Published in The Coast Star on April 17, 2003
Pages 15 and 27
If one returned in time to the intersection of Marconi Road and Monmouth Boulevard in the 1980s, the Camp Evans sign was adorned with the emblem of various Army projects.
Behind the high security fence, classified projects were in development to improve the United States military’s ability to locate and defeat enemy forces. At the time, the most likely enemy was the forces of the Soviet Union. A number of these projects have played a part in the first Gulf War and in the current actions today.
On CNN, retired generals talk about the military’s use of nightvision, drones, JSTARS, radar target location, surface-to-air missile defense systems, radiation detection equipment and artillery counter fire systems. These are all systems that Fort Monmouth played a major roll in developing for the Department of Defense. The technical aspects of the project are still classified but the impact upon the enemy is not.
Firefinder uses radar to detect and locate the source of incoming enemy artillery to allow U.S. artillery to destroy the enemy guns.
JSTARS uses radar, transmitted from Air Force jets flying outside the combat area, to locate enemy vehicles day or night and in any weather. The location is communi-cated to ground forces to enable commanders to prepare to attack the enemy and eliminate surprise attacks of large mechanizes forces.
Today Camp Evans is empty Except for project Firefinder and JSTARS there is little evidence o the work at Camp Evans. There is however, the occasional project decal or organization chart left of a wall.
The largest vestige of JSTARS at Camp Evans is a special turntable constructed in 1985. Located in a field behind Colfax Plaza, neighbors have described it as an underground missile silo. The turntable could rotate a 60-ton tank or other vehicle with clock-like precision as slow as one revolution an hour. While the vehicle was on the table, low energy radar was transmitted from a tower once located near Belmar Boulevard. The radar reflections for every position of the vehicle were collected and used to develop computer-assisted target, detection. This way, Army radar could locate enemy tanks and support vehicles moving during cover of darkness in any weather. Once the targets were located they could be attacked from the air.
To locate enemy artillery special mobile radar units were developed as part of the Firefinder system. Many of Camp Evans’ two-story wooden structures constructed in 1942 for World War II radar
development were renovated in the 1980s to house these special truck-mounted radars. This system was so effective in Desert Storm that captured Iraqi soldiers stated they did not use their artillery once they realized it would “rain steel” if they attempted to fire on U.S. troops. With 12 years of improvements, today’s Iraqi soldier surely found the 2003 version of Firefinder more deadly.
In 1998, the last project left Camp Evans and was relocated to a new laboratory at Fort Monmouth. Camp Evans’ impact upon history is documented in books and videos on the develop-ment of radio, radar satellites, space exploration and the modern battlefield. Over time, more of Camp Evans recent contributions to history will be declassified.
Work has been ongoing for nearly 10 years to reuse Camp Evans for education to help science educators inspire students to learn science. In the same place where Marconi, as well as Navy and Army researchers, advanced military sciences, students will have the opportunity to experience hands-on science exhibits. This will honor the veterans who helped protect our nation with science advances, preserve a national historic district and help students consider science and high technology as a potential career. This is an excellent new use to benefit Wall Township families. Today there are echoes of Camp Evans on the battlefield, in the future there can be echoes of Camp Evans in classrooms and students’ futures.
[Fred Carl is the director of the InfoAge Science History Center at Camp Evans.]
page created June 7, 2003