Smith Bill Naming Belmar P.O. after Local Hero Signed Into Law
A bill introduced by Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) to name the U.S. Post Office in Belmar, NJ after Dr. Walter S. McAfee, a distinguished local scientist who helped develop the communications capability for the U.S. to enter the Space Age, was signed into law last week.
“I am grateful that we can honor this man, Dr. Walter S. McAfee, a trailblazer who did so much for our country and for the Fort Monmouth community,” Rep. Smith stated.
“Dr. McAfee was not just known for his accomplished career in science in the U.S. Army—although he made vital contributions to U.S. national security and to scientific research over the span of several decades,” Smith said, “but he was also known for his love of learning, high ethical standards, and good sense of humor among those who knew him personally.”
Smith introduced the bill, HR 3655, in December to designate the U.S. Post Office on 1300 Main Street in Belmar as the “Dr. Walter S. McAfee Post Office Building.”
“I want to thank the leaders at the Information Age Learning Center (InfoAge) who had recommended Dr. McAfee as a local figure worthy of the honor,” Smith stated. “As a museum dedicated to preserving the history of scientific innovation, InfoAge—located at the former U.S. Army Camp Evans sub-post of Fort Monmouth, Wall Township—provided me with key insight about the contributions of Dr. McAfee.”
Dr. McAfee served for over 42 years (1942 - 1985) as a scientist, educator, and adviser to the U.S. Army Communication-Electronics Command at Fort Monmouth. He played a critical role in Project Diana, which successfully transmitted high-frequency radio signals (radar) past the Earth’s atmosphere and off the surface of the moon—thus helping establish communications between earth and space and pave the way for the Space Age.
After earning a PhD from Cornell in 1949 for his work in nuclear physics, McAfee received one of the first Secretary of the Army Research and Study Fellowships from President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. He and his colleagues studied the impact of high-altitude nuclear explosions and found that they could cause communications black-outs. At Fort Monmouth, he also helped develop technology to track enemy movements during the Vietnam War, and helped with research on target acquisition and battlefield surveillance during the Cold War.
He became the first African American employee of the U.S. Army to be promoted to GS-16, a Civil Service "super-grade" status, in 1971, and he was the first African-American to be inducted into the U.S. Army Materiel Command (AMC) Hall of Fame, in 2015. He received dozens of awards and honors over the years for his contributions to science and national defense.
McAfee died in 1995 and he and his wife of 54 years, Viola, who passed away in 2011, are survived by their daughters Diane Mercedes McAfee and Marsha Bera-Morris.