About Jack Spangler
Spangler was born and raised in Floyd County in southwest
Virginia. He studied physics at Virginia Tech, receiving
his degree in 1953. After graduating, Spangler began working
at Westinghouse in Missile Ground Control Engineering, but
he was drafted into the Army after only a few months. In
the Army, Spangler worked in intelligence, utilizing his
background in physics and electronics. Upon leaving the military,
Spangler returned to Westinghouse, where he quickly joined
the supervisory and managerial ranks, serving as senior engineer,
supervisory engineer and program manager. During his long
career at Westinghouse, Spangler worked on many important
projects such as BOMARC, Typhon, SPADE, Deep Submergence
Program, and a meteorological satellite. Spangler retired
in 1994, but remained active consulting for the Air Force
and Aerojet, as well as writing books on the DMSP, genealogy,
and the war with Japan during World War II.
In this interview, Spangler discusses his education
and military service, but focuses mostly upon his career at Westinghouse.
He talks about the various projects he was a part of at Westinghouse,
but is particularly detailed about his work on the meteorological
satellite, a project which he worked on from 1966 until his retirement
in 1994. Spangler discusses working in an aerospace program,
as well as with the Air Force and other companies such as RCA
and Harris. The various issues, challenges and evolutions involved
in the satellite are also covered, along with the new technologies
utilized on the satellite over the years. The uses of the satellite
are discussed – both military and civilian – as well
as the longevity of the program, which is nearly 50 years old.
Spangler also talks about his managerial role, how he took on
a strictly supervisory role, working with customers, and building
a successful workforce.
About the Interview
JACK SPANGLER: An Interview Conducted by Sheldon
Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, 13 October 2010
Interview #553 for the National Electronics Museum and IEEE
History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers
This manuscript is being made available for
research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript,
including the right to publish, are reserved to the National
Electronics Museum and to the IEEE History Center. No part of
the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written
permission of the National Electronics Museum the Director of
IEEE History Center.
Request for permission to quote for publication
should be addressed to The National Electronics Museum, P.O.
Box 1693, MS 4015, Baltimore, MD 21203 and to the IEEE History
Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick,
NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific
passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification
of the user.
It is recommended that this oral history be
cited as follows:
Jack Spangler, an oral history conducted in
2010 by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick,
NJ, USA at the National Electronics Museum, Linthicum, MD, USA
Interview: Jack Spangler
Interviewer: Sheldon Hochheiser
Date: 13 October 2010
Location: The National Electronics Museum, Baltimore,
It is October 13th, 2010. I'm Sheldon Hochheiser
of the IEEE History Center. I'm here at the National Electronics
Museum with Jack Spangler, retiree from Westinghouse here in
Baltimore. Good morning Jack.
Good morning, sir.
If you'd start off with a little background,
where were you born and raised?
I was born in a small community in Southwest
Virginia, a place called Floyd County. I lived on a farm for
my first16 years or so. I graduated from high school about the
age of 16 and then I went off to college at Virginia Polytechnic
Institute in Blacksburg.
What did your parents do?
My parents were farmers. I lived on a farm all
my life until I went off to college. My father was a WWI veteran
and brought back with him a painful injury sustained in the line
of duty in France. However, using progressive farming techniques,
he was able to keep up with the farm work and eek out during
the depression years a living for our family of five on his 160-acre
farm. Life on the farm can be tough at times especially during
the depression years, but my parents would have it no other way.
I always assume that some people who lived in
farm country were the guys in town who ran the feed store or
No. That was not the way. This was the Depression
era and everyone in the county was either a farmer or bootlegger.
Were you interested in technology and science
as a youth?
Oh yes. When I was ten or so years-old my dad
bought me an old antique Atwater Kent radio that I wish I had
now. It’d be worth thousands of dollars. I tore the radio
apart and made all sorts of radios and other electronic gadgets
out [of] the parts. I was really interested in radio.
Were you a ham?
No, I could never learn that code. I could get
to five words a minute but that was about it.
What led you from Floyd County to Virginia Tech?
No one in the family had ever gone to college.
My mother and dad definitely wanted me to go even though they
really couldn’t afford it. So, I went off to college where
I basically worked my way through. Tuition was only like $50
a quarter at that time. My most expensive book as I recall was
$1.35 which was an engineering drawing book. I graduated with
a BS degree in physics in four years.
What led you to physics rather than some other
course of study?
At that point in time the college advisors were
all saying don’t become an engineer because the engineering
profession is full and jobs will be hard to find. So, I chose
Industrial Physics that was [a] close second to engineering.
Were you in ROTC at Virginia Tech?
No, I was not in ROTC. I couldn’t afford
it. ROTC required you to stay on campus. I worked at a hotel
as a night clerk for my room and I worked in the hotel restaurant
waiting on tables to get something to eat. Consequently, my spare
time was very limited as to getting into outside activities.
My social life as well was very limited.
You were too busy.
That is correct. I was too busy. My spare time
was spent either studying or working at other odd jobs including
evenings and weekends.
So you graduated when?
to Westinghouse, Army
And what led you from Virginia Tech to Westinghouse?
I had an interview on campus. The job situation
was not as bleak as the experts had predicted four years earlier.
Engineers, at least VPI graduates, were in demand. Lloyd Clark
and I think Don Cole from the BOMARC Missile Ground Control Department
came down from Baltimore. It was a group interview if you will.
Everybody in the class that was interested in Westinghouse attended – there
were only about four or five there. The interview went something
like this - “We’ve looked at your academic records.
We know Virginia Tech is a good school. We’re going to
make an offer to each of you.” Westinghouse was only one
of several job offers I received. Glen L. Martin, also in Baltimore,
offered more money but I didn’t like their reputation for
hiring and firing for the job. And of course I knew Westinghouse
had a reputation that once you become a Westinghouse employee,
you’re there for life.
Well, I guess that worked out for you.
That worked out - 41 years later I retired.
And then you came directly to Baltimore?
I came to Baltimore and was here for only a
few months before I had to go into the Army for a tour of duty.
You got drafted?
I got drafted over the objections of Westinghouse.
I came back to Westinghouse after I was released from active
Can you tell me a little bit about your experiences
in the Army?
Sure, but some of the areas we can’t go
into in any detail because of the area where I served and the
long term security commitment I made when I was released. Some
of the programs I was associated with had a 50-year information
release restriction and as far as I know still have not been
I was inducted into the army at Fort Meade.
During the orientation process, I had a Job Classification Interview.
They came up with a MOS for everybody in my group of inductees.
Yes. The MOS or Military Occupational Specialty
is a job description of what the army wants you to do and thinks
you are qualified for. At the Classification Interview I had
a nice letter from Westinghouse that talked about the technical
things that we at Westinghouse were doing at the Missile Ground
Control Engineering Department which I was a part of. It specifically
addressed missile ground control equipment design work and so
forth. In addition to having been employed by Westinghouse, I
had worked for the government civil service during the summer
months doing test and evaluation work on a new weapon called
During the interview, I mentioned that my testing,
data analysis and evaluation experience might be useful to the
Army. Also, I used the words electronics, physics, atomic, missiles
and rockets as well as highlighting, to some degree, design experience
at Westinghouse in my sales pitch. The interviewing officer listened
and then went through his list of job descriptions that the army
needed to fill. He came up with something called Aviation Intelligence
Electronics Engineer or something like that. I cannot recall
at the moment exactly what it was called.
Yes, my MOS had something to do with intelligence.
With a college degree in physics, some work experience and an
extremely high score on the army placement tests, I qualified
as a scientific and professional electronics engineer. But, I
had no idea what the aviation part meant since I thought I was
in the army.
And so they sent me from Fort Meade to Fort
Knox for eight weeks of basic training and then to White Sands
Proving Ground. I was there for a few months doing “gofer” type
stuff while my clearances came through. Well, not Beetle Bailey
type stuff but technical work with missiles and rockets. I assisted
in testing of the Corporal, Aerobee, Viking, Honest John, Lacrosse,
Terrier, and other missiles.
After my clearance came through, I got reassigned
to other activities and went TDY. I don’t think we want
to go into those activities in much detail.
I quite understand that there are such things.
Anything else you can or wish to tell me about your tour in the
service before we move back to Westinghouse?
Well. It was good. I enjoyed it. I got to see
and do a lot of things that I would not do otherwise or otherwise
have seen. To give a little insight into the types of work my
Army assignments may have included, and without going into any
specifics, I’ll mention some generic examples of some of
the things that were happening at that time.
Korean War was winding down and the Cold War heating up.
Strategic and tactical missiles were being tested at White
Sands. Atomic weapons were being tested at the nearby Nevada
test sites. The old OSS was being disbanded and the new CIA
was being formed. In Asia, the US was flying “training
and weather gathering missions” almost daily using
unmarked black B-29s and other aircraft. These planes were
loaded with the latest electronic intelligence and communications
equipment. They flew over Korea, off the coast of China and
to other places. I don’t know for sure but I suspect
they were probing the Chinese defenses and communications
in case an invasion of the mainland became necessary. You
can draw your own conclusions as to the purpose of these
Also my first few months at White Sands were
quite interesting and exciting times. I got to see a lot of things
happen that I would never have seen otherwise. For example, Corporal
missile No. 100 launch was supposed to be a big show for Congressional
VIPs. They had bleachers set up about a mile and a half back
from the launch site. Some VIPs were even up front, up near the
launch pad or in the blockhouse. They lit the thing off. It goes
up. It goes south toward El Paso instead of north to the impact
area. Guys were jumping around, scrambling, trying to find a
place of safety. I was on the roof of C-Station looking up at
that thing going overhead at a few hundred feet, spouting a stream
of fire. After it got just beyond where I was located, the range
safety officer killed it. Burning parts fell on the airfield
where the Congressmen had parked their airplanes.
Where was this?
This was at White Sands.
At White Sands.
Yes. And there were a few other similar memorable
incidents I witnessed. The Nike Test Program had another show
for Congressional leaders. The plan was to shoot down a F6F target
airplane with a direct hit. They had three F6Fs ready and flying
in the target area and three Nike missiles poised on their launch
pads. Everything went great during countdown. They fired Nike
No.1. It was not a direct hit but exploded nearby and actually
killed the target plane but the program really wanted a direct
hit for show purposes. So, they fired Nike No. 2. It went straight
up. It was fired five degrees from the vertical and was supposed
to turn over at 30,000 feet and go after the target but it just
kept going until it ran out of gas. Next they fired No. 3. It
took off and went west towards Los Cruses, New Mexico and impacted
in the Organ Mountains.
I also know of a few more of those embarrassing
incidents. For example, Viking 12 was being test fired on its
launch pad as a static firing to measure the motor thrust. During
the test, the missile broke away from the launch pad and went
skipping around on the desert floor. I believe they picked up
the pieces, repaired it and later launched it. If you’re
ever in the Smithsonian Aerospace Museum, you’ll see Viking
12 there. I happen to have a picture of Viking 12 taking off.
That’s not Viking 12 in the Smithsonian. The tail number
You told the folks at the Smithsonian?
Yes. I told the Smithsonian the real story.
It turns out that Martin had lost or destroyed the records of
how many Vikings were made. They thought serial No.12 had never
been launched. The one in the Smithsonian was built up using
surplus parts and so they stuck the No. 12 on it. I have given
the Smithsonian a picture of No. 12 taking off. You can see my
photo on the internet.
Now when you went into the service did Westinghouse
promise you there'd be a position when you got out?
Yes. That was law at the time.
Ground Control, BOMARC, Management
So I came back, and went back to my old group
in Missile Ground Control Engineering at Parker Road.
So your years in the service are done. You come
back and you go back to your old group, presumably they've been
moved ahead some in the two years you were gone.
Oh yes, almost. I was in the standby reserve
for another 6 years. Somewhere along the line the Army transferred
me from inactive status to a ready reserve unit and issued a
call up alert. However, the unit was not activated.
Now back to Westinghouse. We had just received
the BOMARC contract when I left and all we were doing at that
time was reading up on the requirements and block diagramming
potential implementation. When I returned two years later they
had made great progress. Hardware had been built. My first job
after returning was writing GX letters if you know what they
What are [they]?
That was change notices to fix problems. That
was a good learning experience for the Westinghouse drawing system
and getting familiar with the hardware.
And this was part of the BOMARC project?
Yes, it was part of the BOMARC project. It was
the Missile Ground Control Engineering Department who had the
responsibility for the BOMARC ground test equipment.
And who did you report to when you came back?
Oh, Len Ulman was the section manager. My immediate
supervisor was Howard Kuehn and my mentor was Bob Wesen.
How long did you write change notices before
you moved on to something else?
Oh, that was a matter of a couple months. Then
I went into the design work, doing some new design as well as
design fixes. That obviously got more interesting.
What was your role in doing this? I assume this
was a bigger job than one person.
The project group I was in was responsible for
designing and building some equipment called an A to D converter.
An A to D converter - analog to digital converter - these days
is a component chip maybe a half inch square or less.
In those days, we had four A to D converters
in a 90-inch high equipment cabinet with standard 24 inch panels,
30 inches deep. That’s how much things have changed. There
were only 4 A/D converters in each cabinet. And, they operated
very, very slow compared to today.
The BOMARC ground control system had analog
trackers and a digital central computer. Matter of fact, our
program bought the UNIVAC 1100 series computers. As I recall,
the program paid for the design of the 1100 series computers
and we got the 1100 or 1101. Now you can buy a hand calculator
the size of a cell phone that will do many times as much as that
computer would do. That computer had 1K of magnetic core memory.
A core was about a half inch in diameter, wound with a few wires
on it; a flip-flop was two vacuum tubes. That’s how things
have changed. The bulk storage was a drum. That thing was probably
about 2.5 to 3 feet in diameter. It had 60 tracks as I recall
and was a pain to keep working.
And what were you using the UNIVAC for?
The UNIVAC was the central computer for the
system. This BOMARC ground test equipment system was designed
to “test it like it flies,” that is track targets
and launch and control a missile as if it were in real flight.
And incidentally our test equipment could be used in an emergency
situation where they only wanted to defend a small area.
And this went through several iterations? XW-1?
XW-1, XW-2 and XW3
And what was this evolution from 1 through the
The XW-1 was the very first generation. It went
to Patrick Air Force Base for testing of the missiles. And then
XW-2 I think went to Tampa, also for test purposes. XW-3 went
to McDill, also for testing purposes.
Yes. The evolution of the computers showed greatly
between those three. The XW-1 computer consisted of a row of
cabinets, probably 25 feet long with a large air conditioner
on each end. The computer console was the size of a big desk.
The XW-3 computer was a cube maybe 4 feet in dimension.
So does that mean between the XW-1, the XW-3
you moved from vacuum tubes to transistors?
XW-3 was partially transistorized -
[Interposing] Transistorized. Which helps explain
why it got a lot smaller.
But it's only partially - you're still using
a mixture of vacuum tubes and transistors.
Yes, vacuum tubes have been around a long time.
Transistors were just showing up. Just to diverge a little bit,
we still have a vacuum tube flying in space on the sensors we’ll
talk about a little bit later, the DMSP sensor.
We will certainly get to that. Over the six
years you were in missile ground control engineering, how did
your position evolve? Did you get promoted or moved to different
Oh yes. Uh, things were different back in those
days. I typically got a raise every six months. And the numbers
were good too, like 10%. But that’s not the way it is today.
I was promoted from a code 3 junior engineer to senior engineer
in less than five years and made a supervising engineer in six
and a half years. By having a degree in physics, I started as
a code 3 as opposed to those with engineering degrees who started
as code 5 assistant engineers.
How did you find that transition from being
a guy on the bench to managing people?
No different. We all worked together as a team.
That’s one thing about Westinghouse. It was a team effort.
You couldn’t tell who the bosses were. They all worked
together. And as you know, after BOMARC I moved over to the Typhon
program as a senior engineer. From Typhon I moved as a supervisor
to a sonar equipment contract for the Navy.
Okay well we'll get there. Anything else on
your work while you were working on BOMARC? How closely did you
work with other contractors?
The area where I was working in, our contractors
were only piece part suppliers. I did not get involved with Boeing.
Bob Wesen our Project Engineer handled those contacts.
I've spoken to other people who worked on other
parts of the BOMARC project who ended up working closely with
counterparts at Boeing. I don't know this until I ask you.
Yes. The equipment that we were working on,
we didn’t get involved that much directly with Boeing or
the ultimate customer.
Um-hum. So you didn't get involved with the
military, with the government either?
No, not at that point in time.
Anything else on your BOMARC work before we
One thing I can tell you is it was a very interesting
assignment. I got lots of very good experience working with hardware.
We got to do some of the first digital work that was done in
Westinghouse Baltimore. And we were among the first to use printed
circuit boards. We used printed circuit boards with vacuum tubes
and that didn’t work out too well because the boards were
flexing and breaking the tracks.
Yes. I hadn't heard too much about printed circuit
boards with vacuum tubes and maybe that's why.
Yes, we were using PC boards and vacuum tubes
and tube sockets and so forth. And they had a tendency to cause
a lot of problems.
Would it have been a problem with the heat given
off from the vacuum tubes and the boards?
We never had any problem with heat. We just
had mechanical problems with people pulling tubes out and putting
them back in and then the circuit ceased to work. You troubleshoot
the problem and find a broken connection.
So did you have to retreat back from out of
circuit boards then?
Well at that point the schedule did not permit
wholesale redesign. We left the boards in but we beefed them
up mechanically so that the boards would not flex when the tubes
were inserted and removed. On the later XW-3 designs we used
subminiature tubes for some of the analog circuits that did not
have the socket problem. As I recall all of the digital circuitry
was transistorized as well as some of the analog circuits.
What led you from BOMARC into Typhon in 1960?
Yeah. Well, Typhon was the big program at that
time and they needed people and BOMARC was tapering off.
So I went to the Typhon program. And there,
I worked with the microwave switching equipment, and the digital
circuitry for controlling the horns. Typhon had an electronically
steerable array. I didn’t stay on Typhon very long because
we had other programs coming up in the undersea area that needed
Well, how did this work? How did you end up
going from BOMARC? Did somebody call you in and say, we need
you there or did you say, hum, I'm looking for something else,
is there? BOMARC is coming down, you know - how does this movement
It was more or less by groups of people.
So you and your whole group, you moved together
with the people you were supervising.
[Interposing] Yes, from BOMARC into Typhon but
not as a supervisor.
About how many people was this?
Golly I don’t recall. It was probably
as many as 10, maybe 12.
So you were only working on Typhon then for
a short period of time?
Yeah, I can’t recall how long it was.
It was not very long. There was another Navy
program gearing up and they needed people. I went on to that
program and to a new group of people as a supervising engineer.
Now was this the same group or is it a different
It was different people.
Okay. So you moved and the people you had been
supervising didn't move with you.
That is correct.
Right, so you now have a new group again.
Basically a new group.
Is [it] somewhere again the same size?
Probably about the same size. They tried to
limit the number of people that each supervisor had to 10 or
12. We were doing design work associated with an electronic steerable
sonar transducer array for submarine use.
That makes sense. I guess that's somewhat a
switch going from in the air to under the water.
Yes, it was.
So after this time in Typhon now you moved over
It’s called SPADE. And I can’t recall
what that meant. [Sonar Processing and Display Equipments]
That sort of thing can be looked up.
What was your role in the sonar project? What
part of it were you doing?
My group was responsible for the data handling
and the display equipment.
So were you developing the equipment that would
then be installed on the submarine?
That’s correct. But the electronics -
that is the receivers, the transmitters, computers, data handling
and display equipment - finally outgrew the available space on
the submarine and the program was cancelled.
Okay, so the requirements for the equipment
got to the point where it was too big to fit in the submarine?
Is that what you're telling me?
It grew to the point that it was too big to
fit in the space available. I don’t believe the transducers
were a problem but the controlling and data handling equipment
just got too big.
So did that mean that they did without sonar
at that point?
Oh no, no. SPADE was a new concept. They obviously
had others. And by that time, you know, transistors were coming
into play and vacuum tubes were out.
[Interposing] So did the SPADE program then
still use some vacuum tubes?
Yes, some, but it was primarily transistors.
Okay, and then it gave way to another approach
that was straight transistors.
I don’t know what followed on that because
I then got involved with new business.
Ah. Were there other groups within Westinghouse
who were involved with the SPADE project that you worked with?
Oh yes. It was a large program. And mostly in
the Underseas Division on Washington Boulevard.
Now did you move to Washington Boulevard then
when you did this or -?
No. My group stayed at the Parker Road plant.
The areas where we [we]re working in were pretty well defined
and could be carved out and worked offsite.
Right. So it was not necessary for you and the
people who are working for you to move over where the rest of
the people working on the underseas project were working.
[Interposing] It was not physically necessary
to be in the same location, although we had lots of meetings.
I guess it wasn't that far anyway. It was just
down the road.
Right. It's not like you're working with a group
in Pittsburgh or something.
Yes. On this program, I got involved with the
customer a lot. We had monthly meetings with the customer, going
over the requirements and progress. And I think a lot of the
increase in size came from the fact that interpretation of the
requirements kept growing and changing. And to meet these additional
requirements the physical size got significantly larger and the
costs and schedule suffered.
By the customer, do you mean a group within
Yes, NEL, the Naval Electronics Lab in San Diego.
So did this require you to go out to San Diego
for these meetings?
Once a month we would go to San Diego for a
meeting. And NEL would bring in not only civilians but also operational,
Now was there ever any discussion about how
these changes in the requirements were endangering the project
because of the physical constraints?
Obviously it was brought up. The scientists
would say we want this and we want that and maybe we can fit
it in. Eventually the hardware got to the point where it was
too big and costly.
Would it be fair to say that at least some of
the problem with this was disagreement between the Navy scientists
and the Navy operations people?
Hum. I don’t know how to word an answer
to that question. So yes, there were differences between what
the scientists wanted and what the physical space limitations
would permit. So, it depends upon how you interpret their answer.
So you stayed with the SPADE project until it
Submergence Program, Air Traffic Control
Now when it was cancelled how much scrambling
around did you and your staff have to do to find other spots?
Oh, there was no problem. A lot of them went
directly back to the Underseas Divisions on the other programs.
There was another called WDSP going on about
the time. You may have heard of it - Westinghouse Deep Submergence
Maybe you can tell me a bit about it.
I don’t know whether I can or not.
Well, tell me what you think you can tell about
it. I realize there are things that even after many decades are
still things you can't talk about.
On the WDSP program Westinghouse was doing several
things one of which was the underwater recovery vehicle called
the DSRV designed to recover people from a damaged submarine
in 30,000 feet of water. When you think of that it makes you
wonder, is that really going to happen or was there some other
reason for that? I can only conclude there was probably some
other use for the DSRV. You might get some other people that
can tell you more.
Well that's fine. You know what you can talk
about and what you feel you can't talk about.
I don’t want another black SUV showing
up in my driveway, my phone ringing and somebody saying, this
is so and so from such and such agency. I am parked in your driveway.
Can I come in and talk to you? Obviously no was not the right
answer. My answer was “I’ll come out and talk with
Understood. Can you tell me now in your work
with WDSP, are you supervising a group of people?
Yes, I had one or two people working on it.
I really didn’t get that much involved
Okay. By this point was your work more supervisory
than engineering in nature?
[Interposing] Strictly supervisory.
Okay, is this a change then from Typhon or SPADE,
where you were still doing some actual engineering as well as
supervising people doing it?
Yes. But my job was now primarily new business
at that point in time. Going out and talking to the Navy, talking
to the FAA, talking to the Air Force etcetera, etcetera.
So the WDSP was only part of what you were doing
at this point?
Yes. A very small part.
Okay, then perhaps since we can't talk about WDSP, [but] perhaps
you can talk about some of the other new business you were trying
Yes. About this time, Westinghouse Surface Division,
the West Building, hired a marketing
named Ed Gumphrey. Ed was a former Air Force pilot and air traffic
controller. He had been in Germany and some other places controlling
tactical air operations for what he [called] “brushfire
mission” training. Based on his experience, he saw a need
for a new air traffic control system to better control these
planes to get them to the designated targets, to know what was
going on in the surrounding air environment and get them back
home. To get more background data a small group of us made lots
of trips to the tactical Air Force, to the FAA and to various
other agencies to see how they did the air traffic control and
what were their problems.
The tactical air command needed a global response
team, so taking all this background knowledge into consideration,
we designed on paper something called a manual mode facility
for air traffic control. The system concept consisted of display
equipment, plotting boards, radar sets and what have you. Ed
Gumphrey kept telling us exactly what they really needed based
on his first hand experience. We put together a system concept
and went on the road trying to sell it. All equipment was fit
into an air transportable shelter. We went all over the country
presenting this concept to various Air Force people trying to
drum up interest from someone with money. They liked the concept
but did not have money to fund further studies or developmental
tasks. During the wrap up of one of these meetings, I think this
was out in [the] Fort Leavenworth area, a colonel asked why don’t
you guys go back and put this thing in an airplane and then come
back and tell us how you can do it? We said, okay. So we came
back and got with the Air Arm Division and selected Westinghouse
radar and an airplane. Next, we modified our concept to fit in
the airplane. We incorporated a digital tracker using the DIGTRAC
concept that was an outgrowth of the BOMARC ground control system
for tracking targets. We liked that idea since it was now all
digital and went on the road again.
I just recalled one hilarious incident I will
mention here. We had a meeting with George Shapiro of Air Arm
and Morrie Wexler of Surface Division. The subject was selecting
the radar for the aircraft and the location of the antenna. In
the process there were some very heated discussions between Morrie
and George. After George left the meeting, Morrie said, “when
you get two Jews together, you’ll get three opinions.”
We continued marketing the digital airborne
concept. However, Westinghouse was not getting any funding. Surface
Division management got tired of funding the in-house effort
and Westinghouse dropped out. We had the whole system, aircraft
and everything. I guess Boeing picked up on it at some point.
Sometime later, I think this concept may have later evolved into
the AWACS system.
At which point Westinghouse was very much deeply
That’s correct. I was not associated with
it but believe Westinghouse interest was only with the radar.
Not all the equipment that was inside the airplane as we had
had before nor with modifying the airframe as we had been before.
So, it was another case where Westinghouse got tired of spending
money. Somebody else picked it up. But Westinghouse still got
part of the pie. A piece of the pie is better than none
Exactly. Exactly. I guess it's a half full/half
empty thing. One can say, hey if we'd kept up we might have had
the whole pie but hey, because we started with it we ended up
with a pretty nice chunk of the pie anyway.
I believe that is correct. And so the rest of
that is history.
Programs, Meteorological Satellite
Any other new business you were pursuing during
Yes. At the end of that time period we did some
business explorations with the FAA. We didn’t have much
success, but then along about early 1966 Westinghouse got interested
in the space business.
George Towner assigned a couple of his people,
Bill Parnell and Jacob Beser, the job to get some new space business.
Nick Petrou was interested in this too. He wanted to get into
some of the big black programs. Jake and Bill made lots of trips
out to the Air Force at SAMSO - Space and Missile Systems Organization
- in Los Angeles, talking capabilities mostly as we did not have
much hardware to offer. However, Westinghouse had a little experience
with the lunar camera, lunar drill, AIMP and AERIAL scientific
satellites and Apollo radar to talk about. First, I believe they
talked with TRW. TRW said in order to get into this business
on a big system it’s going to cost you big bucks. You’re
going to have to get in there and spend money to demonstrate
your capability. You’re going to have to lose money on
your first program. They were talking from experience.
Westinghouse bid with TRW on a radar set for
something. TRW did not get the job but Beser and Parnell got
contacts within the Air Force to whom they made more technical
At that time SAMSO had a program called P 35
or maybe P 417, I think it’s 417 at that time. The Air
Force said we’ve got something called Mission 2A - would
you like to bid on it? Send us a proposal. Westinghouse sent
them a proposal. They said we like your proposal, so here’s
a contract for X number of bucks. Here’s some requirements.
Go out and tell us how you would solve these requirements. Back
at the plant we get hot on these requirements, collected some
of the best brains in Westinghouse and started designing a system
to meet the requirements using innovative concepts. Early in
the study, we had a design review that seemed to go quite well.
We continue the study effort for a few weeks then we get word
the program was cancelled and submit your final report.
Hum. Wonder why? Yes. Send us a final report.
We sent them a final report. It wasn’t long, they came
back and said “Westinghouse, we’ve got a couple hundred
thousand bucks. We have a requirement for a block change on an
old system. We’re perfectly happy with the contractors
we have. They’re doing a good job for us. The price is
right. They’re meeting the requirements. They’re
meeting their schedules. If you would like to bid on this and
win you have to be better, your price has to be right, and your
schedules have to be right and you must meet them. Are you interested?” We
replied that we were interested. I think [the] previous contract
may have been a test to see what our capabilities really were.
So we get this copy of an RFP. It’s handwritten.
This was the first time I’d ever seen a handwritten request
for a proposal or RFP, or for that matter a handwritten copy
of a performance specification. Everything was classified Secret,
Special Access. Our next step was to get a few people briefed
so they could work on the study. Parnell and Beser got this request
in on a Friday. I was in the Surface Division at the time and
my boss gets the call from Aerospace - you guys better work over
the weekend on this. So, we started our weekend work. I looked
over the RFP. Initially I didn’t have the slightest idea
of what they were talking about. They were using terms as if
the RFP had been written by a guy with long hair, a beard and
[the] title professor. They used scientific terms. They even
used the word kinescope. We haven’t used that term in years.
But as I went through the requirements, I concluded that they
were looking for a sensor that would collect weather information
from a satellite. They were also looking for a display system
to display the data in a user friendly manner with emphasis on
user friendly. They were looking for a data handling system to
collect the data from remote sites and transmit it to a central
site for further processing by a computer. They were looking
for a receiving system that they could put out in the field that
would stand autonomously. Using these as requirement and working
with people from the Aerospace Division, we generated a proposal
for the two segments: one for the display and user segment, and
one for the sensor segment.
Shortly thereafter, we received two contracts – one
for the sensor and one for the ground data handling and display
system. This was on November 6, 1966. In a couple weeks, we had
our first design review. It was almost like taking an oral for
a PhD. On the other side of the table they had Air Force people,
many holding PhD degrees, and one civilian from the Aerospace
Corporation. They also had one other member who sat back in the
corner and the only thing he would do was to nod or laugh or
shake his head. I still don’t know who he was or who he
represented. Well, it turned out that some of the people were
from the NRO. We can use that acronym now. Back then we had to
refer to NRO by the office letters, 4C-1000 in the Pentagon.
NRO, does that stand for something?
National Reconnaissance Office.
Oh sure. I have actually been there so I should
have recognized the acronym.
Good for you, it’s a hard place to get
Anyway, the NRO and the Air Force were depending
upon NOAA and NASA to provide them with weather information and
for a satellite system that replaced the U2’s that were
over-flying China and the Soviet Union. They needed weather information
since the satellite carried a film camera and they didn’t
want to make pictures of clouds. They wanted a weather system
that would give them good high resolution and timely weather
information so they could program these satellites to make pictures
on cloud-free days. I later found out that NOAA and NASA was
not meeting schedules, so the Air Force went off on their own
and developed this system. Initially I think it was called P-35.
This was a secret program and here as usual
they hid it in plain view behind a program called Discover or
Discovery. They launch a Discover satellite. It makes all these
good scientific pictures and information, collects scientific
data, etc. They have press conferences and tell everybody about
it. They launch more. It becomes old information. Then they launch
one that ain’t a Discover satellite. These launches continued
through Block 4. The study program I mentioned earlier was for
Block 5 generation and the program designation had become P-417.
We were competing against two and maybe three other companies
for the Block 5.
So after we got through the study program
midterm exam, we got a lot of questions and some very good comments
from the customer and ideas to incorporate in our final design.
It was revealed years later that The Aerospace Corporation had
hastily built and flight tested (on an airplane) a proof of concept
breadboard model of our sensor. The customer’s ideas were
incorporated in our final design and included in our proposals.
In early ‘67 we were notified that we had won the contract.
I guess it was around April, May or something like that of ‘67.
So, during the Israeli/Arab War in June of ‘67, we negotiated
the first Block 5 contract. Years later after I retired, I was
told by a member of the Air Force original proposal evaluation
board that it was the Westinghouse ground data handling and display
system that won the contract – not the sensor. According
to him, “any one of the study contractors could have built
the scanner but we really liked your proposed display system.
But we wanted to buy the system as a package.”
must say that the Air Force people that we dealt with were certainly
the cream of the crop with the Air Force. That particular program
has turned out more general officers than you can count on one
hand. Jack Kupla, Don Cromer, Nick Chubb, Steve McElroy, John
Weber and several others. Some attained 3-star rank. They were
good people. Also, several of the lieutenants then are now CEOs
of major corporations. So, it’s been a very good program.
I was on the Block 5 from the very beginning writing the proposals,
concepts, negotiating the contracts, building the hardware, operating
the hardware and providing people that operate the hardware on
orbit. I was on Block 5 from November of ‘66 until I retired
in May of ‘94.
That's a long time on one program.
Yes. Guess I was in a rut, but I enjoyed it.
If we maybe go through this program a little
bit in detail over many years.
Management, Customer and Contractors
So you get involved in '66 and you get the first
contract in '67?
We had a contract in ‘66 to do the study
so my tenure on the program was from November of ‘66 through
May of ‘94 when I retired.
I assume now you're a bit higher level -
Oh yes. I managed the program and managed the
Okay, so you start out managing a program. I'm
trying to figure out a little bit of the hierarchy of the way
the company worked.
Yes. Initially I was the Program Manager of
the ground data handling and display segment and it turned about
to be quite a success.
And the ground segment, you had about how many
Oh at that point in time we probably peaked
at maybe 30 or 40 people.
Okay, so then I assume there's a hierarchy.
You've got supervisors below you, then, rather than having 30
people directly report to you.
I can’t recall too much about it. I had
a field engineering group drawn from FE&S as well as the
design group and then people in manufacturing and quality drawn
from the matrix organization.
So you would have reported to someone who was
in charge of the overall program at the beginning?
Yes, the overall program manager initially was
Bill Parnell and later Bob Howell and still later Tom Hollis.
I succeeded Tom.
The Air Force SPO had a young major as the SPO
System Engineering Manager. He later became a 3-star general.
He was a workaholic, a slave driver. He would come into his office
in Los Angeles at 5 o’clock in the morning and stay until
8 or 9 o’clock at night. And he expected some one responsible
to be here at Westinghouse at the same time so he could call
back any time and discuss what was going on. He also had a mind
of his own, how things should be done, which were very good for
the most part. I can remember one meeting that I guess was the
first meeting that I had with him. I went into this smoke-filled
room and there was the Major and several others. I got the feeling
that the Major had a chip on his shoulder and was daring anyone
to knock it off. Somehow, I got through that meeting without
knocking that chip off his shoulder. And from there on in, he
and I were good friends.
So the customer was based in Los Angeles?
[The] customer was based in Los Angeles. They
went through name change transitions from SAMSO to whatever they
call themselves these days, Space Division maybe. I’m not
sure what they call themselves now.
Sure. I assume therefore you needed to make
frequent trips out to visit?
Yeah, we have these management reviews.
We would have a monthly management review
and make frequent trips out there. They would alternate places
here or there. Then on a yearly basis we had what they called
a Maxi-review where the Air Force got all their contractors together
to bring out the soiled linen from all the contractors where
we discussed our technical problems, discussed interfaces and
so forth. I recall our first meeting with the Air Force and with
the other contractors, RCA
Harris Corporation. This was at RCA. The colonel, he got up and
says, you’ll note we have all our three prime contractors
here. The bidding process is over. The areas of responsibility
have been assigned. We want each of you to stay in your area,
don’t try to hog in on someone else’s area of responsibility.
We want you to work together as a team. We are a team member
too along with the Aerospace Corporation. And that’s the
way it’s going to be. And that’s the way it was for
the whatever number of years it was that I worked on the program.
We had people at RCA and RCA existed at that time.
Right, it's 87 when GE buys them.
Yes. At Hightstown, New Jersey. We had people
there integrating our equipment with the spacecraft. At one time
we wanted to reassign one of our men who was at their facility
to another contract. The RCA I&T manager came back and says
you can’t do that. He’s one of my men.
Even though he was on your payroll.
Yes, he was on the Westinghouse payroll. That’s
the way we worked together.
How were the responsibilities for the program
divided between Westinghouse and the other two prime contractors?
Okay. We had the responsibility for the sensor
that went on the spacecraft. We had the responsibility for integrating
it to the spacecraft. RCA physically mounted it. We had the responsibility
for testing it on the spacecraft at RCA. We had the responsibility
for testing the spacecraft at Vandenberg before launch. We had
the responsibility for on-orbit testing after the system was
launched. We had the responsibility for the ground equipment
that went onsite at bases at Fairchild and Loring AFB, Maine,
Fairchild AFB, Washington and at Offutt AFB in Nebraska. Harris
had responsibility for equipment at these sites also. They had
the communications equipment, and they had the equipment for…well,
let’s say they had some equipment at Omaha. Omaha was an
interesting place. One of the outputs of our system was a film
record and I’ve got a sample here I can show you.
We can film it before we're done.
Yes. We had film that was one of the products
that came out. It was a compartmentalized program but the film
was distributed to another office at Offutt AFB who used it for
programming their satellites in orbit.
[End of tape 1, beginning of tape 2]
Okay. Now we're ready to start tape two, the
second half of the interview.
Security, Evolution and Improvements
Okay, we were talking about the meteorological
satellite, the DMSP and providing the weather information for
those people to use. Only a very few of us on the program knew
at that point in time who the ultimate user was -
And even my boss didn’t know.
But you knew.
Right. But because of the security procedures
you couldn't tell your boss.
Now who was your boss?
Tom Hollis was the Program Manager.
And even at the very beginning when we did the
study, we could not tell our boss what we were working on. As
a matter of fact, initially Nick Petrou, who headed up the Baltimore
Operations, initially didn’t have a clearance on the program.
Our Program Manager would just ask for money and he’d say
what are you going to use it for and we tell him we can’t
tell you and he said okay. We did have one guy along the line,
and I won’t mention any names here, but he was very concerned
because they wouldn’t tell him anything at all about it.
He had people that were working on it and he said, well if you
guys get in trouble don’t look for any help from me.
Right. Well it must cause some problems as far as supervision.
I mean, how is your boss going to evaluate you if he's not allowed
to know what you're working on?
That almost made me leave the company. Yeah,
my administrative boss says it ain't radar, I ain't interested.
And I was on the program for two years and never got a raise
in between, and so I was about ready to tell them okay, goodbye.
And that's when I administratively transferred from Surface Division
to Aerospace Division. And years later that particular boss had
gone to Pittsburgh for the new business effort in Pittsburgh.
Who should I get a call from? I got a call from him wanting me
to come to Pittsburgh to work for him. Thank you, no.
So how did this program evolve? A lot must have
happened as you spent almost three decades on it.
Yes. A lot did happen on the first systems that
we launched. When we got the first film back out of our equipment,
the SPO Engineering Manager, who was Maj. Chubb, and the SPO
Director Col. Botzong took one look at it. Maj. Chubb yelled
for a sergeant to get him an airplane. So he, Col. Botzong and
a couple of others, along with that piece of film, they jumped
on an airplane and went to DC to tell the people all about it.
And his comment was, “if we never get another piece of
data out of this system, this launch has been well worth it.” He
had a strip about 10 or 12 feet long of this 9.5 inch film, and
off he goes to Washington to tell everybody about his program
that he could.
The first satellite only lasted six or eight
months. It had a problem with lubrication of bearings. Lubrication
of bearings in space is a problem, a serious problem. We used
the NASA recommended lubricant which was a silicon fluid. It
turns out the stuff turned to sand in a vacuum. That was not
very good on bearings.
Our scanner was a mechanical device. It was
a rotating mirror that scanned the Earth. It had three channels.
It had a high resolution visible light channel. It had a lower
resolution channel in the visible and near-IR for wide area coverage.
Bandwidth limitations did not allow all the high resolution data
to be transmitted to the ground or even stored on the on-board
tape recorders. We also had a lower resolution infrared, long
wave infrared, in the 8 to 13 micron spectral channel for looking
at high thin cirrus clouds where contrails could form. So the
first system was very successful but its life was not as long
as we had hoped for. They launched a second one. It was a good
launch also. Then somewhere along the line we added a high resolution
So you're improving Westinghouse's part of the
That’s correct. And, as a matter of fact,
we have out here on exhibit in the museum the breadboard model
of the sensor that shows the high resolution IR channel on it.
About when? Oh we’re talking probably
late-‘60s, early-70’s. I can’t recall all these
Well you answered my question, which was about
when. I wouldn't expect you to remember specific dates but late-60's,
early-70's tells me it's a few years into this long effort.
We actually flew some experiments. The new high
resolution IR detector had to be cryogenically cooled. On one
of the earlier launches we had flown a cooler to cryogenically
cool a test device to look for ice buildup and look for contaminants,
things like that. It proved successful. Then we launched one
with the real detector on it that got high resolution infrared
in the long wave IR band, the 8 to 13 micron band. And there
the user had a choice. We didn’t have enough storage for
both visual and IR at the higher resolution so the user could
select one or the other.
Ground Stations, Usage
So where was the storage? Up in the satellite?
Storage in the satellite was on tape recorders.
Then how did the information get from the satellite
to where the customer could use it?
We had two ways of getting it down. We had one
way where we didn’t store it on board. We could send it
in real time to a user site such as the one in Vietnam, for example.
Or wherever. We had the onboard storage when the satellite was
not visible to a ground station. We stored the data on digital
tape recorders. Each satellite had three tape recorders. They
weighed about 25 pounds each and they stored less data than you
can get on a microchip these days. Each recorder could store
1.67 times 10 to the 9th bits, not bytes or words.
And that was all in 25 pounds and lots of watts
of power. We had three of these things along with all the associated
problems of tape recorders in orbit such as mechanical problems,
tape problems and so forth. So, the name of the game was to store
the data when the spacecraft was out of sight of one of the two
readout sites - there was a readout site in Loring AFB, Maine
and another one at Fairchild AFB, Washington State. When the
satellite became visible to either of these sites, the tape recorders
would be sped up and the data transmitted to the ground. They
would dump the data very fast and the data would come down backwards.
Then we’d store it on the ground and transmit it from Loring
or Fairchild over telephone lines to Offutt Air Force Base in
Nebraska where it was displayed, recorded and sent to the users.
It also went into their digital numerical weather forecasting
system at Offutt.
For other users, like tactical users - like
Vietnam for example, there, they could read it out directly to
a ground station. And we actually did have a ground station in
Vietnam. It got overrun once. The equipment cabinets had thermite
to destroy them but it was not used since the ground station
was in an area surrounded by a chain link fence. And the enemy
didn’t go inside the fence and the equipment survived.
And then I assume we, the American military,
recaptured it because of the site? And then you were back in
Yes, we were back in business. They had sites
like this at various places in Asia. One was in Korea and there
was one in Thailand. The equipment played a major role in the
Mayaguez rescue by providing the weather information on where
to refuel the helicopters. Actually, they changed plans based
upon the information that our equipment provided.
Which gives some indication of the [importance]
that the system had -
[Interposing] Yes. And there were other situations
similarly where information was used in real time because it
was needed. A lot of them associated with rescue efforts.
Sure, where knowing the weather -
In real time is very important. For example,
saving money by moving ships out of the way of weather situations
in the Pacific. I was told that the government saved enough on
one particular occasion to pay for this system by moving the
ships out to a safe place when a typhoon would have wreaked havoc
with them. As a matter of fact, one ship lost its bow before
it got out of the danger area.
But being able to see when the weather was coming
and getting the information to the ships in real time -
Yeah. Was very important. And it takes a while
to get ships ready to move out of port. You can’t just
say okay, leave, you know. Get up a head of steam and whatever.
And get the airplanes moved to safety.
Block Changes and Launches
So, there were various block changes to Block
5 sensors -
[Interposing] Block changes?
Block changes. We had Block 5A Block 5B, Block
5C, 5D, D1, D2 and D3.
And what were these?
They were changes in configuration. Upgrades
in most cases.
Are these upgrades on the ground or upgrades
in new additional satellites?
On the satellites. Sensors.
So in that case there were periodically new
Oh yeah they launched. I guess they are up to
F-18 - 17 or 18 - now of the Block 5 series. And that doesn’t
count the Block 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, and 4’s.
Right, but which is before you got involved.
So how did the system evolve? By the time Vietnam
is really hot, this is now an important part of the military
That’s correct. We had a colonel on board
whose name was Colonel Will Botzong. He was the SPO Director.
He met periodically with the secretary and the undersecretaries
of defense. One of the things he had displayed proudly on the
wall in his office was a note from Dr. [John L.] McLucas who
was a Secretary or an Under Secretary of the Air Force. And it
says to Will Botzong, your program is the best and most cost
effective program in the Air Force today.
Now talking about the Block changes. The latest
Block change where we went from Block 5C to Block 5D - that was
a major block change.
This is about when? Is it the 90's now?
That was in the mid to late-1970s. One of the
problems with the original sensor was the mirror rotated at a
constant angular velocity which gave much higher resolution at
the center of the picture than it did the edges because of the
geometry. It was a problem that was inherent. Everybody knew
about it. It was going to happen. You knew that. The problem
the Air Force was having was the resolution at the edges of the
scan needed to be the same as at the satellite nadir. So Tom
Hollis and a couple of guys went out to talk with Colonel Botzong
about the problems and what problems could we solve that would
be most beneficial to the program. And this was one of the problems,
the constant resolution. So using IR&D funding, Tom got several
of the best engineers available to come up with an idea of a
sinusoidal scanner that would swing back and forth like a pendulum.
The dwell times would be longer on the edge. You could have smaller
fields of view. You could get the constant resolution all the
way across. And we had Frank Rushing, who was a brilliant mechanical
engineer, probably the best that Westinghouse has ever owned
and who came up with the washing machine balance mechanism for
the front load washing machines. He and Gordon Lye, another distinguished
scientist at Westinghouse, came up with this idea of a mechanically
resonant scanning system that would scan in a sinusoidal motion
and simultaneously varying the optical field of view, we could
get the constant resolution. We built a breadboard model, brought
Botzong and his crew in to look at it. After looking at the demonstration
Botzong said, “I want this.” So, he told his people
to go back home and get some money to start funding this sinusoidal
scanner. We called it a fixed resolution scanner. We submitted
a proposal and they liked it. They bought it. The first proposal
was just for the scanner itself, but the scanner would not work
with the current onboard data processing equipment design. So,
we gave them another proposal for the onboard data processing
hardware. And of course this got big and it was beginning to
look like all the new hardware plus the new sensors that the
Air Force wanted to fly wouldn’t fit on the existing spacecraft.
So, they told RCA to come up with a new spacecraft that they
called Block 5D. The Block 5D ended up being a complete changeover
of sensors and spacecraft as well as a lot of ground equipment
and the launch booster.
first Block 5D1 launch in the fall of ’76 turned out somewhat
disastrous. It went up and the spacecraft started tumbling and
lost power. The Air Force kept sending commands to it. Where
are you? Where are you? Finally in early ‘77 the spacecraft
answered back - here I am. RCA and The Aerospace Cooperation
engineers got enough information to find out what the spacecraft
was doing and put together a team of engineers to figure out
how to stabilize the spacecraft using a software fix. After a
month or so, maybe more than that, they came up with the software,
sent it up to the spacecraft that says, “okay guys, straighten
up and fly right.” And it worked. We immediately started
getting good data. The only thing that had failed as far as our
equipment is concerned over all that deep freeze operation where
the temperatures went extremely low was one tape recorder. Everything
else worked fine.
And you had what, still three tape recorders?
We had three tape recorders -
[Interposing] Recorders so -
- we had two good ones. We got data out of that
one, and RCA incorporated the changes to keep the spacecraft
from going into tumble mode again.
Into the software. And then the Air Force launched
more of those. Unfortunately about every fifth one would have
a booster failure for some reason on each F5 - F5 on Block 4
and so forth, back -
So about every fifth one didn't succeed in getting
Yes. But after an F5, all of them since F5 have
Now you talked about RCA's role and your role
in the 5D, did Harris play a role in the redesign as well?
They didn’t have much of a role with the
Harris had lots of ground equipment. They have
the antennas and receivers and the communications gear on the
ground. That did not need to change. Although, they did come
up with a small tactical terminal that was much more transportable
than the old 18-wheeler that they had earlier. They got it into
a small one. Now they’ve got it into a suitcase size using
Managing Program, Evolution to 5D
And so now we're well up into the 70's.
Now are you managing the entire Westinghouse
program by this point?
Yes, I pick up the whole program sometime after
Okay. So I assume now you've got quite a sizeable
Well, it depends upon what point in time. As
you know we had a matrix organization.
With engineering, quality, manufacturing and
so forth all reporting to me program-wise but administratively
to the other organizations. At times, we had 150 or more people
working full time [on] the program. I did have one budget center
consisting of a dozen or so people to manage administratively.
How do you manage a group that size for success?
Even with the matrix aspects.
We had the opportunity to pick and choose people,
and the people that we chose were all loyal to the program as
opposed to loyalty to their matrix organization. Our mechanical
engineer, for example, he was on the program from the very early
days in 1966 until he retired. His loyalty was to the program.
I would have trouble getting him promoted and things like that.
At one time I had to go over his administrative boss’s
head and get him promoted to advisory engineer. We had one or
two problems like that but in most cases we did not have any
problems at all. We had good people loyal to the program and
they stayed with us. They knew it was a long-term program and
they liked the comfort of job security.
Sure. Now, as far as the evolution of the program
up to the 5D in the late 70's.
Yes. It went D1, D2, D3 -
And what are the differences of the D's?
End configurations of the sensor differed slightly
and I guess the latest changes occurred after I retired - they
got rid of the tape recorders. They went to chips for memory.
In addition to our sensor the spacecraft carried
lots of other mission data sensors. Some of them were highly
classified and known only to the users. But all of their data
went through our box and I obviously had contacts with the people
on the other end. So, we had those responsibilities as well.
I had a group of seven or eight engineers at Omaha that worked
shift work providing support for the users in Omaha.
So these are Westinghouse people assigned as
field engineers to the customer in Omaha?
Yes. Those I got from Westinghouse field engineering.
I had people at RCA or Martin or Lockheed or whoever they became
doing the same thing. And I guess they still have that arrangement.
Yes. In turn did you have people from RCA or
from the customer or any of the other contractors here in Baltimore?
No, we never did. No need for it. We would have
frequent visitors from the customer or frequent visitors from
RCA or not as frequent from Harris as the need arose.
Yeah. And then of course you and people in your
team then were similarly on the road visiting.
yeah. But by having people at RCA and people at Omaha we really
didn’t have to send many people from the plant. We had
very capable people in the field. During launch preparations
and launch we would have some additional people from Baltimore
at VAFB, CA to handle specialized operations.
Now did you have the production people reporting
to you as well?
Yeah. Project-wise, yes they did. I had a production
manager. I also had a quality and reliability manager, a systems
engineering manager, a test manager, a field services manager,
etc. who were on my staff. I had morning standup staff meetings.
Standup meetings - ?
[Interposing] Standup -
- literally meaning standing up so the meeting
wouldn't last long?
That’s correct, at first, but chairs soon
came in later - but the idea was to keep the meetings short.
That's a good technique. People are not going
to want a long meeting if they have to stand up. I hadn't thought
of that one.
To go over progress, problems and anything that
needed immediate attention.
Any particular notable problems you recall having
Bearings. Bearing lubricant was a serious problem
that was not solved for a few years.
We had a problem with some government furnished
encryption equipment that turned out to be whisker growth in
vacuum. They used a bad material that would grow conductive whiskers
shorting out the equipment. That was a pesky problem since it
was intermittent. It turned out we found the problem and to the
embarrassment of the government, they had to retrofit all their
pieces of equipment they had in the field.
We had our usual run of typical engineering
hard to solve problems like mirror coatings for example. Our
scanner mirror looked within five degrees at the sun and at the
same time trying to see a dark scene. This problem was solved
by shielding the mirror and a very low scatter super polished
I had one of the best software engineers in
Westinghouse permanently assigned to my program. His name was
Ken Martin and he was able to solve a lot of hardware problems
using his “bag of magic tricks” in software.
We had a pesky infrared problem in a mask that
we used in one of the relay optic systems. In the visual and
near IR it was opaque, as it was supposed to be, but then it
became a mirror in longer wave IR.
But you eventually solved it
We eventually solved it. And it turns out that
our optical design ended up to be a graduate student study problem
in optics at the University of Arizona. I don’t know whether
they still use it or not to analyze that optics.
And is it these kind of challenges that kept
you and your folks busy through the 80's?
Oh yeah and production, building and testing
things. The space program component test requirements were very
critical to keep good parts in and weed out the bad ones. Our
sensor life history in orbit reflects the benefits of being sure
you have good piece parts.
A lot of quality control work.
Yes. And I mentioned earlier, vacuum tubes.
We have one tube in the sensor which is an image dissector photomultiplier
tube with an opaque photocathode. It was a challenge to build
and very expensive.
Yes, there aren't too many things vacuum tubes
are used for these days.
Did [you] try to find a solid-state replacement
or did you just think it was hopeless?
It was not available back then. It could be
done easily right now. It could not be done then. And we looked.
We even looked at some of the ultra black programs, if you know
what I mean.
Production, Block 6, Civilian Applications
And then so you kept up with this. How did things
change as you moved towards the latter part of the 80's and into
the early 90's with this program? Was it steady or?
It was production, mostly production -
[Interposing] By this point your job has evolved
to more dealing with production because the system is more - ?
Thank you, I was looking for the right word.
Yeah. And of course since I left they’ve
replaced tape recorders because memory chips became available.
I would have hoped they would have also replaced that photomultiplier
which they could have done easily. But the Air Force did not
want to do that. Matter of fact, we had a proposal several years
before I retired to replace it. But the answer was we don’t
want to replace it. That if it works, don’t break it or
however that goes.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.
And another thing we did, we added the capability
for additional IR channels for snow-cloud discrimination. I think
we designed the optical capability, I’m not sure whether
they’ve ever implemented it in hardware or not. And as
it turns out the follow-on which was going to be Block 6, the
White House decided that to save money they would let NASA/ NOAA
do the Air Force job. Okay, well after years of failures and
billions of overrun dollars, Congress cancelled the program.
Was this decision before or after you retired?
That was before I retired. That was in ‘93.
We were going to bid on Block 6 sensors and I guess Northrop
bid on the NASA/NOAA sensors -
[Interposing] Of course now the actual decision
was made in '93 so you start preparing to bid, but then you retired
before the bidding process was over?
Right. Well the bidding process really hadn’t
started. They were still doing studies. The new sensor turned
out to be a royal pain for NASA/NOAA. The sensor problems and
associated costs, I guess, is one of the reasons that caused
the program to be cancelled and the Air Force and NASA/NOAA told
to go their separate ways. It turns out right now that the sensors
that we designed in the ‘70s are providing both NOAA and
the Air Force with the information until NOAA/NASA gets their
act together and get something up there. I think there [are]
a couple more of our sensors waiting to be launched.
So eventually this program did have civilian
Oh yes, it’s been used by civilian applications
for years. John McLucas made it available to the civilian people
sometime in the 70’s.
So the military was sharing -
Sharing the appropriate sections of the data
with NOAA, with the government civilian people.
Of course, you always have the “not invented
here factor” in the NASA/ NOAA arena.
And right now I don’t know what the Block
5 Program is doing at Northrop Grumman. I haven’t kept
up with it for a while. I believe that Northrop Grumman currently
has support contracts with options that go to 2014. If it goes
to 2016, that will be 50 years of continuous contracts with the
same customer, sole source.
Yep. There are very few programs I can think
with that type of -
That have a 50-year history.
It depends upon how long this next satellite
lasts. And you know they were designed to last three years and
they’ve been going at least twice that, maybe as much as
nine or ten years.
And it’s a mechanical scanner. Lifetime
improved dramatically after we got the bearing lubricant problem
I think you have an engineering breadboard model
out here in the museum of a Block 5C scanner. They have an engineering
test model of the Block 5D that the museum should get their hands
on when and if the Air Force ever releases it. Ralph Strong tried
to get one of the tape recorders when they decommissioned all
the tape recorders, but the local DEPRO put them up for bid.
They wouldn’t give one to the museum.
Atmosphere and Changes
Let's shift gears a little bit. How did you
find Westinghouse in Baltimore as a place to work?
I never had any problems whatsoever. It was
a great place to work. People were always very good. I still
remember my last financial review with the upper management,
the VPs etc. It was Christmas time. They had sent out an edict
to us Program Managers, a list of everything to discuss like
program issues, technical problems, financial problems, customer
problems and etcetera, etcetera. I made up a chart that said “no
technical problems, no customer problems, all financial objectives
met, have a nice Holiday.” I don’t remember who all
The boss says that’s the best financial
review I’ve ever had. Let’s all go out and get a
drink. And I got a very nice Christmas present from him.
In what ways if any did Westinghouse Baltimore
evolve or change over your many, many years?
[Interposing] Over the years. Well when I started
work at Wilkins Avenue - it was a union shop for engineers. Then
we went to the airport. We were in Airport Terminal Pier B. Got
rid of the engineer’s union. And I’ve never had any
problems whatsoever as far as management goes. For the most part
throughout my career was technically oriented. Obviously, when
I got into the higher management positions I had to also worry
about financial reviews and making a profit, so that had to come
into play. But in the last years, the pressure was down from
Pittsburgh to show a good profit. And sometimes they wanted double-digit
numbers, and that was kind of hard to do on the type of contracts
that we had, especially with the rate situation that we were
having. Rates kept going up and up. You’d have a meeting
with the boss and he says, here’s what’s happened
to the rates. We still want you to bring your program in at your
target cost. We had to live with it. But other than that I had
no complaints whatsoever with Westinghouse.
Were these directives the extent of your interactions
with Pittsburgh over the years?
Profit was a local issue but probably reflected
pressure from Pittsburgh. [I] did interact with Pittsburgh on
some IR&D, Research and Development.
And can you talk a bit about the ways you interacted
We would usually just fill out a form, get what
we call six dash money and the local guy would approve it. And
if we needed help we would go to the people in the research labs
that we needed. And if you had a number, it’s all they
Were you a member or otherwise involved with
any professional societies, organizations?
Not really. I presented papers to the American
Meteorological Society, wrote some articles for them and other
magazines, conducted a short seminar at Cornell University, things
like that. Those were usually by request.
What led you to retire in 1994?
[Interposing] It's just the right age?
Age, yes. Westinghouse had an early out offer
in ‘94. I was within months of hitting the mandatory retirement
age of 65 for my job code. With all the incentives they offered
I couldn’t afford not to retire. The boss tried to keep
me on and when I told him what the situation was he says, I can’t
blame you. I can’t match it.
Looking back, how would you characterize your
career as a whole at Westinghouse?
Other than a couple of years with a radar oriented
boss, I would say it was great. And the radar boss didn’t
really get involved too much. He had one meeting with our customer
and I could see arrows going between them. I think my transfer
out of his organization was of great benefit for both he and
In what ways have you kept yourself active since
I did some consulting work for the Air Force
and for Aerojet. I also helped resolve a contract dispute between
Aerojet and the Air Force. Since then, I’ve been doing
a little bit of writing. I did a book on the program, the history
of the DMSP program as we saw it. And genealogy. I got a book
out on my genealogy and I’ve got a couple of other books.
I’ll put in a plug for my book, The Rising Sun Sets, The
Complete Story of the Bombing of Nagasaki. Jake Beser, whose
name I mentioned earlier, was the only guy who flew on both the
Enola Gay and the Boxcar as a crew member. He had a story to
tell. He wrote one book, Hiroshima Nagasaki Revisited. He started
another one to tell the untold story of [the] Nagasaki mission
when cancer intervened. He was unable to finish it. His son picked
it up but also developed a medical problem. I had known old Jake
for 25 years. I’d heard his stories many, many times.
I volunteered to finish it up for them. We finished
that book in 2007. On a book signing in Washington I was talking
with a public school teacher. The subject got around to World
War II. She thought the invasion of France was because France
was our enemy and Germany was our friend. That was her knowledge
And her knowledge of history went downhill from
there. On the war with Japan, she’d never heard of a lot
of things that happened. Never heard of the Bataan Death March.
She had heard of Pearl Harbor but she never heard of a lot of
the other happenings before and during the war. That inspired
the book, second book, which was The Long Journey from Pearl
Harbor to Nagasaki. I haven’t got a publisher yet. I’ve
got some preliminary copies out and one public school is using
it in a history course.
I know you brought one or two things to show
Can you manipulate the camera so we can do that?
Yes I have some photos I would like to show.
The nighttime photos our equipment makes are impressive. One
was used by corporate on the cover of the Westinghouse annual
report to stockholders.
Can we take another break?
Well of course.
[End of Interview]
Northeast US Blackout August 14, 2003