Topsail Island’s 26 miles of shore has a rich history of Native American tribes, pirates and top secret missile testing.
This history is preserved in the Missiles in More Museum, which opens April 3 from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“A lot of people don’t know about the museum, so you have to encourage people (with) what you have here,” Museum Director Rose Peters said. “It’s not just a cement building, it’s more than that.”
The museum is located within the Historical Society of Topsail Island Assembly Building on Topsail Beach.
“This island is history,” Peters said. “It’s amazing how diverse the history and wildlife is.”
The exhibits feature top secret Operation Bumblebee, Camp Davis, Osprey, Women Airforce Service Pilots, pirates of the Carolinas, Barrier Island, Natural History and an interactive fossil dig and children’s area.
Here are six interesting facts about Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) found in the exhibit:
First women to serve as pilots and fly military aircraft for the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II. Served from 1942 through 1944, at which time their records were sealed and marked “classified” and stored in archives for more than 30 years. The Wasp were stations at 120 Army Air bases, including Camp Davis. Training included flying every type of plane in the Army’s hangers, or 78 different types of aircraft. The WASP pilots were deactivated on Dec. 20, 1944, without military honors or benefits, including the G.I. Bill. In 2009, Congress awarded WASP the Congressional Gold Medal. In March of 2010, surviving WASP pilots traveled to Washington D.C. to receive the Congressional Gold Medal at the Capitol. The Historical Society of Topsail Island also offers use of the historic Assembly Building for wedding receptions and ceremonies, bridal showers, rehearsal dinners, private parties and celebrations, business meetings, workshops and seminars.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Assembly Building was constructed shortly after WWII to build and store missiles for military.
Operation Bumblebee was a top secret project organized by the Navy and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab to test ramjet engines as thrusters for long range missiles.
Between 1943 and 1945, more than 200 missiles were fired from South Topsail Beach for data collection and research.
Today, the Assembly Building includes the Missiles and More Museum and event space, which features a 3,300 square foot main hall, additional side rooms, a full kitchen, sound side view and boat docks.
About 25 weddings are held at the Assembly Building every year, which boasts waterfront views and a relaxing setting.
All rental fees go towards facility maintenance and upkeep.
Sue Newsome has been with the Historical Society of Topsail Island for more than 20 years and works as the scheduling coordinator for the Assembly Building.
“My favorite part about working with the Historical Society is serving the community and working with wonderful people like Rose,” Newsome said. “I don’t know what this community would do without the museum here.”
For more information about Missiles and More Museum, call 910-328-2488 or visit MissilesandMoreMuseum.org.
For more information about renting the Assembly Building, call Sue Newsome at 910-328-4282 or 910-803-0521.
For more information about the Historical Society of Topsail Island, visit TopsailHistoricalSociety.org.