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On May 10, 1949, the Morehead Planetarium opened on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill. It was first planetarium in the South, the first planetarium on a university campus and the sixth planetarium to be built nationwide.
The planetarium was primarily a gift of John Motley Morehead III, an 1891 graduate and founder of Union Carbide Corporation. Construction took 17 months and cost $3 million, making the building the most expensive in the state at the time. It was supervised by Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapely and designed by the architects who worked on the Jefferson Memorial.
From the late 1950s to the late 1970s, the planetarium became a hub of NASA’s astronaut training program. The facility was used primarily to help astronauts learn to navigate by the stars in case computerized navigation systems failed. The program ended largely because of advances in the technology of those navigation systems.
In 1973, the planetarium added an observatory with a telescope managed by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, and, in 1984, it became one of the first planetariums in the nation to use computer animation in its shows.
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On May 9, 1942, the U.S. Coast Guard sank German U-boat 352 off the Outer Banks. Thirteen German sailors died and 33 were plucked from the water. They were taken to Fort Bragg and confined as prisoners of war. During the course of the war thousands of POWs—mostly German and Italians—were captured and sent to camps in North Carolina.
Most POWs were brought to North Carolina from abroad. Fritz Teichmann was a member of the German Luftwaffe (the air corps) and was captured in Sicily in July 1943. He was held as a POW at Camp Butner in Granville County. Giuseppe Pagliarulo, a soldier in Benito Mussolini’s Italian army, was captured in Tunisia in North Africa in May 1943 and held at Camp Sutton in Monroe.
So many POWs were brought to the state that men were sent from larger military bases to smaller branch camps. These smaller camps housed up to 500 men each and were located in 16 communities around the Tar Heel state, including Whiteville, Roanoke Rapids, Williamston and Hendersonville. From there, they were placed on compulsory work details and sent out to cut pulpwood, dig ditches, wash dishes and pick apples. Their employers—farmers, loggers and restaurant owners—knew of the camps but otherwise their presence was relatively secret.