The tower pictured in this post is ‘formally’ known as Tower #6. In the 1950s, the area was developed and the tower became the pier house for the Ocean City Pier. The structures surrounding the tower and the pier itself were destroyed by Hurricane Fran in 1996. Will hopefully be returning soon to photograph the other structures. History of the Operation below.
After the second World War, the US Navy set up a facility at Topsail Island, which at that time was mostly uninhabited. It was here that Operation Bumblebee was put into action. Op. Bumblebee was a top-secret project aimed at developing and testing ramjet missiles. It’s also interesting to note that bumblebees are not aerodynamically supposed to be able to fly…but do anyway.
From June 1, 1946 to July 28, 1948, the Topsail Island US Naval Ordinance Test Facility produced approximately 200 missiles between 3 and 13 feet in length, and launched them from pads on the island out into the ocean. The facility featured a fabrication plant as well as launch pads and thick concrete observation towers.
Despite the successes of the testing, increasing sea traffic and weather conditions caused the site to be moved from Topsail Island, leaving behind the observation towers and launch pads. You can now visit the Missiles and More Museum inside the old fabrication building. The towers all still stand as well, many of which have been converted into dwellings, or parts of dwellings (see here, here and here.) Given the stormy conditions hurricanes can bring to the area, having one of these concrete structures connected to your house may not be a bad idea!
More: A very handy list of the towers and their locations is available here.