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Fort Story in Virginia Beach, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Fort Story

 
 
Fort Story Marker image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
1. Fort Story Marker
Inscription. Welcome to Fort Story, home to a variety of U.S. Army and Navy units. The installation's 1,451 acres are presently used for training by the Army's 7th Sustainment Brigade, Naval Amphibious forces and Special Operations forces. The post also serves as home for Army and Navy Reserve units in addition to other military activities.

We hope you find your visit to Cape Henry both educational and inspirational.

Fort Story Rises from the Dunes

The U.S. Army arrived at Cape Henry in 1916 and broke ground for a military installation. The initial mission was to provide a site for coastal defenses at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay. Soldiers and small artillery guns were stationed at Cape Henry. The installation was named for the the former Army Chief of Artillery, Major General John Patten Story.

in the period between World War I and World War II, the post went to a caretaker status, but the buildup of armament continued with the emplacement of 16-inch howitzers. By 1940, the need for additional weapons was recognized and modern weapons were located at Fort Story. The 246th Coast Artillery of the Virginia National Guard was activated and served throughout the war, manning the variety of coastal artillery including 6-inch to 16-inch guns. A minefield was also put in place across the entrance to the
Fort Story Marker image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
2. Fort Story Marker
bay.

Following that conflict, the guns fell silent and were later removed from the post. They were replaced by companies of the Army Transportation Corps with the DUKW amphibious vehicle. This first generation amphibian was later replaced by newer ones which operated and trained at Fort Story. A number of these amphibian units trained and deployed to Vietnam.

To counter the manned Soviet bomber threat, the Army established a surface to air missile system around many American cities. One battery of the Nike missile system was placed at Fort Story and remained there until 1974.

Logistics-Over-The-Shore (LOTS) exercises continue to use the beaches and waters off Cape Henry to test the ability to provide ship to shore and inland movement of supplies and equipment.

The 11th Transportation Battalion provided support during the Gulf War in 1991, and more frequently in Operation Iraqi Freedom to assist world-wide transportation requirements.

The addition of Special Operations training will effectively utilize the available training areas and complement the LOTS and port operations missions.

The Guns of Fort Story

"We should put up a gigantic fortress right here between these capes," uttered President William Howard Taft in November 1909 at Cape Henry, Virginia. Taft, speaking to the convention of the Atlantic Deeper
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By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
3. Fort Story Marker
Waterways Association, had just consumed an enormous amount of Lynnhaven oysters at O'Keefe's Casino. He might have been referring to the middle of the bay entrance, but in any case, a few years later Fort Story was born.

In 1914, land for a new military installation was aquired by condemnation and in 1916 the 300 plus acres were named in honor of Major General John Patten Story, USMA, 1865. With the outbreak of World War I there was a need to establish defenses at Cape Henry. Fr. Monroe sent two artillery companies and four 5-inch and 6-inch guns were mounted as armament. Following World War I, the guns were dismounted.

The construction of permanent armament began in the summer of 1921 with the building of emplacement for four 16-inch howitzers. Two years later the battery was complete. With a small garrison, the howitzers and a mine battery were maintained in a caretaker status. Railway artillery from Fort Eustis came to Cape Henry for use in service practice.

In 1940, with the threat of war looming in Europe, the planning for coastal defense modernization increased. Additional land was acquired, and both construction and troop strength were increased. Initially, mobile 155-mm guns were placed in the dunes. They were replaced by more modern 6-inch guns. Smaller caliber weapons supported the underater minefiled which was laid across the entrance to the
Fort Story Marker image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
4. Fort Story Marker
Chesapeake Bay. The primary armament at Cape Henry, however, was a pair of 16-inch gun batteries capable of engagin targets at a long distance.

With the victory in Europe in May 1945, the alert status of the existing gun batteries was reduced. The modernization of the armament was nearing completion, but there was an uncertainty as to the immediate future of the entire defensive system. It would not be until 1948 that some of the 6-inch guns fired their final service practice. In the following year, orders declared the guns surplus and ready to be cut up for scrap.

The defensive mission for the Army at Fort Story was not complete. In 1957, the Army Anti-aircraft Command located a Nike missile battery at Fort Story to counter the Soviet manned bomber threat. The missiles wer never fired an the missile mission ceased in 1974.

The Emerging Community

The combination of lighthouses, life-saving stations and the Virginia pilots have guided and assisted many a mariner from the earliest days as they enter and exit the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. They were joined at Cape Henry by a station of the Weather Service and in 1890, the Cape Henry Park and Land Company was chartered to acquire Cape Henry for development and timber interests. The area was commonly referred to as 'the desert."

A small community to support these federal activities
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By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
5. Fort Story Marker
began to evolve, but the only access was down the beach at low tide. Life was made easier by the establishment of a rail line to both Virginia Beach and Norfolk in 1902. A number fo residences were built in addition to the Seabreeze Hotel, stores and a post office. O'Keefe's Tavern opened in the area presently occupied by the Cape Henry cross and drew large crowds.

There were two communities that were established at Cape Henry before the arrival of the U.S. Army. The first, centered around the Hygeia Hotel with a number of substantial buildings, was located to the seaward of the present day post headquarters. The second was northwest of the lighthouses adjacent to the original 300 plus acres at Fort Story. The Cape Henry Syndicate had platted out this land and laid out numbered streets. A number of small summer homes were built in addition to St. Theresa's Chapel. The men living at Cape Henry full-time were generally employed as farmers, fishermen or in the retail trade. The government employees served at the lighthouse, Weather Station, or Life-Saving Station. Their families lived in a number of wooden buildings surrounding those operations.

During the Great Depression, the government sent men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to build roads, trails and cabins in the adjacent Seashore State Park. Some of the men lived in the barracks at Fort Story.

With
Fort Story Marker image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
6. Fort Story Marker
the emerging threat of war in Europe, the Army expanded its ownership of land at Cape Henry. Through condemnation and land sales, the government took over the civilian community. The Coast Guard Station relocated to Little Creek, and the military assumed control of a number of civilian buildings. Today, only a handful of wooden structures remain to tell the story of life at Cape Henry.

Defending the Chesapeake Bay

At its mouth, the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay spans some 17 miles from Cape Henry to Cape Charles. This waterway provides access to the important ports of Baltimore and Hampton Roads. Over the years there has been a need to defend the coast and waterways of Virginia. It started with the first English settlers.

The first defenses stem from the construction of a fort at Jamestown by the English in 1607. Later, anotyher fortification was built at Point Comfort. Much later, the Revolutionary War brought about a revival in coastal defense. Fort Nelson was built on the Elizabeth River near Portsmouth. A fort was also built on the Norfolk side to protect the inner harbors. While the siege of Yorktown was underway, Admiral deGrasse of the French fleet took up a position at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay and prevented the British fleet from relieving Lord Cornwallis.

Again, against an exposed American coast, a British fleet entered
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By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
7. Fort Story Marker
the unprotected mouth of Hampton Roads in 1813. In the following year, another British fleet sailed up the Chesapeake Bay and landed the army behind Washington. After its departure, the United States started formidable construction. By 1823, Fort Monroe at Old Point Comfort was compete, and work started on the foundation of the adjacent Fort Calhoun in the harbor.

Following the Civil War, the defenses of the Chesapeake Bay were nonexistent until the 1880s. when more modern artillery was emplaced at Fort Monroe. With the outbreak of World War I, the area harbor defenses expanded and it was determined to project the firepower seaward to the Virginia Capes. Small caliber guns were posteed at both Cape Henry and Cape Charles. Even with taht, the widthe of the entrance made effective defense impossible. After the war, the artillery garrisons were demobilized, but development of coastal artillery continued.

With the advent of World War II, modern coast artillery was emplaced on post with guns ranging from 6-inch to the big 16-inch gunes. With the new weapons and aminefiled across the bay, the Chesapeake Bay was effectively protected from an enemy. in 1942, a German submarine challenged the defense but never gained entrance.

The Amphibians Arrive

In July 1946, the 425th Amphibious Truck Company was activated at Fort Story. The U.S. Army realigned
Picture from "Fort Story Rises from the Dunes" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
8. Picture from "Fort Story Rises from the Dunes" panel
Top photo: Major General John Patten Story.
Bottom photo: One of the towers on the beach used for directing artillery gun fire.
the mission at Cape Henry from coastal artillery to the U.S. Army Transportation Corps. The DUKW amphibious vehicle, which had served well in World War II, was assigned to the company. Commonly called the "Duck," the vehicle was built on a two-and-a-half ton truck chassis and moved on land and water with no special preparations. The amphibious force quickly grew to battalion and command strength and assumed the main mission on the post. During the Ash Wednesday Storm in 1962, the DUKW vehicles were called upon to assist in the evacuation of residents in nearby Virginia Beach.

The family of amphibious vehicles changed over time, with the workhorse DUKW being phased out in favor of the more modern second generation LARC (Lighter, Amphibious, Resupply, Cargo) vehicles. The LARC V, LARC XV, and LARC LX were used to transfer cargo from vessels offshore to shore unloading points. The Army used the beaches and inland training areas at Fort Story in a series of Joint Logistics Over-The-Shore (JLOTS) exercises. The last LARC LX served until 2001 when it was phased out of the inventory.

The Lighter, Amphibian, Air Cushion Vehicle (LACV-30) was the third generation of amphibious vehicles to replace the LARC family. It was designed to ride on a four foot cushion of air over the water and over land. A completely new modern facility, including a flyway into the water, was built
Picture from "Fort Story Rises from the Dunes" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
9. Picture from "Fort Story Rises from the Dunes" panel
Aerial view of post under construction in 1941, taken from the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse.
on the western portion of the post to accommodate these vehicles. The LACV was a noisy and maintenance-intensive vehicle and the Army determined to retire the hovercraft from the inventory. The era of amphibious vehicles which had started at Cape Henry in 1946 had come to an end.

Captions included on this panel are:
This is an aerial view of an off-load exercise during JLOTS II in September and October 1984. At that time, it was the largest joint exercise ever held on these beaches. More than 3,000 military personnel from the Navy, active Army and Army Reserve components participated.

The workhorse DUKW amphibious vehicle was assigned to Fort Story from 1946 until the early 1960s.

The second generation family of amphibious vehicles that replaced the aging DUKW. From left to right are the LARC LX, the LARC XV and the LARC V. Despite the new vehicles and new nomenclature, the local civilian community continued to call all amphibious vehicles "Ducks."

Into the 21st Century

The entrance to the Chesapeake Bay at Cape Henry provides realistic and challenging training conditions across a broad spectrum of vital joint conventional and unconventional war-fighting skills. As the Army's primary Joint Logistics-Over-The-Shore (JLOTS) training site, Cape Henry offers variable tides and currents in both the bay and the ocean.
Roughly the same view today. image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
10. Roughly the same view today.
it also offers broad beaches, dunes and coastal inland areas for training all of the military services.

The quality of life for Fort Story families continues to be upgraded. Through renovation and construction, the residential communities initiative has resulted in a total of 250 homes for officer and enlisted military personnel. The Cape Henry Inn and Beach Club is an Armed Forces Recreation Center facility providing year-round accommodations for military personnel.

In 2007, both Fort Story and the adjacent First Landing State Park hosted a number of successful events in conjunction with the 400th anniversary of the landing of the English colonists at Cape Henry.

The main Army unit on post is the 11th Transportation Battalion assigned to the 7th Sustainment Brigade at Fort Eustis. The battalion conducts cargo transfer operations to include air, sea, rail and highway terminal. It can also conduct multi-modal transportation operations to include JLOTS operations. The battalion and assigned companies have recently supported Operation Iraqi Freedom. Both Army and Navy reserve units also train at Fort Story.

After 30 years at Cape Henry, the U.S. Marine Corps relocated its basic reconnaissance course and replaced it with the USMC Training and Advisory Group to provide support for the Global War on Terrorism.

The U.S. Navy Explosive Ordnance
Picture from "Fort Story Rises from the Dunes" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
11. Picture from "Fort Story Rises from the Dunes" panel
This building was constructed in 1917 as Post Headquarters and is still in use today with the same mission.
Disposal (EOD) Training and Evaluation Unit 2 conducts training and evaluation for the Navy EOD forces. SEALs from Naval Special Warfare Group 2 use the beaches and waters off Cape Henry for training. The close quarter combat training range on post also supports SEAL training. In the future, Fort Story will continue to protect the environment and provide training areas for both conventional and special operation forces.

Captions included on this panel are:
HHD, 11th Transportation Battalion Soldiers of Task Force 11 perform pre-combat checks in preparation for convoy operations in Camp Adder near Talil, Iraq.

U.S. Army Humvee on patrol in Iraq in 2007.

A Navy diver makes a splash as he enters the water to oversee MK-16 MOD 1 dive training being held at Explosive Ordnance Disposal Training and Evaluation Unit (EODTEU) 2 at Fort Story. Ongoing training such as this is essential to the U.S. Navy.

Sailors from Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Units 2, 4, 6, and 8, as well as Naval Coastal Warfare's Maritime Interdiction Teams, take part in a helicopter rope suspension training/cast master certification course. Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) fast-rope exercises are a part of EODTEU 2 training curriculum.
 
Erected by the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, the Cape Henry Lighthouse and the
Fort Story Post Headquarters today image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
12. Fort Story Post Headquarters today
Old Coast Guard Station.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Civilian Conservation Corps marker series.
 
Location. 36° 55.517′ N, 76° 0.45′ W. Marker is in Fort Story, Virginia, in Virginia Beach. Marker is at the intersection of Atlantic Avenue and Sicily Road on Atlantic Avenue. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Virginia Beach VA 23459, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Old Cape Henry Lighthouse (within shouting distance of this marker); British Naval Blockade and Cape Henry Lighthouse / The War of 1812 (within shouting distance of this marker); History of Cape Henry Lighthouse (within shouting distance of this marker); First Public Works Project of the United States Government (within shouting distance of this marker); First Landing (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Cape Henry Memorial (approx. 0.2 miles away); François Joseph Paul de Grasse (approx. 0.2 miles away); Battle of the Capes (approx. ¼ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Fort Story.
 
Picture from "Fort Story Rises from the Dunes" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
13. Picture from "Fort Story Rises from the Dunes" panel
Tent city of the 2nd Company, Coast Artillery in 1917.
Picture from "The Guns of Fort Story" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
14. Picture from "The Guns of Fort Story" panel
A 155-mm GPF Model 17 gun and crew on the beach in 1936. When the guns wwere ready to fire they were moved to reinforced platforms commonly called "Panama mounts." By 1944, they were no longer considered modern armament and were removed from the active status list.
Picture from "The Guns of Fort Story" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
15. Picture from "The Guns of Fort Story" panel
"We'll show 'em." Soldiers of the 246th Coast Artillery heckel Adolph Hitler with their scribblings on the huge 2,100-pound projectiles before they wre fired from 16-inch howitzers during target practice at Ft. Story in June 1941.
Picture from "The Guns of Fort Story" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
16. Picture from "The Guns of Fort Story" panel
Howitzer Number 1 of Battery Alexander C. M. Pennington in 1948 just prior to the scrapping of all four M1920 16-inch howitzers. In addition to the battery plotting room, a number of former powder and shell magazines for the howitzers remain on the installation.
Picture from the Emerging Community panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
17. Picture from the Emerging Community panel
In 1918 a brick observatory building was erected to house the weather station at Cape henry. During World War II, the military used the building as a Harbor Entrance Control Point. The station was closed in May 1969 and the building then served as officers' quarters.
The former Observatory Building, currently used as officers quarters image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
18. The former Observatory Building, currently used as officers quarters
Picture from the Emerging Community panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
19. Picture from the Emerging Community panel
The brick and granite church designated as St. Theresa's Chapel was dedicated in October 1924. It served the civilian community until prior to World War II when it was closed. It was later renovated by the Army which had taken over the land. The chpael stands today on Atlantic Avenue.
St. Theresa's Chapel today image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
20. St. Theresa's Chapel today
Picture from "The Emerging Community" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
21. Picture from "The Emerging Community" panel
These are the two life-saving stations at Cape Henry. The structure on the left was built in 1874. The second generation statin was completed in 1904. The second station was relocated to Little Creek prior to World War II, because it was in the line of fire of the coast artillery guns.
Picture from "The Emerging Community" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
22. Picture from "The Emerging Community" panel
An August 1885 photograph titled "Leaving Cape Henry Light Station." The wide-track wheels on the cart enabled it to maneuver on soft sand. The construction of the railroad from Virginia Beach and Norfolk in 1902 made acces to Cape Henry a lot easier.
Picture from "The Emerging Community" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
23. Picture from "The Emerging Community" panel
This postcard depicts the 1903 train station at Cape Henry. It was central to the emerging community that was beginning to grow. Later, a post office opened in the building. The rail ine was discontinued in 1950 but the building is used by the Army.
Cape Henry train station today. image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
24. Cape Henry train station today.
Picture from the "Defending the Chesapeake Bay" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
25. Picture from the "Defending the Chesapeake Bay" panel
A World War I recruiting poster for the Coast Artillery Corps. The Coast Artillery largely served in fixed fortifications at most of the continental harbors and also picked up the mission of aricraft artillery.
Picture from the "Defending the Chesapeake Bay" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
26. Picture from the "Defending the Chesapeake Bay" panel
A concrete platform of a 6-inch Model 1900 in the surf off the beach. This battery and a battery of 5-inch guns were emplaced in the dunes in 1917 and were the only armament on post during World War I. They were obsolete when mounted. Additional guns were mounted on Fisherman Island at Cape Charles.
Picture from the "Defending the Chesapeake Bay" panel image. Click for full size.
By Kevin W., September 27, 2014
27. Picture from the "Defending the Chesapeake Bay" panel
In addition to coast artillery, the principal weapon used in fixed-location seacoast defense was underwater mines. This "mining casemate" was built in 1922 and controlled some of the mines set out at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay.
<i>Men of Fort Story operate an azimuth instrument, to measure the angle of splash…</i> image. Click for full size.
By Alfred T. Palmer, 1942
28. Men of Fort Story operate an azimuth instrument, to measure the angle of splash…
Men of Fort Story operate an azimuth instrument, to measure the angle of splash in sea-target practice, Fort Story, Va. - Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on September 15, 2016. This page originally submitted on November 28, 2014, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia. This page has been viewed 660 times since then and 83 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. submitted on November 28, 2014, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.   8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27. submitted on November 29, 2014, by Kevin W. of Stafford, Virginia.   28. submitted on November 29, 2014.
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