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. Anti-Aircraft training continued from April 1941 through September 1944 when the operation was closed and transferred to another base. After the war - Camp Davis was assumed by the Marine Corp and used for training. Camp Davis remained a hub of activity until it closed in 1944.
Camp Davis came back to life again on June 1st, 1946 when the Navy took over. It became the base for “Operation Bumblebee” which was a secret guided missile testing program for the Navy.
The airfields and surrounding land were re-acquired by the military in 1954, and are presently used as a Marine Corps satellite airfield.
Holly Ridge has twice been threatened by major forest Fires. Both times the quick resourceful firefighters of both North Carolina Department of Forestry and local volunteer fire departments saved the town.
Today the town of Holly Ridge has its own city hall, fire and police departments. It is home to two industrial facilities, and several small businesses.
Still maintaining it's small town character, Holly Ridge is the hoome of one of Coastal Carolina's favorite 4th of July festivals every year.
Military trucks line the original dirt runway of Camp Davis.
Former Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown's father Edward Brown was one of the first firefighters on the base.
And yes, if you heard the rumor, it's true. Betty Grable really did ride
a Navy speed boat up the New River to Holly Ridge to visit the troops
at Camp Davis in 1942.
Copyright 2016 Kathy S. Parker Real Estate
WASPS flew regularly at Camp Davis, and are rumored to have often out-scored men in training.