The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, September 21, 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.
Though most locals have a general idea of just how important Fort Fisher was to the Confederacy, few know how vital the site was in training men for anti-aircraft artillery.
Original specifications called for a host of features that would make the remote firing range a self-contained post.
These included 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.
The main highway in the area, U.S. 421, bisected the sandy ruins of the land in front of historic Fort Fisher. New firing installations were erected along the beach between the highway and the Atlantic Ocean — not unlike Fort Fisher’s ocean-side batteries during the Civil War. These included, among others, batteries of 40-millimeter automatic cannons and 50-caliber machine guns.
In addition, the site’s utilities, living quarters, and other features sprang up west of the shore installations between the highway and the Cape Fear River.
The area surrounding the old Civil War fort was soon dotted with the trappings of a modern military facility and expansion would continue throughout its tenure as a firing range.
Fort Fisher lacked the elaborate recreational facilities found at Camp Davis, but by the Spring of 1943 it boasted a full schedule of activities.
In August, 1943 the new post theater opened with a screening of Stormy Weather starring Lena Horne. There were also plays and musical variety shows, most of which were performed by the soldiers themselves.
Professional performances sponsored by the United Services Organization (USO) were an added treat, and were often joined by “home grown” talent — including the Fort Fisher Swing Band and other groups.
Many of the post’s trainees were from interior regions of the United States and had never before seen a beach — let alone tried to live near one.
The adjustment was difficult and more than a few soldiers balked at the notion of dining on fried clams and oysters.
To acclimate the men to their new environment, the post offered swimming lessons, advice on how to avoid sunburn, and beach safety instructions.