Massive WWII gun installed at Delaware park [video]

(Charlie O'Neill/WHYY)

(Charlie O'Neill/WHYY)

The 116-ton, 66-foot-long gun that was part of the backdrop for the Japanese surrender in 1945 is now on display at Fort Miles in Cape Henlopen State Park.

It’s been a long journey for this massive gun. Originally mounted with nine other 16-inch guns aboard the USS Missouri, the gun launched 2,700 pound shells at enemies throughout the Pacific during WWII. The Missouri, also referred to as “Mighty Mo,” was the host ship for the Japanese surrender ceremony officially ending World War II on Sept. 2, 1945.

The gun was nearly cut up for scrap, but was saved with just days to spare. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Fort Miles Historical Association, the gun is on permanent display at Fort Miles.

“The barrel is the centerpiece of our Fort Miles Museum which, when completed, will be the best World War II museum inside a World War II facility in the U.S.,” FMHA President Gary Wray said.

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During WWII, Fort Miles protected the entrance to Delaware Bay and targets further upriver including Philadelphia. “The gun is representative of those who were stationed at Fort Miles,” DNREC Secretary David Small said. “Now students, veterans, families, visitors and history buffs can relive an important part of Delaware history surrounded by the buildings and artifacts that will help make that experience come alive.”

The FHMA raised $113,500 in private donations and received grants from the G.M. Foundation, Sussex County Council and the Delaware Division of Tourism to fund the transportation costs of moving the gun from Norfok, Va. to it’s final resting place near Lewes.

“The USS Missouri’s gun is an important piece of American history that will draw families and tourists to Fort Miles and the beautiful shores of Cape Henlopen State Park,” Gov. Jack Markell said.

On Friday morning, a 500-ton crane lifted the massive gun into position. The complete display includes a 90,000 pound concrete base, a 70,000 pound slide and a 38,500 pound yoke. The total weight of the display tops 300 tons.

The “Mighty Mo'” gun now sits among a series of other armaments that make up the new Artillery Park at Fort Miles. The complete display features other big guns and exhibits that tell the story behind each weapon. The Artillery Park is scheduled to open to the public this summer.

Fort Miles was closed in 1958 after the increased use of long-range missiles made the facility obsolete. The base’s 543 acres were returned to the state in 1964. The land was eventually transformed into Cape Henlopen State Park. In 2005, Fort Miles was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

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