Seven Reviews

-"An important regional history."

-For "Readers who love the Navy and the Cape Henlopen area."

-"An endorsement...."

-This should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in local history."

-"An interesting and informational such it is highly recommended."

-I recommend the book to anyone interested in naval technology and/or the region, it is well written and maintains the reader's interest." 

-...every citizen of Lewes should purchase one to be better informed of the Naval Heritage that they are part of."

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“An important regional history”

David Winkler, PhD. Naval Historical Foundation

In A Century of Service, retired naval intelligence officer and gifted storyteller Bill Manthorpe used Cape Henlopen as a prism to tell a unique history of the United States Navy in the 20th Century.  His fascinating narrative provides multiple overlays over a strategic piece of real estate fronting the entrance to Delaware Bay.  Evolutions of technology is a recurring theme.  For surveillance Manthorpe shows us how the technology evolves from binoculars used by the Pennsylvania Naval Militia during the Spanish American War to watch for the Spanish Fleet to a sophisticated Cold War undersea detection system that was developed to detect Soviet submarines. However, it was German submarines that directly threatened the approaches to the vital Delaware estuary, and Manthorpe capably describes the contribution Lewes-based Sailors made during both World Wars. This work is timely, given the forthcoming centennial of the U.S. Naval Reserve, for its highlighting of the role citizen Sailors, who served in various capacities and drilled at the Cape’s Naval Reserve Training Center until that facility closed in the 1990s.  Though focused on Cape Henlopen and Lewes, this is an important regional history that should have a space on library shelves up and down the Delaware Valley.

For “Readers who love the Navy and the Cape Henlopen area….”

Robert B. Pirie USNA Class of 1955


Readers who love the Navy and the Cape Henlopen area will find much to enjoy in this brief book by Bill Manthorpe, former Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence. It is a narrative of the U.S. Navy's involvement with the location at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, from 1898 to the present. Thus it encompasses the Spanish-American War, two World Wars, and the Cold War, both as to local activity and also, by reflection, what was going on in the Navy and the broader world in those interesting times.


The first Naval unit at the Cape was the Coast Signal Service Station, whose function was to communicate with approaching ships by semaphore, flag hoist or flashing light, and warn naval district headquarters of the possible hostile ships. This morphed fairly rapidly to radio, and by America's entry into World War I had become Naval Radio Station, Lewes, Delaware. What is interesting here is the alacrity with which the Navy adopted radio and turned it to fleet operational use. Following the first experimental ship-to-shore transmission in 1899, by 1903 five shore stations and eight ships had been equipped with wireless gear. This is lightning speed by contemporary standards.


          The entry of the U.S. into World War I prompted the need to create a “Naval Section Base” at Cape Henlopen in addition to the radio station. A Naval Section Base is one that is under the command of the local Naval District, whereas a Naval Base would be under the command of the Fleet Commander. The Naval District, at the outbreak of the war, had a host of responsibilities, including control of shipping into and out of Delaware Bay, protection against submarines and surface raiders, minesweeping of channel and anchorages, and the like. Some of these were shared with the Coast Guard, and some with the Army, but substantial forces needed to be stood up and put into operation in short order. Manthorpe's book lays out this process in detail, and describes the creation of forces, mostly by conversion of civilian ships to minesweeping, patrol and convoy escort duty, and bringing in people from various civilian occupations to man and support the ships. Once again, this is a fascinating picture of the kind of activity required to bring the country to a war footing, and a source of wonder at the speed the tasks were accomplished.


          The inter-war years saw Lewes revert to a radio direction finding station, but World War II brought a repeat of the earlier mobilization process, which Manthorpe also describes admirably. The forces were larger and the tasks more complex than in the earlier war. The threat, particularly submarines, was also more acute. This, for example, prompted the laying of a defensive mine field at the Bay's entrance, and the use of  moored hydrophones to detect intruding submarines. Once again the materiel and people needed were assembled and put to work promptly, much of it from the local area.


          One of the nice things about this book is the picture it paints of changing circumstances and how both the Navy and the local area moved to adapt to them. The Cold War brought the need to deal comprehensively with the Soviet submarine threat, in many ways an even more daunting task than defeating Hitler's forces. Part of the solution was a global undersea surveillance system, SOSUS, and here again the Lewes area played a part. The Cape May naval facility was originally selected to be the terminal for a major Atlantic coast array, but was shortly found to be unsuitable because of beach erosion and other problems. Naval Facility Lewes stepped into the breach, and soon a very substantial base was in operation, including processing and communications buildings, housing, messing and support structures and the necessary security arrangements. Begun in 1962, the NavFac was finally closed in 1980 in response the changing threat, technology and budgetary pressure. This led to the final chapter in this long story---a Naval Reserve training facility with declining manning and operational relevance. This, and pressure to give the land to the surrounding Cape Henlopen State Park finally led to the departure of the Navy from the Cape in 1996 after more than 98 years. The remarkable adaptation of the Navy and the local community to time and change over that long period is well worth reflecting upon, and Bill Manthorpe's book is an excellent source for this reflection.


Robert B. Pirie, Jr. is a:

Former Submarine Commander, Retired Naval Officer.

Former Assistant Secretary of Defense, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Undersecretary of the Navy, and Acting Secretary of the Navy.

And enthusiastic summer resident of Lewes Delaware.

"An endorsement..."

Captain Jim Donovan, USN (Ret.) President IUSS Alumni Assn.

I wanted to provide an endorsement for a book recently published by one of our members, CAPT William "Bill" Manthorpe, USN (Ret.) -"A Century of Service-The U.S. Navy on Cape Henlopen, Lewes Delaware; 1898-1996". The book contains several chapters outlining the role of NAVFAC Lewes, Delaware in the national defense as well as the history of the IUSS that I found very well written.  Bill's descriptions with firsthand accounts from operators are among the best regarding our System that I have found in open source literature. 

“This should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in local history….”

Kurt Schneck, Country Club Connections, November 2014 

A Century of  Service is an ambitious endeavor that gives readers an intimate and thoroughly researched view of a 100-year association between the people of Lewes and the United States Navy. Cape Henlopen is the center of this unique history of the Navy in the 21st century that began during the Spanish­ American War when the Navy first appeared on the Cape, up to and beyond the Cold War. Technology and surveillance are prevalent themes throughout the narrative and Manthorpe details their evolution from binoculars to sophisticated detection systems used to locate German and Soviet submarines. The men who were stationed on Cape Henlopen served during war and peace time and were supported by the people of the city of Lewes. This intriguing work illuminates the importance of their lives and works, and takes the reader on a historical journeythat traverses the Theodore Roosevelt years, both world wars and the cold war, and culminates in the closing of the Naval Training Facility in 1996.This should be on the book shelf of anyone interested in local history and/or little-known facts about The First State, Cape Henlopen and the town and people of Lewes.

“An interesting and informative book….As such it is highly recommended.”

Bolling Smith, Editor The Coast Defense Journal, November 2014. 

CDSG members are accustomed to thinking of Cape Henlopen, Delaware in terms of Fort Miles. However, Lewes and Cape Henlopen had an extensive history with the U.S. Navy that began long before the establishment of Fort Miles and continued for decades after the guns of Fort Miles were silenced.

To even attempt to summarize the naval history of this area would be exhausting, but this book does an impressive job of detailing that history, i n both its organizational and personal aspects. The author is a retired navy officer, a former deputy director of naval intelligence. His lifetime of experience in the navy, coupled with diligent research, had produced an excellent guide to the naval history of the region where he now makes his home.

Coast defense has always been recognized as a joint service responsibility, but there has been too little discussion of the naval aspects. This book does much to correct that imbalance.


By detailing the efforts of the U.S. Navy (and Coast Guard) in two world wars, it adds considerably to a broader picture of coast defense.

In addition, for those who have wondered about the post-war naval activities on the cape,  much of which utilized Fort Miles' old batteries, this book provides many answers. This book is largely focused on the navy. The primary mention of Fort Miles is in respect to the joint-service HECP, although here again, the emphasis is on the navy's contribution.  But Manthorpe  dearly demonstrates  that  a book does not have to be about the army to cover coast defense.

The only complaint is the quality of the B&W illustrations.  This book deserves better. Other than that, it is an interesting and informative book, which will broaden anyone's knowledge of coast defense. As such, it is highly recommended.

"I recommend...the book to anyone interested in the history of naval technology and/or the region; it is well written and maintains the reader's attention."

Michael F. Solecki, on the website of the Naval Historical Foundatiin

Protecting the entrance to the Delaware River and Bay has been of concern to its maritime communities since their early existence. Most of that protection was farther upstream at Forts Mott and Mifflin and Peapatch Island. But, it was not until the Spanish American War that the powers that be decided to protect the river at its entrance. Cape Henlopen, Delaware on the western bank and Cape May, New Jersey on the eastern bank form the gateposts of that entrance. Although this book gives some information about the Cape May side of the river, it describes in amazing detail the fascinating history of Cape Henlopen.

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The late 1800s were a time of naval reform for the fledgling United States of America. Until that time, the U.S. did not have a high seas fleet to speak of. With war against Spain looming and vibrations of a world scale war coming from Europe, the U.S. decided that in order to protect their interests around the globe, a modern and sustainable navy was necessary. The 1880s and 1890s saw the formation of a naval reserve force, state naval militias, and a true “coast guard.” Post-Civil War America was becoming a global power. National defense by way of its harbors became a concern of the then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, who began pushing harbor defense to the sitting congress and White House. The Philadelphia Navy Yard, commercial shipbuilding and the massive industrial base along Delaware was a primary national asset that needed protection. This was proven by German U-Boats during both of the world wars and the submarine service of the Soviet Union later on.

Once the gate posts were organized and equipped with signal stations and patrol boats, mining the entrance to the Bay began. By 1905, the Cape Henlopen facility received a Massie Spark Gap Transmitter and was named a Naval Wireless Station. From that point, the station technologically evolved through two world wars and the Cold War with the Warsaw Pact. The station provided not only anti-submarine services as part of the Navy Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) net it was at the forefront of naval surveillance, communications and navigational aids. Together with Cape May, the stations provided the main protective force of the harbors and assets of the Fourth Naval District.

Since its establishment, Cape Henlopen was manned by the United States Army in Fort Miles, a Coast Guard detachment from the Captain of the Port of Philadelphia and several Navy units and related military reserve units. The Public Health Service maintained a quarantine hospital and even state naval militias maintained a presence. The personnel became a welcome and integral part of the Lewes, Delaware community throughout its existence. As the Cold War began winding down in the 1980s, the naval facility became primarily a reserve training facility for the sailors living in the region. The reserve units of Cape Henlopen were activated and served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the early 1990s. By the mid-1990s, the number of reserve personnel dwindled. The units were moved elsewhere and the facility closed in December 1995.

The State of Delaware has since reabsorbed the land and converted it into a state park and environmental center. Almost all of the buildings are gone and the antennas no longer decorate the beaches. The dunes are being allowed to reestablish to protect the area from nature instead of enemy ships and the town of Lewes has mostly become a sleepy hamlet. For the most part, the majority of the tourists do not realize the important services the area contributed to the security of the nation. I am more guilty than most. I was one of those “tourists” for fifty years, as I have been surfing the surrounding beaches from the mid-1960s through the present, not to mention the countless trips on the Cape May – Lewes Ferry. I actually taught beach ecology courses at the former Reserve Training Center, now an Environmental Center. Embarrassingly, as a Naval Historian and regional resident, I never knew its legacy.

This book tells it all and literally names names. It gives a comprehensive military history of the Cape from the beginning to the end. The detail is surprising and easily defines the amount of effort put into the research by the author. Authentic photographs and charts are used throughout to create a realistic mental picture and emphasize the military and communal importance throughout the station’s history. Unlike most other naval facilities this base was very mission specific and high-technology was its primary tool. Cape Henlopen was on the forefront of naval technological research and the author covers its evolution in detail. The author also personalizes it by including details of the close relationship between the local civilian community, the military personnel, their families and the base as a whole. By covering the whole spectrum he clearly defines the regional importance of its location. I recommend reading the book to anyone interested in the history of naval technology and/or the region; it is well written and maintains the reader’s attention.

"Every citizen of Lewes should purchase one to be better informed of the Naval Heritage that they are part of."

G. William Weatherly, retired Navy Captain and author of Shepperd of the Argonne, an alternate history of naval battles of WW II.  Available from www.

William Manthorpe has done an incredible service to the people of Lewes, Delaware and the Navy as a whole. His book, A Century of Service, documents the activities of the United States Navy on Cape Henlopen from the Spanish American War till the end of the Cold War. Throughout, there were close ties between active duty naval personnel, reservists in times of peace, and citizens of Lewes. Mr. Manthorpe's well researched history provides a template for future service personnel in how to effectively integrate with the community and accomplish the missions assigned.

I was particularly interested in the SOSUS station during the Cold War and the miles of strip charts that flowed through the printers. While in the Navy, during this period as a junior officer, I was only distantly aware of what was happening ashore in support of the ASW mission.  One thing I am certain of is some of those miles documented my many underwater passages to the Caribbean and back to New London.

This is not a book for the casual reader, but every citizen of Lewes should purchase one to be better informed of the Naval Heritage that they are part of.

For citizens of Lewes