Monday, July 25, 2011

Ammunition Dump

Several days ago a reader asked about the WWII ammunition dump on Ocracoke Island.

In 1942 the US Navy built a large facility on the island. It was instrumental in stopping U-boat attacks off the North Carolina coast. In addition to construction of the base (near the Coast Guard station) the Navy paved the first road on Ocracoke. A portion of that road ran from the present-day firehouse, alongside where the Ocracoke Coffee Co. is situated today, to the "T" at the end. Off the "T" the Navy paved short aprons. It was there that they stored ammunition. The road became known as "Ammunition Dump Road." Today it bears the more sanitized, official name, "Sunset Boulevard."

Although the word "dump" suggests spent ammunition, this was an area set aside to store live ammunition. A security gate, with gatehouse, was erected several hundred feet before the "T." A security guard was posted there to keep unauthorized people out. At each apron the Navy built wooden sheds where they stored the ammunition. The sheds were nestled against a sandy ridge, and more sand was banked up around them.

After the war the base and ammunition dump areas were abandoned. Blanche remembers being with friends, and they would climb up the ridge to gain access to the roofs of the ammunition sheds. From that vantage point they could see all the way to the ocean.

Eventually all of the Navy buildings were either dismantled or moved. Today, all that remains is the large round cistern near the NPS Visitors Center...and portions of several other structures at the edge of the village (but that is a story for another post or Newsletter).

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is Lou Ann's story of the Night Blooming Cereus Cactus. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous6:32 AM

    Well, you cleared up some confusion I've had about the ammunition dump .....I, too, wasn't sure if "spent ammunition" was disposed in that location (although I hoped not!) or, if was an area for storage of live ammo.

    Now, I know. Thanks, PH!

    I'm trying to remember if Sunset Blvd is the ONLY Blvd on the island.... :) It's humorous to me that any street on O.I. would be named Blvd!

  2. Anonymous7:31 AM

    A casual internet search of the word ammunition dump raises some eyebrows. As a dump is used to refer to ammunition stored for immediate use , in the field and often considered a Target for the enemy to consider to take out. So, hense the guards as these are explosive materials .. so the fact the buildings were removed and the target removed --the residents were no longer in danger of enemy attack. To think the sleepy little village of OI was a target during those years.... er did you ever sleep on pins and needles??

  3. I was born in 1944 (and remember, my father left the island in 1927 to work up north) so I don't remember the Navy being on Ocracoke. However, I have often heard older folks talk about hearing the explosions off shore when a merchant ship was torpedoed. Windows would rattle, and black smoke would rise up in the air. Attacks at night would turn the sky red from burning oil. During the war there was much less vegetation on Ocracoke...and from the edge of the village (about where the Pirate's Chest gift shop is today) all the way to the surf there was almost nothing but tidal flats. So the attacks were often clearly visible from many porches.

  4. Anonymous8:13 AM

    Philip--I've heard the tales of U-boat activities off the coast of Ocracoke during WW II, but your comment in today's post about Cousin Blance raises a question--what are her eyewitness recollections of those days on the island?

  5. My comment above and the one following were sent at nearly the same time. I hope my comment answered the questions about Blanche's recollections. I have heard similar stories from many older residents.

  6. Anonymous5:26 PM

    Philip -
    Although your post was about the ammunition dump in particular, several comments and your answers have expanded the discussion to the u-boat attacks on merchant ships in those early days of the war. Maybe you could tell us the story of Jim Baum (sp?) Gaskill which was a tragic part of that era.

  7. I found a couple of Philip Howard ink and watercolor prints from the late 80's in the PTA thrift this week! I scooped them up knowing they will soon be very collectable!

    Leigh Staelin (Jean Woolard's daughter)

  8. I have been asked to write an Ocracoke Newsletter about Ocracoke & WWII. That may have to wait until fall or winter, but when I write it I will include the story of Jim Baum Gaskill.