Defending Hampton Roads Harbor in WWII

Defending Hampton Roads Harbor in WWII

When three massive explosions sounded out over Hampton Roads and the lower Chesapeake Bay on the night of Feb. 16, 1942, the crew of the stricken American tanker E.H. Blum — whose forward section sheared off and sank after heaving 6 feet into the air — was sure the deafening booms came from German torpedoes.

But inside the Harbor Entrance Control Posts at Fort Story and Fort Monroe, the soldiers who manned the giant mine fields protecting one of America’s most important military ports knew better.

Watching by radar and telescope as the Blum strayed off course, they correctly predicted where it would bump into one of 418 electrically controlled mines strewn across the bay’s...