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"Army Coast Artillery Training Center, World War II. Named for Richmond P. Davis, native of Statesville." In December 1940 the War Department announced that it would construct an installation near the Onslow County community of Holly Ridge, population 28. The announcement brought a flood of men seeking employment to the area. Over 22,000 were working at the height of construction. By May 1941, Camp Davis, named for Statesville native Maj. Gen. Richmond P. Davis (1866-1937), had 978 buildings, thirty-two miles of paved streets, and an airfield. The first soldiers arrived in April 1941; by 1943, Holly Ridge’s population was 110,000. The base includes white and black segregated units.
As predominantly an Army coast artillery training center, Camp Davis hosted antiaircraft and seacoast defense training. The firing ranges for the antiaircraft guns were not at the main base, but rather were at the former Civil War stronghold at Fort Fisher, fifty miles south, and four miles east at a narrow landing strip between the inland waterway and the ocean known as Sear Landing.
Members of the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) flew plans that towed the targets used in antiaircraft exercises. The installation also served briefly as the home of the army’s first Barrage Balloon Training Center from 1941 to 1942. Camp Davis remained a hub of activity until it closed in 1944. After the war the site hosted a secret missile test program known as “Operation Bumblebee.”
Carl Goerch, “Camp Davis and Other Places,” The State, May 31, 1941
David A. Stallman, A History of Camp Davis (1990)
Alan D. Watson, Onslow County: A Brief History (1995)
Bettie Fennell, “Camp Davis,” (Wilmington) Star-News, July 15, 1984
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.