Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dumbo - Radar tested on the front lines

While I was working on writing the next installment of the L-8 I've been reviewing documents I found related to radar as part of the L-8 research. I'm working on the hardest part of the story to explain to people and I need to step away for it for a little while. A bus mans holiday.

I thought I'd take a break  from writing the book to post something that I thought a lot of people might find interesting. It's not really related to the L-8 story other than it involved radar. In the beginning I wasn't sure where the trail would lead me so I used to photograph as much as I could. Over the years some of it suddenly jumped into place while other bits, though interesting, never connected to any part of the L-8 story.

The story of Dumbo. Not the Disney cartoon elephant  though.

There were two missions that tested radar in planes on the front lines under the designated names of Dumbo 1 and Dumbo 2. The MIT Rad Lab assembled ten pre-production ASV radar units in early 1942 that were installed on B18's commanded by Colonel William C. Dolan. The missions would test the new radar units on the front lines. The benefit was as obvious as it was necessary.
 The risk was that if a plane was hit the latest, greatest technology the Allies had would fall into the hands of the enemy. Worse yet would be if the plane were hit and crashed. The latest greatest technology the Allies had would be in the hands of the Axis. Worse still would be if the crew including Colonel Dolan, who knew everything about radar. Colonel Dolan had orders to pull a pin on an explosive device should he feel that the plane and it's secret cargo were in danger. The bomb would disintegrate the ASV unit as well as the plane and it's crew. The Colonel had an aide who was his driver and handled the mundane things the Colonel needed done. What the Colonel didn't realize was that the Sargent who acted as his aide was in reality a G-2 Major. His task was  that if his mission was in danger of either the plane being shot down, he was to shoot the Colonel in head and pull the pin on the charge if the Colonel couldn't or wouldn't.

Dumbo was a success in May of 1942 and the rest is history.

Here are some of the documents that I found while going through the records of the Office of Scientific Research and Development at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland and Waltham, Massachusetts.

Preparation for Dumbo planes in Ireland

A telegram discussing the tresting and results of radar onboard British  Liberators.

Meeting notes for the Microwave Committee November 1942 mentioning Colonel Dolan

Notes for a meeting of the Microwave Committee Nov 1942

..and then on the next page I see one of the bits that started me down the road of questioning the hazards that pilots were exposed to during the development of early radar. Microwaves, EMF, high voltage hazards.

Xray hazard
 Well I'm reminded of why I do this. I really enjoy the research behind trying to understand what happened.
Hope you find this as interesting as I do.

and back to work....
Stop by soon for more on radar and it's role in WW2 and the story of the L-8
Comments are always welcome.