When you are driving to the village from the lifeguard beach, look for a large black granite marker on the right side of N.C. Highway 12 just before you reach the village boundary. Behind the marker, up past the dunes is an area of the island called Loop Shack Hill, the site of a little known WWII U.S. Navy project called the Beach Jumpers. This marker was installed in the fall of 2009 at a reunion of the U.S. Navy Beach Jumper Association held at Ocracoke to commemorate the island’s participation in this top secret operation.
The story of the Beach Jumpers has only come to light in recent years. In 1943, during WWII before the Naval Station was built on the island, Ocracoke hosted an advanced amphibious training base where tactical cover and deception units, precursors to the celebrated Navy Seals, were organized and trained for the U.S. Navy. This undercover military project was known as the Beach Jumpers and existed not only on Ocracoke but also in other prime locations along the East Coast. In addition to training, these tactical cover and deception units monitored hidden German submarine activity off the eastern coast of the United States during the war. As part of the project a facility was established at Loop Shack Hill to receive pulses from a magnetic cable that ran from Ocracoke to Buxton that indicated when underwater vessels, possibly German submarines, were in the area.
The Ocracoke Preservation Museum has an exhibit with photos that tells the complete story of this remarkable project. Go check out this wonderful display and learn about the major role that well-known actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. played in the development of the Beach Jumpers as well as other astounding facts that surround this operation.