The year was 1941, just after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Tensions were running high as the country engaged in World War II. It was a time of uncertainty, but a time of patriotic unity.
As the US became involved in WWII, it quickly became apparent that enemy aircraft posed a threat to our country. Since World War I, aircraft had advanced, so they had greater capability and could fly longer distances. Heavy bombers of the German Luftwaffe could fly from Europe and wreak havoc on our country because there would be little advanced knowledge of their arrival. The military did not yet have the equipment to detect incoming aircraft. It used mechanical sound detectors to "hear" incoming aircraft, but this was inadequate. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, radar was invented in 1935, but it wasn’t used for military operations until 1944.
The US military noticed that the British had developed a system to locate incoming German aircraft that relied on humans rather than technology. The volunteer observers were called spotters, and they were trained to not only spot the aircraft but also to identify the type of plane that was coming in. The US military liked this idea and adopted it. Initially, the military was used to spot incoming aircraft on the east and west coasts, but this proved inadequate. All branches of the military had important jobs to do—it was busy fighting a war on two fronts, Europe and Japan. It turned to the American Legion and the U.S. Army to set up a citizen volunteer service to look for incoming aircraft.
Groups of spotters were formed all over the country. There were thousands of spotting posts along the East Coast and inland to the Appalachian Mountains. Other posts were set up from Washington State to California.
The national organization that ran this operation was known as the AWS, the Aircraft Warning System. It was very popular because it gave Americans who were not in the military a way to serve their country. Over 750,000 people volunteered to spot aircraft.
One such group of aircraft spotters was in Blawenburg. In this blog, we will share some events and thoughts that were recounted in a newspaper column called The Blawenburg Spotter, which appeared in the Hopewell Herald from 1941 to 1943.
The Blawenburg Post, A Quick, Rough Start