From 1940 to 1945, Cape May was bustling with military activity.
The Army, Navy and Coast Guard all had bases in the area.
Throughout the war years, Cape May continued to operate as a coastal resort and promote itself to visitors. Tourism, however, sometimes came into conflict with military necessity. All along the coast, the military pressed light control regulations to protect shipping from submarine attacks. However, Cape May businessmen fought these blackouts and dimouts, requesting extension of hours. After several months of losing ships, the military prevailed and notices were distributed throughout the community explaining blackout regulations and recommending opaque materials to prevent any light from escaping from windows.
The changes in Cape May were not just evident at night but were a part of daily life. It was illegal to take photographs of the ocean. Fishing around bridges or causeways was no longer allowed. As 1942 progressed, there was increased military activity on the coast. In April, the Civilian Aircraft Warning Service predicted air raids of Atlantic Coast cities. In May, the entire Eastern Seaboard was designated as a military area, the Eastern Defense Command.
Cape May residents participated in the war effort in many ways. They joined in the rationing that was occurring all over the country. They also volunteered to man the coastal lookout towers that were established along the beachfront to look for enemy airplanes and ships.
It was in this atmosphere of blackouts, sinking of U.S. ships by submarines, and predictions of air raids that fire control towers like this one were built in New Jersey.