Friday, October 4, 2013

I Found the L2 G1 Jag Inquest Folder

I just wanted to share that after many years of searching for the Judge Advocate Generals investigation into the collision of L-2 into the G-1 on the night of June 8th, 1942 off the coast of New Jersey. The crash as readers of this blog will recall involved testing a photoflash device that would be dropped into the water to illuminate enemy submarines.

The folder was mislaid all these and finding it has probably opened as many questions as it answered. But as I always say, "In God we trust, all others provide data", so fcats are a good thing.

The file was not in the index under anything sensible. I found it by giving a new research my elevator speech on the mystery I was trying to solve and the folder I was trying to locate. Impressing on her that I'd been bouncing back between NARA 1 and 2 for years, doing this search part-time, I'd found one other L-ship accident folder at NARA 1. I then gave her the names of the people involved in the L2-G1 accident and off she went.
An hour later she came back saying she'd located a folder referencing Frank Trotter, the commander of the G-1 and asked whether I'd like to have it submitted for the 3:30 pull.
Naturally I did as any item related to the L-8/L-2/G-1 are treasure for me.

I got the box just before 4:00pm and had until 4:30 to skim through the folders contained in the box and found the folder among the dozen in the box in a few minutes. It was misfiled under 1940 instead of 1942 and under one name instead as a case file.

Eureka! It did refer to Frank Trotter but it was actually the L-2/G-1 Inquest transcript folder!
I quickly photographed the contents oft he folder knowing I had to head back home to New Jersey. Later that evening at home I found that I didn't do that great a job and most of the photos were blurry, but I did have the numbers for the box. I went back this past Monday and in the few hours before the government shutdown I finished photographing the contents - twice - and read the contents a several times, mouth a gap.

I out the real story of what happened that night and somethings I'd found in other sources were right, others incorrect. I'll make sure the truth gets out there.

One thing I found is that Dr Wyse was on the L-2 with Cmdr. Clinton Rounds, burned and dies of helium anioxia, not Dr. Hoover. Dr. Hoover was on the G-1.
The G-1's gondola was entangled with the L-2 at the time of the collision and both fell into the water together. It was only after the Coast Guard Cutter 4344 attempted to move the blimps towards shore did the G-1 gondola detach. The gas bags were covering the gondolas and men attempted to dive and wade over the cover searching for the crash victims. The CG Cutter attached and attempted the move as a way of possibly uncovering the gondola and uncovering anyone underneath. They acted quickly and bravely, and that included two civilian scientists aboard the 4344.  Ensign Fahey was in the water for a short period of time and not the hours that other sources reported. It appears that the crash was not the result of a premature explosion of Dr. Hoovers device but a collision in the dark, the L-2 running into the side of the G-1.

The inquest has also opened up one mystery I'll share. The L-2 apparently did not have any of Dr. Hoover's photoflash devices aboard it and was there to photograph the experiment with still and movie cameras pointed at the 4344 acting as the "enemy sub".  After the crash, sitting it the water, the crew observed that there was a flash from the L-2. I'll need to figure out how Clinton Rounds and Dr. Wyse received burns over the back of their bodies. The inquest discusses whether gasoline fumes could have burned the men but the conclusion was that it would have caused more damage - cloths, hair, equipment, etc - would have showed signs of gasoline fumes blowing up.

I'm in mystery detectives heaven!

I'll trying to figure a way of posting the L-8 and  L-2/G-1 Inquest online. Out of space. I also found some other things this last trip that make my case that my theory is correct.
 More to come.


Drawing of Ensign Fahey's testimony about flight pattern of L-2 and G-1


  1. Congratulations to your find!
    Misfiled, wrong year, and name instead of case - a classic!

    But I'm a bit confused. I thought the poor doctor burnt to death because one of these devices went off too early - I will have to re-read your post about it.

    Two men suffer from burns on the back - but the rest of the interior is not burnt? It sounds a bit strange.

    Just for fun I ordered some books via the library here, I picked them more or less randomly. I like to just come to a broader understanding of the "surrounding" in what L8 is embedded generally.
    BROWN, Louis: A Radar History of WWII. Technical and Military Imperatives, Bristol and Philadelphia, 1999. Here Chapter Four New Ideas about Microwaves and the Tizard Mission (145ff.)
    About the Brits involved, giving personal memories of many people:
    LATHAM, Colin; STOBBS, Anne: Pioneers of Radar, Phoenix Mill 1999

    Congratulations again - I'm eagerly awaiting your next post!

  2. [Hoover and Rounds] "Both these men actually survived the fall. But the gondola settled into the water, half submerged, while the air bag covered the gondola filling the the gondola with helium. The autopsy report for Cmdr Rounds shows that he died along with Dr Hoover from anoxia, suffocating when the air was displaced by the Helium. It also lists that he suffered third degree burns most likely by an accidental explosion of one of the flash bomb flares."

    But it was Wyse, not Hoover aboard.
    There were no exploding flares - because the experimental bombs were not aboard -, they carried film materials.
    Both suffered burns on the back of their bodies.
    A flash was observed by the crew of the boat.

    A flash. That would need oxygen, yes? But the gondola filled with helium, at least one of the fallen died from asphyxcation. What flashes in a helium filled surrounding? And seemingly nothing else and nobody else was burned. I think I read that there were more than 10 people aboard - the sole survivor jumped out, and broke his arm. Surviving the fall was possible. A petrol deflagration would surely have an impact on everything and everybody in that gondola.
    Remains the film material. Maybe they had nitrofilm made from Nitrozellulose; it's explosive under some circumstances. I work in archives, old film canisters can be a hazard, but I think it is also a reaction with oxygen, I'm not sure I never had to deal with such materials thankfully. I really wonder how you'll solve the riddle Herr Gross. :)

  3. Hello, I just want to share something I found in the aforementioned book by BROWN, Radar History, p. 169.
    "On the other hand U-boats were proving increasingly effective as Doenitz's ideas began to be taken seriously. The SCR-520 was modified for this use and designated SCR-517. This set had only forward scanning, and it was obvious that ASV radar should scan a full circle and present the observations on a PPI scope. The set to accomplish this, the Navy ASG and called "George" by its users, was installed in blimps in June 1942 and shortly thereafter in airplanes. It was to become the Navy's favorite ASV equipment [7]".
    [7] GUERLAC 1, p 324
    GUERLAC 1 = Henry E GUERLAC Radar in World War II New York: Tomash-American Institute of Physics Publishers, 1987
    It is "The History of Modern Physics, 8,1+2", where vol. 8,1 contains "Selection A-C", and volume 8,2 "Selection "D-E" - I have no clue what "selection" does mean in this connection.

    Somewhere else in the text Brown mentions that the klystron produced a lot of heat, and when one of the things Tizard brought to the US was tested the "atmosphere glowed". Caramba!

    I have no clue in as much this fits in your research - I am by far no technician and have seriously no idea what "George" was, and whether there is a connection to L8. I was pretty fast "reading" over the chapter about microwaves, and simply stumbled over the word "blimb".
    "L8", the names "Hoover" and "Wyse" are not in the index of saied book. I will have a look into the cited source, Guerlac, let's see whether he comes up with some primary sources.

  4. Hi. I have been away for a few days and off-line.

    First, thanks for the references. I appreciate it.

    George was ASG and ASG started to be installed late 1941 but most oft he work really started in early 1942. I'll post something.

    When I wrote the L2-G1 account it was originally based on what was available. Mainly newspaper accounts and some other written accounts I'd found. They turned out to be wrong. This is why it is so important to find and publish using primary sources. Yes it turns out it was Dr. Wyse that died with Clinton Rounds on the L-2, while Dr. Hoover was on the G-1. The accident was not caused by one of the devices going off prematurely after all but by the L-2 running into the side of the G-1 while they maneuvered above the Coast Guard Cutter 4435. There are some problems I'm finding with the testimony of what people are reporting. For example, one person reports no flash bombs are on either blimp, while another says that the flash bombs were on the G-1.
    The flash bombs were designed to go off under water so "oxygen" would have been part of the formula included in Dr Hoover's compound. I did find his papers on these devices at the Library of Congress in the Technical and Scientific Reports Room in the Adams building - I'm going through folders to try and locate the paper. I'm hesitant to publish this paper online since it could be problematic if someone attempted to recreate the formula, but the point is that the device would supply it's own oxygen.

    Another thing the testimony corrected is the sequence of events. The two gondola were intangled and crashed into the sea together and it was while the CG cutter attached a line in order to pull the L-2 to shore and separate the two blimps did the G-1 gondola detach from the air bag dropping to the ocean bottom.

    I now have the service nnumbers of the remaining crew members and with the government back into work I intend to order the DOD records of the other crew members to see who else died with burns.
    The L2-G1 testimony started a new mystery for me. One persons testimony suggests the explosion occurred on the G-1, not the L-2, yet the crew of the L-2 has the burn marks. Clinton Rounds is the worst, but two others have burn wounds. Now I have to see if the G-1 crew have burns also.

    As far as how do I solve this. The best I can explain it - I've always treated this like a jig saw puzzle where you don't have the box to tell you what the picture looks like, and maybe some other bits and pieces of other puzzles have been thrown into the mix. The job is to figure out which pieces make sense and which don't. But no hammering the pieces together to make them fit!

    I have been going through my folders of radar and I'll have to publish some of the things I found that made me first realize that radar/mad was involved with blimps.

    Thanks again for the postings. I appreciate the interaction and comments.

  5. Hello, a bit late, sorry
    I just want to report that I finally have the book of Prof. GUERLAC in hands. The publishing date as 1987 is a bit misinforming. As you already may know - I am sorry that I have nothing new to report - GUERLAC was the official historian of NDRC and this book (a reprint of the published version of 1946, the un-abdridge / uncut original is seemingly unpublished) is "first and foremost a report on the radar program of the NDRC for the period between June 1940 and August 1945". Cited from the preface, p. XI.
    BROWN (as above in my comment from 17th of October) cites it absolutely correct: Volume 1, page 324 brings the k-blimps. It is in chapter 12: "Airborne Development on Ten Centimeters" (starts p. 318), section "ASG", page 323-325.
    I am sorry, I found nothing about the L-blimps in this report, and no mention of what happened in August 1942 to L-8.

    1. I appreciate it. I was kind of you to find and share that.
      It's been over seventy years and a little more time piecing it together doesn't matter. I took this on knowing i might never have that definitive bit of evidence to explain what happened. Over time I put something together that fits together for me and, as time allows, I hunt for what records remain. Unfortunately many of the primary source records are gone because at the time no one thought they would matter or subsequently they were destroyed or mislaid as we've seen. But I love a good puzzle and the hunt goes on. I've been heading up to Connecticut where the NDRC had a lab in the slim hope I might come across some clue to the L2-G1 part of the story. A few months back I didn't have that. The inquest was lost forever then wham! Found!
      I sit some days reminding myself what does it matter. Why do I spend my time and energy doing this. They're dead so does it matter?
      Today's the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination I was a little kid standing on the corner of Market and Main Streets in Paterson , New Jersey with my Dad when we heard the news.
      I still remember the moment as if it were yesterday. He was panicky. Not shocked, panicky. My Dad, the last of the tough guys, a former Afrika Korps corporal , SA member, a guy who survived a lot had the strangest look on his face and we rushed home like the Devil was running after us. Pop's English was limited at the time and I was too little to translate I would in years to come.
      The country had a new President and mourned. It spent the next fifty years investigating and re-investigating what happened on that very visible and well documented day.
      This story has it's patriots who deserved some recognition. If there was something to learn from history it was that how we behaved as a nation once upon a time. The war happened and was won by a different set of circumstances than Hollywood - how people et their history lessons today - have told you. History matters.
      Our past is prologue.

      Well, off to Connecticut today. Coast Guard Academy library. The truth won't find itself...
      Thanks again.


    2. It surely is worth the effort to find out what happened. It helps to end speculation and mystification ("The aliens grabbed them !"), and it is a story worth to be told: Nobody else does.
      Good luck with the recherche !

      I was only two months old when Kennedy was shot, and naturally have no memory of this. The whole incident had an impact even in our neck of the woods (no joke, it was the end of the world there) that reverberated even when my parents spoke about this years later: My father was serving at the inner German border. They were already (or better immernoch) alarmed because of the missile crisis from October '62. Those who had lived through the thirties and forties of the last century surely thought first of all about the possibility of some kind of war or other violence. Let's only hope that we do not have to face such nonsense in our lifetimes.


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