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Fort Fisher Air Force Station

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fort Fisher Air Force Station
Part of
Air Defense Command.png
Air Defense Command (ADC)
Cape Fear,[1] 0.8 miles (1.3 km) southwest of Kure Beach, North Carolina.
Fort Fisher AFS Welcome Pamphlet.jpg
Cover of welcome brochure, 701st Radar Squadron
Coordinates33°59′24″N 077°55′06″W / 33.99000°N 77.91833°W / 33.99000; -77.91833 (Fort Fisher AFS)[2]
TypeAir Force Station
CodeADC ID: M-115, NORAD ID: Z-115
Currently JSS ID: J-02
Site information
Controlled by United States Air Force]
Site history
In use1955-1988 June 30[3]
Garrison information
Garrison701st Air Defense Group
701st Aircraft Control and Warning (later Radar) Squadron
Fort Fisher AFS is located in North Carolina
Fort Fisher AFS
Fort Fisher AFS
Location of Fort Fisher AFS, North Carolina
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML · GPX

Fort Fisher Air Force Station was a United States Air Force installation located on the Atlantic coast 0.8 miles (1.3 km) southwest of Kure Beach, North Carolina. Its primary mission was as a radar complex. It was closed on 30 June 1988 by the Air Force, and turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Today the radar installation that was the main part of the site is part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS), designated by NORAD as Eastern Air Defense Sector (EADS) Ground Equipment Facility J-02.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ The History of Fort Fisher, NC (Museum Guide Narrating Fiber-Optic Battle Map)


From here in the visitor's center, it's difficult to visualize what Fort Fisher was like in 1865. Today's shoreline reflects many years of erosion that destroyed much of the original fort. But the scene was much different in 1865 as the Federals planned an all-out offensive to take Fort Fisher. "I saw through the ramparts of the fort the lights of a great armada, as one after another appeared above the horizon." -Colonel William Lamb January 12th, 1865: The union fleet of transports and fifty-eight warships assembles off the coast, near Fort Fisher. Over the next two days the Federals land troops north of the fort, as the navy maintains a constant bombardment. "The view of the enemy is very plain to me. If they are permitted to remain there, the reduction of Fort Fisher is but a question of time." -General Chase Whiting: Senior Confederate Officer "The first object, which I had in view after landing, was to throw a strong defensive line across the peninsula, so as to protect our rear from attack, before we should be engaged in operating against Fort Fisher." -General Alfred H. Terry "Such a storm of shells poured into Fort Fisher that forenoon as I believe had never been seen before in any Naval engagement." -Thomas O. Selfridge: U.S.S. Hera "A tremendous fire was kept up from the entire fleet. Its effect was terrible. The Fort was being torn to pieces. The exhausted condition of our men now breaking - decimated by fifty-six hours of hard fighting - rendered it necessary to fire at the fleet seldom, and at long intervals." -Major William J. Saunders: Chief of Artillery - Fort Fisher January 15th: Two thousand sailors and marines come ashore to join Federal land forces. They move down the beach to attack the north-east bastion shortly after 3:00pm. "They were pent like sheep in a pen, while the enemy were crowding the ramparts not forty yards away, and shooting into them as fast as they could fire." -Commander Selfridge "I have been in a great number of battles here, and have never seen men fall so fast in my life." -Seaman William Cobb: United States Navy At 3:25, the army's first brigade attacks the western palisade. The Federals come under heavy fire as they attempt to run through the gate at Shepherd's battery. They finally succeed, and gather at the base of the fort. Bluecoats clamor up the fort's outer walls, and the rebels hit them hard. A bitter hand-to-hand struggle ensues, as Union soldiers overrun the battery. The second brigade soon follows, as Confederate artillery from battery Buchanan rains down upon both sides. "A commandant next to me on the traverse was shot in his brains and killed. His brains splattered in my face." -Corporal Henry McQueen: First Battalion, North Carolina Heavy Artillery "As the men were being shot down one by one, our boys took the places of the dead and disabled. I looked around, and saw the Stars and Stripes floating from the top of the parapet with, what seemed to me, to be a thousand bluecoats around it." -Private Zac Foremore: First Battalion, North Carolina Heavy Artillery The Federals move on to the third and fourth batteries, and send in the third brigade. Only thirty minutes have passed since the initial land assault, and more than four thousand Federals now crowd the area around the western palisade, and pour onto the parade ground. Having repulsed the naval ground attack on the north-east bastion, the rebels soon realize the enemy has overrun Shepherd's battery. "I turned to look at our left, and saw, to my astonishment, several Federal battle flags upon our ramparts." -Colonel Lamb General Whiting impossibly orders a counter-attack. "The struggle for the fourth traverse was the hottest and most prolonged single contest of the day." -General Ken Martin Curtis It was a demented struggle. The enemy and our men firing into each other's faces at a few paces distance. -Sergeant T. A. McNeil: First Battalion, North Carolina Heavy Artillery General Whiting is wounded in hand-to-hand combat along the fourth traverse. Colonel Lamb desperately assembles his troops in an all-out defense of the fort's interior. "I begged the sick and slightly wounded to come out, and make one supreme effort to dislodge the enemy." -Colonel Lamb As rebel artillery stalls the Federal advance on the open parade ground, the Union fleet begins lobbing shells onto the fort's land front, to erode Confederate resistance. "Just as the tide seemed to have turned in our favor, the remorseless fleet came to the rescue of the fallen Federals. I believed a determined assault with a bayonet would drive them out. 'Charge bayonets! Forward! Double quick! March!'." -Colonel Lamb Colonel Lamb is shot in the hip. The charge fails. Command falls to Major James Riley. At this, a brigade of fourteen hundred Federals pours into the fort around 6:00pm. General Terry orders them to continue to purse the weakened Confederates. "Climbing over the dead, wounded, and dying, literally piled upon one another, we opened fire at once, without concert, soon silencing the enemy. We then charged, and drove them from one traverse to another, until nine more are in our possession. The stronghold was ours." -Captain William H. Tricky: 3rd New Hampshire By 9:00pm, the Federal mop-up operation is under way. Riley evacuates the injured Lamb and Whiting to battery Buchanan. "The final Union push compelled me to fall back from one position to another, until we were driven from the fort. And with saddened hearts, marched away from the fort we had defended with all our might." -Major James Riley The 27th US Colored Troops enter the fort, and aid the push to battery Buchanan. "As we came into close proximity of the battery, we could dimly discern men on top of it. As soon as they saw us, they disappeared. We continued to advance, and suddenly came into the presence of the enemy." -Luetinet Alfred Jones: 27th US Colored Troops Major Riley is out of options, and forced to surrender. General Alfred Terry enters the fort, and accepts the surrender of Fort Fisher from the wounded General Whiting. "I surrender, sir, to you the forces under my command. I care not what becomes of myself. Goodbye, boys. They've got us, but you have done your duty well." -General Whiting "Thousands of rockets and colored lights went up from the fleet, which were reflected again and again in the mirror-like water." -C. McFarland Federal Sergeant "It was a grand pyrotechnic display." -Colonel Lamb Thus, after two separate engagements, with the cost of nearly four thousand casualties on both sides, Fort Fisher belongs to the Union, and the harbor below Wilmington is closed at last.



Fort Fisher during the American Civil War was a Confederate States of America stronghold that fell to Union forces on January 15, 1865 during the Second Battle of Fort Fisher. "Fort Fisher" had earthworks for the fort's land face, known as Shepard's Battery.[4] In World War II, the nearby December 1940 Camp Davis had 5 live anti-aircraft ranges,[citation needed] including one named for Fort Fisher and which became the main AA range for the camp.[note 1]

Fort Fisher AAF

Fort Fisher Army Airfield (Fort Fisher AAF) was established at the Fort Fisher anti-aircraft range and included 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.[5] The site had a 10,000-gallon water storage tank, a motor pool, a large parade ground, three steel observation towers along the beach, and a 2,500 ft (760 m) unpaved runway (the Shepard's Battery earthworks were leveled for the runway.)[4] Today,[when?] the parking lot and visitor center for Fort Fisher sit on the remains of the runway.

When Camp Davis closed in 1944,[specify] Fort Fisher AAF had an 80-seat cafeteria, a 350-bed hospital and dental clinic, and covered an area of several hundred acres.[specify]

Fort Fisher AFS

Fort Fisher Air Force Station was opened in 1955 on part of the Fort Fisher AAF installation as USAF Permanent System radar station "M-115"[1] during a $1 billion increase for US continental defense[6] after Hq USAF approved the Mobile Radar program in mid-1954.[7] It was assigned to Air Defense Command (ADC) as part of a planned deployment of forty-four Mobile radar stations. Fort Fisher AFS was designed as site M-115 and the 701st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was assigned on 1 August 1955.[8]

ADC initially installed AN/MPS-7 and AN/MPS-8 radars at the site, and initially the station functioned as a Ground control intercept (GCI) and warning station to guide interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the squadron's radar scopes. By 1958 the AN/MPS-8 had been converted into an AN/GPS-3 and an AN/MPS-14 had been added.

In 1962 an AN/FPS-7C and AN/FPS-26 were placed in operation along with the AN/MPS-14 radars. During 1962 Fort Fisher AFS joined the Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, initially feeding data to DC-04 at Fort Lee AFS, Virginia. After joining, the squadron was redesignated as the 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE) on 1 July 1962.[8] The radar squadron provided information 24/7 the SAGE Direction Center where it was analyzed to determine range, direction altitude speed and whether or not aircraft were friendly or hostile.

On 31 July 1963, the site was redesignated as NORAD ID Z-115. The station was supported logistically by nearby Myrtle Beach Air Force Base South Carolina.

SLBM surveillance

The Fort Fisher AFS AN/FPS-26 radar was converted to an Avco AN/FSS-7 SLBM Detection Radar that was operated by Detachment 5, 14th Missile Warning Squadron, Fourteenth Aerospace Force as part of the Avco 474N SLBM Detection and Warning System that "became operational in Mid-1972".[9][10] In addition to the main facility, Fort Fisher AFS operated several unmanned Gap Filler sites:

Myrtle Beach operated an AN/FPS-14, while Fort Bragg operated an AN/FPS-18. In addition, with the closure of ADC facilities at MCAS Cherry Point (M-116), the AN/FPS-14 Gap Filler at Holly Ridge, NC 34°30′50″N 077°32′08″W / 34.51389°N 77.53556°W / 34.51389; -77.53556 (M-116C/M-115C) was redesignated Z-115C in 1963.

The first BUIC III site (with AN/GYK-19) in Air Defense Command was at Fort Fisher AFS.[11]

The 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE) was inactivated[8] and replaced by the 701st Air Defense Group in March 1970[12] Just before inactivation, the squadron earned an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for exceptionally meritorious service for the period from 1 December 1968 through 28 February 1970.[13] The upgrade to group status was done because of Fort Fisher AFS' status as a Backup Interceptor Control (BUIC) site. BUIC sites were alternate control sites in the event that SAGE Direction Centers became disabled and unable to control interceptor aircraft. The group was inactivated and replaced by 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE) in January 1974.[8][12] in reductions to defenses against manned bombers. The group and squadron shared a second AF Outstanding Unit Award for the period 1 January 1973 through 31 December 1974.[13]

Fort Fisher AFS came under Tactical Air Command jurisdiction in 1979 with the inactivation of Aerospace Defense Command and the creation of ADTAC.

The "Fuzzy-7" was deactivated after the Raytheon AN/FPS-115 PAVE PAWS Radar at Robins Air Force Base was completed on 5 June 1986,[14] and the base closed on 30 June 1988,[15] and the USAF retained the housing complex and converted it into the Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area[16] which transferred to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base when Myrtle Beach AFB closed in 1993.

FAA facility

Ground Equipment Facility J-02 continued use of the USAF radar in the Joint Surveillance System (JSS), and "in 1995 an AN/FPS-91A performed search duties."[1] A portion of the base was returned to the state of North Carolina which turned much of it into the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and historic site.

The Fort Fisher site[which?] is used by the National Guard as a training area and also hosts the Annual Seafood, Blues and Jazz Festival.[17][verification needed]

Air Force units and assignments

Emblem of the 701st Radar Squadron(Subdued emblem version)
Emblem of the 701st Radar Squadron
(Subdued emblem version)



  • Constituted as 701st Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron
Activated 1 December 1953 at Dobbins Air Force Base (M-87), GA (not manned or equipped)
Moved to Fort Fisher AFS on 1 August 1955[18]
Redesignated 701st Radar Squadron (SAGE), 1 July 1962
Inactivated on 1 March 1970
Redesignated 701st Radar Squadron on 1 January 1974
Activated on 17 January 1974
Inactivated on 30 June 1988


  • Constituted as 701st Air Defense Group on 13 February 1970
Activated on 1 Mar 1970
Inactivated on 17 Jan 1974
Disbanded on 27 September 1984



Award streamer Award Dates Notes
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 October 1962-31 December 1963 701st Radar Squadron[19]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 December 1968-28 February 1970 701st Radar Squadron[13]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 17 January 1974-31 December 1974 701st Radar Squadron[13]
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award 1 January 1973-17 January 1974 701st Air Defense Group[13]

See also



Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Camp Davis used a World War II range at Fort Fisher—the camp was built in late December 1940 as an Army anti-aircraft artillery training facility, and the camp had ~20,000 officers and men of the First Army, Fourth Corps Area using more than 3,000 buildings on 45,538 acres (184.3 km2) and new railroad spurs into the camp. Camp Davis' 4 other live anti-aircraft ranges were outside of the main post along the southern coast of North Carolina at Sears Point, New Topsail Inlet, Maple Hill, and Holly Shelter.[citation needed] The Fort Fisher range became the main range for Camp Davis and then was used for a United States Army Air Forces airfield.[full citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c Winkler & Webster[full citation needed]
  2. ^ "Information for Fort Fisher AFS, NC". Radomes, Inc.
  3. ^ "Deactivation Ceremony Program". Radomes, Inc. 30 June 1988.
  4. ^ a b "Fort Fisher During World War II". North Carolina Office of Archives and History. Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  5. ^ Freeman, Paul (2002). "Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields, Southeastern North Carolina". Paul Freeman.
  6. ^ Leonard, Vol I. 1945-1955, p. 66
  7. ^ Grant[full citation needed]
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Cornett & Johnson, p.162
  9. ^ Leonard, Vol II, 1955-1972, p. 226
  10. ^ reference 3
  11. ^ "First BUIC Site Opens: Ft. Fisher first in ADC To Get New Defense System". The Command Post. Stewart AFB, NY. January 1969.
  12. ^ a b c d Cornett & Johnson, p.86
  13. ^ a b c d e AF Pamphlet 900-2, Vol. II, pp 87,449
  14. ^ Del Papa & Warner the Space Defense Center combining the Air Force's Space Track and the Navy's Spasur.
  15. ^ Murdock, Scott D. "Trip report - Kitty Hawk at last: Saturday, 6 May 2006". Retrieved 21 January 2008.
  16. ^ See "Fort Fisher AF Recreation Area". The Website Factory. Retrieved August 20, 2014.
  17. ^ Information on Fort Fisher's military uses
  18. ^ See Mueller, p. 109
  19. ^ AF Pamphlet 900-2, Vol. I, p. 449


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

External links

This page was last edited on 13 February 2019, at 09:26
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