Published in The Asbury Park Press
March 22, 2004
by Fred Carl
Developed at Fort Monmouth’s Camp Evans, the SCR-584
radar leapfrogged German radar-jamming technology, giving
allied forces an edge when It was introduced during the Battle of Anzio in 1944 .
Sixty years ago as Allied forces fought their way off the beach at Anzio, Italy an electronic wonder from Fort Monmouth went into operation, nullifying the Nazi’s latest secret weapon.
The allies’ SCR-584 anti-aircraft radar was a triumph of British and American engineering and American industry. Fort Monmouth played a key role.
Allied forces landed at Anzio in late January 1944 and controlled a five-mile beachhead. The Germans were throwing all available ground and air units into the battle to box in the Allies and kill them on the beaches. The Nazis thought their new radar jammer would give them an edge.
Months before the landing, the Nazis had captured an early radar unit designed at Fort Monmouth.
In the war for electronic supremacy, this was a prize. Nazi scientists used it to develop radar jammers — devices that would send signals to confuse the U.S. radar and render it useless.
By stripping allied forces of radar coverage, the Germans could attack from the air without warning.
Fort Monmouth engineers had developed SCR-268 radar in the late 1930s. They had wanted to use microwaves to detect enemy planes, but no transmitter was sufficiently powerful.
Instead, they developed radar using less-effective radio waves. The British faced the same problem and developed their own radar. using radio waves.
This changed when a British scientist invented the cavity magnetron, an electronic tube that produced a strong microwave output. Britain turned to America for help in developing and producing radar based on the breakthrough.
When the invention arrived at Fort Monmouth in September 1940, researchers were thrilled to have a tube that was 1,000 times more powerful than any previous device.
But Fort Monmouth engineers were busy with other radar projects. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology volunteered to develop a microwave-based radar system.
On Dec. 7. 1941. two MIT scientists, Ivan Getting and Lee Davenport. arrived at Fort Monmouth with their prototype, the XT-l.
On that day, a model of America’s first radar system, located near Pearl Harbor, detected the attacking Japanese planes. Although commanders at Pearl Harbor failed to act on the warning and thousands of Americans died, American radar devices were available later in the war in numbers to help protect Allied forces all over the world.
The job of redesigning the XT-I as a system that met military specifications went to the Camp Evans Radar Laboratory in Wall. With the utmost secrecy the work was charted and American industry was paid to produce more than 2,000 units.
The radar devices were designed to automatically aim and fire four antiaircraft guns at enemy planes.
Integrated with the radar was the Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) system. With this automatic system the radar-controlled guns would fire only at enemy planes.
In February 1944. SCR-584 radar was deployed at Anzio. The system was a Luftwaffe killer. Nazi aircraft were equipped with the new jammers, but the jammers did not work against the SCR-584. With the Luftwaffe at bay, the Allies advanced toward Rome.
Fred Carl is director of InfoAge Inc., a nonprofit group that has established an information-age learning center using historic buildings at Camp Evans.
page created August 21, 2004