1940's - The Outfit Goes to War
The decade of the 1940's began with unsettled world conditions and threatening clouds of war hanging overhead. The role of the New Jersey State Police, as primarily a rural crime-fighting agency, would soon change as many new functions and responsibilities would be undertaken as the United States moved even closer to war. Troopers would soon be pulled from their normal duties and assigned many diversified roles.
In the spring of 1940, Governor Harry Moore established a Civil Defense Council to coordinate all state facilities in a civil defense plan. Colonel Mark O. Kimberling was appointed chairman of the very important subcommittee on civil protection. He immediately assigned Troopers to conduct surveys of the resources available in each community, including police, fire and first aid services.
Plans were then formulated on the protective measures that would be needed to take care of almost any emergency that might arise. A police war plan and mutual aid fire plan were formulated to coordinate mutual aid during an emergency so that men and materials could be transferred from one place to another. The Department also assisted other agencies in the establishment of a statewide air raid warning system.
During the pre-war period, the Department, in cooperation with the FBI, Army and Naval Intelligence Services, conducted numerous investigations into the activities of suspected or potentially subversive groups. A considerable file was developed on the German Bunds and German-American Bunds, which met regularly at Camp Nordland near Andover in the hills of North Jersey.
In September 1941, Colonel Kimberling retired and shortly thereafter was elected Sheriff of Mercer County. Charles Schoeffel was appointed the third Superintendent.
The US became directly involved in World War II with the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan on December 7, 1941. In anticipation of the Nation’s involvement in the war, the Organization had been well prepared for the many new responsibilities which would be undertaken during a conflict.
In addition to the quiet investigations of anti-American groups, numerous investigations were conducted for selective service draft boards. Investigations were conducted on water supply sources and feedlines, plants manufacturing war materials, bridges, highways and other installations important to the war effort.
Uniformed Troopers even served as guards at remote locations safeguarding bridges and other installations important to the war effort. The Department assisted in the maintaining of air raid traffic posts, the selection of primary and secondary routes and the establishment of truck traffic control stations. A disaster control plan was implemented to safeguard explosive, chemical and petroleum installations.
During the war, there was generally a reduction in the use of automobiles and traffic in certain Sections of the State. However, truck traffic engaged in the transportation of war materials, the convoy of troops and the large concentration of vehicular traffic in areas having war production plants increased the hours of traffic work conducted by the Department. There was also a reduction of personnel in the State Police. By December 1943, one hundred and thirteen troopers were serving in the armed forces.
In 1942, the installation of the two-way radio system greatly increased the efficiency of the Organization. Once installed, the radios gave the Organization the rapid effective communications needed to coordinate the many new responsibilities.
As part of the continuing wartime effort, Troopers were assigned to check on the large numbers of German and Italian prisoners of war being utilized for agricultural activities. Troopers would conduct inspection trips as a preventive measure against possible escape or sabotage attempts by the prisoners of war.
Protection of the state farmers was also a high priority. Thefts of crops, poultry, cattle and farm machinery and related dealings in the black market became common place. Patrols were increased whenever possible in farm areas especially at night to check for suspicious persons, unfamiliar cars and trucks cruising the rural areas with the operators looking for potential easy pickings.
In June of 1943, the first issue of The Triangle was printed and disseminated to all enlisted and civilian personnel serving both at home or overseas in the military. The Triangle was an excellent way to keep personnel abreast with newsworthy events and the happenings of our men serving in the military.
On September 14, 1944, a devastating and destructive hurricane struck the State, leaving in its wake death, injury and millions of dollars in property damage. Troopers played a major role in aiding the storm victims, protecting property and restoring order along the coast.
With World War II slowly winding down, members of the Blue and Gold serving in the military would begin to return stateside to resume their State Police careers. By 1946 all but 11 members of the Department returned from active duty with the military.
The war years had brought the Department many new responsibilities; from civil defense functions, subversive groups and selective service investigations, to security of various government installations and troop convoy escorts. With the end of the war, new challenges would await the organization.
The crime rate would steadily increase, with the return of thousands of servicemen and the subsequent increase in unemployment. Burglary, larceny and gambling offenses would show the most dramatic crime rate increases. During the 1940's the continued violation of liquor laws presented substantially more problems for the Department.
A change in traffic enforcement philosophy was also instituted in 1946, with the purchase of twenty-four conspicuously colored black and white patrol cars with large blue lettering. The vehicles would serve as a visual deterrent to potential violators. The remaining 163 police vehicles were inconspicuously painted black and utilized for both patrol and investigative functions. More black and white vehicles were to be added to the fleet each year.
The opening of the Monmouth Racetrack in June 1946, created additional duties for the Department, requiring the presence of 18 troopers for traffic and detective work. Shortly thereafter, Atlantic City and Garden State Racetracks opened, requiring a similar contingent of troopers.
The 25th Anniversary of the New Jersey State Police was celebrated on September 10, 1946. Department Headquarters and all substations were opened to the public for inspection.
Accolades were bestowed upon the organization from many diverse groups and individuals. Governor Walter Edge commended the members for their devotion to duty, their alertness, and protection of the public over the last quarter century. He went on to state: “No branch of state government has a greater responsibility to the public in the postwar years than the State Police, which performed such a notable job of protecting the home front during the war.”
Colonel Schoeffel, in congratulating the members, stated: “Our accomplishments throughout this quarter of a century have come at a high price -- 31 of our colleagues have given their lives serving the citizens of the state, and so we pay tribute to these men, as well as to their associates -- past and present, who have made the organization what it is today.”
The Department, proud of its accomplishments in handling large gatherings and protecting dignitaries over the years, was called upon to provide security for President Harry Truman during June 1947. The President visited New Jersey to celebrate Princeton University’s Bicentennial celebration. A large State Police security detail of 150 members assisted the Secret Service during the President’s visit.
The reorganization of state government, the Department of State Police would become a Division in the Department of Law and Public Safety. The Superintendent would still be responsible for the control of the organization, but instead of answering directly to the Governor, the Superintendent would now report to the Attorney General. The reorganization was to become effective in 1948.
Beginning in December 1947 and continuing through May 1948, 26 State Police Broadcasts were aired publicly over the WNJR radio program, New Jersey State House Calling. Such diversified topics as organization and administrative work, traffic, communications lab work, recruit training and firearms identification were discussed by State Police administrators, including Colonel Schoeffel. The public relations program helped to further acquaint the public with the services the organization provided.
During 1948, in conjunction with the reorganization of the outfit, the State Police Headquarters was moved from the city of Trenton to Wilburtha. Also, building plans were underway to complete a new Headquarters Administration building and dormitory building. The Headquarters Administration building was completed in 1949 and dedicated to Governor Alfred E. Driscoll. The dormitory building was completed in 1950.
In February 1949, further modifications of the organization were made, with the approval of the Governor. The Headquarters staff, formerly composed of several Bureaus, was reorganized into staff Sections.
The State Bureau of Identification, the State Communications Bureau and the Academy were designated as Service Commands. The three troops were reorganized into Region A, South Jersey and Region B, North Jersey. The Regions were divided into 11 districts, six in Region B and five in Region A.
In January 1949, with a reorganization of the traffic courts and the adoption of a new uniform traffic ticket, the administration of justice in New Jersey reached a new plateau of professionalism.
Just as the decade of the 1940's began, the close saw the international situation again deteriorate as the United States began to prepare for war.