Fort Story sits on a prominent piece of land. In 1607, colonists first landed here before moving on to settle at Jamestown. In 1781, at the end of the Revolutionary War, the French Fleet blockaded the bay just offshore from here and prevented the British forces at Yorktown from receiving reinforcments, forcing Lord Cornwallis to surrender to General Washington. One of the nation's first lighthouses was built here in 1791. In fact, that lighthouse was the first one authorized by our newly formed government. The community of Cape Henry was established in 1902, and it grew to about 300 residents. An electric train connected the town with Norfolk via what is now the Shore Drive corridor. Later the railway would connect instead to the Oceanfront area, which was in turn connected roughly via the Virginia Beach Blvd. corridor. After Fort Story expanded in 1941, the civilian community faded away. And by 1954, the railroad would disappear.
The World War I and Pre-World War II Periods
In the years prior to World War I, the Army began purchasing land at Cape Henry. They saw a
need for protection against hostile shipping entering the Chesapeake Bay. In earlier times,
the distance between Cape Henry and Cape Charles was too great for weapons to effectivly
protect the bay. Forts in inland areas like Norfolk, Hampton, Washington, and Baltimore were our
way of protecting ourselves, leaving vast areas where enemies could easily penetrate.
Originally known as Cape Henry Military Reservation until it was officially named on July 24, 1916 for Major General John P. Story. He was once an artillery commander at Fort Monroe. During the World Wars, Fort Story was commanded by Fort Monroe in Hampton. The headquarters moved to Fort Story during World War II. In addition to the 2nd Coast Artillery, the 246th Coast Artillery, a VA National Guard unit, served here.
Fort Story was once divided into parcels. Parcel A was the main part of the base between the East Gate and the Lighthouses. This contained Battery Pennington, the railroad artillery, the early temporary batteries, searchlights, and just about everything else. Parcel B was on the western end of 72nd St. off of Atlantic Avenue and contained the Emerson fire control towers. Parcel C was just beyond that at 67th St. and was the site for several fire control towers. Parcel D was towards the West Gate and is the site of a mine casemate and fire control tower. Parcel E was next to the West Gate and contained the Examination Battery, and the Granite fire control towers.
BATTERIES & BUNKERS:
Emergency Battery A (1917-1919): two 6-inch pedestal mount guns (from Battery Montgomery, Ft. Monroe); in surf
Emergency Battery B (1917-1919): two 5-inch pedestal mount guns (from Battery Rice, Ft. Andrews, MA); in surf
Battery Commanders Station for the 5-inch battery
Plotting Room / Fire Command Station for the 6-inch battery
Three Anti-Aircraft guns, one broken up on beach.
Mine Command Station behind the 6-inch battery
Battery Alexander C.M. Pennington: four 16-inch M1920 Army guns on M1920 long range howitzer mounts (1922-1947)
Pennington Plotting Room Casemate
Railway Artillery (two 14-inch, one 12-inch, two 8-inch, and four 12-inch mortars)
Mines Casemate (Mine Defense Command Station)
The World War II and Modern Periods
The largest chunk of land was aquired in 1943 as the fort was fortified with several more
16-inch guns. Parcels A, D, and E were no longer separate as the entire cape was now part of
the reservation. A minefield was laid off of the cape. Some of the batteries have been
claimed by the sea and erosion continues to be a problem to this day. After the war,
the fort lost its importance as a coastal defender, and the gun batteries were
decommissioned by 1949. Between 1958 and 1974, there was a NIKE missile station here.
But the Army found various other uses for Cape Henry, including using the beach to
simulate invasions and for the testing of various amphibious vehicles. Fort Story is now
a substation of Fort Eustis in Newport News. It is home to the 11th Transportation
Battalion, and the Marines and Navy have small tenant commands here. The Coast Guard also maintains
a presence at the Cape Henry Lighthouse.
BATTERIES & BUNKERS:
Battery 120 - Daniel W. Ketcham (Battery 1): two casemated 16-inch MkIIM1 Navy guns on M4 long range barbette carriages (1943-1948)
Ketcham Plotting Room Casemate (1943)
Battery Willoughby Walke (Battery 3): two 16-inch M1920 Army guns on M1920 long range howitzer mounts (1941-1947); once part of Pennington
NOTE: Battery Pennington (Battery 2) originally was the name for all four of the 16-inch howitzer guns.
B.C. Station Battery Walke: top of New LH (1941-?)
Battery 121 (Battery 4): two casemated 16-inch MkIIM1 Navy guns on M4 long range barbette carriages (1943-1948)
121 Plotting Room Casemate (1943)
Battery 225 - Raymond V. Cramer (Battery 5): two 6-inch M1903A2 guns on M2 shielded barbette carriages (1943-1949)
Battery 224 - Phillip Worcester (Battery 6): two 6-inch M1900 guns on M1900 pedestal mounts (1942-1947)
Battery 226 (Battery 10): two 6-inch M1 guns on M4 shielded barbette carriages (1943-1949)
Examination Battery (AMTB Battery 19): two 1905 3-inch guns (from Ft. Monroe/Irwin) on pedestal mounts (1942-1945)
AMTB Battery 21: two shielded 90mm guns on fixed mounts (1942-?)
AMTB Battery 22 (formerly Battery 24): two 90mm guns on fixed mounts (1943-1950); in surf
Battery 1: four 1917 French 155mm mobile guns on Panama mounts (1931-?) Chesapeake Bay?
Temporary 155mm mobile Battery 5: four field mounts (later four Panama mounts) (1934-?); with BC tower 4 between pads 1 & 2 (1 recently found)
Battery U (replaced Battery 5); four 155mm Panama mounts (1942-?); on beach
Mine Casemate 1 (formerly HDCP and Mine Casemate 2): under Old LH (1933 - 1940's)
Mine Casemate 2 (formerly MDCS and Mine Casemate 1): also Battery 7-A (1922 - 1940's)
Fire Control Towers (none survive)
Harbor Defense Command Post (1943)
Harbor Entrance Control Post (WWII): former Weather Bureau station and current base commander's residence
USGS Satellite Images of the fort
Proceed to Photo Gallery
* Official link to Fort Story *