October 4, 2008

Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area

(Click any photo to enlarge)

Yup, Pleasure Island has its very own military presence. OK, I've overstated that just a bit. Historically, the parcel that is now home to the Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation area, played an important role in past military conflicts.

Today, it is now used as a vacation spot for authorized Department of Defense personnel. Additionally, during the non-summer months, they support official training in a partnership with the on-site North Carolina National Guard Training Center

A bit of the history of FFAFRA from
Wikipedia (unless otherwise noted):

During the Civil War, Fort Fisher was a fortified Confederate stronghold. It fell to the Union forces on January 15, 1865. (During the intense and bloody Second Battle of Fort Fisher, it is estimated that the total casualties (killed and injured) for both the Confederate and Union soldiers were 3,837)

In late December 1940, a new military facility was built as an Army anti-aircraft artillery training facility. It was named Camp Davis, and was manned by about 20,000 officers and men. Camp Davis was attached to the First Army, Fourth Corps Area. It was an expansive facility consisting of more than 3,000 buildings on 45,538 acres (18,429 ha) with access provided by newly-built railroad spurs leading into the camp.

Camp Davis was different from most military installations by having its firing ranges outside of the boundaries of the main post. In total five ranges were set up outside of Camp Davis for conducting live anti-aircraft training. These ranges were spread out along the southern coast of North Carolina at Sears Point, New Topsail Inlet, Maple Hill, Holly Shelter, and Fort Fisher.

The Fort Fisher range ultimately became the main range for Camp Davis and the installation was given the name Fort Fisher Army Air Field (AAF). 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 AAF had grown to include an 80-seat cafeteria, a 350-bed hospital and dental clinic, and covered an area of several hundred acres.

The Air Force retained part of Fort Fisher AAF, renamed it Fort Fisher Air Force Station (AFS) and transformed it into a radar facility. It was in this role that the base operated for most of the Cold War, being logistically supported by nearby Myrtle Beach AFB, South Carolina. It operated in this capacity from about 1955 until its closure in 1989. During this time it was home to the 701st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron.

After its closure, a portion of the base was returned to the state of North Carolina which turned much of it into a recreation area and historic site. The Air Force, however, decided to retain the housing complex for the base and turn it into a recreation area known as Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area. This facility is currently supported by Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. Besides being a recreation area, the Fort Fisher site is used by the National Guard as a training area.

Here's a list of some of the public events held at their facility:
Annual Seafood,Blues and Jazz Festival.
Fort Fisher Combat Fun Run
North Carolina Country Music Festival

For more information, visit the FFAFRA official website:
http://www.ftfishermilrec.com/

Photo Credits
Fort Fisher Main Sign & Water View
Civil War Photo
Camp Davis Post Card
Army Runway


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