Tangier in Accomack County, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Joshua Thomas Lane
The Tangier Town Hall is a former US Navy Spotting Station and was moved to this site from north of the airstrip. It was originally used as a spotting station for the Navy's target range on the southwestern side of the island, where target ships were placed for bombing practice by aircraft. It is here that the ability of an airplane to sink a ship, even at night, was first proven, marking a turning point in modern military strategy.
In 1920, two target ships, the Alabama and the Indiana, were set in place off the western side of Tangier. During World War I, the possibilities for air power had come to light. After the War, the Army and Navy were at loggerheads over whether and how to use this new technology. General William "Billy" Mitchell (1879-1936) was the foremost advocate for air power. General Mitchell made the then outlandish claim that an airplane could destroy a battleship, rendering the conventional Navy obsolete. Eventually, he convinced the government to allow his theory to be tested, and Tangier was the place. The target ships were in place and Mitchell was given a chance to destroy them with
Mitchell's crews were based out of Langley Field in what is now Hampton, Virginia. Starting in February 1921, they flew up the bay to the target ships for practice. Hazy weather caused problems for the pilots.
In late June 1921, two planes collided in mid-air, killing both pilots. General Mitchell convinced engineer Lawrence Sperry to address the problem of flying with poor visibility. Sperry invented the artificial horizon, the critical device still used by pilots today for instrument flight.
On September 23, a 11:00 PM, Mitchell's men conducted the first night bombing attack of a ship from the air, attacking the Indiana. The 300-pound bombs started the boat afire. The next critical test was scheduled for September 26, 1921. One ton bombs were dropped from 2,500 feet, and in less than 30 minutes, the Alabama was laid to her rest on the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. In 1924, the remains of the Alabama and Indiana were sold for salvage and removed. The San Marcos, destroyed by Navy Gunnery exercises in 1911, proved immovable, and her skeleton remains as seen on the chart.
Joshua Thomas House
Rev. Joshua Thomas
A direct hit on the Alabama - US Navy, 1921
The San Marcos struck by a salvo of shells - US Navy, 1921
Alabama ablaze - US Navy, 1921
Erected by Tangier History Museum & Interpretive Cultural Center.
Location. 37° 49.676′ N, 75° 59.726′ W. Marker is in Tangier, Virginia, in Accomack County. Marker is at the intersection of West Ridge Road and Joshua Thomas Lane, on the left when traveling north on West Ridge Road. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Tangier VA 23440, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Long Bridge (within shouting distance of this marker); The Amanda Wallace Pruitt House (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Emily Pruitt House (about 400 feet away); The Sydney Wallace House (about 600 feet away); Parks Marina (about 800 feet away); Ice Cream Stand (approx. 0.2 miles away); Fisherman's Corner (approx. 0.2 miles away); Methodist Parsonage (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tangier.
Also see . . . Tangier History Museum and Interpretive Cultural Center. (Submitted on August 14, 2017.)
Categories. • Military •
Credits. This page was last revised on August 14, 2017. This page originally submitted on August 14, 2017, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 73 times since then and 12 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on August 14, 2017, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.