NC Historical Sites: – Fort Fisher Army Field – During World War II
Much like the Civil War’s impact in the 1860s, America’s involvement in World War II brought profound social and economic changes to Wilmington, North Carolina. As the nation’s home front prepared to support America’s war machine, Wilmington and New Hanover County underwent a major expansion in the shipbuilding, chemical, and petroleum industries. Thousands migrated to the Wilmington area pursuing defense work — and military personnel were not far behind.
The Fort Fisher range ultimately became the main range for Camp Davis and the installation was given the name Fort Fisher Army Air Field. Because of the new range’s prominence, it was deemed necessary to make the range a self-sustaining post. This called for the construction of 48 frame buildings, 316 tent frames, showers and latrines, mess halls, warehouses, radio and meteorological stations, a post exchange, photo lab, recreation hall, outdoor theater, guardhouse, infirmary, and an administration building.
In addition to these facilities, the site featured a 10,000-gallon water storage tank, a motor pool, a large parade ground, and three steel observation towers along the beach.
One of the more prominent features of the range was a 2,500 ft. unpaved runway. From a historical standpoint this is unfortunate as a section of the earthworks for the fort’s land face, known as Shepard’s Battery, were leveled to make the runway.
The Army was well aware of the historical significance of the old fort, but the necessities of the war outweighed historic preservation. Today, the parking lot and visitor center for Fort Fisher sit on the remains of the runway.
In 1944 the anti-aircraft training facility was transferred to another base and Camp Davis was closed.
At the time of its closure, Fort Fisher had grown to include an 80-seat cafeteria, a 350-bed hospital and dental clinic, and covered an area of several hundred acres.