Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fort Monmouth closes forever

Fort Monmouth closes to cut costs
EATONTOWN — Under an overcast sky that aptly reflected a somber mood, the retreat call was sounded and the American flag was lowered for the last time at Fort Monmouth today. And with the final 12 folds of Old Glory — before several hundred people on hand to pay their respects — came tears from some of the more hardened sort the fort produced.

A sad day.  Not only because of  Fort Monmouth's  great history in New Jersey, especially for development of radio communications & radar.    The Fort  was  a unique, compact, versatile property located between New York & Philadephia. I thought some use could found for it in the interest of "national security." * It also had a classic golf course - Suneagles,  a marina & a motel. The Army gave it away.  Maybe the Army is keeping the course. The Fort is best known as the home of CECOM (Communications & Electronic Command) & the Signal Corps. Research & development was based there, with several other sites  in Monmouth & Ocean Counties.

The Base Closing Commission  "said it would cost $782 million to move Fort Monmouth’s mission to Maryland. But by 2008, however, the cost had risen to $2 billion, the commission acknowledged."

My cousin's graduation from West Point was badly timed with the end of WWII - he missed the career-boosting combat experience he had expected to have. The atomic bomb ended the war  a year earlier than projected. His first posting  was with the Communications Corps. to occupied Japan, where he helped set up an FM radio network. Military FM was developed at Fort Monmouth, including a brilliantly-designed backpack transmitter you see in old war movies.  His first job was to  install a  relay station to feed radio transmissions to headquarters in Tokyo. The problem was that Mount Fujiyama was in the way of the FM line--of-sight signal. Supposedly, it couldn't be done, but he was a green 2nd Lt. &, as he said, telling me this story,  "You're ordered to do it, you damn well better do it." So, in desperation,  he calculated some angles, crossed his fingers, & successfully bounced the signal off Mount Fujiyama into Tokyo.  Fort Monmouth was his command base. He was assigned there for a year in the 1950's, but he was  frequently in touch with it throughout his career.  I visited the Fort while he was there, don't recall much about it..

Around the time my cousin was in Japan, an Army team based at Fort Monmouth, Project Diana, successfully bounced a radar signal off the moon, from  an antenna built near the Fort in Belmar.

* The Fort closing had been talked about for a decade before the decision was made in 2005. After 9/11 I figured the Army would want to keep it, given it's proximity to New York..


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