Coastal Radars


Recalling that the aim of the Philadelphia Experiment, which was radar invisibility, the question rises, how the result of this test could have been evaluated. The most easiest way would have been a live test involving a common radar station. And, yes, there was a radar station available. While searching for some details about these Coastal radar station, I virtually ran into an old WW II vet, 78 years old Dan Vesper. Soon, he wrote me his personal story of how he served as a radar maintenance specialist at a radar site on Sandy Hook, NJ. This spot matched exactly what I was looking for: A radar site to monitor the results of the Philadelphia Experiment. The place was right, and so was the time. This radar station was part of a Advance Harbor Entrance Control Post (HECP#1) located at Fort Hancock. Another HECP (HECP#2) with a second radar set was located right opposite at Breeze Point, Fort Tilden. And here is, what Dan Vesper had to tell:

"I had just turned twenty when I was drafted. After my six week basic training, I was called to our Battalion Headquarters and was asked if I would like to attend a "radio detection" school. after being told that I would be promoted to Tech Sergeant upon graduation, I readily agreed. School started around the first week in January 1943. After 18 weeks of grueling class work, I was one of nine others that made it all the way through, out of the original 52 men. Before receiving our next assignments, we were given physicals. Because of a heart murmur, I was not going to be sent overseas. I later found out that most of the 9 men were sent to Narragansett (sp) Rhode Island which was apparently a departure point for European assignments.

Around the first of June, I was sent to Fort Hancock, N.J.. As you mentioned, the 245th C.A. Unit was stationed there. I'm sure you already know, the Fort was located on the northern point of land of Sandy Hook. This was a peninsula about 10 miles long. When I reported for duty, I was loaded on a truck and transported back to the mainland to a bluff overlooking Highlands, N. J. The bluff was probably about 300-400 feet above sea level. the Headquarters Battery was located in a hollow below the crest of the bluff. At this time, I was still just a PFC (Private-first-class).....No promotion. The 245th was assigned the job of manning the SCR-582 Radar locate at the crest of the bluff. The Radar set was under the command of the 7th Coast Artillery. They furnished the Maintenance man and the Radar Officer. All operations were furnished by the 245th.

Since Maintenance Man was already on site, I was a fifth wheel. They didn't need two maintenance men. I spent my time pulling KP, Guard Duty, policing the grounds, reading, visiting the Radar Unit, etc. Around the middle of August, 1943, I was called to the office and was told that I would now assume the duties of Maintenance Man on the Radar set. Apparently, the Radar Office and the Maintenance Man had gotten into a knock-down dragout and the officer busted the Sergeant on the spot and told never to show his face at the site again. I did receive a promotion to Corporal at that time. I assume that I performed my duties OK as I was promoted to Buck Sergeant just prior to the Unit being shipped to Kodiak Alaska around the 1st of January 1944.

And now to try to answer some of your questions. I'm afraid that I wont be of much help in this regard. I was not aware of any other Radar units in the surrounding area. I'm quite sure that there were a number of them because the Radar School graduated a group every two weeks, and they had to go somewhere.

I was not aware of any specific tests conducted in our search area. We were assigned the task of reporting all surface vessels entering and leaving the Harbor of New York City. It was really a sight to see a full convoy of ships leaving the harbor. We generally only reported the first and last ships in a convoy. A "light ship" (Ambrose Light) was located about 10 miles out. This was used as a navigational aid as well as being the location of boarding and unboarding the ship pilots."

In close vicinity to each other, the Army Signal Laboratory in Fort Monmouth, the radar posts at Fort Hancock/ Sandy Hook and Fort Tilden were the test sites for newly developed radar systems as well as radar countermeasures. The Ambrose Channel between Fort Tilden and Fort Hancock was the usual way for ships coming from NY harbour or Kearny to reach the open Atlantic. The USS ELDRIDGE might have been tested right here, so the Philadelphia Experiment could be monitored from two radar station (Fort Hancock/ Fort Tilden) and a running test might have been observed while the SS Andrew FURUSETH passed by.

Well, they had it all: The Ambrose Channel as standard seaway between the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydocks at Kearny (where the ELDRIDGE, BOOTH and CARROLL have been built) and the Atlantic Ocean, at least two radar stations equipped with the SCR-582 harbor surveillance radar set to monitor the radar camouflage effect of the PX and addtionally a system of magnetic detection loops connected to high-sophisticated Flux-meters as a additional detection capability. All was available in summer 1943.

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  1. http://www.geocities.com/fort_tilden/hecp.html
  2. >
    The New York Harbor Entrance Control Post (HECP) was located at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island, NY. The Advance HECP #1 was located at Fort Hancock, Sandy Hook, NJ, while the Advance HECP #2 was located at Fort Tilden in Rockaway, NY
    The Advance HECP #2 at Fort Tilden was used to identify ships approaching the Ambrose Channel from the waters off Long Island, and to keep fishing vessels and pleasure craft out of the restricted areas off the shores of Fort Tilden. The Advance HECP #1 at Fort Hancock performed similar duties on the West side of the Ambrose Channel. This structure was built into the remains of Battery McCook (8, 12" Mortars, 1898-1923). Advance HECP went into operation on 6 August 1943 at Fort Tilden, Rockaway Point, Long Island, New York, an Army fort constructed at the time of World War I and greatly expanded during this war. Preliminary surveys for the installation of this HECP unit considered a structure on the top of the Half Moon Hotel, Coney Island, or the Army Radar Tower, Fort Tilden, which had an elevation of 173 feet. Both these sites, however were rejected in favor of its final location, as more central for joint Army-Navy action.
    This Unit was set up under orders of 11 December 1941, providing for magnetic loop installations for New York Harbor. This station was located at Atlantic Beach Coast Guard Station on Far Rockaway Inlet, Atlantic Beach, Long Island. At this time the station was known as Naval Unit -#2. Two magnetic loops were laid, known as Loops 3 and 4. The shore equipment consisted of three fluxmeters, two in use and one spare, and telephone communication to HECP at Fort Wadsworth. A fluxmeter and visual watch was maintained by one chief and eight seamen starting 14 March 1942.

    All crossings on loops were reported by telephone to HECP and the visual watch attempted to identify the ships making the signatures. Because of technical difficulties experienced, due to nearby railroad (discussed below,) it was decided to move the station from Atlantic Beach to Fort Tilden. Concomitantly it was decided to improve the procedure of reporting the movement of vessels in New York Harbor by the establishment of two advance HECPS. Shortly after 17 September 1943, Naval Unit #2 became Naval Unit 3-B and was set up as an organization separate from the Advance HECP #2, but working closely with it. In place of the two unsatisfactory loops (Numbers 3 and 4) originally laid from Atlantic Beach, three loops were laid with Fort Tilden as the shore terminus. When completes the loop system had as its approximated eastern edge, a line from the HECP Tower to the Ambrose Lightship. The tail cables were brought into a bombproof shelter where four fluxmeters were located. Subsequently it was decided to relay three new loops in place of the original two. The new loops gave excellent results.

  3. http://www.geocities.com/fort_tilden/esf.html

  4. HECP Fort Tilden: War Diary of the Eastern Sea Frontier Dec 1941- Sept 1943
    Magnetic detection loops were laid along the bottom of the New York Harbor in the Ambrose Channel to detect submarines that could not be detected by the newly developed radar system. The SCR-582 harbor surveillance radar was used to detect targets at night and in poor visiblity conditions.

  5. http://home.iprimus.com.au/waldingr/usnlrs.htm

  6. Details of the working principle of a magnetic detection loop. Originally intended as anti submarine defence, it was able to detect ships as well.

  7. http://www.geocities.com/fort_tilden/scrradar.html

  8. The SCR-582 was a harbor surveillance radar set developed by the MIT Radiation Laboratory during World War 2. This radar was designed to detect the presence of ships and to determine the approximate range and azimuth to the ship.
    SCR-582 Specifications:

    Range: 90,000 yds (45 nautical miles)
    Frequency: 2.8 GHz
    Peak Power: 50,000 watts
    Antenna: 48 inch parabolic dish

  9. http://www.geocities.com/fort_tilden/units.html

  10. Some details about the 245th Coast Artillery Regiment
    As of a report dated November 1, 1942, the 245th Coast Artillery Regiment was based at Fort Hancock (Sandy Hook, NJ) and composed of four battalions

  11. http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CoastDefense/message/1052

  12. E-mail: US Navy HECP Equipment and Harbor Detection Operations

  13. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/national_parks/gate_sand94.jpg

  14. Sandy Hook / Fort Hancock map

  15. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/national_parks/gateway_park98.pdf

  16. New York Harbor map

  17. http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/national_parks/gate94.jpg

  18. Breeze Point / Fort Tilden map

  19. http://www.cdsg.org/matlan.htm

  20. FORT HANCOCK/ Sandy Hook, N.J. /1885/ Gateway NRA, USCG/ MD, MC/ KKKKK
    Proving Ground/many - various/various/1890-1920/Proving Ground moved to Aberdeen, 1920
    Dynamite/2/15"/Pne/1896-1902/USCG shooting range
    &/1/8"/Pne/1896-1902/mine casemate 1921
    Potter/2/12"/GLC/1890-1907
    McCook/8/12"/M/1898-1923/advanced HECP-HEDP post 1943

  21. http://www.ieee.org/organizations/history_center/oral_histories/transcripts/stokes.html

  22. Stokes: Then I took a civil service job and was interviewed in Fort Monmouth by some people: one was Paul Watson. Another who was a captain or corporal, but later on became General, was Rex Van Dankler [sp?]. He moved up through the war. They wouldn't tell me exactly what they were working on. As a matter of fact, the secrecy was very high. This was about August, 1940. They sent me out to a desolate piece of land that was called Sandy Hook, you may have heard of it, it has Fort Hancock at the end. They were doing their work in some large shelters half way out on that seven mile spit of land with pill boxes at the entrance and guys with guns showing through and the rest of all that good stuff. It took us six months to even get a clearance high enough to even find out what we were working on. At that time it was not called Radar, it was called RPF (Radio Position Finding); it differentiated from Radio Direction Finding...
    Aspray: What was the relationship between Fort Monmouth and some of the other players in radar?
    Stokes: OK. I did get to be the head of radar at Fort Monmouth at one point, I was chief of radar branch. We interfaced fairly heavily with MIT with Rad Lab. It was good, friendly relationship. It was a friendly rivalry relationship; we didn't always agree but we could actually handle it on a rational basis. We could talk about it and come up with answers. We worked very well with them, I knew very many of them, I remember meeting Dr. I.I. Rabi and a few of this ilk. .. Other people we dealt with, other outfits. . well, of course the Naval Research Lab was involved.

  23. http://www.paulnoll.com/army-join-Fort-Monmouth-Co-W-5400-STR.html

  24. After a short stay at Camp Woods, just a few miles from Fort Monmouth, I was assigned to Company W of the 5400 Signal Training Regiment at Fort Monmouth. It was a welcome change from Camp Woods. There were some 54 companies in the Str. All of which were going to school for some phase of technical Signal Corps training.

  25. http://www.rl.af.mil/History/rl-brief-history.html

  26. Between 1940 and 1941, three new laboratories joined the laboratory complex in the Fort Monmouth area: the Camp Coles S ignal Laboratory, the Eatontown Signal Laboratory, and the Evans Signal Laboratory. December 1942 found 14,518 military and civilian personnel working at the Fort Monmouth area laboratories.

  27. http://www.radarworld.org/america.html

  28. The United States Army Signal Corps also started developing radar as early as 1930. In 1935, tests on microwave propagation tests using Hollmann built valves, RCA magnetron operating at 9 cm, RCA acorn valves were performed. In 1937 the test radar unit was demonstrated. Based on this test unit, in 1940, the SCR-268 became available for coastal defense.

  29. http://www.narmc.amedd.army.mil/patterson/fstone.htm

  30. 1938
    Aircraft Detection RADAR developed at Fort Monmouth, the Evans Signal Laboratories, and at Fort Hancock at Sandy Hook, provided the first U.S. capability of aircraft detection and early warning. RADAR sets, such as the SCR-270, not only helped win World War II, but provided a boost to the civilian aviation industry.

  31. http://www.campevans.com/smpr83p2.htm

  32. Camp Evans list of secret projects August 1943 - including "Countermeasures" and "Investigation of Special Equipment"

  33. http://www.campevans.com/camphist.html

  34. In Monmouth County on October 4,1899 Marconi demonstrated to America his Wireless Telegraphy. The Camp Evans story begins in 1912, when the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of America decided to build a station in Wall, New Jersey. The U.S. Army Signal Corps helped win W.W.II with radar devices built in Monmouth County, many built right at Camp Evans.