Outer Banks and WWII

When the War was at Our Doorstep

OBX WWII Submarine
Photo courtesy of the OBX History Center

The history of the Outer Banks is filled with the tales of pirates and sea battles. But not all the battles fought off the coast of North Carolina were shrouded in the mists of history and legend. One of the most horrific battles of WWII was the Battle of the Atlantic, and North Carolina was on the front lines of that struggle.

What was held at stake was the very survival of Great Britain and quite possibly, the outcome of the war. In 1942 German U-Boats roamed at will along the Eastern seaboard, and North Carolina was one of their most fertile hunting grounds. That year, almost 80 allied ships went to a watery grave between Corolla and Cape Lookout.

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Dynamic Outer Banks “Hot Spots”

The Outer Banks is a remarkably dynamic place with immense sandbars that rise above sea level. Because of this fact, the force of the wind and sea can have a dramatic impact on the shoreline. Yet the majority of the Outer Banks remains stable. Some of this stability is a result of geography or nature; other secure areas are the result of human intervention including South Nags Head’s recent success with beach nourishment.

However, there are some areas that are currently active, and are referred to as “hot spots.” Consistent steps are taken to stabilize these more dynamic areas.

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WWII on the Outer Banks

The history of the Outer Banks is remarkable, and at times it has been tragic. No more so than activities on the sea’s edge during World War II. Since North America was discovered by European explorers, shipping has hugged the coastline, riding currents that head south before bearing east for Europe. The Germans were aware of this pattern, and during WWII, their submarines exacted a terrible toll on ships off the coast of the Outer Banks.


1942 Loss of Ships

The Battle for the Atlantic hung in the balance in 1942 as German U-Boats preyed on allied shipping in wolfpacks. Seventy ships sank off the North Carolina coast during that year, and 56 of those ships within sight of the Outer Banks from Ocracoke to the Currituck Banks.

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Fundraising on the Outer Banks

Duck & Wine FestivalOne of the most fulfilling parts about living on the Outer Banks is taking part in raising money for various charities. It’s almost always local charities, because one of the things that defines the Outer Banks community is that we take care of our own. National charities and nonprofits do not have as strong of a presence in the local community.

There are a number of different ways that local organizations go about raising funds, but there are some things they all have in common: they have to be fun, it doesn’t hurt to have food, wine and live music, and there has to be something truly unique about each one.

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The Children and Youth Partnership for Dare County (C&YP)

Dare Co Children and Youth PartnershipOne Outer Banks feature that makes it such a special place to live is how committed the community is to our children. Of course, many towns and municipalities may say the same thing, but here on the Outer Banks there is real evidence that this is the case.

The Children and Youth Partnership for Dare County (C&YP) is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The story of how the organization came into existence is a great example of what it means to be committed to the children of a community.

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Outer Banks Mexican Eateries

OBX Mexican FoodSomething about Mexican food always seems perfect for family gatherings. In keeping with our Carolina Designs tradition of highlighting various Outer Banks restaurants, we thought a description of the best Mexican eateries from Corolla to Manteo was in order. Some of them are full-fledged Mexican, and some only resemble Mexican, but all of them come highly recommended. We will start with a personal favorite.

Bad Bean and Baja Grill
Two locations make this incredible restaurant available to all: Bad Bean in Corolla and Baja Grill in the Seagate North Shopping Center in Kill Devil Hills.

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Otters, Sea Turtles and Dinosaurs… Oh My!

NC aquarium manteoThe North Carolina Aquarium has two locations on the Outer Banks—Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head, which gets all the press because it juts an impressive 1,000 feet into the Atlantic Ocean, and the aquarium on Roanoke Island.

Jennette’s Pier is a great place to spend an hour or two and then continue on to the beach or other activities. But for an afternoon of real entertainment, it would be hard to beat the Roanoke Island facility. There are a couple of things coming up this year and next that make it a must see on your list of Outer Banks destinations.

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Outer Banks, Off the Beaten Path

Oregon Inlet SoundsideOne of the more remarkable characteristics of the Outer Banks is how varied to terrain is. Known as a beach resort, the rolling hills-actually relict sand dunes-and steep banks along the soundside are a surprising find for many visitors.

Tucked away among the dunes and forests that form the western edge of these barrier islands are vistas of the estuaries, water and land that are absolutely breathtaking.

Whenever a discussion turns to beautiful views on the Outer Banks, the panorama offered by a climb to the top of a lighthouse always comes up, and we’ll admit the view from the top is amazing. There are other places though, that are every bit as beautiful, every bit as remarkable, and best of all there will not be 30 people on the observation deck and another 30 waiting just below.

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Top 10 Beach Tips

We often talk about the award-winning beaches of the Outer Banks, how they differ from Corolla to Nags Head, and why some may be better for families and others great for a remote and private experience. But in all we’ve shared, we’ve yet to describe how to take that great beach experience to the next level.

1. Sunscreen … and lots of it – Chances are the last time your body was exposed to this much direct sunlight was when you were on vacation last year. Lobster red is only attractive on boiled lobster and you’ll enjoy your stay here much better sans sunburn.

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Five Unexpected Outer Banks Adventures

Weeping Radish BreweryThere are so many amazing experiences to be had on the Outer Banks that it’s difficult to see everything during a one week vacation. There’s the beach, water sports, shopping, lighthouses… and the list stretches on and on, which is one reason so many of our guests come back year after year.

There are some great guidebooks to provide direction on Outer Banks activities, and they are helpful tools. However, many of our guests like to wander off the beaten path and enjoy the unexpected. For these adventurers, we present the following suggestions:

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