Myrtle Beach’s WWII History Trail
Throughout Myrtle Beach today, there are reminders of those war years
When World War II was underway in Europe, but our country had yet to enter it, Myrtle Beach was a burgeoning beach destination and that was our focus. In October of 1939, our town council met and resolved that we were “in dire need of a modern municipal airport” and voted to purchase 135 acres at $35 an acre for that purpose. As our participation in the war in Europe loomed and the US government began to prepare for it, our town council was able to get federal funding over the next two years to build the runways for that new airport.
In 1941, with the US’s entry into the war imminent, the War Department acquired 6707 acres that included our new municipal airport and land that stretched all the way out to what is now Carolina Forest. Soon, an Army Air Corps airfield was under construction that remained in service until November of 1947. During its years of operation, it housed a crucial training facility, the Myrtle Beach Bombing and Gunnery Range, and, from 1944 to 1946, a German POW camp.
Throughout Myrtle Beach today, there are reminders of those war years that are listed below. You can visit them on your own as some feature historical markers. The others you may have to read about in order to know about their significance during those years.
Or you can go on two different historical trolley tours, that can also be enjoyed as step-on tours for motorcoach groups, that introduce guests to most of these places and the stories behind them. It is on the Early Myrtle Beach and the WWII Years tour that they hear about the U-Boat Menace that essentially made Myrtle Beach a war zone from January to June of 1942, when more than twice as many Americans perished in American waters off the East Coast than did at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Whether aboard a climate-controlled enclosed trolley or driving around Myrtle Beach on your own, discover these places that played a role in, or share the memory of the people and events from our World War II era.
THE MYRTLE BEACH WORLD WAR II MEMORIAL IN WARBIRD PARK
Dedicated in November of 2023, it reflects both our local military history and all that transpired during the war. It celebrates each branch of the military, and the men and women whose sacrifices then assured our freedom now.
SPLINTER CITY DISC GOLF PARK
Farrow Parkway at South Kings Highway (Highway 17 Business) in the Market Common District
Where Myrtle Beach’s first disc golf course is now was where the hastily built wooden buildings of our WWII airfield once stood and were affectionately known as Splinter City.
THE SITES OF TWO GERMAN POW CAMPS
Farrow Parkway at South Kings Highway (Highway 17 Business) in the Market Common District, near the highway in Splinter City Disc Golf Park, and around 70th Avenue between North Kings Highway and North Ocean Boulevard
German POWs, brought here to supplement our decimated labor force, stayed in tents at a temporary camp from June 8th to November 11th, 1944, at 70th Avenue North until their barracks were constructed at Splinter City.
HOWARD AVENUE IN THE MARKET COMMON DISTRICT
Between Reed Street and Farrow Parkway (the main street through The Market Common lifestyle center); the historical marker is found on the corner of Howard Avenue and Reed Street
Brigadier General James Howard was a WWII fighter pilot and Congressional Medal recipient who was the guest of honor on December 7, 1956, at the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base’s activation ceremony.
THE MYRTLE BEACH MILITARY HISTORY MUSEUM AT THE GENERAL ROBERT H. REED RECREATION CENTER
800 Gabreski Lane in the Market Common District
From the WWII years, photos of Splinter City and downtown Myrtle Beach are on display. There is also a German POW helmet.
EMMENS AVENUE IN THE MARKET COMMON DISTRICT
Emmens runs from Crabtree Lane to Meyers Avenue; the historical marker is found outside the entrance of the Gen. Robert H. Reed Recreation Center
Col. Robert Emmens oversaw the construction of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base from 1954 to 1956, and he was a Doolittle Raider. They were the 80 men in 16 B-25 bombers who were the first to attack Japanese soil after Pearl Harbor on April 18, 1942.
FARROW PARKWAY IN THE MARKET COMMON DISTRICT
Farrow traverses the district from Highway 17 Bypass to South Kings Highway (Highway 17 Business); the historical marker is on the corner of Farrow Parkway and Nevers Street
Lt. William Farrow was a Doolittle Raider who gave his life for that mission.
DOOLITTLE LAKE, THE MARKET COMMON DISTRICT
Within the Emmens Preserve Residential Community, One block from Coventry Boulevard on Yorkshire Parkway, Flanked by High Street and Paddington Street; The memorial in on the corner of High and Yorkshire
There is an installation there on a small garden wall that details the Goblet Ceremony of the Doolittle Raiders that was carried out each time they had a reunion after the war.
THE NORTON GENERAL AVIATION TERMINAL
1250 Airdrome Avenue, The Market Common District
It is named for twin boys from Conway, SC, who died in combat in Europe. Inside, there is a plaque to honor them and a mounted newspaper article with their photo and story. There is also a model of their B-26 Marauder and a model of the Doolittle Raiders' B-25 Mitchell on display in a case to the right. There is a great view from there of the tarmac that has been in use since 1941.
THE MYRTLE BEACH STATE PARK
4401 South Kings Highway, Across from the Market Common District
Both US military personnel and German POWs spent some R&R at this park that had been commandeered by the Army Air Corps at the beginning of the war for their use.
THE HISTORIC MYRTLE BEACH TRAIN DEPOT
851 Broadway Street in the Arts and Innovation District
Both US military personnel and German POWs arrived in Myrtle Beach at this depot
THE ARTS AND INNOVATION DISTRICT (MYRTLE BEACH’S HISTORIC DISTRICT)
It includes 9th Avenue North from North Kings Highway to North Oak Street, Reaching from Main Street to Broadway Street while crossing 8th Avenue North
The historically significant buildings dating back to the 1930s that are being brought back to their former glory were where the shops, movie theater and restaurants were during the war years.
THE BOARDWALK ENTERTAINMENT DISTRICT
Specifically the Corner of 9th Avenue North and North Ocean Boulevard at the Oceanfront
Popular tourist venues now were also frequented during the war years by locals, visitors, and military personnel. Peaches Corner’s sign says that they’ve been around since 1937, the Fun Plaza next door was open in the early ‘40s too, and The Bowery around the corner came on the scene in 1944. That was the year that the third of four Pavilions burned down on December 28th just across the alley from it. So at the end of the war, there was no Pavilion between 8th and 9th Avenues. The one that was most beloved was built of fireproof material in 1948 and was enjoyed until it was razed in 2006.
THE MYRTLE BEACH HISTORY TROLLEY TOURS
The Early Myrtle Beach and the WWII Years Trolley Tour departs from in front of The Grand 14 Theater, 4002 Deville Street at Reed Street at The Market Common (guests board at 9:45 AM, Wednesdays; the tour runs from 10 AM to Noon); for discount tickets, click here: https://fareharbor.com/embeds/book/myrtlebeachhistorytours/items/?full-items=yes
The Myrtle Beach Military History Trolley Tour and Catered Reception departs near the Tupelo Honey Restaurant across from Valor Park in the Market Common District, 3042 Howard Avenue (guests meet at 1:45 PM in front of Tupelo Honey, Select Fridays; the tour and reception run from 2 PM to 4 PM); for discount tickets, click here: https://fareharbor.com/embeds/book/myrtlebeachhistorytours/items/?full-items=yes
The Early Myrtle Beach and the WWII Years Trolley Tour is offered each Wednesday from 10 AM to noon, but will only run if the minimum number of tickets have been sold by 8 AM on Monday of the week of the tour. Guests learn about Myrtle Beach’s origin story and what it was like to live here during WWII with U-boat threats off of our coast and the arrival of German POWs.
The Myrtle Beach Military History Trolley Tour and Catered Reception at Tupelo Honey is offered six times a year, from September to March on select Fridays, 2 to 4 PM. One hour is spent on the trolley hearing the stories of the Myrtle Beach Air Force Base (1956-1993) and the Myrtle Beach Army Air Corps Airfield (1941-1947). That is accompanied by a one-hour catered reception featuring heavy hors d’oeuvres and hosted by a historical figure from the Air Force base’s past.