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Why do they call it Military Cutoff?

Ben Steelman

The name dates back to World War II, when Army vehicles used the route as a short cut from Camp Davis (at modern-day Holly Ridge) to Wrightsville Beach, bypassing downtown Wilmington.

Although it’s now a major commercial thoroughfare — with Mayfaire Town Center, Landfall Shopping Center and the The Forum among other complexes lining its route — Military Cutoff was largely forested and undeveloped until very recently. According to local historian Nola Nadeau, as late as the 1960s, about the only major structure along Military Cutoff — from Market Street to the intersection of Oleander Drive and Wrightsville Avenue — was the Buccaneer Gun Club, a firing range used by developer Raiford Trask and his friends. The gun club closed at this location in the 1980s.

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4 Responses to “ Why do they call it Military Cutoff?”

  1. On June 11, 2009 at 11:28 am mari wrote:

    I always thought it was a by-pass to get the military vehicles to Oleander and then through to the port without going down Market St.

  2. On August 1, 2009 at 8:16 pm John wrote:

    Mari, you are much closer than Ben. During WWII there was an AAF facility at Fort Fisher that was part of Camp Davis. There is still a small Air Force facility there. That is where troops were headed when using Military Cutoff (although they also used the port). It cuts off having to go to College Road, not downtown.

  3. On September 8, 2010 at 1:16 pm Ev Smith wrote:

    Military Cutoff was originally an unnamed and unpaved country road off Highway 17 that was used by troop convoys from Camp Davis to reach the Wrightsville Beach USO Club. It is mentioned in the Morning Star’s account of the opening of the club on Harbor Island on August 28, 1941. Along with other attractions such as the famous Lumina Pavilion, the club remained a popular recreational destination for service personnel throughout the war.

    Because of its heavy use, the road was apparently paved by the Army soon after the war began. The new route and its formal name appear for the first time on maps published just after the war. The cutoff terminated at the Wrightsville Beach Highway, as Oleander Drive was then known, and thus became part of an informal but useful bypass around downtown Wilmington.

    As readers Mari and John correctly point out, Military Cutoff was used to reach places other than Wrightsville Beach. However, several of their statements are not accurate. The state port site was the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company during the war and was not ordinarily a destination for military vehicles. College Road did not yet exist, so traffic on the Wrightsville Beach Highway had to travel all the way back to Carolina Beach Boulevard before turning south. Also, the Air Force Recreation Area at Fort Fisher is a later development and has nothing to do with the air force presence at the wartime Camp Davis antiaircraft artillery firing point.

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