Published in The Asbury Park Press on November 21, 1999
By JOHN A. HARNES
COASTAL MONMOUTH BUREAU
FORT MONMOUTH – Samuel L. Stine dreamed of flying bombers, so he enlisted in the Army Air Corps on Nov. 14, 1939.
But his dream was not to be.
The Air Corps decided Stine would be of better use as a weather forecaster instead of piloting bombers against Nazi Germany.
It was a decision that changed his life. Over the years, he has served as a physicist, a meteorologist and an electronics engineer working on airborne navigation systems.
Although more than 60 years have passed since he enlisted, Stine, now 85, still works for the government, now as a civilian employee, making sure soldiers and airmen have the equipment they need to do their jobs.
“If a soldier needs something in order to do his job, you have to give it to him, or he might not accomplish what he has to do,” Stine said in an interview last week.
Over the years, Stine helped establish Camp Evans in Wall as a laboratory facility; analyzed captured German weather rockets; built a series of weather stations in the Mojave desert for use in evaluating military equipment, and headed Project Cirrus, which sought to determine how weather works.
Stine said he has no plans to retire from his job at the fort as an engineer with the Army’s Communications and Electronics Command.
“I have never given it a thought,” he said. “The doctors say I am as healthy as a horse.”
But that was not always the case. When he was born, in a small coal mining town named Earnest that his grandfather had established near Clearfield, Pa., “the midwife slapped me a few times and said I would not live to midnight,” Stine said.
But live he did.
Before the outbreak of World War II, he was studying at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, in Pittsburgh. During this time, he developed a love of flying and began exchanging letters with a number of students in Germany, basically to improve his German language skills. One of these young people was named Maria.
“Suddenly I just didn’t get any letters from her,” he said. She lead been arrested and placed in a camp. He later learned that Maria had escaped and gotten out of Germany, but sustained crippling injuries, he said.
They met in the United States, when she was giving lectures about what was happening inside Nazi Germany.
It made him angry. The Nazis were hurting and killing people like his friend Maria. That was when he decided to join the Army Air Corps, in 1939, because he could see a conflict was coming.
During World War 1, an uncle of his had flown aircraft at what was to become Fort Monmouth.
“When I was growing up, I never expected to be at Fort Monmouth,” he said. But that is where he would wound up.
After enlisting, he forecast weather in Panama, before going to school to become a senior warrant officer, and then to Officers Candidate School. Stine arrived at Fort Monmouth in November 1943, when the main post was overcrowded. “There was just no room to work,” he said.
It was decided that more could be done with Camp Evans, in Wall, which was being used to assemble radar equipment, he said. Stine credits an old school friend — he remembers him only as Col. Duffy – with involving him with the laboratory work that was being clone at the post.
Stine was put in charge of setting up laboratories at Camp Evans, and in just six weeks, 2,700 people were moved to those new laboratories.
Though he never was able to become a bomber pilot, when he was placed in charge of Project Cirrus he oversaw 17 airplanes, including bombers, which were used to seed clouds and storms with dry ice and chemicals to learn more about how weather works. Although none of the planes flew out of Camp Evans, the project was based there, Stine said.
“Occasionally, we were able to even create a storm,” he said. One time, residents of Albuquerque, N.M., became upset with the project after an experiment resulted in 14 inches of rain and four tornadoes, he said.
The science was interesting, but every time pilots assigned to the project would fly the airplanes into a storm, a couple people working for him needed medical treatment. The most severe storms would tear at the airplanes and throw crew members about, Stine said.
At times, rivets would pop out of the steel plates of the airplane and fly about. If they hit someone, they could cause a serious injury, he said. “They were like bullets.”, .
Stine left the Air Corps in March 1946, becoming a civilian employee of the Army.
At one point, he was in charge of five laboratories and 486 employees at Camp Evans. Over the years, he also designed and oversaw 35 different types of infrared sensors developed for the Army’s use.
As a civilian military employee, Stine also has served as chairman of an international symposium on water and humidity sensors, and was a member of the United Nations committee on humidity measurement.
From his long involvement with the Army, Stine said he understands the importance of a strong military, though he hates to see that military might put to use.
“I don’t think there should be war,” Stine said. “If there has to be a war, then the leaders should face off with a .45 (caliber handgun) in each hand. It would alleviate a lot of problems. That’s just my personal opinion, and I’m sure no one believes it but me.”
Stine has lived in the Wanamassa section of Ocean Township for the past 35 years. He and his wife, Juanita, have been married 58 years, and they have three surviving children, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.
“When I enlisted, I took an oath” of allegiance, he said. “I have kept that oath, and I have always enjoyed being part of the Army.”
Page created March 31, 2001