Published in The Asbury Park Press on November 19, 2001 by Art Scott
Camp Evans resounds with communication history. In the glory days of radio and telegraph, this then-isolated military compound in the middle of bucolic Wall was a beehive of activity. Cars filled the huge parking lot on its west side. Technicians labored on the cutting edge of discovery in brand-new fields of communications. Great advances were made in wireless transmissions, or radio.
Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian electrical engineering genius who invented the wireless telegraph, and his company, Marconi American Wireless Co., built a series of tall transmision towers in 1913 and 1914. the towers along meandering Marconi Road, which was named after him, were the firstcommercial transatlantic com-munication installation.
And then came radar. RA(dio) D(etection) A(nd) R(anging) had its beginning when two men, A.H. Taylor and L.C. Young, noticed that ships plying the waters of the Anacosta River interfered with their radio signals. As it developed, the benefits of detecting distant objects and determining their position, velocity and other characteristics by analyzing very high frequency radio waves reflected from their surface, became clear.
But England was the first to exploit radar and its practicaluse. By the time Nazi Germany began its blitz of Great Britain in July 1940, the Sceptered Isle had 29 radar stations forming an invisible shield along its southern and eastern coasts. Radar soon became the most valuable defense weapon of World War II. From there, radar progressed to applications in weather forecasting, astronomy and other fields.
And so as the new year of 1946 began, just five months after the end of World War II, Lt. Col. John J. DeWitt of West Belmar initiated a new radar experiment at the Diana radar facility using calculations by Dr. Walter Samuel McAfee. Scientists Herbert Kaufman. Jacob Mofenson, E. King Stodola and Dr. Harold D. Webb, all Shore area residents under DeWitt’sdirection, aimed a radar beam at the moon.
The returning echo resounded around the world. The story was on the front pages of newspapers big and small. The Asbury Park Evening Press. crowing that it had scooped everyone else, ran a headline proclaiming, “Press scores beat on story of moon,” and called the experiment “one of the most brilliant scientific accomplishments of all time.”
In movie theaters all over the country, images of Wall flashed on the screen. Movietone News featured the Diana radar tower silhouetted against the night sky and aimed at the moon. The narrator intoned, “No longer is the moon beyond the reach of mankind.” America had entered the Space Age.