Topsail Beach, North Carolina: Missiles and More Museum

Topsail Island was the site of top-secret ramjet technology research in the late 1940s, which covers the "Missiles" part of this museum. Pose with the outdoor Talos missile next to the road.

Address:
720 Channel Blvd, Topsail Beach, NC
Directions:
From Surf City drive about 6.5 miles southwest along Hwy 50 until you reach Flake Ave. Turn right. The museum is two blocks ahead, in the blue Assembly Building.
Hours:
Varies by season (Call to verify) Local health policies may affect hours and access.
Phone:
910-328-8663
Admission:
Donation
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Missile.

Missiles and More Museum

The Missiles and More Museum has exhibits on Operation Bumblebee that, in the late 1940s, did ramjet technology research on Topsail Island. Just outside the museum is a TALOS anti-aircraft missile. This covers the "Missiles" part of the museum. Unfortunately, I visited during the off-season, and the museum was closed, so I can't provide a report on the "...and More" part. According to the museums's website, there are exhibits on pirates, Osprey aircraft, and Women Air (Force) Service Pilots (WASPs). Although there are exhibits on Bumblebees and WASPs, as far as I know, there are no insect collections in the museum.

[John Takao Collier, 01/08/2016]

A Bumblebee Tower.

Operation Bumblebee Towers

From 1946 to 1948, Topsail Island was the home of the US Navy's "Operation Bumblebee," a secret military project to develop a supersonic guided missile. At the time, Topsail was largely a deserted island. The Navy built a launch pad, a control tower, a rocket assembly building, and eight photographic towers used to track and study the flights of the rockets.

When the Navy left for larger facilities in Cape Canaveral, New Mexico, and California, the buildings were turned over to private land owners. The towers are all still standing, and over the years most of them have been remodeled into homes or incorporated into larger structures, but if you look closely enough, you can find all of them. I'm sure the fact that the towers have stood for over 50 years has to be part of their appeal. Topsail is fairly regularly smacked by hurricanes. In the past, I've seen some of the towers used in fairly elaborate homes, then visited those same towers five or ten years later to find the homes GONE but the towers still standing.

The smaller control tower is still there as well, and the old Assembly Building has been turned into the Topsail Island Museum. The launch pad is now the patio at the Jolly Roger Motel.

[Dean Jeffrey, 05/25/2002]

Nearby Offbeat Places

SharkShark, Hampstead, NC - 5 mi.
Emmett Sniff's Concrete SculpturesEmmett Sniff's Concrete Sculptures, Hampstead, NC - 5 mi.
Souvenir Shop GatorSouvenir Shop Gator, Surf City, NC - 7 mi.
In the region:
Wreck of the Mary E. Morris, Oak Island, NC - 41 mi.

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