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Oral-History:Gerald F. Tape

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Contents

About Gerald F. Tape

This interview covers Tape’s career, focusing on his years at the MIT Radiation Lab (Rad Lab) during World War II. Tape did his undergraduate work at Michigan State Normal College, his graduate work in nuclear physics at the University of Michigan, and after getting his PhD in 1939 went to Cornell as an instructor in physics. There he worked with Robert Bacher, and in 1942 he followed Bacher to the MIT Rad Lab. During the war he worked on radar information display, writing technical summaries for generals and admirals, on relay radar, and synthetic trainers. In 1944 he switched to the British branch of the Rad Lab, where he worked on integrating radar and bombing systems, as well as devising a recognition microwave radar system, that would allow fighters and bombers to rendezvous with each other. When the war ended he followed Wheeler Loomis and taught for a few years at the University of Illinois, then went to Brookhaven in 1950 as an assistant to the director, Lee Haworth. He later was deputy director and then president of the Associated Universities, Inc. that ran Brookhaven. He also worked as head of the AEC during the 1960s. He retired in 1980. He mentions the career of Lloyd Berkner in scattered parts through the interview.

For more information, see Gerald Tape's biography.


About the Interview

GERALD F. TAPE: An Interview Conducted by Frederik Nebeker, IEEE History Center, 10 June 1991

Interview # 068 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. and Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


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, 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.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Gerald F. Tape, an oral history conducted in 1991 by Frederik Nebeker, IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.


Interview

Interview: Gerald F. Tape
Interviewer: Frederik Nebeker
Date: 10 June 1991
Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Academic Background

Nebeker:

This is an interview with Gerald Tape at Boston on the 10th of June, 1991. The interviewer is Rik Nebeker. Before we talk about Rad Lab, I wonder if you could briefly describe your background and education before going to Rad Lab.

Tape:

I did my undergraduate work at what was then Michigan State Normal College in Ypsilanti, Michigan, and is now Eastern Michigan University. I did my graduate work in nuclear physics, University of Michigan. Then I went to Cornell in 1939 as an instructor in the physics department.

Nebeker:

Was that with a master's degree?

Tape:

Ph.D.

Nebeker:

You had a Ph.D.?

Tape:

I got a Ph.D. in 1939 in nuclear physics.

Cornell and Dr. Bacher

Tape:

I joined the physics faculty at Cornell and was involved in teaching engineering students and in research with Dr. Robert Bacher. He had a small group in nuclear physics centered around with what was then a 17-inch cyclotron.

Nebeker:

Could I just ask why it was that you were also teaching engineering?

Tape:

The engineering people took their physics courses in the physics department. In the freshman and sophomore classes, there were generally two splits: one for engineers, and one for others. It simply was that one got a little more focus on some of the engineering applied work on one side, whereas the other side with arts college students, premeds, architects, and so on, tended to have a slightly different flavor. Also the engineering physics was a two-year course, and I was doing the second year. It didn't mean it took the engineers two years longer; [Chuckling] it was just that it was two years of physics.

Nebeker:

Right. So you were doing research on this 17-inch cyclotron?

Tape:

Right. That continued until February 1942, at which time I joined the Radiation Lab.

Nebeker:

Did you know about radar before then?

Tape:

No. Back up a little bit Dr. Bacher was a well-known, eminent physicist of the time — well-known to people like Dr. Lee DuBridge, who headed up the Radiation Lab. Bacher visited the Lab around Christmastime of 1940 and decided it was time for him to join the Radiation Lab. All I knew was that this was a laboratory at MIT. He came back to Cornell on several occasions because he was trying to keep in touch with our work. At Christmas 1941 he said, "This is a long haul. I think our group is going to be pulled apart and I would recommend that you join us at MIT." I said, "I don't know anything about what's going on there." He said, "That's okay. You'll like it. It'll be interesting." So at Christmastime I said "okay," and I was gone by the first of February. As you recall, Pearl Harbor was early December. That also was a motivation.

Nebeker:

Did the research at Cornell then stop at that point in that group?

Tape:

The group continued on for a while at Cornell, not very long, three or four others who were in the group actually ended up on the Manhattan Project. So they were still doing work that was pertinent to the nuclear program. They were sent to Purdue, I believe it was, where there was a larger cyclotron, once the Manhattan Project was really underway. I shouldn't say, "really underway." The beginnings of it. They continued their work there until Los Alamos was initiated, and then moved to Los Alamos. Only one of us ever returned to Cornell, though. [Chuckling]

Radiation Lab

Early Radar Work

Nebeker:

I understand that radar was classified information, at least to some extent, in those early years of the war. Is that right?

Tape:

It was highly classified. The first day I checked in they did tell me what they were doing. I was assigned to what was called the indicator group at the time and given a bunch of volumes, literature that described some of the work and some of the problems they had. Dr. Bacher was the head of that area of work.

Nebeker:

What was that area called?

Tape:

Indicator. At that time it didn't have these division names that you're probably familiar with now. The indicator is the part of the radar system in which the information comes in and is displayed to the operator. I was, in a sense, a generalist at that time. I was not an electronics expert. So I was not directly involved in hardware development. I did do a number of special jobs for them in one way or another. The first major endeavor, which in hindsight intrigued me, bears somewhat on the topic you are exploring. It was recognized early on that radar was a brand new concept, new ideas, highly technical. If one looks at the military operations, there was almost a standoffishness, they were skeptical. One must try to persuade the hierarchy of generals that this is something they really need and can't do without. They're the ones who have to say, "Yes, I want a thousand sets," or "Yes, I'm going to deploy it in certain positions in certain areas." One had to do something to get the information across to them.

I think a very interesting idea (and I can't remember who came up with it) was to put together a set of papers, consisting of not more than four pages on a particular radar set, either in design, construction or ready-for-operations. Those four pages were then put into a set of volumes. These were the generals' and admirals' volumes. I was asked to participate in that project as a technical person. We actually divided up the work and had teams. There would be a liaison fellow who would make the contacts and arrangements, a technical person like myself, a photographer, and an artist. It was easy to do this for Radiation Lab projects under design. But there was a lot of other material not done in the Radiation Lab, earlier work that was already under way. There were Bell Labs, RCA, Westinghouse, General Electric, Philco, and several others, that we actually visited, got technical descriptions, took photographs. For example, for the shipboard installation, we'd go down near the ship and have an artist sit there and sketch the ship and where the antenna would be placed, and how it would be mounted.

Nebeker:

So you had to learn the specifications of all of these systems?

Tape:

We had the specs, basically the operational specs, not the technical specs of how each component worked. This was put together for each set like a 4-page brochure and became the bible, if you will, for use at the highest levels. Those were handmade sets, not printed, not reproduced. Handmade sets in very limited numbers, for the simple reason that it was probably the most highly classified package on radar at the time. It described all the radar sets then in use, production or design.

Nebeker:

So everything in production, design, planning stages?

Tape:

Everything: pre-production, production, and even some concepts that might be available a year from then. I spent several months both collecting data and working with the report production people to get what might be the best format presentation, in order to highlight those things that were of importance to the military operations.

Nebeker:

So you had to know things that were already being produced, how they were being used or might be used. The things in design stage, how they might be used.

Tape:

That's correct.

Nebeker:

Did you talk to people in the services?

Tape:

Not too much because those people who were building or designing systems had done a lot of that.

Nebeker:

So you could get the information from them.

Tape:

They also had the ideas as to how that link could be made. They were far more knowledgeable. Several years later, after these sets got out in service, the reverse was true. The Laboratory got operational people to come back and talk to us about operational needs, what they wanted that we hadn't produced. The feedback came in evening colloquia where we had as many of the Lab people who wanted to come and hear about these operational endeavors. There were two benefits: one, it helped us get a better appreciation for operational requirements. Two, there's nothing better for morale than having your sets out winning a war. [Chuckling] You can be buried in the lab, and you know what should happen. When you really get the guy back there who says you saved my shirt, that is stimulating. That was a very nice feedback.

Relay Radar

Tape:

After that was over, I became involved in a relay radar project as a project leader. The concept originated in the Laboratory. In order to get significant detection distance in those days, the radar antenna needed to be on a high tower. It needs to be high up so the distance to the horizon is large. If you're low, the horizon is nearby. This was not like the modern-day, over-the-horizon stuff. Those were the days of seeing just a little bit beyond the horizon. One is limited by antenna height on a ship, and it would be ideal to get the antenna up at, say, 10,000 feet. You do that with an airplane. But if all of the information is gathered in the aircraft, it must be read by a radar operator who may be an enlisted man, or a lieutenant, and then radioed down by voice. The command ship admiral or captain is in a terrible spot when he's simply getting voice information from one who's very low in the ranks. I don't mean just from the point of view of posture, but I mean from the point of view that that fellow doesn't have all the information he needs to give the right kind of interpretation. So the objective was to get the basic raw data down into the ship so the Command Information Center (CIC) could factor that data in with all other data available for decision-making.

The other extension of the system was the ultimate, that is, to have four aircraft up in different quadrants, getting information, and piping all four down. And the four were then dubbed together to make a larger map than one could make with a single set. All we had to do was prove the process with one.

Nebeker:

May I ask where this idea came from, relay radar?

Tape:

There were several people in the Lab who did that, but the way it came to me was through Bob Bacher, who was in the indicator group. This is, if you will, an indicator problem of getting data down and displaying it in a form which can be used.

Nebeker:

So this originated within the Lab?

Tape:

It originated within the Lab. It was a Lab concept. I think by that time Bacher had moved up, and Lee Haworth was heading the indicator group. I'm not clear on that at the moment. There was a small group of us. There were two technical guys and myself. We had an airplane and a sea search radar set at our disposal. We built the relay link by salvaging some RCA telemetry equipment, which was used with television-guided bombs, believe it or not. We modified that equipment, and we were able to take the radar output and telemeter it down to what would be shipboard.

We had a receiving station in the Boston area on a hill. We would fly our aircraft along the New England coast. Since in those days the best contrast one got was from land-water boundaries (that was the easiest thing to pick up), or ships at sea. We would fly up to 10,000 feet and usually take a course toward Cape Cod or Long Island. Those tracks provided very good signatures. In fact, many of the little logos you see around have the Cape as the radar image. Then we would telemeter the radar data back to the ground station. When we had technically shown that it was feasible, it was my job to sell it to the Navy. That was difficult.

Nebeker:

So you had proven feasibility.

Tape:

We'd proven technical feasibility. We did not have a design that would go into an operational aircraft and stand all the g's that an aircraft has to stand on carrier landings and take-offs.

Nebeker:

But you had to sell it to the Navy before you'd do that design work, is that right?

Tape:

What we did was to make a 20-minute movie of the concept and the experimental equipment. Then we actually took photographs of the scope as it showed at the ground station. I took this to Washington and sold it at lower levels of the Navy. It went almost up to the top staff of the Navy where they said, "no." The answer I got as to why it was "no" was that our shipboard receiving equipment and display equipment would take up too much room in the CIC, that their ships were just chockablock with equipment, and there wasn't another square inch of room. They just bluntly said it didn't have the priority to take up the room. It's interesting to me in hindsight. Nowadays this would have gone through further development for a few more years, maybe. In those wartime days, if the services didn't want it, kill it. Boom. Dead. So in one year, that was it. I then joined the synthetic trainer group. There we designed and developed synthetic trainers, principally for radar operators.

Nebeker:

May I just ask about a question about that relay radar? Was the Navy using any radar spotters where they just gave voice information?

Tape:

Oh, yes. They do that visually and radar. But they'd fly an airplane out.

Nebeker:

Yes. With radar in it?

Tape:

Some radar, mostly eyeball, and then they would pipe that back. But that's not like having continuous real-time data. Let me jump ahead now rather than doing this in a chronological way. In about the summer of '44, the man who headed up the naval air electronics work, Lloyd Berkner, came to the Lab and said, "You've got to give us something. We need it desperately. We need an antenna high over the fleet. The Japanese kamikaze are just killing us. And we've got to be able to spot those aircraft at long range." How do you do it? Relay radar. Having done that one year's system test of showing that it could be done, then the rest of it — I won't say it was easy — but possible. Get the details from Dr. Rollefson, he headed the project called "Cadillac." But to "see" aircraft as well as ships, one needs high power. The real problems that Rollefson and this project had were getting high-power transmitters, radar sets, in an airplane that could land on a carrier. Now what's happened in today's environment? You probably know about AWACS. AWACS is a big flying radar. But instead of piping all this raw information to the ground, a big aircraft is used to gather and process the data with all the generals sitting in the aircraft. [Chuckling] So it's an adaptation of what started out by relaying it down to having an airplane big enough to put the people up. So the command is not down below, it's up above.

Nebeker:

Did you feel that you'd had a fair chance to sell the relay radar?

Tape:

Like everything else, one's disappointed when you think you've got a hot product and it doesn't sell. But on the other hand, I can give you a different story later on in a different area, similar, in which just the reverse took place. I can't complain. It's a little like a lot of things we're doing in military technology today. Some are ahead of their time. We were ahead of the time in 1942-43. Nowadays you have to have a requirement from the military in order to have something developed. There was no requirement. But when those kamikazes came in, there was a requirement — in spades.

Nebeker:

I take it that, generally, with different radar units produced at Rad Lab, the idea for that kind of unit came from within Rad Lab and then was sold to the military? How often did it work the other way where the military said we need this kind of a unit.

Tape:

We had an Army and Navy liaison unit in the Lab. For example, going to Washington and setting up contacts, the liaison group would identify the right people that we should see. In many cases they were helpful in pointing out to us that we were a little naive. That was helpful. But how should I say it? There are bright guys who can see things from a slightly different perspective than the fellow who is trained in a certain routine. [Chuckling] They're not afraid to ask questions. There was a lot of freewheeling going on at that time.

Nebeker:

Was it, do you think, the general impression of Rad Lab people that the military was too slow to adopt new devices?

Tape:

All of us in the technical area feel that the military or civilians [Chuckling] are too slow to adopt. On the other hand, I think for the most part they weren't. They were fighting a war, and they were looking for immediate solutions. But when there was a true crisis, their interest heightened and cooperation moved very rapidly. When I joined the Lab, the German submarine threat off the coast was very high and more than a threat, it was real. The Lab at that time was making handmade sets to go into B-18s. Those handmade sets went operational. I say they did the job. The job they did was to move the German threat down into the Caribbean and well away from our coast. Because the Germans didn't know what was hitting them.

Synthetic Trainer Group

Tape:

Well, after the relay radar project, I joined the synthetic trainer group. That was quite a different job, but it was a very interesting job. There, the liaison we had with the military was practically all through their training institutions. There were various training development outfits. There were a lot of interesting developments I found there. I was more in the administrative and management part of the group and as such, one other fellow and I did a lot of traveling to various military training bases to see what they were doing and what we could do. This was a case where we actually went out into the field, the field being training centers.

Nebeker:

You'd look at how people were being trained in using radar?

Tape:

And whether they had equipment that they were using effectively. A lot of times one can ship something to one of these outfits, and it stays in a box. It's simply a question of whether the individual concerned is interested or whether he understands the new equipment. It's almost like getting a university professor to adopt a new textbook. I've taught this one; I'm comfortable with it. What's wrong? [Chuckling] So we got a lot of feedback that way, and a lot of interest.

Nebeker:

So you were partly finding out how the training was being done and then deciding when some new training device would be useful?

Tape:

We usually brought people in and had them sit down and try it. We'd get their reactions. One of the major developments at that time was to develop inputs. What we would do is have the training equipment develop what amounts to fake radar signals that could be fed into the radar set that the operator was running. If you're doing this for something like a bomber, the information you're feeding them has to look like the terrain over which he's flying. A couple of the fellows in the group had the idea that one could take a supersonic device, put it in water and pulse. In a tray something the size of a billiard table (ping-pong table) one could literally duplicate the microwave radar performance with a pulsed supersonic system. The tray of water about a few inches. On the bottom would be little sand grains, prominences. The sand patterns were equivalent to the terrain. You could draw a map and duplicate the terrain over which you'd fly. To jump ahead, that was used quite extensively in the Pacific, where radar reconnaissance planes would go in and completely map the Japanese coast and potential target areas. The radar picture would come back, be interpreted and duplicated for the trainer. This mosaic would be built up, and one could crank in the direction of the airplane and the speed of the airplane. The operator could "fly" a particular course on the trainer prior to an operational mission.

Nebeker:

Was it automatic?

Tape:

If the operator wanted to tell the pilot to change course, the pilot could change course, the training equipment would respond.

Nebeker:

Were a lot of these then built?

Tape:

I don't know how many actually got built, but enough got built so that a navigator on his first trip into Japan was not flying blind. You've got a good map of the coastline, and that helps. You've got some islands and a coastline, and that helps very much. Things like that happened. Coupling the radar to a Norden bomb site, for example. All the bombardiers knew how to bomb optically. So we were able to let them use the radar with the same controls and then switch to optical at the last minute if they had an optical day. Things of that order were done. I know the Navy was probably more active in this simulated training because they had a very active admiral-entrepreneur who was gung-ho for synthetic trainers. Nowadays synthetic trainers are the name of the game. Every airline, every nuclear reactor, every power plant has synthetic trainers.

Nebeker:

Was it part of your job then to suggest new training methods of that sort?

Tape:

Usually once one got the equipment, there would be adaptations. But the equipment was always built commercially. The commercial outfit was the one that had to put together the detailed specs and the instruction manuals. The interface eventually came between the commercial producer and the customer.

British Rad Lab and Beacon Group

Tape:

To sum up my own personal life. In the late summer of '44, I was asked to go overseas and join the British Branch of Radiation Lab and take charge of the airborne work there. I went to England in October of '44 and stayed until the end of the European war. Most of my work then was with the Eighth Air Force, although I did some work with the Ninth Troop Carrier Command. At one point some of our people moved into Paris to the Advanced Service Base. They tended to work more with the tactical fighter groups and ground-based systems that were based on the continent. The British Branch Radiation Lab I forget when it started, but it was probably in '43, maybe before that — was closely coupled to the military. We had a small laboratory in Malvern on the Welsh border. The Eighth Air Force dedicated one of its bomber groups (Alconbury) to training, introduction of new techniques, and adapting the equipment in various ways. One adaptation was to get a rather precise bombing system that could be used with the radars. That was developed back in the States and then Alconbury tested it and trained people.

One operation I was involved in was very successful as far as I was concerned. The Eighth Air Force fighters had moved to the continent to shorten their distance to where they had to operate. It's hard for some of us to realize, but they had difficulties rendezvousing with a bomber formation. The bombers took off from England and the fighters later took off from France. They didn't always find each other. It's big sky, and even though it was a large bomber formation, they were hard to find. That was recognized as a very tough problem: how do the two groups together?

Back in the Lab in the States, there was the Beacon group. They developed systems whereby you could use beacons which could be interrogated by a radar. By that time in Europe, our ground people had installed one of the Radiation Lab-built MEW (Microwave Early Warning) sets. The MEW set on the continent could see the bombers, they were high and good targets, but the fighters were harder for them to see. So if we would install in a fighter a responder beacon, common practice in all aircraft today, the MEW, could interrogate, get a signal back, and therefore track the fighters. The Lab gambled. The Beacon group built 24 sets that could go into fighter P-47s — P-51s. They told me when they had them ready. I talked to the fellows operational in the field, and they thought it was just a great idea. Being a civilian, we didn't run this up through the normal channels of everybody having to agree and finally get it up to the commanding general. The fellows down in the field were always reluctant to sign their names to some newfangled idea because they didn't want to have it cancelled or get "no" and have it show up that they had lousy ideas. But I, as a civilian, go up to headquarters and talk to the technical guys there. They liked it. Would I talk to the general? A conference was called and I described it. The general said, "That's a great idea, but it's not for this war. There's no way I can get requisitions and requirements back and have it in anything short of a year." I said, "Give me supply sergeants who know something about the aircraft and installation and 24 ground power supplies and I'll supply the rest of it. We'll have it installed in 30 days." Done. Now the military had allowed us 10,000 pounds of air freight across the Atlantic every month. No questions asked.

Nebeker:

That was for all of the British Rad Lab?

Tape:

For the BBRL. So we could set our priorities as to what we needed and when. That equipment came over. They moved the aircraft they wanted as lead aircraft for various formations, various divisions. We supervised the installation, and it worked.

Nebeker:

When was that installed? Do you recall?

Tape:

December, January, '44, '45. For a long time I kept plots of the bomber formations and the fighter beacon tracks for actual operations.

Nebeker:

Did that make a real difference operationally?

Tape:

They had the fighter protection for the bombers. Without that the Germans still could send up fighters and wipe out aircraft.

Nebeker:

And fairly often they weren't rendezvousing before?

Tape:

Apparently there were enough times they didn't make a rendezvous and they had serious aircraft losses. And it was a simple operation. There again, it's a little like the Cadillac project I told you about. The equipment in this case was actually well-known, and a number of sets were hand-built. There was no reason to go into mass production at a time we thought the air war would be winding down. Secondly, one would go to mass production, if you saw a need to put a set in every aircraft. Well, you don't need it in every aircraft. You can put it in the lead aircraft of the formation; that's all you need. Maybe you put a second one in for redundancy in the second plane.

Nebeker:

How difficult was it? Were these produced by Rad Lab?

Tape:

These were what I call hand-built, model-shop built.

Nebeker:

Was it difficult for you to get that done that quickly by Rad Lab?

Tape:

The communication was back and forth. I didn't offer the sets until I knew they were built. [Laughter]

Nebeker:

Oh!? So there you didn't have difficulty in selling the idea to the highest ranks.

Tape:

They needed it, and it wasn't something that took up a lot of space in the aircraft. The receiver was already a Rad Lab device on the ground, although it was operated by the military. It was a problem of convergence of an idea and a need, where the need is on the operational side, and the idea tends to come from the fellows who have the technical background and understanding.

Nebeker:

How typical is it, the approach you took of going to talk to the technical people at headquarters, and then seeing the generals after that? Was that done fairly often by the technical people?

Tape:

I found that the advantages of these field operations or having our people in the field is that the field is much more relaxed. Fellows fighting, they're much more relaxed and much more interested in something that will work now. If you can give them a solution to the problem in the next month or so, they're interested. When one is working through the normal channels, rigorous kind of channels away from the front, it's a tougher proposition because they're a lot of priorities, and somebody has to weigh them.

Nebeker:

Except that when you're working at the front, you've got to be selling things that are very close to completion, to production.

Tape:

That's right. For several reasons. One is that, like any project, one has to have a few people who have continuity and dedication and see the thing through. In some of these operations, people rotate, and it's very much a function of one individual. I think that's why the beacon job was successful, it was short. The decision was made, 30 days later material was coming in, and 30 days after that it was operational. And they didn't have to take very many aircraft out of service to do it.

Nebeker:

It was a fairly fast installation.

Tape:

And it was a small number of aircraft that did the job.

Nebeker:

I see.

Terrain Recognition

Tape:

If you want to find some frustrations, it was with troop carriers.

Nebeker:

This was BBRL?

Tape:

Well, it was our U.S. Air Force Ninth Troop Carrier Command, and they were stationed in England. They are interested in flying at low-altitude — six, seven hundred feet. They would like very good terrain-recognition equipment. We just couldn't deliver that sort of thing in those days. Today it's something else. But I mean in the 1944, '45 time frame, if they wanted to come in where there were some excellent water features, such as big lakes or big rivers, the radar could be helpful. If it's just plain ground, it was a more difficult thing. The radar they had was a very, very heavy device, 2,000 pounds. For one of the drops, Montgomery was the Allied Commanding General. He ordered all of the radar taken out of those aircraft. We're talking about lead aircraft sets now; we're not talking about every airplane. As far as he was concerned, for 2,000 pounds one can get four more men with all their equipment. He was looking for manpower. So that was his trade-off. He would forego the radar for the manpower.

Nebeker:

That's with U.S. planes.

Tape:

That's the U.S. Air Force. I don't know what he did with his British forces. But for the U.S. that's what he ordered. Our guys didn't like it, but you get an order, that's what you do. I was at their headquarters, and we talked about it. I urged them to try to get it rescinded, and they couldn't. And I said, "Well, the least you ought to do is make him promise he won't drop in cloudy weather. You've got to be able to see the ground if he's not going to use the radar." He agreed. But then on the drop day they had to drop without ever seeing the drop point. Two days earlier here they had started smoke pots to camouflage all the ground operations.

Nebeker:

With bad results?

Tape:

Not good. Men were dropped in the wrong places. I'm not saying the radar would have solved their problems, but it might have helped. But again, these guys have to make trade-off decisions.

Difference between British and US Military

Nebeker:

Was there a difference in attitude between the British military and the U.S. military?

Tape:

I wouldn't know whether it was personal or not. The sort of reaction I got from people was, it was typical Montgomery. He knew what to do, he knew what the risks were, and that was his way of handling the problem. So our relationships with the military varied almost year to year, depending on whether we were in the early design stage and had new equipment coming along, or not. BBRL was set up because it was recognized that we could help make equipment do the job it was supposed to do (even though we weren't operating it) by being in the field and nursing it. The other option was to leave us back in the lab continuing to design new equipment.

If you picked up the five-year book of the Radiation Lab, you would find that there was a field service unit, which got to be a division when we really started going to the field. There's a picture of a number of us in Paris, I recall, in May 1945. We knew then that the war was winding down in Europe, and much of the equipment that we had there would find beneficial use in the Pacific. It depended a lot on how it was handled who would receive it out there. Much of it, you might say, belonged to the Radiation Lab because it had been built under their budgets and by their people and was just out in the field being used. It didn't belong to any one Army unit or Air Force unit.

Nebeker:

Was that generally handled rather informally?

Tape:

Very informally. We had this general meeting in which all of the equipment which was "Rad Lab," we would identify and identify how it could be used. We then identified what military unit would be responsible for moving it to the Pacific because some of the European forces were being moved to the Pacific. But there again, you found a very, very close and informal relationship and that's the way we operated.

Nebeker:

Was this both Army and Navy?

Tape:

It was not Navy for us because the Navy was not so much in the air or on the land in Europe. They did, however, have Navy installations and a liaison office in Paris. I always asked them where did they get the fleet along the Seine, [Chuckling] but they assured me there was work to be done in Paris.

End of War

Tape:

We wound things down in Europe very rapidly by agreeing just to almost literally walk away, but with it carefully dedicated to other missions in the Pacific. I came back to the United States on June 1 of '45 with the understanding that I'd go to the Pacific in October to continue this sort of work. Throughout this whole period there were always weekly teletype conferences between our field operation and Washington. That would be for us from London to Washington first, and later with the office in Paris. When I got back we were already having communications with the Pacific. When the Philippines were liberated and the Army went into Manila, then the conferences were between Manila and Washington. I started work with Manila from the Washington end of the liaison. As I say, that never developed for me because August took care of things with the atomic bomb, and I didn't continue.

At that point, from there on in, I did some odd jobs such as trying to help with various write-ups about radar, which would then be declassified and put into the public domain since the war had come to an end. After that Wheeler Loomis, who was the deputy at the Lab and very much interested in personnel, assigned two of us to the placement office. Since I'd been in the university community, I headed up trying to help individuals either go back to school as graduate students or get positions in university faculties.

Postwar Career

Nebeker:

Did you have your position still at Cornell?

Tape:

I was still on leave and could have gone back to Cornell. But the Illinois group attracted me. Wheeler Loomis was head of the physics department, [Chuckling] and I liked him very much. Colleagues with whom I'd developed close relationships during the war were on the staff at Illinois. So I went there. I returned to nuclear physics and teaching.

Nebeker:

I see. So you're one of the nuclear physicists who went back.

Tape:

I wasn't in the Manhattan District, but before and after. But this whole experience had really changed my life, and I think did a lot that I appreciate. For example, although I was in what I'd call basic research in nuclear areas, I was selected to be a commissioner of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1963. My predecessor had a responsibility in the nuclear weapons program, and they asked me to follow and take that responsibility. The wartime experience didn't make me skittish about working with the military. There were things we were comfortable in working back and forth with them. I ended up at one time as chairman of the Defense Science Board. Again, not for my nuclear experience, but just from the general ability to work back and forth with the military. I have regretted the fact that there wasn't a generation following behind us that could do those same things.

Relationship of Academia to Military

Nebeker:

You mean, be able to work with the military in technical matters?

Tape:

You yourself know that many members of the university community are anti-military. They don't want any military money, or any intelligence money. They think the military is not doing a good job. But the military needs that technical expertise. Some people aren't comfortable serving even on Academy committees that may be looking at some military problem. But for those of us who were thrown into it in the early to mid-'40s, it was different. Look at the people who played a major role — well, not maybe a major role, but a role — as civilian advisors to the Office of Science & Technology Policy, and to the Defense Department. Jerry Wiesner's one. He's on your list. Ivan Getting went back, but played a very strong role with the Air Force. Yet if you look at people who are 20 years younger than we are, there aren't many of them who have gone that way. They'll go from industry to defense, but not university to defense.

Nebeker:

Of course, the Vietnam era had a lot to do with it.

Tape:

It had a lot to do with it. I might say that some of us tried to sell this same BBRL-type concept for Vietnam. I have to admit that it was a different situation, in part because in the intervening time between the end of World War II and Korea and Vietnam, many, many, many of the military people had been sent back to school. Many of them had Ph.D.'s in highly technical fields, which didn't exist in 1942. So there was far more expertise within the services in these areas. They said, "We don't need that as much because we have this." However, there still was a lot of cooperation with some civilians even spending time overseas. Usually they joined the Defense Department and went over as Defense employees.

Nebeker:

I see. When you say a BBRL, the concept there is that the civilian scientists are in the field. You obviously think that was very important in World War II.

Tape:

Two things. One was that civilian scientists in the field at the time were important. The other was the flexibility that the civil side had that the military didn't have. Like 10,000 pounds of air freight. The military gave it to us, so that was flexibility. Flexibility in the personnel who went in and out because of the expertise needed. You didn't have to write orders for somebody to move from that outfit to another outfit. You found that even within the Lab, you could get ideas moving rapidly. All you had to do was go to lunch with them. [Chuckling] It just was a system that had more flexibility.

Nebeker:

Did you find it difficult to either move around physically or to make contacts other ways when you were in BBRL?

Tape:

The military gave us Army vehicles and private driver's licenses. My routine was to leave BBRL, which was located up on the Welsh border at Malvern, drive down to the headquarters of the Eighth Air Force in High Wycombe, usually on a Sunday night or Monday. I'd spend one or two days there with the people at headquarters asking, "What are your problems? How are things going?"

Nebeker:

Who was that that you would talk with?

Tape:

Usually the head of their training operation, the chief navigator, and the chief radar operator, sometimes the bombardiers. The man who was in training also had associated with him an intelligence function having to do with radar reconnaissance, that is, to get a radar picture of what it is you want to attack and the route, and to help them plan missions. I didn't plan the missions. But if he needed something in the way of techniques or ideas on how to do that, you worked with him. Then I would go to Alconbury, where we had about three or four people who helped modify and build equipment, develop operational procedures and train personnel.

Nebeker:

Where was that located?

Tape:

Alconbury. It was located in East Anglia, one of the many Eighth Air Force bases. There we worked side by side with the military personnel. Early on in the introduction of the 3-centimeter bombing equipment, there would always be certain components that were short-lived. The military couldn't keep enough spare parts by their normal routine. If we found out something like that, we would cable back to Rad Lab to ship us a hundred of whatever it was. Our men would go around to various groups with pockets full of these crucial parts and replace them. That's part of the flexibility I was talking about. You can argue, well, it shouldn't be that way. The military ought to have its supplies, ought to do this, ought to do the other thing. But when you're moving first-of-a-kind things into operations, you don't know enough to be able to be that foresighted.

Nebeker:

So you were watching how things were functioning?

Tape:

The idea was to try to keep those equipments operational.

Nebeker:

You were also in constant touch with Rad Lab?

Tape:

By weekly teletype. If we had something that was very special or needed a certain type of individual, we could get that individual over for a month or two months or whatever.

Nebeker:

Were you hampered in that period by security measures?

Tape:

Not in the field. You know what's classified and what isn't classified. But again an aside, because of my trainer responsibilities, to give an operator proper training, you should not only be able to show him on the scope the radar, but you should be able to show him typical examples of enemy jamming of your radar. So a few of us had to learn about jamming and then countermeasures to jamming. So I also had a badge for the Radio Research Lab (RRL), which was at Harvard.

Nebeker:

What's the other badge?

Tape:

That was the Radiation Lab. RRL knew about countermeasures jamming. What we would do then is in a selected way get certain jamming programs into the training equipment once they got into the field. That would let operators get exposed to jamming as well as normal circumstances.

Nebeker:

So you were in a sense the liaison between that group as well?

Tape:

A liaison on that. That didn't last very long because I was then shipped overseas. Overseas RRL had a field operation in the same town where we had our field operation. We stayed in the same hotel. We ate in the same places. Talked to each other. [Chuckling] There were mutual problems. So again, you find that operational problems require a relaxation of some security measures. If you could get information from somebody that'll help you with your problem, boy, you'd get it.

Nebeker:

Looking back on the whole experience you had, you had experience with the Navy and with the Army. Let me first ask that. Are there any general statements you can make about whether it was easier dealing with the Navy or the Army or vice versa?

Tape:

I did not deal directly with the Navy during my Rad Lab experience except in the one airborne application. What I mean, by dealing directly, I mean in ships. I think in those days it was fair to say the Navy was probably more technically receptive than the Army. The Army still dealt in rifles, artillery, tanks, trucks. The Air Force was generally technically interested. We had nothing to do with building the planes or flying the planes, but they were certainly interested in navigation and bombing. The name of the game was all-weather. That's where the radar helped them on their problems. There was a special arrangement with Navy Air. It goes back to this individual I've mentioned, Lloyd Berkner. When he had the aeronautics electronics responsibility, he was just plain gung-ho for advanced development, recognizing priorities and looking ahead. He was such an enthusiastic person. We all knew him. Another individual who was very much involved with the Navy program was Manny Piore. Piore was in the Navy — well, they were both in the Navy — and Piore after the war headed up the Office of Naval Research, which turned out to be a godsend for research at universities because they recognized the need for academic research inputs. More than anything else until Defense and AEC could get going, Manny Piore at ONR for three or four years made a difference.

Nebeker:

Yes. I knew they functioned as a sort of NSF for those years.

Brookhaven, AIU and AEC

Tape:

That's right. Before NSF came along. Later Piore became vice president for R&D for IBM. Berkner became heavily involved in international science activities and was president of Associated Universities, Inc. (AIU), where I was. AIU operates Brookhaven National Laboratory, and I was at Brookhaven as deputy director at the time. I'd known him during the war. He was instrumental in getting radio astronomy research built up in this country. He got the National Radio Astronomy Observatory organized. Again, I'm not telling you anything you don't know, a lot of what happens depends on the individuals. [Chuckling]

Nebeker:

Yes. How important was it, these contacts, these friendships, acquaintances you made at the Rad Lab?

Tape:

Oh, about 110 percent. [Chuckling] Lee Haworth left Illinois after a year or so. Radiation Lab and big science was in his blood. [Chuckling] When they asked him to come to Brookhaven, which is out on Long Island, he went as associate director, and within a year he was made director. About a year after that he asked me if I'd come as his deputy. [Chuckling] So that took me to Brookhaven.

Nebeker:

How long were you at Brookhaven?

Tape:

I went there in June 1950 and became deputy in '51. He and I thought a lot alike. You don't go there as deputy. You go there as assistant to the director, and you prove that you can be a deputy director. You get the job, but you don't get it right off the bat. So I served as his deputy. He was asked to go to Washington as a commissioner of the Atomic Energy Commission by President Kennedy in '61. I continued to serve as deputy for a while. Berkner had been president, and he left. The hope on the part of our board of trustees was that Haworth would come back and be president of the corporation in a few years. But Rabi, who was on our board of trustees and was serving as president — after about a year decided Haworth was hooked in Washington and probably wouldn't return. So I became president of AUI. I hadn't been president more than five months when Kennedy asked me to go to Washington to replace Haworth. Haworth went to direct the National Science Foundation, and I went to replace him on the Commission. Then in 1969 AUI asked if I would come back, and I did. In the meantime, Keith Glennan had been president of AUI and had moved the office to Washington. So it was convenient for me, and I stayed as president of AUI until 1980, when I retired, but I still work with them.

Nebeker:

You already mentioned that learning to work with the military during the Rad Lab years, the effect it had then and later. Were there benefits from the actual experience with radar devices and your research?

Tape:

In my case, yes. Again, it's, you might say, accidental. I mentioned that Berkner had been instrumental in getting the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) set up in this country. It was done as a contract between the National Science Foundation and AUI. Brookhaven is a user-facility-oriented institution. A large facility that's used by not only resident staff but by many people from industry and universities. NRAO was organized on the same pattern — a user facility with large instruments. Radio astronomy at NRAO utilizes mostly microwave frequencies. I could go to the observatory and be comfortable with them because I'm not scared of microwave instrumentation or experiments or theory. I'm not an expert, but I'm familiar with it. I think this is important for almost anyone who's in the management structure. You don't have to be able to design the black box and know every little detail of it. You certainly have to understand and appreciate what can and can't be done. So from the radio astronomy point of view that I was associated with, I was comfortable. There we have the antennas, we have the receivers, but we're not putting out pulses in our system. We're listening, looking, whatever you want to call it, at the radiation which is incoming from the universe, rather than doing radar astronomy, which is putting a pulse out and getting a reflection back. Again, on so-called indicators, indication today is completely different in all of this, where you get inputs and run them through computers and process them, and show the product in some other mode.

Nebeker:

Going to the other side of this, had you done a lot of electronics in your nuclear physics research before the war?

Tape:

No. My techniques in the days that I came up had more to do with cloud chamber developments, things of that order, and not electronics. I'm not an electronics expert by any means. On the other hand, again Radiation Lab work, you draw a box, and it's a black box, and you know it has a certain function, and you understand the inputs, the outputs, and something about them. I could never design a circuit that would do it, but I can understand. I think it's fair to say that in my particular case I left bench research rather early in life. Even at the Radiation Lab I was less in bench research. In the relay radar work I was a project engineer, but I wasn't designing the telecommunications link. I wasn't designing the receiver.

Communication and PR at Rad Lab

Nebeker:

I just have a couple of questions that I jotted down. You mentioned, early on, a volume you did at Rad Lab of these short descriptions of the different devices. Does a copy of that still exist?

Tape:

I have no idea. I would hope it might be in the archives some place. It was described a little bit in the five-year book.

Nebeker:

How much of an attempt was there in the short descriptions of devices to point out military uses, military advantages of a particular device?

Tape:

I'm hesitating because I think we were rational and didn't go overboard with a lot of hype. [Chuckling] In fact, those of us working on it were not media types — if you want to excuse me for saying so — but more interested in what the equipment would do, what kind of ranges, what kind of accuracy, what kind of resolution, what kind of information it could give you. In many ways it wasn't too difficult, because the difference between radar and no radar was quite significant. You take something like the Navy fighting nighttime battles, and seeing the other guy by watching the flash of the gun. Or you look on a radar scope, and there he is at that azimuth and that range. You tell them you have information at night and bad weather like they have off their fire-control sets in clear daylight and their eyes open.

Nebeker:

From what you've said, it sounds like the communications channels, both from military to Rad Lab and the other direction, worked fairly well.

Tape:

From where I sat, I thought they worked pretty well. This is nothing for your treatise, [Chuckling] but one time, anecdotally, communications didn't work. At one time I was working with a 3-centimeter air-to-surface radar, we were testing various components. Our British liaison office at the Lab was very much interested in it because they had 10-centimeter gear that they were using, but the 3-centimeter gave much better resolution. They were trying to get their British colleagues to move into the 3-centimeter arena. They came to me one day and said, "Do you think you could take your equipment to Washington, Anacostia? The science advisor to the British prime minister will be in Washington, and I would like to have him see that." "Tell me when." So he told me when, and we arranged it. It was a Navy airplane and a Navy pilot. The fellow who was my technician, who'd operated and run the system, flew down. I didn't go. They rendezvoused at Anacostia at the appointed hour.

The British Naval officer came out with the individual. We got on board and they flew around. Flew around Washington and over the bay. We had a device for taking pictures of the scope; they took some pictures. Later we gave them to the British to take back. About three days later, I got called in by the U.S. Navy liaison officer. "What do you mean taking a Navy plane down to Washington without telling me?" He said, "What happened was that there was a cocktail party, and this high British gentleman, Lord Cherwell, who was Professor Lindemann an eminent scientist, came up to one of the Navy high admirals and said, 'I saw your X-band radar, and it is beautiful. I think it's a great job.' 'What X-band radar?' the Admiral said. 'Where did you see this?' 'Well, out at Anacostia.' 'But we knew nothing about it.' 'Oh, it was fine. You had a Navy lieutenant there to meet me.'" Boom! The protocol just was ignored by us. [Chuckling] I had no thoughts, no concepts, no worry about protocol. You want to look at the equipment? Fine. We'll fix it up.

Nebeker:

Was that the only time that you had a major problem with protocol?

Tape:

I learned that if something like that happened again, I would let the U.S. Navy know and not just go ahead and do it.

Nebeker:

I see.

Tape:

So that's a piece of trivia. But these are the things that one remembers. [Chuckling]

Nebeker:

Well, this has been very informative. Thank you very much.

Tape:

They were generally relaxed, but if you've dealt with the military, you know that every once in a while the top man gets caught not knowing something that a foreigner knows, it's bad. [Laughter]