TOPSAIL ISLAND -- A lot of history has been made on topsail island... Including a top-secret military test. You've more than likely seen the old towers used in Operation Bumblebee scattered around the island. Operation Bumblebee was named for the insect that, according to tales of aerodynamics, shouldn't be able to fly, but does so anyway. The Navy and the John Hopkins University Physics Lab ran the covert operation, testing the ramjet engine and 200 missiles on topsail island from 1946 to 1948. Missiles and More museum director Rose Peters said, "It was very secret. The island was totally -- there were no inhabitants on the island. There were fishing shacks, that was about it. It was the perfect place to have a secret operation." The eight observation towers used in the operation still stand. Many were turned into homes and some are in their original state. Peters says security was tight during those two years. Navy boats were constantly patrolling the waters around the island. "They would just monitor the fishing boats," Peters said. "The fishermen were allowed to continue their work and there was one larger one up at the new river inlet." Peters says the operation is considered a success and discoveries about the ramjet are still used Monday. "The information that they gathered here is what was probably used in jet airplanes," Peters said. Topsail Island Historical Society President Cecile Broadhurst said, "Our mission is to continue this history and to make sure it's preserved for our children and our grandchildren. As long as we have a topsail island, we want to preserve the history of it." Peters says a great thing about Topsail Island's history is that it's tangible. You can drive around and visit the towers and actually see some missiles in the museum.
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