Secret testing of a revolutionary ‘smart-bomb’ device during World War II gave area residents a start — and the U.S. a key advantage

By Michael A. Hamilton and George W. Contant
Photograph courtesy of the Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University
From the May 2014 issue

ftmilesDuring World War II, Fort Miles guarded the entrance to Delaware Bay with a wide variety of coastal defense guns, including huge 12- and 16-inch behemoths — the sort that battleships fired to such devastating effect. With all that firepower so close by, it’s no wonder people in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach were often jarred in their homes by the thunderous sound of heavy weaponry.

Except, those monster guns were actually fired just a few times, and that was for testing. So what was the source of all the booming that locals used to complain about? The answer lies in the fact that from January 1944 to September 1945, some 150,000 artillery shells were indeed fired from Fort Miles — an average of 180 per day, or 2,000 per week — but it wasn’t the fort’s defensive guns that were firing, and they weren’t shooting at some enemy. These rounds all emanated from a highly classified area of the fort known to the locals as Herring Point, but to the U.S. War Department and dozens of high-level civilian scientists as the Ordnance Research Center–Fort Miles Section.

Many say that a trip to the beach is good for what ails them. 

By Lynn R. Parks  |  Photograph by Kevin Fleming
From the April 2014 Issue

beach"I am quite convinced that, with very few exceptions, the sea-air always does good. … Dr. Shirley, after his illness … declares …  that [it] did him more good than all the medicine he took; and that being by the sea always makes him feel young again.”

— Henrietta Musgrove in “Persuasion,” by Jane Austen

Henrietta Musgrove wasn’t the first person to extol the virtues of a visit to the seashore. Hippocrates, that ancient Greek whose oath many doctors still swear by, advised his fellow medical practitioners to immerse their patients in the ocean. English physician Richard Russell’s 1750 “Dissertation on the Use of Sea Water in the Affections of the Glands,” written in Latin, was translated into English two years later. The treatise, in which Russell asserts that the ocean is a “kind of common defense against the corruption and putrification of bodies,” was so popular that it was often pirated, and by 1769 was in its sixth edition.

A disturbance in downtown Rehoboth prompts calls to 911 and a police response. What happens next sparks controversy, an investigation, and a sour aftertaste for one officer who used to love his work. Here is his story.

By Victor Letonoff Jr.  |  Photograph by Scott Nathan
From the April 2014 Issue

policeAll use of force lawsuits are measured by standards established by the Supreme Court Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386 (1989). The Supreme Court cautioned courts examining excessive force claims that “the calculus of reasonableness must embody allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” The Court also stated that the use of force should be measured by what the officer knew at the scene, not by the “20/20 vision of hindsight."

— From “Law Enforcement and the Law,”

The incident began on Sunday, April 7, 2013, about 4:45 in the afternoon. It was an unusually warm day for that time of year in Rehoboth Beach, making it uncomfortable to wear my ballistic vest, but a great day for young men to walk about shirtless, showing off the tattoos they’d acquired during the long gray winter.