03/25/12 215 W, 1 I - + 8 - 3 Topsail Towers - Operation Bumblebee

At the end of World War II, the United States Navy established a missile testing facility on Topsail Island. The site was one of three along the Atlantic coast, part of a top-secret project for assembling, firing, monitoring, and perfecting experimental ramjet missiles. Navy and Marine personnel, numbering 500 men, arrived in mid-1946 to begin installing the necessary facilities. The buildings included a number of masonry observation towers that are still standing, both beach- and sound-side.


The site was placed in operation in March 1947. They launched an estimated 200 rockets over the next 18 months. The site was closed, as the location didn't meet the needs of a permanent base due to weather conditions and increased sea traffic. But the towers are still standing, as is the assembly building, which most recently was converted to the museum about the program. Read a bit more on this Wikipedia page. Or read a detailed history via Google books in Ray McAllister's Topsail Island: Mayberry by the Sea. Very good history there. Some of the structures are also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Read the documentation from 1993, which contains quite a bit of details.

See photos by Mike Legeros.

Read detailed information about each tower.

Mike there is also a lot of history associated with this operation in the nearby town of Holly Ridge, 5 miles north of the island on Hwy 50. That’s where a military base called Camp Davis was established in the 1940’s to support Operation Bumblebee. You can google it and find a lot of information. Some of the building foundations are still visible on Hwy 50 and an air strip is still present today and being used by Camp LeJeune and New River Air Station. Jusy a little extra info, buddy.
Don Johnson - 03/25/12 - 11:59

Thanks, Don. Sounds like I need to plan another visit down there, to poke around the Camp Davis site, as well as find those other towers!
Legeros - 03/25/12 - 13:31

Updated with more photos and corrected locations and information about the towers. Think I got them all straight, now!
Legeros - 03/31/12 - 00:42

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