Delaware’s Ghost Towers, by William C. Grayson
This is a wonderful history of the 261st Coast Artillery Regiment and it main installation, Fort Miles. Author Grayson has done his usual superb scholarship in researching this largely unknown and almost totally unreported chapter of the defense of America’s shores during WWII. Ft. Miles, located on the western shore of Delaware Bay, along with batteries at Cape May, had responsibility for the approaches to one of the most important commercial shipping routes in the entire nation. The very real threat of German submarines and to a lesser, but still significant, degree threat of surface raiders made the Coast Artillery mission potentially vital to protecting the ships necessary to keep America’s economy and war effort viable. This text explains how the very complex system of 11 observation towers, battery casemates, ammunition bunkers and command and control bunkers are combined to create a very formidable system of defense against seaborne threats. Quite detailed explanations of how the various guns, from 16 inch pieces hurling a shell weighing over a ton over 25 miles, down to 3 inch cannons, are crewed and operated make for very interesting reading—giving the reader a clear idea of how difficult effective gunfire is to accomplish when firing at moving vessels in varying sea and atmospheric conditions. While Ft. Miles and its associated installations were never called upon to fire at the enemy, the author makes it clear how important the officers and men took their responsibilities and how efficient they would have been in the event they were called upon to engage the enemy. A number of both historical and contemporary photographs and drawings and illustrations compliment the text and help the reader understand the intricacies of battery operations. The author’s description of life as a Coast Artillerist during the war gives a significant glimpse into how soldiers and civilians interacted and makes clear the many hardships they shared as their nation fought a global war. While the subject of this book is necessarily very limited in its scope, what is related here makes for compelling reading and is strongly recommended for anyone interested in WWII history, particularly on the home front.
Publisher: Author House
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, Indiana 47405
ISBN: 1-4208-4691-4 (sc)
Length: 101 pages, 63 black and white photographs, 63 illustrations
Price: $13 online, $15.50 retail