After a long journey by water and rail, a storied 16-inch gun barrel was unveiled today at the Battery 519 Museum at the Fort Miles Historical Area in Cape Henlopen State Park, where it will be stationed. The gun barrel, which weighs more than 116 tons and is 66 feet long, was salvaged from the USS Missouri, the battleship on whose deck the Japanese signed the surrender that ended World War II on Sept 2, 1945. The huge 16" gun could hurl 2,700 pound shells more than 23 miles in 50 seconds, with pinpoint accuracy in support of U.S. ground troops.
"We're honored to have this historic gun here in Delaware," said Governor Jack Markell. "It's a great draw for Fort Miles tourism, which brings thousands of people to Delaware every year. This new artifact adds to our tourism arsenal and the economic boost that always accompanies it."
"Delaware is honored to be the new home of this significant piece of American history," said Senator Thomas Carper. "As a major operational center of our nation's coastal defense during World War II, Fort Miles in Cape Henlopen State Park is the perfect place to display this artifact from the U.S.S. Missouri -- the ship that hosted Japan's surrender. Moreover, this historical addition will draw even more families and tourists to the First State and our pristine beaches."
"The preservation of history has always been important to the people of the First State; and by bringing this historic gun to Delaware, it's not only being preserved, but it will also serve as a significant tourism draw," Senator Chris Coons said. "I am pleased that the U.S. Systems Naval Command donated the barrel, and I look forward to being one of the many people from near and far to visit this piece of history."
"I'm very excited that such an important piece of American history will now reside permanently at Fort Miles," said Congressman John Carney. "This remnant from the USS Missouri will draw tourists to our beautiful Cape Henlopen State Park, and will be a constant reminder of the contributions that the men and women of America's Greatest Generation made to our country."
"With thousands of visitors to Fort Miles each year, having such an important and exciting artifact is only going to make Fort Miles and Cape Henlopen State Park a more attractive destination for Delawareans and visitors alike," said DNREC Secretary Collin O'Mara. "It wouldn't have happened without the hard work by the Fort Miles Historical Association, the Save the Missouri Gun Fundraising Committee, and the major and individual donors whose contributions brought the gun here. We thank them all for their dedication."
At one time, two similar guns were installed at Fort Miles, which served as the Army's coastal defense fortification. The guns were removed after the war, and were rumored to have been scrapped and turned into razor blades.
The gun on the U.S.S. Missouri was discovered in a naval yard in Norfolk, destined to become scrap as well, until the Fort Miles Historical Association (FMHA) requested it, launching a fundraising effort to move the gun to Delaware.
According to the FMHA, the total cost of getting the 16" barrel to Delaware was $113,500. The funds were raised through private donations and several key grants, including one from the G.M. Foundation and the Sussex County Council. The state Department of Economic Development's Division of Tourism also contributed, as did almost 100 individuals.
The barrel was donated to DNREC's Division of Parks and Recreation by the U.S. Naval Systems Command by way of a joint plan written by FMHA and Delaware State Parks.
"The Fort Miles Historical Association is extremely proud and honored to be able to partner with Delaware State Parks in bringing the Missouri barrel #371 to Cape Henlopen State Park," said Dr. Gary Wray, president of the FMHA. "The barrel will become the centerpiece to our Fort Miles Museum which. when completed, will be the best World War II museum inside a WWII facility in the United States."
All money was raised by FMHA and the Save the Missouri Gun Fundraising Committee, chaired by Lewes realtor Nick Carter, a 1970 Naval Academy graduate who served in the US Navy for two tours in Vietnam and was the founder of the Delaware chapter of the Naval Academy Alumni Association.
"Because of my family's World War II military history here in Lewes, I was asked to chair the fundraising committee," Carter said. "After the attack on Pearl Harbor, my grandfather was called to active duty from the Navy Reserves to command the Fort Miles Harbor entrance Control Post. My father was commissioned early and served onboard the Eagle Patrol Boat from Cape May during World War II."
Carter continued: "I am very excited about the arrival of the Missouri's Barrel #371, which symbolizes our local military history. This cannon is the stepping stone for the creation of the Fort Miles Military Museum and I look forward to being a part of that process too."
It could be another year or two before the 16" gun barrel is displayed. It joins eight other guns currently located at Fort Miles.
Improvements at Fort Miles announced today included a geothermal system for the Battery 519 Museum. Two Delaware Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EECBG) -- one to the City of Lewes and the other grant to Delaware State Parks -- provided the funding for a three-zone, closed-loop ground source heat pump system with integrated de-humidification. This system replaces an antiquated and inefficient military system that once ran continuously to warm the underground bunker and prevented it from "raining" inside year round. The EECBG grants, funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, were administered through DNREC's Division of Energy and Climate.
Members of the Fort Miles Historical Association paid for the engineering design plan, and have provided in-kind volunteer service hours for the necessary electrical infrastructure improvement to prepare for the geothermal heat pumps' installation. The FMHA has also been fundraising for the Battery 519 museum design, contracting with the Vernon Johnson Museum Design Associates to develop a conceptual plan for the Battery 519 Museum.
"The City of Lewes is pleased to be able to partner with such an outstanding organization as The Fort Miles Historical Association in order to assist in funding for improvements to the Battery 519 Museum," said Jim Ford, Mayor of Lewes. "As a community rich in history, one that prides itself on historical preservation, Lewes values the addition of the U.S.S. Missouri gun barrel that will tell yet another story of our military heritage to thousands of visitors and locals alike. Our commendations to the FMHA and everyone involved in this highly successful and most unusual endeavor to bolster both tourism and historical preservation for the state of Delaware."
Also noted at the event were two recent improvements made at Cape Henlopen State Park, including a new playground and six new cabins. The playground equipment and installation were funded by the Friends of Cape Henlopen State Park, and a new sidewalk -- which makes the playground accessible to all -- was made possible by funds secured by State Representative Pete Schwartzkopf.
The six new cabins will be available for Cape Henlopen State Park visitors around Memorial Day, and feature two bedrooms and screened front porches. The cabins replace five former tent camping sites. For low maintenance, the cabins were built with fiber-cement siding, asphalt shingle roofs, and fiberglass windows and doors. Showers and restroom facilities are provided in a nearby campground shower building.
"These improvements encourage Delawareans and visitors alike to get outside and enjoy all the activities that Cape Henlopen State Park and Fort Miles have to offer," said DNREC Secretary O'Mara.