Thursday, January 17, 2013

Science Goes to War


Science Goes to War

The L-8 story pivots around the work of the National Defense Research Committee 
(NDRC) and the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD). 
The names will not be familiar to most, or if you do know you'll think they just 
developed the A-bomb. They were so much more. A mixture of scientists and soldiers
 working together new technology they made the difference between victory and 
defeat. The NDRC changed into OSRD when it became apparent that the way the 
reporting structure worked originally was impractical.  Managed like a scientific 
research group, military men might report to a civilian within the NDRC hierarchy.

Radar, in Division D, Section D-1 in the NDRC, later Division 14 in the OSRD, 
had the nations experts working on developing practical radar starting in 
June 1940. Radar development was relatively new so the average age of a senior 
man might be in his 20's. The youngest was just 19. Military men within the 
NDRC might be anyone up to and including Generals and Admirals.  The combination 
of a 19 year old giving orders to an old soldier just didn't work well.

You can read about the origin of the NDRC/OSRD online at Wikipedia. I'll have 
more to say about the NDRC/OSRD but my focus will remain mainly with devices 
like MAD and radar. For anyone doing there own investigation the NDRC and OSRD are
 used interchangeably at times. The NDRC was rolled into the OSRD, and after
 it was dissolved in 1947, records were moved under the Office of Emergency
 Management. The new organizational structure addressed the problems of civilians
 managing military personnel by turning things around and giving balanced control
 to the military. The level of cooperation I've seen in the records and books I've
 read makes me so proud to be an American. It was our finest hour and it makes me
 more than a little sad that people don't know the stories of the OSRD.

Below is the  NDRC hierarchy as of June 1, I941, shortly before the reorganization
 of the Committee into the Office of Scientific Research and  Development from the
 book, “Organizing Scientific Research For War; The Administrative History of the
 Office of Scientific Research and Development” by Irvin Stewart. This is one 
volume in the series, “Science in World War 2” from Little, Brown and Co.
originally printed  in 1948.

You'll see the the scientist, Charles Hoover, mentioned in my last posting 
on the G-1 and L-2 collision is in charge of NDRC division titled Physical
 Chemical Problems, Oxygen Storage, section L-7.  Testing for oxygen storage
 using  live rounds occurred  in Boonton Township, New Jersey. The testing of 
the flare occurred at Mountain Lakes, New Jersey.  For me a right or left out 
of my driveway and a mile or so away from where I live. The location is not as
 random as just co-location of the two projects. Boonton Township was also home
 for Radio Frequency Labs and Air Radio Corp. ARC and the airfield developed the
 blind flying equipment for Jimmy Doolittle's groundbreaking flight by
 instrumentation only . Our town hall has a bust of General Doolittle and a
 plaque  commemorating one of the towns more famous residents. The airfield is
 where my kids learned to play soccer. Small world.

Other work performed nearby occurred in Boonton, New Jersey.
Unrelated the story per se, something called the Q-meter – a field meter used
in a number of devices to track radar signals back to their source. All within
a couple of miles from each other but the threads of NDRC/OSRD projects spans
the United States. One other Boonton related turn to the L-8 story is that the
wife of the co-pilot of the L-8, Charles Adams, married a woman from Boonton
while he was stationed at Lakehurst.  She passed away about eighteen months 
after the  L-8 incident in Mountain View,CA.

The mix of skills gave me pause for the longest time. On the G-1 / L-2 the
scientists aboard were chemists, astronomers, a botanist, and  a sound expert 
from Hollywood. What experimental device could have those disciplines in common? 
Dr Hoover dealing with oxygen storage and developing flares. Seemed like an odd
combination also.
I thought I had made some errors in research. 

It was only when I read broadly about the scope of the work the group was 
involved in and the character of the people selected to work in the group
brought together by  Vannevar Bush. What they have in common is that they
are highly intelligent, lateral thinkers, with a focus on advancing technology
for the common cause. The same is true for the schools and businesses involved. 
So much self sacrifice that occurred for the common good. The sense of hope
against all odds. Strength by pulling together. Victory at all costs, personal
and professional.

Companies did much of the work recovering costs. Civilians were paid at the rate
of pay at the company or school they worked for normally, even when they went into
combat areas. Many had their salaries paid by the same schools and companies,
donating the money to the war effort. The management team members drew  no
salary and were required to have sufficient means to assure they wouldn't be
influenced by financial gain.

The work of the OSRD spans the United States and the other nations including
Britain and Canada most notably. 
Well cover the work at MIT's RAD Lab at Boston, Massachusetts in subsequent

For now here is the OSRD organizational structure:

Division A (Armor and Ordnance) 
R. C. Tolman, Chairman 
Charles C. Lauritsen, Vice-Chairman (physicist, California Institute of Technology) 

    Section B (Structural Defense) 
      John E. Burchard, Chairman (architectural engineer, Massachusetts 
                                    Institute of Technology) 

    Section H (Investigations on Propulsion) 
      C. N. Hickman, Chairman (physicist, Bell Telephone Laboratories)

    Section S (Terminal Ballistics) 
      H. D. Smyth, Chairman (physicist, Princeton University)
    Section T (Proximity Fuzes for Shells) 
                 M.A. Tuve, Chairman (physicist, Carnegie Institution of Washington)
    Section E (Fuzes and Guided Projectiles) 
      Alexander Ellett, Chairman (physicist, University of Iowa)
Division B (Bombs, Fuels, Gases, Chemical Problems) 
J. B Conant, Chairman 
   Roger Adams, Vice-Chairman (chemist, University of Illinois] 
   W K. Lewis, Vice-chairman (chemical engineer, M.LT.) 

Synthetic Problems 
   Roger Adams, Division Vice-Chairman
   Section A-I (Explosives) 
      G B Kisnakowsky, Vice-Chairman (chemist, Harvard University) 
   Section A-2 (Synthetic Organics) 
      Roger Adams, Chairman 

   Section A-3 (Detection of Persistent Agents) 
      W. C. Johnson, Chairman (chemist, University of Chicago) 
   Section A-4 (Toxicity) 
      Roger Adams, Acting Chairman 

Physical Chemical Problems 
   W. K. Lewis, Division Vice-chairman 

   Section L-I (Aerosols) 
       W. H. Rodebush, Chairman (chemist, University of Illinois) 
   Section L-2 (Protective Coatings) 
       G. O. Curme, Jr, ., Chairman (chemist, Carbide and Carbon Chemicals Corp.) 
   Section L-3 (Special Inorganic Problems)                                                                      
      W. K. Lewis, Chairman 

   Section L-4 (Nitrocellulose) 
      W K Lewis, Chairman 

   Section L-5 (Paint Removers) 
       J. C. Elgm, Chairman (chemical engineer, Princeton University) 

   Section L-6 (Higher Oxides)
       W. K. Lewis, Chairman 

   Section L-7 (Oxygen Storage) 
       C. R.. Hoover, Chairman (chemist, Wesleyan University)

   Section L-8 (Gas Drying) 
       O. A. Hougen, Chairman (chemical engineer, University of Wisconsin) 

   Section L-9 (Metallurgical Problems) 
       A. E. White, Chairman (metallurgist, University of Michigan)

   Section L-10 (Exhaust Disposal) 
       W H MacAdams, Chairman (chemical engineer, M.I.T.)

   Section L-11 (Absorbents) 
       W. A Noyes, [r., Chairman (chemist, University of Rochester)

   Section L-12 (Oxygen for Airplanes) 
       E. F. DuBOIS, Chairman (physiologist, Cornell University)

   Section L-13 (Hydraulic Fluids) 
       G H. B DavIs, Chairman (chemical engineer, Standard Oil Development Co.) 

Miscellaneous Chemical Problems 
   Section C-I (Automotive Fuels; Special Problems) 
       T. Midgley, Chairman (chemist, Ethyl Gasoline Corp.)

   Section C-2 (Pyrotechnics) 
      G. B. Kistiakowsky, Vice-Chairman
   Section C-3 (Special Problems) 
      G. A Richter, Chairman (chemist) 

Division C (Communication and Transportation)
F. B. Jewett, Chairman 
C. B Jolliffie, Vice-Chairman (radio engineer, Radio Corporation of America) 
Hartley Rowe, Vice-Chairman (chief engineer, United Fruit Company)
R D. Booth, Vice-Chairman (electrical engineer, Jackson and Moreland) 
J.T. Tate, Vice-Chairman (physicist, University of Minnesota)

   Section C-I (Communications) 
      C.B. Jolliffe, Chairman

   Section C-2 (Transportation) 
      Hartley Rowe, Chairman 
   Section C-3 (Mechanical and Electrical Equipment)
      R. D. Booth, Chairman 

   Section C-4 (Submarine Studies] 
      J. T. Tate, Chairman 

   Section C-5 (Sound Sources) 
      Harvey Fletcher, Chairman (physicist, Bell Telephone Laboratories) 

Division D (Detection, Controls, Instruments)
K T. Compton, Chairman 
A. L. Loomis, Vice-Chairman (physicist, Loomis Laboratories)

   Section D-I (Detection) 
      A. L. Loomis, Chairman 

   Section D-2 (Controls) 
      Warren Weaver, Chairman (mathematician, Rockefeller Foundation) 

   Section D-3 (Instruments) 
      G. R Hamson, Chairman (physicist, M.LT.)

   Section D-4 (Heat Radiation) 
      A. C. Bemis, Chairman (physicist, M.I.T.) 

Division E (Patents and Invention) 
        C. P. Coe, Chairman 

The Committee on Uranium, with L. J. Briggs, Director of the National 
Bureau of Standards, as Chairman, reported directly to the Chairman of NDRC. 

More on the OSRD, radar and the events surrounding the L-8 to come and a trip 
across the Hudson.


1 comment:

  1. I found this in Popular Science June 1942, ppage 96 & 97
    Around the time the L-2 & G-1 crash occurred, Dr. Bush was featured in the magazines "Here's My Story" column.


Comments should be topical and civil. Questions are welcome but I may not be able to always supply answers. - Otto