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Oral-History:Frank Lewis

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== About Frank D. Lewis  ==
 
== About Frank D. Lewis  ==
  
Lewis received his MA from MIT, working under Prof. W. L. Barrow, then began working on the MIT blind-landing project, from 1937 to 1940. He transferred to Alfred Loomis’ outfit at Tuxedo Junction, then came back to the Rad with the entire Tuxedo Junction lab. He says he designed the first microwave horn, essentially as his master’s thesis, before the war. Lewis had a series of liaison jobs—first between Rad Lab and private industry, then over in Britain on microwave power sources, then in the Secretary of War’s office on radio countermeasures. After the war he worked at the General Radio Company.  
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Lewis received his MA from MIT, working under [[Wilmer Barrow|Prof. W. L. Barrow]], then began working on the MIT blind-landing project, from 1937 to 1940. He transferred to Alfred Loomis’ outfit at Tuxedo Junction, then came back to the [[MIT Rad Lab|Rad]] with the entire Tuxedo Junction lab. He says he designed the first microwave horn, essentially as his master’s thesis, before the war. Lewis had a series of liaison jobs—first between Rad Lab and private industry, then over in Britain on microwave power sources, then in the Secretary of War’s office on radio countermeasures. After the war he worked at the General Radio Company.  
  
== <br>About the Interview  ==
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== About the Interview  ==
  
 
FRANK D. LEWIS: An Interview Conducted by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center, 12 June 1991  
 
FRANK D. LEWIS: An Interview Conducted by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center, 12 June 1991  
  
Interview # 088 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
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Interview # 088 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.  
  
== <br>Copyright Statement  ==
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== Copyright Statement  ==
  
 
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 IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.  
 
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 IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.  
  
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, Rutgers - the State University, 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.  
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Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken, NJ 07030 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:  
 
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:  
  
Frank D. Lewis, an oral history conducted in 1991 by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.  
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Frank D. Lewis, an oral history conducted in 1991 by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.  
  
== <br>Interview  ==
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== Interview  ==
  
Interviwee: Frank D. Lewis<br>Interviewer: Andrew Goldstein with comments by Fred Keif<br>Date: 12 June 1991<br>Place: Boston, Massachusetts
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Interviwee: Frank D. Lewis  
  
=== <br>Education and Background  ===
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Interviewer: Andrew Goldstein with comments by Fred Keif
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 +
Date: 12 June 1991
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 +
Place: Boston, Massachusetts
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=== Education and Background  ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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'''Lewis:'''  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
  
Okay. I was a graduate of a place in Cambridge called the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, now MIT, in the microwave business by being apprenticed to Professor Barrow. Professor Barrow was one of the few microwave leaders in this country. The other ones were at places like Bell Labs. Barrow was the one we had at MIT, and there were a couple of them that were added. There was a whole collection of microwave people at Holmdel in New Jersey that worked for the Bell Telephone Labs. They started that before we were in the war. They were working on transmitting telephone conversations from somewhere to somewhere else in a hollow tube of metal because they'd found that it would propagate through a hollow tube. So they were doing a lot of work on this. They had a set-up at Holmdel where they were making measurements in attenuation and things like that where they would have to know about for microwave systems.  
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Okay. I was a graduate of a place in Cambridge called the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, now MIT, in the microwave business by being apprenticed to Professor Barrow. [[Wilmer Barrow|Professor Barrow]] was one of the few microwave leaders in this country. The other ones were at places like [[Bell Labs|Bell Labs]]. Barrow was the one we had at MIT, and there were a couple of them that were added. There was a whole collection of microwave people at Holmdel in New Jersey that worked for the Bell Telephone Labs. They started that before we were in the war. They were working on transmitting telephone conversations from somewhere to somewhere else in a hollow tube of metal because they'd found that it would propagate through a hollow tube. So they were doing a lot of work on this. They had a set-up at Holmdel where they were making measurements in attenuation and things like that where they would have to know about for microwave systems.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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The blind landing group, yes. The blind-landing group, we were supposed to be working on blind landing, but it didn't keep us from finding out a few other things. Along toward the end of that MIT blind-landing project, which was more or less driven into the ground, the federal government ran out of money and couldn't pay us for doing this. This stopped things pretty fast because you can't do much when they remove your paycheck. We got things up to the point where we knew what all of the problems were. We knew what range the microwave signal would propagate over. And we knew what happens to it when you flew over rough terrain. We did all of those tests. I never will forget the day that I asked a fellow from the CAA, how did he know whether his airplane was following the right track or not when it was coming in for a landing. He said, "That's the times we question." And he had no idea. Had never tried to measure it. And I said, "Well, I would have thought you would at least get a camera out there and take a picture of it while it was landing." He said, "That's a good way to do it. I'll do that." When we went in there, that was 1937 and that's the kind of stuff they handed us to work on. We were going to do this for the CAA, and they didn't know what they wanted to do. So I guess that's how people like MIT get involved in it. At least we ask questions, and they answer the questions. So that's the sort of thing we did.  
 
The blind landing group, yes. The blind-landing group, we were supposed to be working on blind landing, but it didn't keep us from finding out a few other things. Along toward the end of that MIT blind-landing project, which was more or less driven into the ground, the federal government ran out of money and couldn't pay us for doing this. This stopped things pretty fast because you can't do much when they remove your paycheck. We got things up to the point where we knew what all of the problems were. We knew what range the microwave signal would propagate over. And we knew what happens to it when you flew over rough terrain. We did all of those tests. I never will forget the day that I asked a fellow from the CAA, how did he know whether his airplane was following the right track or not when it was coming in for a landing. He said, "That's the times we question." And he had no idea. Had never tried to measure it. And I said, "Well, I would have thought you would at least get a camera out there and take a picture of it while it was landing." He said, "That's a good way to do it. I'll do that." When we went in there, that was 1937 and that's the kind of stuff they handed us to work on. We were going to do this for the CAA, and they didn't know what they wanted to do. So I guess that's how people like MIT get involved in it. At least we ask questions, and they answer the questions. So that's the sort of thing we did.  
  
=== Alfred and Henry Loomis ===
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=== Alfred and Henry Loomis ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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But anyway, Henry Loomis was the son of this Alfred Loomis, and Alfred Loomis was the fellow who owned the laboratory, which was in Tuxedo Park, New York. Now Tuxedo Park is a private enclave where people go who don't want to be bothered with other people just driving in and saying, "Hello." They have a fence around it, and they had a gatehouse where you go and check yourself through. Everybody who was run in and out of there was thoroughly understood by the people that opened the gate. So if they didn't know you, you didn't get in. So I spent about six weeks to two months there. I guess it was in the summer of 1940. I had to turn in my thesis at MIT to get my master's degree. When we were working together, this British guy, Bowen, he came to MIT. Dr. Bowles was the head of the microwave systems group there and Elmer Barrow was the well-qualified technical microwave man. I worked for Barrow. I also did undergraduate work for him.  
 
But anyway, Henry Loomis was the son of this Alfred Loomis, and Alfred Loomis was the fellow who owned the laboratory, which was in Tuxedo Park, New York. Now Tuxedo Park is a private enclave where people go who don't want to be bothered with other people just driving in and saying, "Hello." They have a fence around it, and they had a gatehouse where you go and check yourself through. Everybody who was run in and out of there was thoroughly understood by the people that opened the gate. So if they didn't know you, you didn't get in. So I spent about six weeks to two months there. I guess it was in the summer of 1940. I had to turn in my thesis at MIT to get my master's degree. When we were working together, this British guy, Bowen, he came to MIT. Dr. Bowles was the head of the microwave systems group there and Elmer Barrow was the well-qualified technical microwave man. I worked for Barrow. I also did undergraduate work for him.  
  
=== Microwave Horn ===
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=== Microwave Horn ===
  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
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That was essentially my master's thesis. Yes, sir. You hit it right around the button. A couple of days later they had a hurricane, and they had to pick up the pieces and put it back together. But that was as far as we had to go with it. So that was where my master's thesis got me, but I never got a chance to go the next step and get a doctor's on it. I worked on that stuff for four years, three of which were spent flying in an airplane and making propagation measurements for the radio systems that we were trying to build. That was for the microwave blind-landing system. That was our official project, and I never got any credit for that because the guys in the Civil Aeronautics Administration wanted it for them because it was being paid for by their money. But that's the kind of thing you get your tail wrapped around and have trouble getting untangled. I never told anybody else about that except some close friends. But if you want to make something of it, you can see what you can do with that.  
 
That was essentially my master's thesis. Yes, sir. You hit it right around the button. A couple of days later they had a hurricane, and they had to pick up the pieces and put it back together. But that was as far as we had to go with it. So that was where my master's thesis got me, but I never got a chance to go the next step and get a doctor's on it. I worked on that stuff for four years, three of which were spent flying in an airplane and making propagation measurements for the radio systems that we were trying to build. That was for the microwave blind-landing system. That was our official project, and I never got any credit for that because the guys in the Civil Aeronautics Administration wanted it for them because it was being paid for by their money. But that's the kind of thing you get your tail wrapped around and have trouble getting untangled. I never told anybody else about that except some close friends. But if you want to make something of it, you can see what you can do with that.  
  
=== Recruitment to Rad Lab ===
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=== Recruitment to Rad Lab ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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Bill Tuller was killed in an airplane that crashed on take-off from the aerodrome in Ireland coming back to this country. Everybody on the plane was lost. Celia and I had dinner with his widow one afternoon. He was my friend. We spoke the same language, and we both knew about the same number of things that we ought to pay attention to in the radar business. So it was great to have him there. He and I could work together.  
 
Bill Tuller was killed in an airplane that crashed on take-off from the aerodrome in Ireland coming back to this country. Everybody on the plane was lost. Celia and I had dinner with his widow one afternoon. He was my friend. We spoke the same language, and we both knew about the same number of things that we ought to pay attention to in the radar business. So it was great to have him there. He and I could work together.  
  
=== Liaison with Government and Private Industry ===
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=== Liaison with Government and Private Industry ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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'''Lewis:'''  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
  
Sperry, Bell Labs, RCA. I was supposed to keep in contact with these people so they would know what we were working on and where they fit in the scheme. So I had to make trips to RCA. They bought from these government contractors, manufacturers. They bought from them the stuff that they thought they needed to make a radar. One of them was the RCA factory where they made cathode-ray indicator tubes. It was in Pennsylvania. That's one of the ones that I went to visit. Another one was the Bell Labs group at Holmdel. They had several experts of various kinds there. They had one guy. He was the fellow who was trying to do the job I told you, where he was trying to measure the attenuation of a thing in a hollow tube. He was a little bit out of it because that wasn't what they were working on. But he was part of their team. And Dr. Friis was there also.  
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Sperry, Bell Labs, RCA. I was supposed to keep in contact with these people so they would know what we were working on and where they fit in the scheme. So I had to make trips to RCA. They bought from these government contractors, manufacturers. They bought from them the stuff that they thought they needed to make a radar. One of them was the RCA factory where they made cathode-ray indicator tubes. It was in Pennsylvania. That's one of the ones that I went to visit. Another one was the Bell Labs group at Holmdel. They had several experts of various kinds there. They had one guy. He was the fellow who was trying to do the job I told you, where he was trying to measure the attenuation of a thing in a hollow tube. He was a little bit out of it because that wasn't what they were working on. But he was part of their team. And [[Harald T. Friis|Dr. Friis]] was there also.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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He got them all together and kept them going in the proper direction, yes.  
 
He got them all together and kept them going in the proper direction, yes.  
  
=== Sperry's Spurious Invention Claims ===
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=== Sperry's Spurious Invention Claims ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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I said, "Well, there's a contract that was issued for each one of these government contractors." They got a government contract that was signed by Alfred Loomis and the Microwave Committee, and they'd put it in the archives. But the catch is that once it's signed on the day that the event happened, it was signed to make it legal afterwards. They got witnesses, and they got everybody together, and they all signed it, and they put it in the records. The guy in the government legal department tried very hard to find all this, and he looked and looked, but he couldn't find any of these records. Finally they called me up. Somebody said, "Well, Frank Lewis knew all this." So I told them where to look, and they were looking too far ahead. They thought things were moving faster than they were. So they had about three months of stuff between where the action was, and where the original proposals on these things were. They were all properly witnessed and agreed to by everybody concerned, so they were all good contracts. The guy called me up after it was all through, and he said, "Boy, if you hadn't been so positive that that was the way it was, I wouldn't have had the courage to look for it." He didn't think it was that way, and he couldn't find it. It wasn't in his book because he didn't look far enough back.  
 
I said, "Well, there's a contract that was issued for each one of these government contractors." They got a government contract that was signed by Alfred Loomis and the Microwave Committee, and they'd put it in the archives. But the catch is that once it's signed on the day that the event happened, it was signed to make it legal afterwards. They got witnesses, and they got everybody together, and they all signed it, and they put it in the records. The guy in the government legal department tried very hard to find all this, and he looked and looked, but he couldn't find any of these records. Finally they called me up. Somebody said, "Well, Frank Lewis knew all this." So I told them where to look, and they were looking too far ahead. They thought things were moving faster than they were. So they had about three months of stuff between where the action was, and where the original proposals on these things were. They were all properly witnessed and agreed to by everybody concerned, so they were all good contracts. The guy called me up after it was all through, and he said, "Boy, if you hadn't been so positive that that was the way it was, I wouldn't have had the courage to look for it." He didn't think it was that way, and he couldn't find it. It wasn't in his book because he didn't look far enough back.  
  
=== Bell Labs ===
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=== Bell Labs ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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'''Lewis:'''  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
  
The Bell Labs group had a man named Harald Friis. He was a Danish guy. He knew everything about microwaves. I was very happy to have him on my side because he knew how it worked and all that. He was in charge of the whole setup at Holmdel — which is in New Jersey. They still have a lab that's probably a 100 yards from where this one was. He worked for the man who had developed the microwave tubing that was going to go to Florida and back. That man was in another place where the other guys wouldn't bother his equipment by turning things around that he didn't want to have coming in. Friis found out that we had some stuff going on at MIT. About the time that he found this out, we moved to Tuxedo Park, and he had to come up there with us to see what we were doing. He drove four of his guys up there, and they spent a whole day going over the things that we were doing. I found out afterwards that they were somewhat impressed by the fact that we'd gotten as much done as we had, because he hadn't heard much about it, and we hadn't published anything of course. We were trying to keep it quiet. That was how things got spread around: one person would tell another one who was glad to hear it, and they'd have a meeting and get everybody working. Then these Canadians had heard about it, too.  
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The Bell Labs group had a man named [[Harald T. Friis|Harald Friis]]. He was a Danish guy. He knew everything about microwaves. I was very happy to have him on my side because he knew how it worked and all that. He was in charge of the whole setup at Holmdel — which is in New Jersey. They still have a lab that's probably a 100 yards from where this one was. He worked for the man who had developed the microwave tubing that was going to go to Florida and back. That man was in another place where the other guys wouldn't bother his equipment by turning things around that he didn't want to have coming in. Friis found out that we had some stuff going on at MIT. About the time that he found this out, we moved to Tuxedo Park, and he had to come up there with us to see what we were doing. He drove four of his guys up there, and they spent a whole day going over the things that we were doing. I found out afterwards that they were somewhat impressed by the fact that we'd gotten as much done as we had, because he hadn't heard much about it, and we hadn't published anything of course. We were trying to keep it quiet. That was how things got spread around: one person would tell another one who was glad to hear it, and they'd have a meeting and get everybody working. Then these Canadians had heard about it, too.  
  
=== Microwave Committee and Klystron Group ===
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=== Microwave Committee and Klystron Group ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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'''Lewis:'''  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
  
If you look up the records, which I did, I found that I was listed as the head of the klystron group. I was in charge of getting klystrons so we had something to work with at the Radiation Lab. I was asked because they knew that I knew the guys in California that had the klystrons. We had two or three klystrons there at MIT before that, and we had taken them back. So we had two of them that worked there for a period of several months at MIT. I don't know whether it took weeks or months to get this stuff set up so that the Radiation Lab would have something to work with. This was after they became sensitive to the fact that there would have to be somebody who was in charge of trying to put a program together. When they started out, there wasn't any program because nobody knew enough about it to set one up. They all knew that, but they kept asking all kinds of funny questions. Then they suddenly realized this guy doesn't know anything about microwaves. So we had to have a session where we said, "Now when you do that, you have to do it this way." And that went on for a period of about six weeks after the Loomis lab stuff was all transferred to MIT.  
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If you look up the records, which I did, I found that I was listed as the head of the [[Klystron|klystron]] group. I was in charge of getting klystrons so we had something to work with at the Radiation Lab. I was asked because they knew that I knew the guys in California that had the klystrons. We had two or three klystrons there at MIT before that, and we had taken them back. So we had two of them that worked there for a period of several months at MIT. I don't know whether it took weeks or months to get this stuff set up so that the Radiation Lab would have something to work with. This was after they became sensitive to the fact that there would have to be somebody who was in charge of trying to put a program together. When they started out, there wasn't any program because nobody knew enough about it to set one up. They all knew that, but they kept asking all kinds of funny questions. Then they suddenly realized this guy doesn't know anything about microwaves. So we had to have a session where we said, "Now when you do that, you have to do it this way." And that went on for a period of about six weeks after the Loomis lab stuff was all transferred to MIT.  
  
Ken Bainbridge was at many of those meetings. He was the other guy in the system at that time that had clearance to talk about radar. There were only two of us; I was one, and he was the other one. We knew each other fairly well, and we had been giving talks to the various and sundry people from college physics labs that had been recruited into MIT Radiation Lab. Eventually the rug was ripped out from under them because people like me were not supposed to run the Lab. They felt very sensitive about this. They wanted a guy with a Ph.D. to run the Lab. They didn't seem to realize that I'd been working on this already for a year and a half without anybody telling me that I didn't have the proper credentials.  
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[[Oral-History:Kenneth T. Bainbridge|Ken Bainbridge]] was at many of those meetings. He was the other guy in the system at that time that had clearance to talk about radar. There were only two of us; I was one, and he was the other one. We knew each other fairly well, and we had been giving talks to the various and sundry people from college physics labs that had been recruited into MIT Radiation Lab. Eventually the rug was ripped out from under them because people like me were not supposed to run the Lab. They felt very sensitive about this. They wanted a guy with a Ph.D. to run the Lab. They didn't seem to realize that I'd been working on this already for a year and a half without anybody telling me that I didn't have the proper credentials.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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'''Lewis:'''  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
  
I was put in charge of the klystron group because I knew the people that made the klystrons, which in those days were out on the West Coast. Anybody who worked with them couldn't forget them. They were the people that carried on the microwave landing system work when it got stalled. They picked up the microwave klystrons and made a project that went on and produced a working system.  
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I was put in charge of the [[Klystron|klystron]] group because I knew the people that made the klystrons, which in those days were out on the West Coast. Anybody who worked with them couldn't forget them. They were the people that carried on the microwave landing system work when it got stalled. They picked up the microwave klystrons and made a project that went on and produced a working system.  
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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1940 yes. I was put in charge of trying to untangle all this mess. I knew all the people, which was why they wanted me to do this because I wouldn't have to wonder who to talk to. There were people at RCA that somebody had never heard of that were doing something, and they had to have a guy for him to talk to, and I was it. I knew all the people on the list. They had some GE people there at Schenectady where they worked. And they had the Sperry Gyroscope group down on Long Island. They'd bought the hangar that was at the place where they developed the airplanes — the NC4s — that flew across the Atlantic. I think they were all built in this factory building in Garden City, and the Sperry Company bought the building. It was the right sort of thing for what they were doing.  
 
1940 yes. I was put in charge of trying to untangle all this mess. I knew all the people, which was why they wanted me to do this because I wouldn't have to wonder who to talk to. There were people at RCA that somebody had never heard of that were doing something, and they had to have a guy for him to talk to, and I was it. I knew all the people on the list. They had some GE people there at Schenectady where they worked. And they had the Sperry Gyroscope group down on Long Island. They'd bought the hangar that was at the place where they developed the airplanes — the NC4s — that flew across the Atlantic. I think they were all built in this factory building in Garden City, and the Sperry Company bought the building. It was the right sort of thing for what they were doing.  
  
=== Mission to England ===
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=== Mission to England ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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Yes. They were a lot better than anybody thought they would be. I'm sure that they did a beautiful job of assisting the people at Rad Lab to really make things work. The British told us about how they came here with just fear and trembling because there'd never been any cooperation on this scale before, and these were all touchy subjects. Microwave stuff was very touchy, and nobody wanted to get any of it loose in the world. It didn't belong to us, but we wanted to keep it in our hands. One reason I was sent to England was because I'd been working with the microwaves here, and I knew what we could do, and how we had done it, and I talked the same language that they did. So we had that in common, and that's why they sent me. I stayed over there for about a year and three quarters, maybe two years. During that time I was back over here for a period of about three weeks or two months, something like that, reporting on the various things.  
 
Yes. They were a lot better than anybody thought they would be. I'm sure that they did a beautiful job of assisting the people at Rad Lab to really make things work. The British told us about how they came here with just fear and trembling because there'd never been any cooperation on this scale before, and these were all touchy subjects. Microwave stuff was very touchy, and nobody wanted to get any of it loose in the world. It didn't belong to us, but we wanted to keep it in our hands. One reason I was sent to England was because I'd been working with the microwaves here, and I knew what we could do, and how we had done it, and I talked the same language that they did. So we had that in common, and that's why they sent me. I stayed over there for about a year and three quarters, maybe two years. During that time I was back over here for a period of about three weeks or two months, something like that, reporting on the various things.  
  
=== Northrup Night Fighter ===
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=== Northrup Night Fighter ===
  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
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Well, Heinemann was the chief engineer of the Douglass military agency that made the airplanes there in El Segundo. In fact, the one that was doing the Radiation Lab stuff was also in El Segundo on the other side of town. When we got all these things together, why, eventually they told the Douglass man at El Segundo that he'd have to get in touch with me. So I had to stay another three weeks or a month out there. I thought I was coming back here to get them started on their microwave stuff.  
 
Well, Heinemann was the chief engineer of the Douglass military agency that made the airplanes there in El Segundo. In fact, the one that was doing the Radiation Lab stuff was also in El Segundo on the other side of town. When we got all these things together, why, eventually they told the Douglass man at El Segundo that he'd have to get in touch with me. So I had to stay another three weeks or a month out there. I thought I was coming back here to get them started on their microwave stuff.  
  
=== Secretary of War's Office ===
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=== Secretary of War's Office ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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Yes. I was involved in such things as radar countermeasures mainly because that's what I had been working with in the period just before I went to work in the Pentagon. So I knew all the people because I'd been through the whole business from one end to the other.  
 
Yes. I was involved in such things as radar countermeasures mainly because that's what I had been working with in the period just before I went to work in the Pentagon. So I knew all the people because I'd been through the whole business from one end to the other.  
  
=== Communication at Rad Lab ===
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=== Communication at Rad Lab ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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We'd have a meeting. Usually you'd get the group leader of whatever group you were working with. If you had, for instance, problems concerning a transmitter that would transmit a signal that was strong enough to do what you wanted, you'd get all those guys altogether, go off in a back room somewhere, and shut the door. We'd start drawing a few sketches on a blackboard, and we'd go get the piece of equipment, as much of it as we could get a hold of, and show them what was happening. They would then say, "Oh, we see." Then they would show the others.  
 
We'd have a meeting. Usually you'd get the group leader of whatever group you were working with. If you had, for instance, problems concerning a transmitter that would transmit a signal that was strong enough to do what you wanted, you'd get all those guys altogether, go off in a back room somewhere, and shut the door. We'd start drawing a few sketches on a blackboard, and we'd go get the piece of equipment, as much of it as we could get a hold of, and show them what was happening. They would then say, "Oh, we see." Then they would show the others.  
  
=== Management of Rad Lab ===
+
=== Management of Rad Lab ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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Yes, there were informal meetings, and I'm estimating there were approximately ten people in the Radiation Lab group that knew enough about the whole thing to steer it. So when they'd have a staff meeting, that's what they did. They got those guys together. I don't know how many people officially were in that group, but I'm pretty sure there were at least ten or maybe a dozen people who were responsible for the business of trying to keep the thing running in a progressive way. You realize that they were dealing with naval vessels, which are considered the Navy's place of operation. They were dealing with airplanes, which were the people from the Air Force, and they were mostly Wright Field where they developed work for it. They didn't know, but I had worked at Wright Field for probably more than twice as long as any of those guys ever had.  
 
Yes, there were informal meetings, and I'm estimating there were approximately ten people in the Radiation Lab group that knew enough about the whole thing to steer it. So when they'd have a staff meeting, that's what they did. They got those guys together. I don't know how many people officially were in that group, but I'm pretty sure there were at least ten or maybe a dozen people who were responsible for the business of trying to keep the thing running in a progressive way. You realize that they were dealing with naval vessels, which are considered the Navy's place of operation. They were dealing with airplanes, which were the people from the Air Force, and they were mostly Wright Field where they developed work for it. They didn't know, but I had worked at Wright Field for probably more than twice as long as any of those guys ever had.  
  
=== Blind-Landing System ===
+
=== Blind-Landing System ===
  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
 +
 +
<p><flashmp3>088 - lewis - clip 1.mp3</flashmp3></p>
  
 
But anyway, I worked on setting up their blind-landing system for a period of two months, or perhaps it was longer than that. I was out there for three or four months, anyway, after the Radiation Lab group moved everything down there. They had this one klystron that they could use for testing flight patterns and so forth. It was a big thing, and it ran out of gas eventually. I think the equipment inside began to develop holes. They just had worn it out. The guy that was in charge of it had them send him some new klystron cavities, and he tore the thing open, put them in, put everything all back together, and made it work again. That was all done while I was out there. We put the thing together and made it go. Now that took three months, I think. Maybe more. But he had been up here for longer than that. He had been up here for, I think, five months for some microwave equipment, working out of Boston. He pulled it out of there and sent it back to Wright Field. Now in the Air Force things that are new had to be checked out at Wright Field. That's in Dayton, Ohio. And they have another field out there — Patterson Field. Wright-Patterson is the combined name for that base. They were out at Patterson Field most of the time after we got past the stage of trying things out. Well, we'd take them out to Patterson and have new guys fly them to see if they would fall apart. When I went out there in the early days of World War II with the operational Air Force crews, they'd just got some new airplanes from a company called the Douglass Aircraft Company. They were the first ones with the nose wheels and...  
 
But anyway, I worked on setting up their blind-landing system for a period of two months, or perhaps it was longer than that. I was out there for three or four months, anyway, after the Radiation Lab group moved everything down there. They had this one klystron that they could use for testing flight patterns and so forth. It was a big thing, and it ran out of gas eventually. I think the equipment inside began to develop holes. They just had worn it out. The guy that was in charge of it had them send him some new klystron cavities, and he tore the thing open, put them in, put everything all back together, and made it work again. That was all done while I was out there. We put the thing together and made it go. Now that took three months, I think. Maybe more. But he had been up here for longer than that. He had been up here for, I think, five months for some microwave equipment, working out of Boston. He pulled it out of there and sent it back to Wright Field. Now in the Air Force things that are new had to be checked out at Wright Field. That's in Dayton, Ohio. And they have another field out there — Patterson Field. Wright-Patterson is the combined name for that base. They were out at Patterson Field most of the time after we got past the stage of trying things out. Well, we'd take them out to Patterson and have new guys fly them to see if they would fall apart. When I went out there in the early days of World War II with the operational Air Force crews, they'd just got some new airplanes from a company called the Douglass Aircraft Company. They were the first ones with the nose wheels and...  
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Well, I got caught in this liaison office where I worked in the NDRC office in the American Embassy in London, which was the job of connecting British things with the American. I was there for a year and a half. Then, as I said, they got a new man there who didn't get along with me.  
 
Well, I got caught in this liaison office where I worked in the NDRC office in the American Embassy in London, which was the job of connecting British things with the American. I was there for a year and a half. Then, as I said, they got a new man there who didn't get along with me.  
  
=== Closing of Rad Lab ===
+
=== Closing of Rad Lab ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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Well, it wasn't anything disastrous or final. The Secretary of War was out of business really because the secretary himself was there, and Bowles was just trying to fold all up the records and get them straightened out because we were going to have a new Secretary of War when we had a new administration. During the period when I was working for the Secretary of War, I made a trip out to Australia and New Guinea and places like that, and New Caledonia and all those foreign places over there in the South Seas. That was done with Dr. Seuss, who was the head of Division 15 in the NDRC. He and I, we were out there the day that they invaded from England to the continent. We knew they were going to pull a trick invasion schedule, and we listened to every word of that as it came over the Australian radio because we wanted to know if they put out the stuff about the Sixth Fleet that went off to the Channel, which they did. They put it out. The Germans were taken in. They weren't told it was a fake. So when the invasion of France from England was done, they were told on and off the air, and we knew it was going to come, so we waited and waited until they sent all that stuff out about how it was a big fleet with 27 ships or whatever it was. We started dancing around the room, enjoying the whole business.  
 
Well, it wasn't anything disastrous or final. The Secretary of War was out of business really because the secretary himself was there, and Bowles was just trying to fold all up the records and get them straightened out because we were going to have a new Secretary of War when we had a new administration. During the period when I was working for the Secretary of War, I made a trip out to Australia and New Guinea and places like that, and New Caledonia and all those foreign places over there in the South Seas. That was done with Dr. Seuss, who was the head of Division 15 in the NDRC. He and I, we were out there the day that they invaded from England to the continent. We knew they were going to pull a trick invasion schedule, and we listened to every word of that as it came over the Australian radio because we wanted to know if they put out the stuff about the Sixth Fleet that went off to the Channel, which they did. They put it out. The Germans were taken in. They weren't told it was a fake. So when the invasion of France from England was done, they were told on and off the air, and we knew it was going to come, so we waited and waited until they sent all that stuff out about how it was a big fleet with 27 ships or whatever it was. We started dancing around the room, enjoying the whole business.  
  
=== Rad Lab Organizational Structure ===
+
=== Rad Lab Organizational Structure ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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Well, it was relatively informal except that the Radiation Lab had a committee structure to hold it together. One man used to go by one of the ladies who worked in the Lab office there at Radiation Lab, and he always used my name as a swear word. "If you don't do it right, I'll get Frank Lewis on you when he comes back from England!" So, that's sort of the thing that we had. We had a halfway formal organization, but it had some personal effects.  
 
Well, it was relatively informal except that the Radiation Lab had a committee structure to hold it together. One man used to go by one of the ladies who worked in the Lab office there at Radiation Lab, and he always used my name as a swear word. "If you don't do it right, I'll get Frank Lewis on you when he comes back from England!" So, that's sort of the thing that we had. We had a halfway formal organization, but it had some personal effects.  
  
=== Conflict with Sperry ===
+
=== Conflict with Sperry ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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Well, I was a member of their staff. I worked on projects that were officially paid for by MIT money, not by the government money, which is what you got when you got Rad Lab.  
 
Well, I was a member of their staff. I worked on projects that were officially paid for by MIT money, not by the government money, which is what you got when you got Rad Lab.  
  
=== Postwar Career ===
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=== Postwar Career ===
  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
 
'''Goldstein:'''  
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I suppose it must have because I was working with the same sorts of things that I had worked with all along there. But I don't know that it was of crucial importance. I knew people like this fellow here. He saved my life. I have to tell about him. Did you tell him about how you kept the airplane from crashing.  
 
I suppose it must have because I was working with the same sorts of things that I had worked with all along there. But I don't know that it was of crucial importance. I knew people like this fellow here. He saved my life. I have to tell about him. Did you tell him about how you kept the airplane from crashing.  
  
=== Fred Keif ===
+
=== Fred Keif ===
  
 
'''Keif:'''  
 
'''Keif:'''  
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'''Lewis:'''  
 
'''Lewis:'''  
  
No, not particularly. It was a very pleasant time for me. And Norm Ramsey was over there in England with me. He was in and out of British lab circles at PRE, a government agency research lab. He and I went every place where we wanted to go to talk to the British about their problems. I think he was there for two months, but maybe it was more. I can tell you this much, that the day that I arrived in London was the day that they had a night blitz, all night long. The city was really pounded. There were fires all over the place, and everything was really a mess. So everybody in England was told to get into something that would get rid of those darn pesky bombers so that they would be able to stand another one of those things without everybody going out of business. It was really pretty bad what they did. They bombed all night long. This was piloted airplanes. These were not the dummies with the bomb in the nose. These were people. They had a pretty good air-defense system, but they didn't really realize how good it was at the time, and they didn't realize how close they had come to putting the ''Luftwaffe'' out of business. Because the ''Luftwaffe'' didn't realize how much there was left of the British Air Force either. They each thought the other one would be able to do something it couldn't do.<br><br>
+
No, not particularly. It was a very pleasant time for me. And Norm Ramsey was over there in England with me. He was in and out of British lab circles at PRE, a government agency research lab. He and I went every place where we wanted to go to talk to the British about their problems. I think he was there for two months, but maybe it was more. I can tell you this much, that the day that I arrived in London was the day that they had a night blitz, all night long. The city was really pounded. There were fires all over the place, and everything was really a mess. So everybody in England was told to get into something that would get rid of those darn pesky bombers so that they would be able to stand another one of those things without everybody going out of business. It was really pretty bad what they did. They bombed all night long. This was piloted airplanes. These were not the dummies with the bomb in the nose. These were people. They had a pretty good air-defense system, but they didn't really realize how good it was at the time, and they didn't realize how close they had come to putting the ''Luftwaffe'' out of business. Because the ''Luftwaffe'' didn't realize how much there was left of the British Air Force either. They each thought the other one would be able to do something it couldn't do.  
  
[[Category:People_and_organizations]] [[Category:Engineers]] [[Category:Inventors]] [[Category:Research_and_development_labs]] [[Category:Culture_and_society]] [[Category:Defense_&_security|Category:Defense_&amp;_security]] [[Category:Signals]] [[Category:Signal_detection]] [[Category:Radar_detection]]
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[[Category:Defense & security|Lewis]] [[Category:People and organizations|Lewis]] [[Category:Engineers|Lewis]] [[Category:Inventors|Lewis]] [[Category:Research and development labs|Lewis]] [[Category:Culture and society|Lewis]] [[Category:Signals|Lewis]] [[Category:Signal detection|Lewis]] [[Category:Radar detection|Lewis]] [[Category:Environment, geoscience & remote sensing|Lewis]] [[Category:Radar|Lewis]] [[Category:Transportation|Lewis]] [[Category:Vehicles|Lewis]] [[Category:Aircraft|Lewis]] [[Category:Law & government|Lewis]] [[Category:Patents|Lewis]] [[Category:Components, circuits, devices & systems|Lewis]] [[Category:Electron devices|Lewis]] [[Category:Electron tubes|Lewis]] [[Category:Fields, waves & electromagnetics|Lewis]] [[Category:Microwave technology|Lewis]] [[Category:News|Lewis]]

Revision as of 16:36, 30 June 2014

Contents

About Frank D. Lewis

Lewis received his MA from MIT, working under Prof. W. L. Barrow, then began working on the MIT blind-landing project, from 1937 to 1940. He transferred to Alfred Loomis’ outfit at Tuxedo Junction, then came back to the Rad with the entire Tuxedo Junction lab. He says he designed the first microwave horn, essentially as his master’s thesis, before the war. Lewis had a series of liaison jobs—first between Rad Lab and private industry, then over in Britain on microwave power sources, then in the Secretary of War’s office on radio countermeasures. After the war he worked at the General Radio Company.

About the Interview

FRANK D. LEWIS: An Interview Conducted by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center, 12 June 1991

Interview # 088 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

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 IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken, NJ 07030 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:

Frank D. Lewis, an oral history conducted in 1991 by Andrew Goldstein, IEEE History Center, Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Interview

Interviwee: Frank D. Lewis

Interviewer: Andrew Goldstein with comments by Fred Keif

Date: 12 June 1991

Place: Boston, Massachusetts

Education and Background

Goldstein:

This is Andy Goldstein interviewing Dr. Frank Lewis on June 12, 1991, at the Haines Convention Center. His wife, Celia, is also present. Could we start by discussing your educational background?

Lewis:

Okay. I was a graduate of a place in Cambridge called the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, now MIT, in the microwave business by being apprenticed to Professor Barrow. Professor Barrow was one of the few microwave leaders in this country. The other ones were at places like Bell Labs. Barrow was the one we had at MIT, and there were a couple of them that were added. There was a whole collection of microwave people at Holmdel in New Jersey that worked for the Bell Telephone Labs. They started that before we were in the war. They were working on transmitting telephone conversations from somewhere to somewhere else in a hollow tube of metal because they'd found that it would propagate through a hollow tube. So they were doing a lot of work on this. They had a set-up at Holmdel where they were making measurements in attenuation and things like that where they would have to know about for microwave systems.

Goldstein:

What degree did you get from MIT, and what year?

Lewis:

Oh, I had a master's degree or whatever you get when you graduate without a doctorate. I was next to a doctorate, I guess. Then I became a hiree who was working for the blind-landing project at MIT, and I worked on that for three whole years.

Goldstein:

Between which years?

Lewis:

I think the last year I worked on it was 1940, but it might have been a little before that. We were doing that for three years before, so it would have been 1938 to '40, something like that. Or '37 to '40 since it was a three-year period there. We had our own airplane that belonged to the Civil Aeronautics Administration, but it was only used for our project, and they were the ones who were paying for it. I was the crew in the airplane, and the pilot did the other work on the other side of the laboratory. We would go up and fly all day and find out what all the bumps were in the paths. We had a complete record of what the range looked like around Cambridge and the Boston area derived from this flight testing that we did, and we did it quite thoroughly. It was getting to the point where we'd run out of things to test. We found out where all the funny creases were in the terrain and all that business. Then they had to drop it because the money quit. Being that it was a federal government thing, you had to wait until somebody voted you some money. We worked on it for three years, and at the end of that time, everything went poof!

At that stage, Professor W.L. Barrow, who was the principal person interested in microwaves at MIT, decided that he would go with a program that Professor Golenz was setting up, which was microwave essentially. He thought that he could do things. Barrow was in favor of looking at the microwaves when they were propagating in space. That was not what the original Bell Labs crew was doing. What they were doing was trying to find out how many kilometers or how many miles of flight they could go through before they lost the signal. They were trying to build a telephone system, and they had this all set up down at the Holmdel Laboratory in the center of the State of New Jersey. The other one was closer to the shore, but they had a setup there where they were doing this kind of work. Now, at this time, the MIT group was messing around with radio and microwave stuff.

Goldstein:

By the MIT group, do you mean the blind-landing group?

Lewis:

The blind landing group, yes. The blind-landing group, we were supposed to be working on blind landing, but it didn't keep us from finding out a few other things. Along toward the end of that MIT blind-landing project, which was more or less driven into the ground, the federal government ran out of money and couldn't pay us for doing this. This stopped things pretty fast because you can't do much when they remove your paycheck. We got things up to the point where we knew what all of the problems were. We knew what range the microwave signal would propagate over. And we knew what happens to it when you flew over rough terrain. We did all of those tests. I never will forget the day that I asked a fellow from the CAA, how did he know whether his airplane was following the right track or not when it was coming in for a landing. He said, "That's the times we question." And he had no idea. Had never tried to measure it. And I said, "Well, I would have thought you would at least get a camera out there and take a picture of it while it was landing." He said, "That's a good way to do it. I'll do that." When we went in there, that was 1937 and that's the kind of stuff they handed us to work on. We were going to do this for the CAA, and they didn't know what they wanted to do. So I guess that's how people like MIT get involved in it. At least we ask questions, and they answer the questions. So that's the sort of thing we did.

Alfred and Henry Loomis

Goldstein:

How did you get involved with the Rad Lab?

Lewis:

Well, we were working on the microwave landing system, and along came Alfred Loomis. Now, Alfred Loomis was a wealthy man who lived in Tuxedo Park, New York, and he had a very nice son whose name is Henry. He will be here, unless he missed the hullabaloo about this. But Henry had just graduated from his sophomore — or his third year — at Harvard in physics. He hadn't finished. He still had a year to go, but he signed up to go into the U.S. Navy because there was a war cooking overseas.

Now I've got to tell you about Mr. Loomis. Mr. Loomis was the fellow who owned the laboratory where we worked. We had, I think, three or four of us who lived there, and two or three more that came from around the neighborhood. So we had a total staff there of somewhere around four to seven people. Maybe it was a little more. Maybe it was seven or eight. But we were the two people that knew the most about it — Bill Tuller and me.

Goldstein:

Are you referring to the laboratory at Tuxedo Park?

Lewis:

That's right. In the meantime, the work that MIT did for Bell Labs had more or less come to rest because they didn't have any contracts with the Bell Labs, and no lab wanted to get people in that would know about it. They hadn't realized that we were doing anything. You know, you've got to do something. Put an official label on it, and then they say, "oh, well, that project, yes we know that one." So they started out that way, and that was in the summer of 1940. That's when I graduated from MIT. That doesn't sound right. There has to be a six-month period in there where I was doing something else, but that's a small matter. The point is that Loomis was anxious to have people there who knew about microwaves because he had the feeling that microwaves were going to be important. So we worked on microwaves.

One day his father, Mr. Loomis, came in to see me, and I was the senior microwave man there, actually, for the work that was going on. He got me off in a corner, and he said, "Have you got anything you can put Henry to work with?" He said, "Henry signed up to go in the Navy, but they're waiting for a cruise to start, and the cruise doesn't start until September, and he's going to be sitting around here all that time. If you've got a way you could teach him something about microwaves, I'd appreciate it." So I said, "Well, all right. I'll see what I can do." So I dreamed up a scheme whereby Henry was going to make us some diodes for use in our microwave system, which we needed. We kept blowing them out. At any time there was a short circuit anywhere, we'd blow out the diode, and we'd have to get another one. You couldn't buy diodes; you had to make them. So we put Henry to work making diodes.

The next time that I had a good chance to talk to Henry was out at a place in Hawaii where they had a radar school; he was in charge of it. It was about a half a mile from Pearl Harbor there, towards the city. They had radar area there. We went over there. We found out that our presence had been announced previously because if somebody goes on an expedition like that, the old grapevine works very efficiently. They had gotten word through their entire Navy organization there at Pearl Harbor that Lewis and Seuss were there for the business of radar countermeasures. That's what we were doing. We wanted to tell everybody about them because we had heard that there had been an episode at the beginning of the Pearl Harbor business in which a Japanese submarine had tried to sneak in underneath the stern of an American ship there, and they were going to slip into the harbor. They wanted to have some way to detect this, and they had managed to do it. But it was a touch-and-go thing. They'd almost forgotten that they didn't quite get this submarine until it was inside the harbor. And I never quite heard both sides of this. Maybe the Japanese guy never was there inside the harbor. But he came so close that he scared everybody speechless anyway.

Now Dr. Seuss, he was a person who was the head of Division 15 of the National Defense Research Committee, the NDRC, and they were the people who worked on military and war problems there. He had run across me when I was working on microwaves stuff before.

Goldstein:

So you were at Tuxedo Park with Loomis?

Lewis:

Yes, and his son, Henry, who ended up being with the U.S. Navy and who was going to be going away in about six weeks. So Henry got put on the job of making diodes for our microwave equipment. He didn't have very much experience. It was a good thing he didn't have to have any because I told him what to do, and he did it, and it worked fine, and he was a good technician. He could follow what you said to do and not try something else. He did a good job. The next time that I got really well acquainted with Henry, he was the commanding officer of the radar school at the base at Pearl Harbor. I went to pay a visit to the radar school, and when we knocked on the door, there was Henry. So we had a very interesting visit that week with people we all knew well.

To get you back into the terrain where we were before the Radiation Lab got going, I'll try to give you a reasonable description of Alfred Loomis. He was a person who loved to be with the leaders of any one particular enterprise. As such, he was called a dilettante by people who thought that was a good name for him. So you had to work for him and talk with him a bit and then you found out there wasn't anything phony about him at all. He was a first-class scientific person, and he had a lot of money. With those two things he could do a lot of things. There was an impressive list of people that he had there as visitors. One of them was a man whom he had worked with in World War I at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds, and he came to visit. But the guy that I'm speaking of had written a book on optics — I'll try to remember his name. Anyway, he was the retired head of the optical teaching system at Johns Hopkins University. He came to visit Mr. Loomis. It turned out when we began to do a little inquiring; Mr. Loomis was a cousin of the Secretary of War. He was related to him by marriage, I think.

But anyway, Henry Loomis was the son of this Alfred Loomis, and Alfred Loomis was the fellow who owned the laboratory, which was in Tuxedo Park, New York. Now Tuxedo Park is a private enclave where people go who don't want to be bothered with other people just driving in and saying, "Hello." They have a fence around it, and they had a gatehouse where you go and check yourself through. Everybody who was run in and out of there was thoroughly understood by the people that opened the gate. So if they didn't know you, you didn't get in. So I spent about six weeks to two months there. I guess it was in the summer of 1940. I had to turn in my thesis at MIT to get my master's degree. When we were working together, this British guy, Bowen, he came to MIT. Dr. Bowles was the head of the microwave systems group there and Elmer Barrow was the well-qualified technical microwave man. I worked for Barrow. I also did undergraduate work for him.

Microwave Horn

Lewis:

I'll tell you something that's never been said before. The MIT people somehow got to be published without giving it a good backup. Now you can call that anything you want to, but it came as a surprise to me to find that they had taken a picture of an experimental microwave horn that I had designed, and that we had constructed, and spent all summer measuring things about it. MIT put that into a pamphlet, which was published, and it had my name on it. But when the IRE published that paper in a thing about so thick with a lot of other papers, they didn't give me any credit for it, and that made me a little unhappy. Because it was the first microwave horn. It was a horn-shaped antenna, and I made it. I drew the design.

Goldstein:

Was that your master's thesis?

Lewis:

That was essentially my master's thesis. Yes, sir. You hit it right around the button. A couple of days later they had a hurricane, and they had to pick up the pieces and put it back together. But that was as far as we had to go with it. So that was where my master's thesis got me, but I never got a chance to go the next step and get a doctor's on it. I worked on that stuff for four years, three of which were spent flying in an airplane and making propagation measurements for the radio systems that we were trying to build. That was for the microwave blind-landing system. That was our official project, and I never got any credit for that because the guys in the Civil Aeronautics Administration wanted it for them because it was being paid for by their money. But that's the kind of thing you get your tail wrapped around and have trouble getting untangled. I never told anybody else about that except some close friends. But if you want to make something of it, you can see what you can do with that.

Recruitment to Rad Lab

Goldstein:

Was it Loomis who brought you to the Rad Lab?

Lewis:

Well, it's funnier than that. Loomis brought the entire crew from his lab at Tuxedo Park. At the end of the summer, we picked up all of the equipment that we had originated, and all of the stuff that we had bought to work with, and we put it into what we called a didey wagon. It was a little delivery van that they used to deliver diapers in those days, and we had a turntable built on the back of it where we could put an antenna on it and swing it around. When we took the thing out to the golf course, the thing was a microwave radar, and it had a horn antenna, and it had an indicator system that was capable of showing what we were looking at and getting us a reading on the speed. We took it out there and pointed it down the highway that went through Tuxedo Park. After we'd spent five minutes looking at it, I said, "Hey, don't let the cops get a hold of that. These guys are all going over the speed limit." Nobody else had one. There weren't any other microwave speed measuring sets in those days until we got that one.

Goldstein:

So you started at the Rad Lab towards the end of the summer?

Lewis:

At the end of the summer the Rad Lab was established by Alfred Loomis telling us that we were going to move to MIT. There was no work going on at MIT that was oriented toward military applications until that was established. What he did was essentially get Bill Tuller and I together in his laboratory group there and just say, "We're going up to MIT. Get your stuff ready, and we'll take it along."

Bill Tuller was killed in an airplane that crashed on take-off from the aerodrome in Ireland coming back to this country. Everybody on the plane was lost. Celia and I had dinner with his widow one afternoon. He was my friend. We spoke the same language, and we both knew about the same number of things that we ought to pay attention to in the radar business. So it was great to have him there. He and I could work together.

Liaison with Government and Private Industry

Goldstein:

What position did you have at the Rad Lab when it started?

Lewis:

When the Rad Lab crew was chosen, there was nobody else there but us. We went from Loomis's lab down at Tuxedo Park, and we drove our truck up there with all this stuff in it. We showed it to the people at MIT, and by that time I would guess they must have had five or six people there that had signed up to work for the Radiation Lab. It hadn't yet been called the Radiation Lab then. But there were no more than that to begin with, and I can show you some of those people.

Goldstein:

What area did you take responsibility for? Did Loomis assign responsibilities to the people who came up with him?

Lewis:

The equipment that we were going to work on was for military applications, and we were going to get every speck of evidence that we had. Anything that we could know about would be able to be used for military purposes, and we had to keep our mouths zipped shut all the time. So we had to be sure that we were working with people that were cleared for this. I was put in charge of all of the transition work that was going on between the Bell Labs and MIT. As soon as people at Sperry Gyroscope and at some of the military places heard about this, they started wanting to go on microwave, too. When we got our thing set up and working at Radiation Lab, we were unknown. They never heard of us because we hadn't been an organization before. But I was appointed to be what we called a liaison between the Radiation Lab crew and these various government labs. They all had contracts now. This was the thing people don't realize: that the Microwave Committee, which was a fictitious organization that was set up by Alfred Loomis, had made arrangements with all of these government contractors to work on these problems.

Goldstein:

Like Sperry?

Lewis:

Sperry, Bell Labs, RCA. I was supposed to keep in contact with these people so they would know what we were working on and where they fit in the scheme. So I had to make trips to RCA. They bought from these government contractors, manufacturers. They bought from them the stuff that they thought they needed to make a radar. One of them was the RCA factory where they made cathode-ray indicator tubes. It was in Pennsylvania. That's one of the ones that I went to visit. Another one was the Bell Labs group at Holmdel. They had several experts of various kinds there. They had one guy. He was the fellow who was trying to do the job I told you, where he was trying to measure the attenuation of a thing in a hollow tube. He was a little bit out of it because that wasn't what they were working on. But he was part of their team. And Dr. Friis was there also.

Goldstein:

Let me document this: We have just been joined by Fred Keif. Mr. Lewis please resume what you were talking about. You were discussing your responsibilities for liaisoning between various companies.

Lewis:

My job was to knit the whole business together. This was before there was a Radiation Lab. The Radiation Lab was a manufactured device that was made by the people that were in the organization that had been put together by Alfred Loomis, and it was all unofficial. They had no official appointment from the federal government to do this. But Loomis got them all talked into doing it, and they were so convinced that they were it, that they went right ahead. And it's a good thing that they did.

Goldstein:

When you say "them," Loomis got who convinced?

Lewis:

Loomis got all of the radio manufacturers that he could get his hands on to buy the idea that this was going to be a big show and that he would be the main propellant, and they'd better do what he told them. He didn't put it in those words, but that's what he was saying.

Goldstein:

So he marshalled the various private industries?

Lewis:

He got them all together and kept them going in the proper direction, yes.

Sperry's Spurious Invention Claims

Goldstein:

Can you recall what projects the different industrial researchers were working on?

Lewis:

Yes. The people at Sperry Gyroscope, they suffered from a private disease of their own. Somebody in the front office said, "Well, if they can do it, you can do it, too. You invented that!" And they'd tell the guys in the back room that they were the inventors of something they'd just got asked about by the government. It wasn't really legal, but that's the way they played it, and we had to untangle them later. I was the guy that spoke to the people in the federal legal system when they found that Sperry was contending that they had invented something. Somebody told them that that wasn't true and they had to find somebody who could tell them that that was true, that it wasn't a proper thing to claim. Then they found me, because I was the liaison man that was doing all of these things with all of these companies at once. I went and saw them all, one week at a time. So finally it came the end of the war, and we were trying to untangle all of the claims, and up came Sperry. They'd invented them. Whatever it was that somebody hadn't claimed yet, they invented. I told them that that was a lot of baloney. If they looked it all up, they could find out, and they didn't know how to prove it.

I said, "Well, there's a contract that was issued for each one of these government contractors." They got a government contract that was signed by Alfred Loomis and the Microwave Committee, and they'd put it in the archives. But the catch is that once it's signed on the day that the event happened, it was signed to make it legal afterwards. They got witnesses, and they got everybody together, and they all signed it, and they put it in the records. The guy in the government legal department tried very hard to find all this, and he looked and looked, but he couldn't find any of these records. Finally they called me up. Somebody said, "Well, Frank Lewis knew all this." So I told them where to look, and they were looking too far ahead. They thought things were moving faster than they were. So they had about three months of stuff between where the action was, and where the original proposals on these things were. They were all properly witnessed and agreed to by everybody concerned, so they were all good contracts. The guy called me up after it was all through, and he said, "Boy, if you hadn't been so positive that that was the way it was, I wouldn't have had the courage to look for it." He didn't think it was that way, and he couldn't find it. It wasn't in his book because he didn't look far enough back.

Bell Labs

Goldstein:

Were there other situations with some of the other suppliers? What were Bell Labs working on?

Lewis:

The Bell Labs group had a man named Harald Friis. He was a Danish guy. He knew everything about microwaves. I was very happy to have him on my side because he knew how it worked and all that. He was in charge of the whole setup at Holmdel — which is in New Jersey. They still have a lab that's probably a 100 yards from where this one was. He worked for the man who had developed the microwave tubing that was going to go to Florida and back. That man was in another place where the other guys wouldn't bother his equipment by turning things around that he didn't want to have coming in. Friis found out that we had some stuff going on at MIT. About the time that he found this out, we moved to Tuxedo Park, and he had to come up there with us to see what we were doing. He drove four of his guys up there, and they spent a whole day going over the things that we were doing. I found out afterwards that they were somewhat impressed by the fact that we'd gotten as much done as we had, because he hadn't heard much about it, and we hadn't published anything of course. We were trying to keep it quiet. That was how things got spread around: one person would tell another one who was glad to hear it, and they'd have a meeting and get everybody working. Then these Canadians had heard about it, too.

Microwave Committee and Klystron Group

Goldstein:

How did you decide what project to begin work on at Rad Lab when you arrived there with your equipment?

Lewis:

We consulted with Barrow. Professor Barrow was a staff member at MIT. I'd been working for Barrow for three and a half years, to complete their microwave blind-landing system. So I knew Barrow quite well, and he knew me. We swapped projects back and forth. He had a couple that had been stalled because the money ran out. He had to do the same thing I did; my money ran out, too. So we had to make a sudden shift and do something we could do in our own labs. Then came Alfred Loomis who had money and a private laboratory. That changed things quite a bit because he could set us up any way he wanted to, and we would make the stuff that he thought ought to be made. He had, in the meantime, dreamed up this what was called the Microwave Committee. And the Microwave Committee was not officially entered anywhere in anybody's books. But they had a complete organization going, which was based on the idea that they had to have this thing. They had a guy from Schenectady at GE up there, and he had come very close to having a lot of good stuff. But he hadn't really gotten in on the microwave propagation business as much as he should have, and we would have known then where he should deflect the effort. But he was a good man. His name was George, but I can't remember his last name. But anyway, the MIT group was a small and fledgling group, just really getting started up. We had the people that were at Bell Labs, and the people who were at Sperry.

Goldstein:

What was your title at Rad Lab?

Lewis:

If you look up the records, which I did, I found that I was listed as the head of the klystron group. I was in charge of getting klystrons so we had something to work with at the Radiation Lab. I was asked because they knew that I knew the guys in California that had the klystrons. We had two or three klystrons there at MIT before that, and we had taken them back. So we had two of them that worked there for a period of several months at MIT. I don't know whether it took weeks or months to get this stuff set up so that the Radiation Lab would have something to work with. This was after they became sensitive to the fact that there would have to be somebody who was in charge of trying to put a program together. When they started out, there wasn't any program because nobody knew enough about it to set one up. They all knew that, but they kept asking all kinds of funny questions. Then they suddenly realized this guy doesn't know anything about microwaves. So we had to have a session where we said, "Now when you do that, you have to do it this way." And that went on for a period of about six weeks after the Loomis lab stuff was all transferred to MIT.

Ken Bainbridge was at many of those meetings. He was the other guy in the system at that time that had clearance to talk about radar. There were only two of us; I was one, and he was the other one. We knew each other fairly well, and we had been giving talks to the various and sundry people from college physics labs that had been recruited into MIT Radiation Lab. Eventually the rug was ripped out from under them because people like me were not supposed to run the Lab. They felt very sensitive about this. They wanted a guy with a Ph.D. to run the Lab. They didn't seem to realize that I'd been working on this already for a year and a half without anybody telling me that I didn't have the proper credentials.

Goldstein:

When did that happen? Who approached you with questions like that?

Lewis:

I don't remember who it was really. There were half a dozen people that didn't have any feeling that they were insulting anybody. I didn't feel insulted either. I didn't know whether I knew enough to get insulted or not. But I was transferred out of the headquarters gang. If you look up the record, which I have done, you'll find there's an archives of the Radiation Lab in Waltham, an archives that belongs to the federal government. They have all the records that they could get their hands on, over in Waltham. They have all the notes of the meetings where all the poor people that were trying to get sense out of it had to go and expose their ignorance. And eventually we'd get it all to work.

Goldstein:

In the beginning then, you said you were in charge of the klystron group.

Lewis:

I was put in charge of the klystron group because I knew the people that made the klystrons, which in those days were out on the West Coast. Anybody who worked with them couldn't forget them. They were the people that carried on the microwave landing system work when it got stalled. They picked up the microwave klystrons and made a project that went on and produced a working system.

Goldstein:

Did the people who produced the klystrons do this?

Lewis:

They were in the Radiation Lab, and they soon found that they weren't supposed to be doing that concept. That was not military. So they gave the big klystrons that they had to this group, and they went ahead. One of them was Bill Hall. He kept them from standing around doing nothing. He got the thing organized, and they had a flight path that was 44 miles long or something like that. They found out that airplanes don't normally start to approach at 44 miles out — too far. But that's the thing that we, in a sense, were pretty certain. Nailed that into a box because the people at the Civil Aeronautics Administration had never thought of looking to see what they were trying to do before we came along. We asked them, "How do you know what you're doing?" They said, "What do you mean by that?" And we said, "Well, you've got an airplane there, and you want to make it land. How do you make it land? What tracks does it follow?" "Gee, that's a good question." I'd never think of starting a project without measuring just to find out what they were doing already.

Goldstein:

After you were head of the klystron group, what did you do?

Lewis:

I got toppled off of that when they started a general liaison with all these people that were doing things on government contracts.

Goldstein:

When was that change?

Lewis:

Oh, probably September or so of the summer that we came back from Tuxedo Park.

Goldstein:

Was that the summer of 1940, right in the beginning?

Lewis:

1940 yes. I was put in charge of trying to untangle all this mess. I knew all the people, which was why they wanted me to do this because I wouldn't have to wonder who to talk to. There were people at RCA that somebody had never heard of that were doing something, and they had to have a guy for him to talk to, and I was it. I knew all the people on the list. They had some GE people there at Schenectady where they worked. And they had the Sperry Gyroscope group down on Long Island. They'd bought the hangar that was at the place where they developed the airplanes — the NC4s — that flew across the Atlantic. I think they were all built in this factory building in Garden City, and the Sperry Company bought the building. It was the right sort of thing for what they were doing.

Mission to England

Goldstein:

Did you change responsibilities after that, or was that your role?

Lewis:

I went to England.

Goldstein:

When was that?

Lewis:

Must have been August or September. Maybe it was a little later.

Keif:

You were there when I got there.

Lewis:

Yes.

Goldstein:

Was that in '41?

Keif:

1941 yes.

Lewis:

1941. I was in England before that.

Keif:

Yes, I think it must have been in April.

Lewis:

I don't remember what the actual dates were. I'd been trying to hold all this collection of non-experts together and tell them what good experts they were. Some of them were a little bit tender about the whole business because they knew they didn't know much, and they were afraid somebody would find it out, I guess.

Goldstein:

Whose decision was it that you should go to England? What was the purpose of your mission?

Lewis:

The National Defense Research Committee, which is a government agency that was part of the organization that developed the Radiation Lab. They wanted a liaison officer to talk with the British on microwave power sources and things like that. So one day I came back from a trip somewhere, and I was told that I was to get on an airplane next Tuesday and go to England. And I did. I went over there and stayed for a year and a half. I came back for a couple of weeks to do a reporting job over here, and then I went back to England. I hadn't been there more than about two months, I think, on the second session. I'll tell you a secret. The boss man got mad and didn't want me around. That was nothing that I objected to at all because I couldn't stand him. So there were two of us that didn't get along.

Goldstein:

Was that the chief administrator in England?

Lewis:

Yes.

Goldstein:

Who was that?

Lewis:

I don't really remember. I'll try to think of his name. The first fellow that was there when I went there was named Fred Hovde. He was a good man. He was just what they needed for that job. He was the former assistant to the president of one of the colleges in New York State.

Keif:

Rochester?

Lewis:

Rochester. That's the university where he was the president. That's the man who was Fred Hovde's boss. He donated Hovde's services to run the liaison office with the British in the American Embassy in London.

Without any warning at all, I discovered I had to get rid of my car, my books, and all that stuff, when I went to England. I had no place to put that stuff. I called up my brother who lived in Chicago and told him to get on an airplane and come here and get my car. All the panic things people do when they're in a hurry. I had a week to get out of town.

Goldstein:

Do you know who assumed your responsibilities at the Rad Lab? Was there another person named your successor?

Lewis:

There was somebody who took over the job of trying to knit together all of the stuff that I had been doing. I don't think it was any one man, but it was more a group of two or three fellows that worked together that got it to go.

Goldstein:

When you were doing your job at Rad Lab, did you try to stimulate cooperation between the different corporations?

Lewis:

Yes.

Goldstein:

Were they cooperative?

Lewis:

Yes. They were a lot better than anybody thought they would be. I'm sure that they did a beautiful job of assisting the people at Rad Lab to really make things work. The British told us about how they came here with just fear and trembling because there'd never been any cooperation on this scale before, and these were all touchy subjects. Microwave stuff was very touchy, and nobody wanted to get any of it loose in the world. It didn't belong to us, but we wanted to keep it in our hands. One reason I was sent to England was because I'd been working with the microwaves here, and I knew what we could do, and how we had done it, and I talked the same language that they did. So we had that in common, and that's why they sent me. I stayed over there for about a year and three quarters, maybe two years. During that time I was back over here for a period of about three weeks or two months, something like that, reporting on the various things.

Northrup Night Fighter

Lewis:

Now there's one thing I haven't told you, that you wouldn't find out if I didn't tell you. There was a project that the Northrop Company, an airplane factory on the West Coast had, and it was to build a new airplane that would be a night fighter. They had a model of it that had been built just from pictures. I was put on the mock-up board of the XT-61, which was the name of the airplane that they were building. The reason they were building this in such an awful rush was that the Germans had bombed the daylights out of London, and we had two Britishers on our committee that were on the mock-up board of the XT-61 and the Northrop Company in California. Every lunch hour they'd tell us more about what they just didn't do. They'd just come from London, and they'd been getting the daylights pounded out of them. They were really aware of all that was happening, and they were trying to make it move right along. The big problem, of course, is to try and get a thing like that started. They had done the best they could, and they ran into all kinds of obstacles, one of which was that Bowles had snagged me and Bowen. Bowen and Lewis were the only two guys that could draw up this contract for the airplane that was going to do this job.

I was at Loomis's lab in New York State when I came up in my car and turned in my thesis. Bowles says, "Don't go away! I've got something for you to do." He put me and Bowen in his private office and shut the door, and said, "Now draw me a picture of where all the parts go for a microwave radar." So Lewis and Bowen drew this picture, and it was immediately taken from our sight. We never saw it again. Or at least we thought we would never see it again. I saw it again because I was on the mock-up board at the Northrop place in California. They had this drawing that Bowen and Lewis had made in such an awful hurry one morning when I was up there on a trip turning in my thesis.

Goldstein:

When did that happen at Northrop? When were you on their mock-up board?

Lewis:

A mock-up board is a group of people that are appointed by the contractor of an organization that's buying an airplane. The mock-up board in this case is a military thing, and they were all military people except me. I was the one civilian indicator or person who was a part of the thing that could sign this mock-up board. Because I was a member, no other non-government employees were members. I was working at Radiation Lab, so I had the semblance of a government appointment. Bowen and I between us had decided that we had all the parts put down on the paper, and we didn't know what they were going to do to this piece of paper. Bowles didn't tell us. I'm not even sure he knew. Anyway, it turned up out there at this mock-up board at the Northrop plant in California. I met some nice people out there. I met a guy by the name of Heinemann. Ever hear of Heinemann's little airplane that they made for military use on ships?

Goldstein:

No.

Lewis:

Well, Heinemann was the chief engineer of the Douglass military agency that made the airplanes there in El Segundo. In fact, the one that was doing the Radiation Lab stuff was also in El Segundo on the other side of town. When we got all these things together, why, eventually they told the Douglass man at El Segundo that he'd have to get in touch with me. So I had to stay another three weeks or a month out there. I thought I was coming back here to get them started on their microwave stuff.

Secretary of War's Office

Goldstein:

After you came back from England to stay, what were your responsibilities?

Lewis:

When I came back from England to stay, I was in the liaison business because I was working for people such as Dr. Bowles. I eventually ended up in the Secretary of War's office as his expert on countermeasures. The people that I was working with were the people that were putting out the countermeasure equipment. It was all RCM.

Goldstein:

RCM?

Lewis:

Radio countermeasures.

Goldstein:

Okay.

Lewis:

The problem was that we had to have people that knew something about it. If you put them in there, they floundered for quite a while. Eventually they'd learn it, but we weren't in a position to spend time learning. We had to essentially do the best we could with what we had. I had been over in England for two and a half years after I'd gone over there to represent the NDRC, and I didn't get along with the new guy they put in charge of the office. So I told them that I wanted to get transferred, and I was surprised at how fast that worked. I was out of there in three days after that. That's pretty fast.

Goldstein:

When you were with the Secretary of War, did you still communicate frequently with the Rad Lab?

Lewis:

Yes. I was involved in such things as radar countermeasures mainly because that's what I had been working with in the period just before I went to work in the Pentagon. So I knew all the people because I'd been through the whole business from one end to the other.

Communication at Rad Lab

Goldstein:

During those years at the Rad Lab, staff obviously expanded dramatically.

Lewis:

It had gotten very large, yes. But I knew most of the important people, you might say, because they were people that were there when we started out. It slowly got bigger.

Goldstein:

What sort of work did you do with them? Would you communicate military priorities?

Lewis:

Yes. I had been in the place where there was a war. They were bombing London at the time I was there, and it was quite obvious. Fortunately, I missed the buzz bombs, or whatever they called those things with the putt-putt inside. They just sent them over and let them fall wherever their engines stopped. I got out of there about six weeks before they started doing that. Then the next thing they did was the rockets, and I wasn't there for that either, thank goodness.

Dr. Seuss was the head of Division 15 of the NDRC, the civilian group in the NDRC that worked on that particular part of the military equipment. They developed jammers and groupers, things that were supposed to do something and they wouldn't because they were really camouflaged, and they did something else. A lot of things like that were best when not explained to everybody. So it turned out this job that I had in the Pentagon under Bowles was essentially a rerun of the stuff I did when I started out at MIT and had everybody asking me what do we do about this? I was inside the civilian part of it, and I had to know all the stuff that was going on for the civilian developments, and also as much of the military as I could find out, which was a lot. I had to keep smoothing ruffled feathers and so forth. Sometimes you had them, sometimes you didn't.

Goldstein:

During your days at Rad Lab, were you involved in the design of any devices?

Lewis:

Well, in the early days I was a designer of the thing that was put between the headquarters device, the central device, which would give you your cathode-ray indicator and the thing, which detected the airplane, you were chasing. I was on that one when it started, and we made a few of those. Then I got put on these other jobs, and I went somewhere else.

Goldstein:

Did you maintain any engineering capacity while you were working as a liaison?

Lewis:

Yes. Being a liaison officer is about the equivalent of being an information conduit; people come and tell you all their stuff, and you have to print it out for the next guy. So you have to know what you're talking about. I was there for two periods, one of which was a year and a half under Fred Hovde, and the other one was about six months under the new guy that I couldn't stand.

Goldstein:

That was in England?

Lewis:

That was in England, yes. He was not an Englishman. He was an American, but he didn't seem to go the way I wanted to go. So I thought it was better to get it stopped before it got into a problem. So I came over here, and they put me in the Secretary of War's office. Now that's the kind of trouble you get into when you get out of one thing and into something that's bigger.

Goldstein:

When you were at the Rad Lab in the beginning, you described your job as being a conduit of information. In the beginning was the information flowing in from these industrial laboratories?

Lewis:

Yes. The beginning of all the consciousness in this country of what they should do about radar countermeasures was all in the hands of the industrial developers. Government agencies were brought in later. Not much later, you understand, because there wasn't much to bring in. But they were trying to find out what they should do, and they all had these United States government contracts of one kind or another. But they were not unified. They didn't have a complete system in line. But the Radiation Lab appeared suddenly because when they had the people out at Loomis's laboratory — me and Bill Tuller and all those other guys that were there — we told them what they should do. We told them that because we tried to do it and knew what was missing. When we got to the Radiation Lab, they had built some klystrons that worked well. That was great news.

Goldstein:

How did you disseminate information within the Rad Lab? If you'd been out to GE or Bell Labs and discovered something interesting, how would you circulate it?

Lewis:

We'd have a meeting. Usually you'd get the group leader of whatever group you were working with. If you had, for instance, problems concerning a transmitter that would transmit a signal that was strong enough to do what you wanted, you'd get all those guys altogether, go off in a back room somewhere, and shut the door. We'd start drawing a few sketches on a blackboard, and we'd go get the piece of equipment, as much of it as we could get a hold of, and show them what was happening. They would then say, "Oh, we see." Then they would show the others.

Management of Rad Lab

Goldstein:

Did you oversee the formation of any group in Rad Lab to begin work on a new project?

Lewis:

Not directly.

Goldstein:

Who did you report to during your days at Rad Lab? And who did you have reporting to you?

Lewis:

I reported to Dr. Bowles. He was the principal guy that I was responsible to. Now there might have been three or four other guys that I had to deal with, but he was essentially my boss, and I had to do what he wanted me to do. That's how come I was quite suddenly sent off to England without any warning. I didn't know I was going to be sent there, but he wanted me to go over there. Again, they were looking for people that would do what they needed to have done. One of them was to know everything that everybody knew in one particular field. I was pretty good at that because I had been going around from one organization to the other, helping to hold the thing together.

Goldstein:

Did you have any involvement with the Steering Committee at Rad Lab?

Lewis:

The Steering Committee came along; it seems, about the time that I was sent off somewhere. But I was then put on their record, and that's it. You'll find my name listed as being chairman of the Klystron Committee.

Goldstein:

So what was the administrative body before the Steering Committee? Were there informal meetings?

Lewis:

Yes, there were informal meetings, and I'm estimating there were approximately ten people in the Radiation Lab group that knew enough about the whole thing to steer it. So when they'd have a staff meeting, that's what they did. They got those guys together. I don't know how many people officially were in that group, but I'm pretty sure there were at least ten or maybe a dozen people who were responsible for the business of trying to keep the thing running in a progressive way. You realize that they were dealing with naval vessels, which are considered the Navy's place of operation. They were dealing with airplanes, which were the people from the Air Force, and they were mostly Wright Field where they developed work for it. They didn't know, but I had worked at Wright Field for probably more than twice as long as any of those guys ever had.

Blind-Landing System

Lewis:

But anyway, I worked on setting up their blind-landing system for a period of two months, or perhaps it was longer than that. I was out there for three or four months, anyway, after the Radiation Lab group moved everything down there. They had this one klystron that they could use for testing flight patterns and so forth. It was a big thing, and it ran out of gas eventually. I think the equipment inside began to develop holes. They just had worn it out. The guy that was in charge of it had them send him some new klystron cavities, and he tore the thing open, put them in, put everything all back together, and made it work again. That was all done while I was out there. We put the thing together and made it go. Now that took three months, I think. Maybe more. But he had been up here for longer than that. He had been up here for, I think, five months for some microwave equipment, working out of Boston. He pulled it out of there and sent it back to Wright Field. Now in the Air Force things that are new had to be checked out at Wright Field. That's in Dayton, Ohio. And they have another field out there — Patterson Field. Wright-Patterson is the combined name for that base. They were out at Patterson Field most of the time after we got past the stage of trying things out. Well, we'd take them out to Patterson and have new guys fly them to see if they would fall apart. When I went out there in the early days of World War II with the operational Air Force crews, they'd just got some new airplanes from a company called the Douglass Aircraft Company. They were the first ones with the nose wheels and...

Keif:

Tricycle landing gear.

Lewis:

Tricycle landing gear. Thank you. That's the thing. The colonel, who was an old buddy of mine by this time, said to me while I was out there, "Lewis, my boy. These guys are trying to tell you you don't know what you're saying." He said, "You get out there and you tell them the airplane is supposed to be landed on the two rear wheels, and then let the front wheel come down later, and they don't believe it because they were taught when they flew airplanes that they had to put the three wheels down all at once. And they're still trying to do that." He said, "I'll show you," and he took me out to the Patterson Air Force Base there and showed me six airplanes that were crumpled up on their nose. He said, "They've got one that they just got through putting back together."

Goldstein:

When was that? When did you go out there?

Lewis:

That was in 1941. I think it was probably after we were in the war. After Pearl Harbor, in other words.

Goldstein:

Were you in England at that time?

Lewis:

I was in England, yes.

Goldstein:

I thought you were going to an American Air Force facility.

Lewis:

Well, I got caught in this liaison office where I worked in the NDRC office in the American Embassy in London, which was the job of connecting British things with the American. I was there for a year and a half. Then, as I said, they got a new man there who didn't get along with me.

Closing of Rad Lab

Goldstein:

When you were with the Secretary of War, how did your job there change when the Rad Lab closed operations in '45?

Lewis:

Well, it wasn't anything disastrous or final. The Secretary of War was out of business really because the secretary himself was there, and Bowles was just trying to fold all up the records and get them straightened out because we were going to have a new Secretary of War when we had a new administration. During the period when I was working for the Secretary of War, I made a trip out to Australia and New Guinea and places like that, and New Caledonia and all those foreign places over there in the South Seas. That was done with Dr. Seuss, who was the head of Division 15 in the NDRC. He and I, we were out there the day that they invaded from England to the continent. We knew they were going to pull a trick invasion schedule, and we listened to every word of that as it came over the Australian radio because we wanted to know if they put out the stuff about the Sixth Fleet that went off to the Channel, which they did. They put it out. The Germans were taken in. They weren't told it was a fake. So when the invasion of France from England was done, they were told on and off the air, and we knew it was going to come, so we waited and waited until they sent all that stuff out about how it was a big fleet with 27 ships or whatever it was. We started dancing around the room, enjoying the whole business.

Rad Lab Organizational Structure

Goldstein:

Did you have any input into the formation of the Rad Lab organizational structure?

Lewis:

When they were first being put together, I was working for Loomis, and he was the mainspring behind the organization. He was aware of the fact that being an unofficial government agency doing government work involved some tricky problems. We had to solve these problems to make everybody believe that you were real when you really weren't yet. He told me, for example, that he had a handful of projects that hadn't been finished when we moved from Tuxedo Park. He said, "You look after those. You know what they are. You just keep them going." So I had to do it all by talking with the people that I knew were properly assigned to these things.

Goldstein:

What sort of administrative and management structures did you establish? Or was it all very informal?

Lewis:

Well, it was relatively informal except that the Radiation Lab had a committee structure to hold it together. One man used to go by one of the ladies who worked in the Lab office there at Radiation Lab, and he always used my name as a swear word. "If you don't do it right, I'll get Frank Lewis on you when he comes back from England!" So, that's sort of the thing that we had. We had a halfway formal organization, but it had some personal effects.

Conflict with Sperry

Goldstein:

Did you have anything you want to offer, any concluding statements about the function of the Rad Lab, your role in the Rad Lab operation? Or particularly how it influenced your life and career?

Lewis:

Well, first thing, I was not asking for any of that. I just happened to get into the microwave business under Professor Barrow. He was a microwave man, and I was doing my thesis under him, my graduate work which was supposed to be my doctor's degree. He supervised my lab work there. He was a good friend and a good teacher, and he knew a great deal about how I liked to work. So he and I got things done pretty well. For example, you will find in the records of the Radiation Lab, and I was slightly amused that it found its way into the literature, that I was author of the first automatic firing gun that we used there at the Radiation Lab. I built it, and we tried it out. The only thing is, they took it away from us. It started to work, and they said, "You can't have this. It's got to go back to Sperry."

Goldstein:

Sperry had been working on that?

Lewis:

Sperry had built one, and they'd set it up for us to use to find out what we had to do to put the radar control on it, which we did. The next week it went back to Sperry. That was partly because the MIT president thought it was too sensitive to have it there, and we shouldn't have it because it was military equipment set up and working in the backyard. So it went back to Sperry. That's the sort of funny little thing that happened. We had that automatic machine gun. It didn't fire any live bullets, but it sure fired a lot of other stuff, and it did lots of experimental work. We were able to point it at anything we wanted to. But we couldn't fire any projectiles on it because it was not supposed to have projectiles in that courtyard at MIT. But we did fire a few at them unofficially. That was during the amorphous period of the electrical engineering department's association with MIT radar lab. We were not officially part of the radar setup there, but we had all of the equipment that they had, and most of it was just like what we had and was borrowed or otherwise.

Goldstein:

I'm not sure I understand this.

Lewis:

The institute had a structure before the MIT Radiation Lab appeared.

Goldstein:

Right.

Lewis:

In other words, these were just electrical engineering department groups.

Goldstein:

Right. Weren't you affiliated with them?

Lewis:

Well, I was a member of their staff. I worked on projects that were officially paid for by MIT money, not by the government money, which is what you got when you got Rad Lab.

Postwar Career

Goldstein:

Where did your career go after the war?

Lewis:

Well, I was working for the Secretary of War when we were told that the war was over. After that you had to go find your own job. There was a nice man that I had known for some years because I had worked with him. He was the owner and founder of the General Radio Company, and his name was Noble Eastham. He was a prince of people, he was a wonderful guy. He asked me if I wouldn't go and work for him one day. What was I going to say? I thought he was the one guy in the world that I'd really like to work for. So I went to work for him at General Radio Company. I worked there until they let me go, which was when things began to fold up at the General Radio Company. It's still in business, by the way. They call it GENRAD now.

Goldstein:

Did your work at Rad Lab influence your career in the private sector?

Lewis:

I suppose it must have because I was working with the same sorts of things that I had worked with all along there. But I don't know that it was of crucial importance. I knew people like this fellow here. He saved my life. I have to tell about him. Did you tell him about how you kept the airplane from crashing.

Fred Keif

Keif:

We were doing some test flights. The pilot was a rather small fellow, and it was pretty rough to fly to the end of the runway. He got all shook up and locked the controls. Then we sat at the end of the runway for about 15 or 20 minutes. He had forgotten that they were locked, and we took off. Controls were locked, and we were locked. We were in the plane, and it was just going up and up. In the meantime, he was trying to get them unlocked. One of the mechanics was sitting in the copilot's seat, and the first thing he did was to fasten the seat belts. Then finally the pilot got him to unlock the controls. Whew! We came awful close to crashing.

Goldstein:

When did that happen?

Keif:

That was in March of '41.

Goldstein:

What work were you doing?

Lewis:

He was with the Canadian people.

Keif:

We were doing flight tests for the First Airborne.

Lewis:

Well, this flight occurred at a place called Christchurch Airdrome. That's where we almost hit the roof.

Keif:

I was thinking of the one here in Boston. Maybe you weren't in on that one.

Lewis:

I guess I wasn't in on that one, but I was in on the one in Christchurch, and I thought I was going to be there forever. Hit the roof of that house, and that was going to be it. Looks like you did the right thing because we're here now.

Goldstein:

Do you have anything you want to add?

Lewis:

No, not particularly. It was a very pleasant time for me. And Norm Ramsey was over there in England with me. He was in and out of British lab circles at PRE, a government agency research lab. He and I went every place where we wanted to go to talk to the British about their problems. I think he was there for two months, but maybe it was more. I can tell you this much, that the day that I arrived in London was the day that they had a night blitz, all night long. The city was really pounded. There were fires all over the place, and everything was really a mess. So everybody in England was told to get into something that would get rid of those darn pesky bombers so that they would be able to stand another one of those things without everybody going out of business. It was really pretty bad what they did. They bombed all night long. This was piloted airplanes. These were not the dummies with the bomb in the nose. These were people. They had a pretty good air-defense system, but they didn't really realize how good it was at the time, and they didn't realize how close they had come to putting the Luftwaffe out of business. Because the Luftwaffe didn't realize how much there was left of the British Air Force either. They each thought the other one would be able to do something it couldn't do.