About Robert Dwight
About Robert Dwight Robert Dwight was
born March 28th, 1922 in New York City. In 1941 Dwight began studying
at Princeton, soon after enlisting in the U.S. Navy’s V-12
Program, attending Columbia and Cornell while in that program.
After medical discharge, Dwight received a master’s degree
at Princeton and Harvard. During his career, Dwight worked at Sperry
Gyroscope and General Precision Lab, but finally began at Westinghouse
in the Air Arm Division in 1954. In 1972, Dwight became manager
of administration for Westinghouse’s defense center. During
his years at Westinghouse, Dwight began looking into creating the
National Electronics Museum, which opened in 1983. Dwight retired
from Westinghouse in 1984, but continued working with the museum.
In this interview, Dwight discusses his
early career as a mechanical engineer and later as administrator.
The germination of the idea for the museum is talked about, as
well as early acquisitions and growth. Dwight also talks about
major highlights of the museum including the SCR-270, SCR 584,
magnetron, phased array antennas, APG-63 and 64, Wurzburg Radar
Antenna, and Navy Radar Antenna. (Biographical information from
the IEEE History Center
About the Interview:
ROBERT DWIGHT: An Interview Conducted
by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, July 21, 2009.
Interview #509 for the National Electronics
Museum and IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and
Electronic Engineers Inc.
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited
Robert Dwight, an oral history conducted in 2009
by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ,
USA at the National Electronics Museum, Linthicum, MD, USA
Interview: Robert Dwight
Interviewer: Sheldon Hochheiser
Date: 21 July 2009
Place: National Electronics Museum, Baltimore
Background and Education
This is Sheldon Hochheiser of the IEEE History
Center. It's the 21st of July, 2009. I'm here at the National Electronics
Museum in Maryland. I'm interviewing Bob Dwight about his role
as founder of this museum and also about his career with the Westinghouse
Defense Electronics Division. Good morning.
Well I suppose we're ready to begin. If you could
perhaps start by giving me a little bit about your background,
born and raised, and things like that.
Okay. Well I'm a mechanical engineer. I do not
understand electricity at all and I never did. I have three degrees
in mechanical engineering and what I understand is nuts and bolts.
And where were you educated? Where did you get
Well I'll come to that.
I was born on March 28th, 1922 in New York City,
the middle of Manhattan Island. And I started in the fall of 1941
at Princeton. Shortly thereafter was Pearl Harbor day and so shortly
after that I went to enlist in the U.S. Navy and they suggested
I join what was called the V-12 Program. So I did, and the V-12
program kept you in college, and then they would send you to midshipman's
school, and then you will become an Ensign.
And then they shortly sent all the engineers at
Princeton up to Cornell, and probably sent all the medical students
at Cornell back to Princeton. So I spent non-stop terms at Cornell,
one after the other, but I flunked electrical engineering, as you
can imagine. And so I did not degree there but I was sent to Columbia
midshipman's school anyway and unfortunately in the middle of that
I got rheumatic fever. That was supposed to be a childhood disease
but three of us at Columbia got it. So then I spent nine months
in the U.S. Navy hospitals, was finally given a medical discharge.
So I went back to Princeton and I said, “How’s
about giving me a double E course, non-stop, six weeks, and then
give me a degree?” And they very nicely said, “No we
don’t do that, but why don’t you take a masters degree,
while you're about it, bone up on electricity.” So I did.
And that involved quite a lot of advanced math. I'd always been
ahead in math, and I got quite interested in maybe pursuing that
further. Now everybody got Public Law 16, that was called the GI
Bill. But disabled veterans got something called Public Law 346.
Now the way that read was “we'll pay for your education,
any kind of course of education that you elect, we'll pay for it.” Now
that has a nice ring to it, and so I decided I would go ahead and
go for PhD, because by this time I had a bachelor’s and master’s
So I applied to MIT. MIT said no, you flunked
electrical engineering and by the way you flunked economics. And
they were quite right, I had. And so I applied to the Harvard Graduate
School of Engineering and since I'd gotten nothing but A's when
I went back to school after I'd been in the hospital, they said
yes. So I took another year of courses there and to my surprise
they gave me another masters degree. And then I started another
year of courses and I took an exchange course at MIT, sort of got
even with them. It was a math course in something—and you
would be familiar with this—it's what they call Fourier Transforms.
Well, I did very well in the mathematics of that.
But one day they had an exam, and they handed us a large sheet
of paper, and there was an electronics diagram with all kinds of
squiggles in it—tubes, and condensers, and you know what—squiggles.
And down here was a battery and a switch, and up here was a meter.
At t=0, that's a very important mathematical term, t=0, they said
we're going to introduce a short circuit. Describe the motion of
the needle of this voltmeter up here, or not necessarily a voltmeter,
a meter up here. It's probably a sinusoidal decay. And I stared
at that diagram for a whole hour and I was not able to put a single
thing on the piece of paper. I handed in a blank sheet of paper,
went out the door, hopped in the new Jeep which I had just bought,
and drove to Sperry Gyroscope, where I was very shortly hired.
Early Work Experience
The main effort at Sperry was something called
an automatic pilot. In any autopilot you’ve got to take off
manually and then you engage the autopilot. You can do that by
pulling a large lever back and on each axis of the airplane a device
goes “kachung,” because you pull this big lever, and
that engages a flight servo, and that's how the aircraft is controlled.
And the largest plane up to that time was probably the DC-3. The
B-47 bomber, for which this was designed, was much longer.
And with temperature changes, in cold weather
the cables going out to these flight surfaces would get very tight,
and in hot weather they get very slack. So the Air Force said what
we want to do is have an electrically engaged servo so all the
pilot has to do is flip a switch and this device would just go “kachung,” and
it would be engaged. So it was called an electrically engaged servo.
And I didn't have anything to do with the servo mechanism or the
electromagnet, but I had a lot to do with the design of the spring.
Because what you needed was something that was very soft axially
but very stiff in torque. And after many, many tries, we finally
got a spring design, on which I happen to have a patent, and that
went into every B-47.
But after three years there, I felt it was so,
so difficult to get something done, I thought—really it wasn't
but I thought it was—I just walked out. So then I found a
small electrical lab, development lab, north of New York City,
in a place called Pleasantville. This was called General Precision
Lab. I think it was a subsidiary of a British firm called PYE.
In any event, they were developing a Doppler radar navigator, and
they needed some mechanical design. So I was hired to be involved
in mechanical design there. And that was a remarkable device. It
was designed for the B-52 bomber and the idea was you could “dial” in
the latitude and longitude of say, Washington, DC and Moscow, Russia,
and this would navigate its way, completely by itself, all the
way. And if it had the good fortune to fly over a few known checkpoints
it could simply update its navigation. And so the pilot could,
so to speak, put his feet on the table, and just press the right
buttons, and off he'd go.
And it worked. It's one or two percent accuracy
from one point to the other, and that's pretty good. So that went
on for about three years and again I thought it was so difficult
to get something done. See, I had to build a factory as well as
complete the design manual--
So you took it all the way through to production.
Yes, and including setting up the factory. And
again I walked out. It was just so difficult to get things done,
and get parts made correctly. So I thought well, I think my field
must be “administration” not engineering. So I went
out to Boeing, and they made me an offer but I wasn't mad for it.
So went down to Lockheed Missile Systems Division in LA, and they
made me an offer. Incidentally they said we put administrators
and janitors in the same classification so that sort of gave me
a clue as to what they thought of that. I then went down to Convair
Vultee in San Diego and they made me an offer, but I wasn't mad
for it. So I came home and a small operation just north of Pleasantville,
in Danbury, Connecticut, called Flight Refueling, made me an offer,
and it was a marvelous offer, and right at the end of the interview
they said by the way, we should tell you we are about to move to
Baltimore. I said Baltimore? I never could see going there.
Westinghouse and Administration Position
So I came home again and now I'm sort of pretty
much amongst the unemployed, and I began to think to myself maybe
I'd better go back to engineering. Maybe that's where I'll find
a job. So I was reading Aviation Week and I noticed an advertisement
by an outfit called Westinghouse in Baltimore. Just started a new
division there called Air Arm Division and they needed engineers.
So I applied there and as a matter of fact I had an interview with
the chief engineer and his main administrative person.
Who were these people? Do you remember their names?
Dr. Herwald, Sy Herwald, and the head of administration
was Jack Heasley. And I was set to work, and I took all my drawings
of the Sperry autopilot, and the Doppler navigator, and so forth,
and I think he was fairly impressed. So I was assigned to the autopilot
section. They were working on an autopilot for the Republic F-84
fighter, and it was in production. It wasn't working very well
and my boss, who later became the department manager, soon realized
that I did not understand electricity at all.
And who was, who was your boss?
A guy named Ben Vester . However there were various
assignments he could give me—writing a handbook on how to
fly the autopilot, things like that. But I always felt the F-84
had a built in pitch instability. In other words, all by itself
it would do this, nose up and nose down, and nothing the autopilot
would do to correct that, it seemed. So that contract was cancelled,
so I'm suddenly left without a charge number and so had various
assignments of this, and that, and the other thing, and trying
to sell individual components of the autopilot, and pretty soon
that ran out too. So I was now really without a charge number entirely,
and just by coincidence, at that moment the phone rang from Jack
Heasley, whom I had had the interview with, and he said I need
somebody to run the administrative part of the engineering department.
Well I leapt at that. That's what I'd been looking for!
And about when was this?
This would be about '55, 1955. I started with
Westinghouse in 1954 and as I said before, three years at GPL and
three years at Sperry.
So now you're working as an administrator.
Right, which was exactly what I wanted to do.
And, by the way, what’s a short circuit?
Now my main contributions as an administrator:
I put in a new drawing system. The drawing system that existed
was pretty rudimentary, I felt, and so my job was to gather the
key people in engineering and manufacturing, and bring them together
to agree. And engineering felt all we had to do was say what's
the part to do, and manufacturing felt tell us how to make it.
The drawings should show how to machine it, how to make it, what
do we make it from. Well that was a big chasm between them because
the drawings should really only do one thing.
So anyway, we had two committees, Drawing Systems
Committee, and Tolerance Sheet Committee. Each of those committees
had something like a hundred meetings. I happened to be the secretary
of the committees, so if I couldn't bring them to an agreement
in the meetings I've managed to do that in the minutes. Anyway,
that all worked out very well. We had a new drawing system.
And then I got involved in putting in a new charging
system. How do you charge your time? Well the charging system they
had, it was adapted from the commercial divisions and you used
up many, many digits of the charge number to say only a couple
of things. Four digits to say it was a CPFF contract. All you needed
was the letter C.
CPFF? What does that stand for?
CPFF, cost plus fixed fee, and that was a common
development type of contract before you went into a fixed fee production.
So we finally developed a whole new charging system, which actually
provided a lot more numbers that we really needed—probably
the pendulum swung too far. But anyway, that was put into effect.
So the idea was to try to bring some financial
visibility and control. And I hired a batch of guys to a new position
called Project Administrator. And the idea was we would assign
one guy out to each project, each major project. They would report
to me but they'd be sitting out there, and their job was to help
provide this fiscal visibility and schedule visibility so that
cost control and schedule control could be more easily managed,
because there hadn't been enough of that before. So the idea was
to start eliminating overruns, and we didn't always succeed. On
one development contract, even the development stage was overrun
Do you recall which contract that was?
AWG 10. A-W-G 10.
A pulse Doppler Radar. It followed the BOMARC
pulse Doppler, invented by the same guy, Harry Smith, and when
it finally went to settlements several years later, Westinghouse
filed a claim, and in the words of the U.S. Navy, they said that “neither
the U.S. Navy nor Westinghouse had any understanding of the meaning
of money.” And I think they were right because both parties
kept on making changes. Anyway, it was a considerable overrun,
in the millions. Anyway, now I'm going to fast forward from the
1950's to 1972.
Okay, I may ask you later to circle back if you
Sure. Do that now if you'd like.
I find it easier to do things in chronological
order but I'm happy to not do that if that's not what you want
Administration in the 1960s
But if you don’t mind, if we could carry
through—do the 60's before we get to the 70's.
All right. So now did you continue in this very
similar kind of administrative role?
Yeah. Exactly the same sort of thing.
You discussed two major things that you did in
the 50's in terms of a new charging system. And what did you do?
Were there any major projects, major innovations in administration
notably after, later in your career?
Not really. No. Not that I can pinpoint. Just
a huge variety. Certainly straightening out lots of accounting
problems. When a contract was finally awarded, how much should
the allocations back to engineering, and manufacturing, and so
forth, how much should that be? Endless arguments about that. But
that was all finally settled. And a host of just ordinary administrative
Space allocations, that was a major job because
contracts were constantly coming and going. So one group would
need more space, either office space or manufacturing space. Another
group was phasing out, so they could give up some space. How do
you balance all this within four walls? And eventually you have
to build some more walls, so additions to buildings, and new buildings,
and space in general, became one of the major items I had to adjudicate.
And that was an ongoing project really until the day I retired,
because that was always a new problem
But bringing people together was a major job and
really quite enjoyable. You got to meet lots of people. In fact,
in that job one of the fun things was you got to know almost everybody
because you were either allocating space, or arguing about overruns,
or this and that, and so you met almost everybody. And that was
a good thing about that job.
Any other questions?
So this is all, you know, this is all during the
Cold War, but the Cold War ebbed and flowed, and politics, you
know, the administration changed, and sometimes it was hotter,
sometimes it was colder. How did these things affect the flow of
your work or of the projects?
Well there was always a sense of urgency. Since
that division opened its doors, everyone that was working there
had a sense of urgency. Most of them had been in World War II,
and as far as we were concerned, the war was still on. And so I
think everybody in the building always had a sense of urgency.
What they were doing was important. So there was very little argument
about getting the equipment out of the door, and most of it went
out of the door on schedule or ahead of schedule. And that of course
was the main objective that everybody who worked there had.
So going back to Sperry, we were working there
on three shifts, right around the clock, and I can assure you their
people had a sense of urgency.
And you found that same sense of urgency here
Yes, and I don’t think it ever really diminished
because every project was considered pretty important.
Now I don’t know how relevant this is to
your position. How closely did you need to work with the other
defense contractors who were working on other parts of a larger
I didn't get involved with that at all. Not at
And did you similarly not get involved with working
with the customers—that is the Air Force and other government
No. Occasionally the local, what was called NAVPRO,
the Navy administrative office, occasionally with them. I think
we started under the Navy and then it became an Air Force. But
very little contact there.
Westinghouse Atmosphere and Work
How did you find, personally, Westinghouse here
in Baltimore, as a place to work?
Very fun. A very fun place. No doubt about it.
Was there social life revolving around the people
you worked with?
There was. I was not a participant myself but
there were lots of social activities for those who wanted to be
Were there any ways in which the division evolved
or changed over the course of your many years here?
It just got bigger. Bigger, and bigger, and bigger.
I think the employment when I started, I'm guessing now, I think
it was like 4,000. When I left it was 11,000. So it was constantly
growing and in many outbuildings here and there, and in Baltimore,
scattered around. I didn't myself get involved in the social activities.
Were you involved at all in the planning, and
constructing, and allocating space in these new buildings that
kept growing up?
Yes. Again that involved me, and lots of different
people, and getting them to agree and come together on an agreement.
So now I'm ready to jump forward.
Museum Idea, Approval and Early Acquisitions
So we're now in 1972. That's the 20th anniversary
of the Aero Division. It had been built in 1952. We're now up to
1972. I'm now a manager of administration for the defense center.
I was still in that same role but I moved up too. And it being
the 20th anniversary, the public relations department thought it
would be a great idea if their monthly newspaper, which is normally
about four pages, would have lots of pictures of things that had
happened over 20 years, be it people, be it events, be it equipment.
Anything people had pictures of that they could think of, over
that 20 years, please send them in. And the editor of the paper,
who is since deceased, Glen Brown was his name, and the name of
the paper was The Circuit, called me up and said if I had any pictures
and would I help? Well I leapt at the opportunity, and I had a
guy helping me, and together we gathered an unbelievable number
of pictures. And what had been a four page issue is now a 44 page
issue. The 20th anniversary. And this fellow who had helped me,
in a letter he wrote to them, asking--
Cliff Parody. And he, at the end of his letter
asking for more pictures, he said it is hoped that one day our
plant will have a museum, and went on to say that it might have
samples of the equipment that had been made and so forth. So he
mentions a museum here. And one of our main contributions—see
if I can find it here—was a montage of all the equipment
that had been made. Now there's four pages of this. Every piece
of hardware that had been made. [papers rustling; holds up copy
of The Circuit] There's another page and there's two more pages.
So every single piece of hardware that had been made over the first
20 years was shown. And three of those pieces of equipment are
in the museum right now.
So in the spring of the next year was an every-three-year
Family Day. Now Family Day was the only day that you could bring
your family into the defense plant. So all the classified material
was put aside, the floors were swept and sealed, plant made just
And this would happen every single spring?
No, every three years.
Every three years.
Yes. And the plant looked so beautiful the wives
would say how come the plant looks like you could eat lunch off
the floor and our living room looks such a mess? And it really
looked beautiful. Well I was in charge of Family Day that year
and we decided we'd re-do the floor of the hangar. There was a
hangar at the plant, there still is. We'd put all the airplanes
out on the tarmac where the kids could systematically destroy them,
and I had a whole empty hangar. And I decided to have an airborne
radar display—Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. And we had
those three radars. We had what was called the Aero 13, had it
in an APQ-50. And then in production, we borrowed right off of
the production line an APQ-120, a currently produced airborne fighter
radar, going right into F4J's. And Harry Smith's new radar, called
the WX-200, which was tomorrow's radar. And we put those right
out in the hangar.
And early that day I was just standing there and
a guy comes in with his wife and two boys, and he sees the old
radar, and he just stops in his tracks and he says my God, I designed
part of that 20 years ago. And he was right on target. Because
the beginning of that design was in '52. Well a half an hour later,
he's very excited and telling still about all of the things that
worked and all the things that didn't work, and I got the idea
right then and there we should definitely have a museum and save
these wonderful pieces of equipment from being scrapped. Because
Uncle Sam will scrap them. Sooner or later they will be scrapped,
no matter what. And so at that point in time I said we've got to
have a museum and so we got some guys together and started mulling
this idea over. We started collecting right away. The first radar
set was one called the Aero 13 and it had been abandoned in place.
Now that's a nice contract clause, it has a nice ring to it, "abandoned
in place." They leave it there and it's for you if you want it.
If you don’t, you scrap it.
Well of course we could latch onto those pieces
of equipment and so we started collecting right away. Of course
in that year we didn't have any place to go with the museum. We
didn't have anybody's approval for the idea of a museum. So it
would take a lot of selling to get this idea approved and even
more selling to get the space for it because space was always very
tight, no matter what. There was really no empty, idle, available
space anyplace at any time. You had to create it. So we actually
were able to collect a few items starting right then and there.
Then in 1982 we finally were able to talk Westinghouse
into a space, a small space, 2,000 square feet.
So it took nine years for you to convince Westinghouse
that this was a good idea.
Yes. And during this time we didn't know whether
we should be a wholly owned subsidiary of Westinghouse, or should
be wholly owned, or be totally independent. We had numerous conversations
with headquarters and they suggested we ought to be a non-profit,
wholly owned museum, separate from Westinghouse, incorporated in
the State of Maryland as a non-profit museum. Well being a batch
of engineers we had no idea how to incorporate ourselves. It turns
out to be very easy but we didn't know that, and it took quite
a few years. In 1980 we were incorporated but we still didn't have
a place to go, but we could at least have a board of directors,
which we knew every corporation should have, and I selected two
pilots, people who had been pilots in World War II, and two lawyers.
I thought I should surround myself with lawyers and pilots to be
Who were these people?
A fellow named Jack Sun, retired from the Air
Force, since deceased.
Now was he also from Westinghouse?
He had joined Westinghouse.
After retiring from the Air Force.
Yes. A guy named Chet Kelly, who had retired from
the Navy Air Force.
And similarly then joined Westinghouse?
Yes. And then two of the lawyers who worked for
Westinghouse. The Navy officer was Chet Kelly. The two lawyers--
one was Butch Gregory and the other was Gene Krach, who is since
deceased. Butch Gregory. He'd been with Westinghouse for years.
Anyway, that was my board. One of the items we acquired during
that time was one of the very early Westinghouse transmitter /
receivers built for the Navy, probably during the 20's. The Navy
scrap yard out in San Diego called Westinghouse up and that call
was soon referred to me. They had Serial Number One of this piece
of equipment, with a sign on it that said “Do not scrap,
call Westinghouse.” So the Navy had done this. And we said
ship it east, what does it weigh? 3,000 pounds. [laughter] Of course
today it would be about that big [holding up thumb].
So it was shipped to us, and it arrived pretty
quickly, and the treasurer was quite surprised to discover we wanted
a check on the spot for X dollars. But here we had this huge piece
of equipment. The transmitter / receiver was about six feet wide,
six feet high, and two feet deep. That weighed a ton. And then
along with it was the rectifier unit and several other pieces of
equipment. So we actually put it on display in a small showcase
area that Westinghouse had in a central building. It was one of
the first pieces we had we could display.
So finally Westinghouse was still expanding and
renting buildings, and they rented something called Airport Squares.
And they ended up with eight of these squares, separate buildings,
more space requirements, and a period of real growth. And so I
finally persuaded, I guess it was Harry Smith, who was in charge
of the whole place at that time, we should have a space in there
for the museum. And after much haggling back and forth he finally
agreed to it. It was 2,000 square feet but at least it was a beginning.
That was in 1982. So we started moving equipment in. We had the
good fortune to know a person back at Westinghouse in what I called
a “People Machine Interface Group.” Their job was to
make sure that a person could operate all the knobs and dials on
a piece of equipment.
So we called head of People Machine Interface.
Help. First it had to be a very good designer, to help us with
the initial design of the museum.
And his name?
Well it was a gal. Her name was Ellen Prucha and
she did a wonderful design job for us. I think a lot of people
thought it was going to be just a batch of dusty laboratory benches
with some hardware. Well it wasn't. It looked like a museum. And
so we had an opening. It was actually in the fall of '83, and we
had an opening for all the people who had been involved, and all
of the department managers and so forth within Westinghouse, within
the Air Arm Division. Anyone at all who had anything to do with
the product lines or whatever that we were showing there. So we
had a very great event there. And actually the chairman of Westinghouse
had started in Baltimore . We had him down from Pittsburgh as well
as Dr. Sy Herwald, now V.P. Engineering, and the division manager,
and Harry Smith spoke, and I had three or four speakers including
myself. And so that officially opened the museum.
Still we only had 2,000 square feet. Well, it
wasn't long before we needed more space, so we asked for another
2,000 and Westinghouse said okay. And we soon outgrew that, asked
for more space, and then they said no, to our dismay. Well we absolutely
needed more space. So we convinced them of that and at that time
they were starting to divest themselves of these rented buildings
and build a brand new building. And that's what I call the “Glass
Palace,” which you'll see up the road here.
And I didn't want to be in the Glass Palace because,
being very familiar with what happens to space, sooner or later
somebody would say we need that space. It's not necessary to have
a museum here, we need it for office space, and it would disappear.
And of course everybody would argue for months ahead of time about
that but it would eventually disappear. And it happened that I
had built a warehouse for Westinghouse. The building we are sitting
in now used to be a warehouse with high bays, ideal for a museum.
So I persuaded them we should move in here and they agreed, finally,
and we moved from 4,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet. So now
we had honest-to-God space, and time marched on, and we rapidly
filled it up. We also have a warehouse on the back side over here,
which is still just a regular warehouse space, and the rest of
this building was all Westinghouse at that time. And then it was
1996, I think, that Northrop Grumman acquired Westinghouse?
And when they acquired the Defense Center they
kept the whole thing intact, and if anything grew it. They didn't
chop it to pieces. We soon introduced them to the Museum here,
and we said we need more space, and so after working with them
for a while they decided that a large conference room would be
in order, which they could use, and they agreed we did need more
space. Well they finally built this whole complex, which is now
22,000 square feet, from 2,000 years ago. It has 10 galleries in
it. It has a huge conference room called Pioneer Hall.
We still have a large store room back there. We've
outgrown it again, but I must say, it is a very complete space
to work with. Before I go on, we could pause for a moment because
the next thing I'd like to talk about is what I consider the significant
events here which are the most significant electronic devices that
we have collected.
Okay, so do you want to take a break now?
Yes. [Tape stops, then resumes]
Well first of all I should say again that I do
not understand electricity. All I understand is nuts and bolts.
[Laughter] And it takes a nut and a bolt to hold a radar set together.
If you look outside you'll see nuts and bolts [that are] even bigger.
So I emphasize again that I don’t understand electricity
at all but I've always worked for companies, Sperry, General Precision
Labs, and Westinghouse, that made absolutely fantastic electronic
equipment. I just couldn't see it being scrapped by Uncle Sam,
which it will be. And if you don’t collect an item as soon
as you can, it disappears, and it's gone. You don’t have
that bit of history anymore. So that was one of the driving forces
behind the idea of creating a museum.
I'd like to talk next about what I consider to
be the highlights of the museum. The first item is what is called
the SCR-270 Pearl Harbor Radar Antenna, and that sits right outside
the museum. It's called a bedspring antenna sometimes because it's
a whole batch of open pieces of metal, sort of spaced like this.
It's about 60 feet high and perhaps 15 to 20 feet wide. SCR means
Signal Corps Radio. Radar is radio.
Radio Detection And Ranging, which was the term coined by the U.S.
Navy, radar. A radar wave is simply a radio
wave. I don’t understand radio waves either. [Laughter]
But in any event, the history of why the SCR-270
was built by Westinghouse goes back quite a ways to the Signal
Corps, U.S. Army Signal Corps, at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. Now
they had been working with the need for aircraft detection for
a long time. And they had built all kinds of devices that would
send waves out and gather them back, and they realized they needed
a lot more transmitting power. Now they knew or found out that
Westinghouse station KDKA in Pittsburgh had built for themselves
a very high powered tube. And so they went to Westinghouse and
said could you build us a tube many more times more powerful than
anything we've ever had. Such a tube that had been built in the
research labs of Westinghouse some number of years before. It was
called the AW-220, and it was designed by a Russian named Mouromtseff,
Ilia E. Mouromtseff. And by the time the Signal Corps came to Westinghouse,
Mouromtseff had moved to the Tube Division in Bloomfield, New Jersey.
So the people at Fort Monmouth went to Bloomfield
and told them what they wanted, and the job was given to Mouromtseff.
As the story goes, the first tube that he designed was, he thought,
producible. He took it down to the factory which had many old time
glass blowers, and they took one look at it and said we can't build
this. And he said okay I'll move my laboratory right down to the
factory and we'll learn now to build it. And the story continues,
he made 57 tries before they got one they said yes we could build
this. Anyway, they sent eight of them back to Fort Monmouth and
Fort Monmouth was overjoyed with them—found they had exactly
the additional power that they needed. So they decided they would
continue to come to Westinghouse and by that time Westinghouse
had a division in Baltimore called the Radio Division.
And what better place to come for someone to build
a radar set? So they came to Baltimore and said now we'd like one
of the black boxes to be built by RCA but
the balance we want you to build. So Westinghouse set about to
build it. That's how we got involved, because knowing that Westinghouse
had built the Pearl Harbor radar, we were most anxious to try to
And at that time we had what I would call a “professional
scrounger,” and he lived in Chicago, and he happened to subscribe
to a publication called Wheels and Tracks. Now that is a publication
that's entirely on World War II wheeled or tracked vehicles, and
scanning through that one day he noticed there was a reference
to a mobile radar. And he knew there was only one mobile radar
and that was the SCR-270. So he dug further into this and discovered
that this was from a guy in Saskatchewan, Canada, and he continued
to dig and he tried to get the guy to take some photographs of
what he'd seen. That consumed about a whole year. This device was
at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, I think it is.
So finally we did confirm that it was the radar we were interested
in, and so eventually we got an agreement from the university.
Now they were given two sets, two complete sets, right after the
war, because they were the leaders in measuring the interface between
radar waves that could be sent out and the Aurora Borealis. And
it turns out that they had two of these radars.
They had long since given up the original electronics
and replaced them with modern day electronics, and they had replaced
the bedspring antenna with a parabolic antenna. So they said to
us well, if you'll build us or buy us a tower for this parabolic
antenna you could have both radar sets. All they had left was the
antennas because they had scrapped all the rest. We said well we'd
like to take both. They said you can have them if you can come
and get them. So we sent two flatbed trailers to Saskatchewan from
here with a volunteer. It was Harold Watson. He went out there
and both trailers were loaded up with nothing but just pieces.
The trailers, the bedspring antennas were in pieces. A few other
odds and ends were in pieces, and the trailers came back to Baltimore,
and we sent them out to a large antenna range that Westinghouse
had—25 acres over there someplace. And they let us spread
all these parts out on the ground—all the parts of two complete
antennas. So we picked the best pieces from each and reassembled
one antenna. Any pieces missing we had to have machined and made,
and finally I had about four or five volunteers working on this.
They got it all together and got the motor operating. We could
rotate the antenna, six RPM, and sat it right outside of the museum.
So on the 40th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, which
would be 1991.
That would be the 50th anniversary.
50th anniversary, I'm sorry.
--we had quite a gathering. We actually had the
guy who operated the radar set at Pearl Harbor, Joe Lockard, the
designer at Westinghouse, Fred Suffield, and the designer at the
Signal Corps, whose name I've forgotten, were there. But they were
all there, and at the appropriate moment they pushed a button and
the antenna started rotating. We had a real live antenna and we
restored it so that if necessary we could transmit from it. We
restored it to perfect operating condition. That's the only one
in the world, I think.
Now it's a production model. That is, it has eight
steel crossbars. The early models had nine wooden crosspieces because
the early ones were made of wood.
And you'll see a very good picture of that in
the radar gallery, taken out in the island of Morea in the Pacific.
That's one of the ones that had a wooden antenna, original one,
and the one we have is a production model, and I suspect it's the
only restored one in the world. So I think the history of how we
got to acquire it really goes back to that tube, and so that's
one little piece of electronic history.
The next major item is again a Signal Corps, SCR,
Signal Corps Radio, 584. Now the unit that we have, it's a huge
van, and it's part of a complete system that we used in England
very successfully against the German V-1 buzzbomb. We found this
at our war surplus dealer up in Danbury, Connecticut, Radio Research
Labs. They have a five story building and many acres outside just
crammed with olive drab war surplus equipment. They happened to
have one of these vans up there and after some negotiating we agreed
what we could pay for it, which we agreed we could only do over
a period of time, and that we'd like to have it sent down here.
So in due course it arrived on a flatbed trailer
and we started to do some repair work on it. Shortly thereafter
an outfit called Nova—you may have heard of Nova, headquartered
in Boston—they had come down to look at our library which
wasn't nearly as big at that time as it is now, and they looked
out the window and they saw this 584 van. They got back to Boston
and said hey we've got a great idea. How about restoring that thing
to working condition so it will track targets and bring it to Boston
because we're going to be filming the alumni from MIT who built
that. And we didn't know what to say. Well we finally said yes.
We had 90 days to get that thing working—working and tracking
targets. That means it really had to, honest to God, work. And
so the volunteers who knew what a vacuum tube was—there were
about 400, plus or minus, vacuum tubes in it—
If you look at one end, which is open out there,
you could see how many there are. I mean, there are just vacuum
tubes, of all shapes and sizes. And amazingly enough, vacuum tubes
are still available if you look around for them. I think some are
still being made in China. But you can find vacuum tubes if you
have to. They're out there someplace.
There are even a few specialty manufacturers in
the United States.
There's still used, particularly in audio equipment.
There are audiophiles who are devoted to vacuum tube equipment.
Ah, right. So anyway, one day before that thing
was due to go to Boston we were tracking targets. Got it working
right. I think it was a training unit because all the cables had
been jumbled up underneath the floorboards, so the people could
learn how to figure out which cable was really which. They had
all been jumbled up and so forth and it was a mess. But the volunteers
would take some of the black boxes right inside and they'd work
on them component by component, just completely check out, each
unit. And of course we had the manuals. That was the first thing
that we were supposed to get. The manual was about so big, or this
thick, and having the manuals is absolutely indispensable, and
we had them both on the Pearl Harbor radar and on this thing. And
amazingly enough, some guys who would just come wandering in, would
bring us a training manual. One guy brought in a training manual,
stamped Secret. Well I had to learn how to declassify. This badge
I have here said I had a Secret clearance. I had maintained the
Secret clearance because this type of thing would come in and was
it now declassified or not? I had to learn how to declassify.
So we took it up there to Boston and on that particular
day they flew a P-51 over and we tracked it. So that was quite
a day. The significance of the 584 is, to me anyway, that it was
part of a weapons system. And it combated the V-1, German V-1 buzz-bomb,
which in 1944 was bombing London. This radar set would pick up
the precise position of the V-1 and would feed that information
to a computer. We don’t have one of those computers. But
it's a huge computer, about—oh it was the size of three iceboxes.
And that would compute the lead angle. As in shooting ducks you've
got to have a lead angle, and all the ballistics like the wind,
and peculiarities of the shell, and so forth, and it would feed
that to a battery of four 90mm aircraft guns. We have one of them
right outside. And those guns were armed with 90mm shell which
had in its nose a proximity fuze. The advantage of the proximity
fuze was all the shell had to do was come in the vicinity of the
target. It didn't have to hit it, just come near it, and it would
blow up. And the 584, which was called by the British the most
significant weapons system of the war, they got 90 percent of the
V-1s that they engaged. That's a pretty good record.
It was not only used in London but it was used
in Antwerp. The main objective of the Germans during the Battle
of the Bulge was to recapture Antwerp. So we had plenty of 584s
over there and again it got 90 percent of the V-1s that they shot
at. So again as the British said, the most significant weapons
system of the war. So anyway, we're very glad we have that 584.
Hundreds were built by Westinghouse and G.E..
And I mentioned, there is a 90mm gun outside which
a volunteer had found through the Army. One of the guns was available
to us if we wanted it. [It] was up in Rome, New York in a swamp
at an Air Force base. So well, we'll go get it, and so we sent
a volunteer who was familiar with that part of the country up north
with our own moving company, and they extracted this from this
swamp and brought it down to, I think first to Fort Meade where
it was de-leaded. Almost all the equipment, including the 584,
had lead paint. We had to de-lead it before we brought it inside
where it is now. This had to be de-leaded and then we brought it
back here. Where we first had it located it was in a firing position,
the muzzle was pointed up. Right now the muzzle is either rusted
or jammed in a horizontal position. But it's sitting outside and
it's part of this weapons system. We also have a mockup of the
proximity fuze on display with the 584. So we actually have everything
here except the computer.
The next thing I want to talk about is the magnetron.
A magnetron is the heart of developing microwaves in a radar set.
And we happen to have one of the first 30 that were ever made.
The Tizard Mission came over from Great Britain, probably in 1940,
and they brought all kinds of secrets they had. They had developed
a large number of… Great Britain had been at war several
years before the U.S. got in the war, and so the Tizard Mission
brought one magnetron they had developed. They brought it over
here and a large group of people who met with Tizard, including
Dr. Hutcheson who was the general manager of the Radio Division
here in Baltimore. And this magnetron was given to the Bell Labs.
Bell Labs hooked up everything they needed to do to make it work
and the U.S. was excited at what it could do.
So it was sent to Western Electric, which is the
manufacturing arm of Bell Labs, and they made 30 of them. And these
were distributed to universities, to companies, and so forth. Westinghouse
got one. And again it was given to Dr. Hutcheson. So in due course
it trickled down to be in the hands of Butch Gregory, who is shortly
to be on our board. So we ended up with one magnetron of the 30
ever built in this country. So that is a real collector's item.
Phased Array Antennas
And one of the next things I think is noteworthy,
I think we have the only collection in the world of the evolution
of phased array antennas. I first became familiar with this type
of antenna when Westinghouse was building something called the
EAR, electronically agile radar. Now that turns out to be a phased
array antenna, and by this time this technology had been further
developed and they built one of these units, I had to build a tower
out at the antenna range for it because they needed a tower where
this radar could look down to the horizon and scan the horizon
for testing something that was called terrain avoidance. If you're
going to fly an aircraft real low you want to not hit the mountains
and so one of the modes of operation was the terrain avoidance,
so you could fly along in valleys and not run into the mountains.
And it could do everything else under the sun in the instant, twinkling
of an eye. Again, these were individual modules in the face of
the fixed faceplate and computer controlled so they could switch
from one mode to another instantaneously, tracking multiple targets,
terrain avoidance, doing everything but fry eggs.
So I was asked to build a tower. I was in charge
of facilities. That was another item that I was involved in over
the years. About five million a year over a period of years is
100 million dollars worth of capital facilities. That was one of
my jobs. And so they needed this tower built out there so they
could actually look down on the horizon from this hilltop, and
it actually does look down on the airport. It's amazing. So we
tested it out there and that tower became involved in phased array
Now at an earlier date, in 1972, Texas Instruments
developed something called molecular engineering with radar applications.
They called it MERA, and they really were the first to be able
to get the idea. What had been a huge black box as a transmitter,
a huge antenna, and another huge black box as a receiver, they
now put into something that big [holds up two fingers], the whole
works, the transmitter, receiver, and a little antenna on the front.
They put 800 of these in a fixed faceplate. Again, computer controlled.
This was before what I was just describing. It was the very first
phased array antenna.
Well we had a volunteer named Warren Cooper who
was a microwave engineer and had been at Westinghouse for years,
and he helped us get this from the Avionics Lab out in Dayton,
the Air Force Avionics Lab. So we were able to get that one. And
then Raytheon had built another one in 1969, a year later, called
RARF, Radar Application Radio Frequency, RARF. And that is a monster,
a great huge device, very heavy, K-band not X-band, and we had
to liberate that from Raytheon. Actually it was in storage outside
filling up with leaves when we got it.
The EAR I've already described. I was able to
get one of those and then the B-1 bomber, which was an outgrowth
of the EAR, was a contract with the Air Force for the B-1 bomber,
with this type of antenna in the nose. It was a big oval shaped
phased array antenna.
Coming up to modern times, the F-22 and the F-35,
and you read a lot about those in the paper today, modern airborne
radar. And for the F-22, they now call it the Active Electronically
Scanned Array, and everybody in the world is building them now,
the Russians, the Chinese, you name it. Everybody has got that
technology underway. They’ve all found out how to convert
these huge black boxes into a little tiny gadget that big. Currently
a lot of discussion is in electronic warfare, and jamming the enemy's
electronic warfare. So anyway they're very popular antennas today.
Pioneer Hall, APG-63 and APG-64
I guess another significant event is, as part
of the expansion this site, we said that it included both for our
benefit and the benefit of Northrop Grumman, a very large conference
room. It's called Pioneer Hall, and one of the reasons it's called
Pioneer Hall is it has two displays. One of the more significant
ones is the Pioneer Award winners. The IEEE has a section called Aerospace
and Electronic Systems Society, AESS. I'm sure you're familiar
Oh yes, I certainly am.
One of the things they do each year is to have
a Pioneer Award for a piece of electronics that has withstood the
test of 20 years. Something that has been in service for at least
20 years and proven itself as a noteworthy piece of electronics.
Now we have certain pieces of equipment whose inventor was awarded
the Pioneer Award. So I had the task here of designing the placard
for each of these now hanging in Pioneer Hall. And very rapidly,
1968, Bill Tull, the Doppler Navigator, the APN-81, the device
that I worked on, and we have one here. And then Ivan Getting for
the SCR-584, which I talked about, microwave radar. Mooney, and
Smith, and Perkins, Airborne Pulse Doppler, which we have here.
Bill Skillman and Cowdery for the AWACS. We have an AWACS antenna
here. J-STARS we have here, the MERA antenna, which I just talked
about, we have here. That certainly was a major breakthrough.
Another very significant item we have is the APG-63,
the first digital fighter aircraft airborne radar. Digital mind
you, not analog. Now this was designed and produced by Hughes.
Hughes has always been the major competitor of Westinghouse. In
the early days Hughes would win one, we would win one, back and
forth, back and forth, back and forth. Hughes was eventually bought
by Raytheon and we were bought by Northrop Grumman, and still in
the same competition, back and forth. They win one, we win one.
Like the F-22 and the F-35, Westinghouse won or Northrop Grumman
won. The F-18 is equipped with Raytheon radars.
The APG-63, I mentioned that Hughes developed
that and the development was awarded the Pioneer Award. We've been
successful over the years in applying to the Air Force Avionics
Museum in Dayton to get equipment on loan. The Air Force will not
give you anything. It turns out we believe the Navy will not give
you anything either. We thought that they would but we were wrong.
Anyway, the Air Force loans you something, they
will not give it to you. And so we applied to them to get a complete
APG-63. Well that was out of the question. Could we get the black
boxes? Because we knew that they had to have a supply of spares
and at a large Air Force base in Georgia, whose name I've forgotten.
They were the headquarters of having all the spare parts for the
Air Force for this type of radar. And we reminded the Air Force
that we already had a loan agreement and could they help us find
the black boxes? Well we finally made direct contact with the Air
Force base. I'm not saying we bypassed the museum but we just found
it quicker to call directly down there to some of the representatives.
Now it turns out that Raytheon, formerly Hughes, had a field representative
down there. We were able to reach him and he came up with a complete
list of part numbers for us, a gold mine, because these were the
original Hughes Aircraft part numbers, black box by black box,
and the revisions of each one.
Plus the Air Force designation, and some Air Force
code numbers for them - a complete gold mine. We now could talk
the language of Hughes in spare parts, to the spare parts department,
that we wanted. We were looking for maybe the very earliest part
number, which would have been superseded by others, and any sequence
would be fine for museum purposes. And so to our amazement, one
of the first things they acquired was an antenna, one of the most
significant pieces of the whole set. And then in due course they
found one more and we got that.
And then it occurred to me that from of our war
surplus dealer, much earlier, we had gotten something called the
APG-64. It turns out the only difference between an APG-63 and
an APG-64 is something internal which you can't see from the outside,
and it was for firing one phase of the Sparrow missile. We were
up there one time, we bought four of these black boxes. They didn't
have an antenna up in Danbury. They said oh, we'll get one of them.
Of course they didn't get one. But now the Air Force Museum has
got an antenna and another black box. And it turns out we had four
black boxes that externally looked exactly the same. So we now
had six black boxes. So we said let's build a mockup of the nose
of the aircraft. So we sent away through one of the Northrop Grumman
departments, the E&S department, for the actual aircraft drawings
of the McDonnell Douglas aircraft in which this radar was used.
And lo and behold we got back all the aircraft drawings. So we
could now make a mockup to scale and put all the black boxes we
had found in it, just as they were mounted to the aircraft. So
that you could see right in one of the galleries out here—probably
one of the better displays that we have. So that's how that happens
to be here.
And then the trail went dead. No more black boxes
were found. We're missing two but we've had no word from Dayton,
no word from the Air Force, the base in Georgia, not a word, and
we stopped pestering them. I used to call the guy in Dayton once
a month, and I got tired of doing it.
Wurzburg Radar Antenna and Navy Radar Antenna
Another significant item that we have here is
something called the Wurzburg Radar Antenna. Now that's a big huge
antenna. You can see it outside at the far end, almost the end
of the building. It's about 23 feet in diameter. Some years ago
the folks out in Boulder, Colorado, I think the Bureau of Standards
had this. Said they would no longer need it out there. If we'd
like to have it we could come and get it. So we sort of hemmed
and hawed about that for a while and said well, I think we'll go
get it. It was built in 1938 by the Germans. The Wurzburg was installed
from Norway to Normandy for coastal defense against British bombers.
So one of the volunteers went out there to look
at the thing and further decided we should get it. And then our
director, Mike [Simons], actually went out there and he was fortunate
enough to find an antique aircraft moving company. What they specialized
in was moving old airplanes anywhere in the country. It was a very
small outfit but this was what they specialized in, moving delicate
objects. And so we had to wait our turn because they were criss-crossing
the U.S., back and forth, moving airplanes, and we had to take
our turn in line. Their headquarters was in Omaha, and when they
finally scheduled to go out, Mike Simons went out with them and
they loaded the Wurzburg onto two flatbed trailers. It could be
taken apart into a semi-circular piece, a middle piece, and then
a lower piece. It took two trailers to carry all this. And they
brought it back to Omaha and stored it because they weren’t
quite ready to bring it back here.
They didn't have any airplanes to move in this
part of the world right then, but in due course they brought it
back. And they were experts at handling that equipment. They set
these pieces down within one inch of each other, right out here.
And then the job was to build a stand for it. So Mike had contacted
a mechanical engineer at Northrop Grumman who designed a stand
that would support this thing. We'd already figured out where to
put it and so in due course cement pads were poured outside here,
and the stand was built. And then a different outfit who had installed
and moved lots of antennas around for Northrop Grumman, came with
what I would call a crawler, a device that had a crane, and a little
basket up here, and four wheels. This crane could be lowered, and
swiveled around, and then the four wheels driven again by the operator
up here. So they could manipulate this thing any way they wanted
it. And they took these pieces and they put them together up there.
And so finally we had a completely restored antenna, Wurzburg antenna,
And it was built by the Zeppelin company. The
Zeppelin company had built all the Zeppelins for Germany and [it
is] absolutely beautifully built. If you look closely at that antenna
out there, you could see why it was built by the Zeppelin company.
A beautiful piece of design.
And another significant event is under way right
now. The Navy designed a radar antenna in 1938, one of the very
first antennas. And again it's a form of bedspring antenna. It's
about 20 feet square with a whole batch of wires going back and
forth. It was on display by the Navy for quite some time and then
eventually it was put in storage in pieces, and some of it was
actually cut up with a hacksaw to make the pieces smaller. Anyway,
the Navy said to us we could have it if we'd come and get it, if
we could restore it at our expense. Well we thought about this
and said okay, we'll do that, even though it was quite expensive.
Again, it is of the same era as the Pearl Harbor antenna and the
German Wurzburg. 1938, the beginnings of radar. So first of all
we had to retrieve it from Norfolk, put it in storage in this building.
We started taking some of the parts apart right here in this building
and sent them out for refinishing. Some of the paint had to be
taken off and some of the drive motors had to be taken off. So
we've already had one or more volunteers working like mad on it
to get it further disassembled, and we are planning to have it
assembled just beyond the Wurzburg. So we'll have three 1938 antennas
outside, the earliest electronic antennas that there are.
And so now Sheldon, I'll end my part of this.
If you had any questions?
Just one. When did you retire from Westinghouse?
And what led you to retire at that point?
What led me to retire?
Yes. Why did you retire in 1984 rather than earlier
I was 62 so I was eligible for retirement. And
I decided at that time I could be busy with this. I've worked on
this for 35 years.
As I now know since you've given me this whole
Yes. So it's been a labor of love.
I'm no longer really involved with the… One
or two projects. But I've really bowed out. But it's been a labor
of love for 35 years, as you can tell.
Yes, as I can tell.
I was immersed in it seven days a week, 24 hours
a day. Do you have any other questions?
No, I think we've covered it.
Okay, well thank you very much for your time and
Well thank you for having me. Appreciate it very
much. I'd say we were on schedule.
R.L. Dwight Postscript:
I personally and the Museum in particular are
immeasurably indebted to Al Spencer. For most of my years at Westinghouse
he was there, and we had gotten to know each other. He gave long-standing
support for the idea of a Museum while Administrative Assistant
to the Director of the Westinghouse Defense Center. He became a
Board member of the Museum, then President – and now a Board
member again. In many of the early years of the Museum his excellent
relations with Westinghouse and then Northrop Grumman helped put
in place policies and procedures in use today.
In closing, I would like to say: Thank you Al.