WW II Watchtower Story

By Tom Massfeller

Watchtower 2008One bright sunny morning, I find myself stopped at a red light at the intersection of East Granada Boulevard and A1A.  The Atlantic Ocean is mostly calm with gentle waves coming on shore.  The replica of the original Ormond Garage stands proud, housing its history of early automobile racing on the beach. I turn north onto A1A and see some older homes and some palatial beach homes and dream about what it would be like to wake up to the sounds of the ocean every morning.  I soon drive through the still somewhat cozy town of Ormond by the Sea and continue north.  At about the 2100 block of Ocean Shore Boulevard stands a unique and strange structure.  I’ll have to admit that when I first saw it many years ago, I thought it was a very large life guard station.  Now I know its story.

Five days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the United States entrance into World War II, fifteen local individuals along with some New Smyrna Beach residents took the qualifying exams for the Coast Guard Auxiliary.  Members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 44, called Flotilla 1-3 during World War II, manned the lookout tower in Ormond by the Sea around the clock as they searched the coast for German submarines.  The structure I stand before today is a restored replica. Such “watchtowers” were built up and down the eastern coast of the United States to guard against invasions. By May of 1942 180 vessels had been sunk. The Auxiliary responded to aid the sinking vessels and rescued those who were forced to abandon.  At times people on the beach could see these U-boat engagements.

This rare World War II coastal watch tower was recognized as a historic site in the mid 1990’s. The 30-foot tower was refurbished in 2005, including a placard placed at its base with a brief history, through the efforts of the Emmer Corporation out of Gainesville.

Gordon Kipp
Gordon Kipp at Watchtower Dedication

The picture at the right shows past OBHS president Gordon Kipp at the 2005 dedication.

However by 2015, the tower stood strong, but the signage had become unreadable.  The Ormond Beach Historical Society contacted Phillip I. Emmer, Chairman of the Emmer Corporation, who graciously donated funds to update and build a more weather resistant sign.  Mr. Emmer said that he remembered when he was 13 in Miami Beach where his father volunteered for the Civil Air Patrol and scanned the horizons from a similar post.Watchtowner Sign 2016

Today, while shrimp boats troll offshore, surfers try to catch a wave and sunbathers bask on the sand, the Watchtower still guards the beach and is a visible symbol of American volunteerism.