharf for mine-laying. Extant beneath seaside dunes is Battery Smith (1941–1942), principal armament of Fort Miles, which held two sixteeninch guns on barbette carriages, located at either end of a transverse corridor. In between were rooms for shells, powder, and stores; air flues; latrines; and a muffler gallery. Just south is Battery Herring (1942–1943). Its concrete structure is exposed now that its sand covering has been removed; some later additions were demolished in 2003. A historical society was formed that year to restore the control towers and establish a museum.
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