Published in The Coast Star on March 27, 2003
This was not the first time a U.S. president had used radio to advise a foreign leader to step down or his people to revolt against his government. Radio propaganda is nearly as old as radio itself and Wall
Township’s Camp Evans played a isle in its earliest days.
‘ The war was World War I. The enemy was Germany; the bad guy “Was Kaiser Wilhelm II. The president was Woodrow Wilson. The cutting-edge communications technology was “High-Power Trans-Atlantic” wireless.
Wireless communications was so important in World War I, President Wilson authorized the U.S. Navy to seize and operate all trans-Atlantic wireless stations. A few days after the U.S. entered World War 1, over 100 Marines arrived in Wall Township to take over operations at the Marconi Station. The Marines guarded the station and its equipment from the terrorists of the day, the German saboteurs.
Direct communications lines were run between the War Department in Washington and Wall Township. From Wall, lines were run to the wireless stations in Tuckerton, Long Island, Cape Cod and Maine.
The Navy assigned Commander A. Hoyt Taylor to the station. He was given the commission of “Trans-Atlantic Communications” officer. He hand picked his team of wireless and radio experts from the Navy’s best technicians and had them transferred to the station in Wall.
Their assignment was to make sure messages sent from the War Department were dispatched successfully from Wall to the American Expeditionary Forces in Europe. They operated the station 24 hours a day with over 30 operators copying messages and forwarding them.
The best wireless technology inventors of the day visited the station to conduct experiments. Experts from France and radio greats such as Ernst Alexanderson, Edwin Armstrong, Harold Beverage, Leo Young and Roy Weagant would work at the station.
Devices were made to detect and find German sympathizers sending radio messages to U-Boats off the New Jersey coast. New developments in radio antenna technology were made and tested to eliminate the need for the 400-foot radio towers that ran along Monmouth Boulevard. They detected secret German transmissions and sent the information to code breakers in Washington.
One evening, Harold Beverage and a co-worker went into his experimental antenna field to make some adjustments. They did not feel the need to bring the normal Marine guards. When the nearby Wall farmers saw men working on the antennas without a guard they assumed the worst. Harold Beverage ended up facing the business ends of pitch forks and shot-guns. They had to convince the men they were not German saboteurs, but station staff.
As the war was going bad for the Germans, President Wilson saw the opportunity to make politics in Germany more difficult for the German Kaiser. The President wrote a speech which was transmitted by wireless to Germany so any German citizen with a crystal radio set could listen. As the control center and receiving station, the message would have been dispatched through Wall for transmission by the cutting edge transmission equipment located in New Brunswick. The speech told Kaiser Wilhelm to abdicate and advised the German people to overthrow the Kaiser’s government. Just as last week, the bad guy did not heed the advice and the war continued.
In October 1918, wireless was used to help the negotiations that would result in the Armistice on the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month. The exact role the station in Wall played will be found in the Navy records in the National Archives and the George H. Clark Collection at the Smithsonian in Washington.
After the war, wireless would be given credit for shortening the war. This saved thousands of Allied and German soldiers’ lives. Later, technology historians would call World War I the `wireless war.’ In the Princeton University Archives are 1919 newspaper clippings from around the United States announcing the secret antenna advances made in Wall during the war by Canadian Roy Weagant. The invention was hailed as giving the Allies a key technology advantage during World War I and the most important communications advance of the decade. It would end the need for giant radio towers like those 400-foot towers in Wall. The 400-foot towers in Wall were “dropped” in 1925 and the station was sold.
The Navy team of radio experts put together by A. Hoyt Taylor in Wall would relocate to the Navy’s Radio Research Laboratory near Washington. They would become the fathers of Navy Radar in World War II. Their photo and a photo of radar equipment from Camp Evans would accompany the public disclosure of the secret of radar as a major reason for victory in World War II the day that war ended on Aug. 15, 1945.
Camp Evans is quiet today for the first time in six wars, yet it echoes with history from every war of the twentieth century.
page created April 11, 2003