America’s first national marine sanctuary is also one of the most important places in US military history. Off the coast of Cape Hatteras, NC, Monitor National Marine Sanctuary (NMS) protects the famous Civil War battle shipwreck and the graves of its heroes. The USS Monitor was the first ironclad warship commissioned by the Union Navy and deployed in the Battle of Hampton Roads, against the Confederate Virginia (formerly the Merrimack), in 1862; this pivotal event changed modern naval combat. The Monitor sunk later that year and was lost until 1973.
The site is an active center of cutting-edge forensic and genealogy research, reconstruction, artifacts reclamation and military tradition. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation played a vital role in those efforts including a multiyear the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)/Louisiana State University project to reconstruct the faces of two sailors recovered after the exhumation of the Monitor’s turret. The Foundation also supported outreach to locate Monitor descendants, many of whom attended the 2013 Arlington National Cemetery burial of the sailors’ remains. Another initiative the Foundation supported was the reclamation and conservation of artifacts through a partnership between the sanctuary, the US Navy and the Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, VA, which houses a Monitor Center featuring exhibits, artifact restoration facilities, and archives.
The area’s military history extends into more modern times. Beyond the current boundaries are wrecks from World War II’s Battle of the Atlantic, the combat closest to the US mainland. These wrecks include a German U-boat and German tanker, both discovered in 2014. The expansion of the Monitor NMS boundary, now under consideration, would legally safeguard remains and further support expert research and restoration work.
Related Links :Monitor NMS Website
“One of the best discoveries at our site was locating and identifying the wreck sites of SS Bluefields and the German U-boat U-576. These two sites, only 200 meters apart, best encapsulate the essence of a battlefield with both the victim and aggressor represented in such close proximity to each other. Most people are not aware of how close World War II came to the shores of the United States, and this recent discovery helps to convey this piece of history and helps commemorate the hundreds of lives lost during the Battle of the Atlantic.”