SP-4103 Model Research - Volume 1



New Genius, Old Bottle, 1945-1950


[225] The task of staking out for the NACA a defensible field of activity in the postwar world of American aeronautics fell largely to Jerome Hunsaker in his role as chairman of the Committee. The task of working that field fell largely to Hugh Dryden, who succeeded the failing George Lewis in 1947. Dryden's job fell into four major categories: first, to institute organizational and procedural reforms to adapt the agency more closely to his own style of management; second, to clear up unfinished business from World War II; third, to respond to industry demands, some of which he was independently in sympathy with; finally, to identify new areas of research into which the NACA could and should move. Some of these tasks were already under way when he arrived. Some he initiated. All came to bear the stamp of his administration.




Hugh Latimer Dryden wrote his first paper on aeronautics in 1910, when he was 12 years old and the airplane was not yet 7. In "The Advantages of an Airship over an Airplane," be argued that the former was better suited to commerce, the latter to sport, a conclusion that his teacher prophetically found "Illogical" though at the time it was a thoroughly sound judgment.1 He got an F on the paper, making all the rest of his 55 years a refutation of his maiden essay on aviation.

Dryden was nothing if not a fast learner. In fact, he was something of a prodigy. He completed high school in Baltimore at the age of 14, then went directly to Johns Hopkins, where he had already been taking courses. He took his baccalaureate in three years, his master's in two more. His master's thesis on "Airplanes: An Introduction to Physical Principles Embodied in Their Use," placed him among only a handful in the United States to be formally educated in this new field; most of the others had studied at MIT with Jerome Hunsaker.2

[226] One of Dryden's instructors at Hopkins, physics professor Joseph S. Ames, recommended the newly fledged physicist to the National Bureau of Standards as "the brightest young man he had ever had, without exception."3 At the Bureau, Dryden was tutored by Ames and allowed to conduct experiments in the wind tunnel on his own time, completing the requirement for the Ph.D. in less than a year while holding down a fulltime job. In 1919 he took his doctorate in physics and mathematics at the age of 20, the youngest doctor ever at Johns Hopkins. His dissertation on "Air Forces on Circular Cylinders" stimulated sophisticated research in the field for more than a decade.

Dryden's career at the National Bureau of Standards spanned almost 30 years, during which he specialized in research on wind-tunnel turbulence and boundary layer, contributed to other fields of research, worked closely with the NACA, and published often in NACA reports.4 During World War II his career broadened dramatically and drew him into an ever widening range of; activities. He served on the National Defense Research Committee, and personally administered a guided-missile development program in cooperation with the navy. He was deputy to von Karman in the Scientific Advisory Group's mission to Europe and became a charter member of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. In 1944 Dryden was elected to the National Academy of Sciences, where he would later head the engineering section and serve as home secretary for the last decade of his life. At the National Bureau of Standards he became assistant director in January 1946 and associate director a few months later.

His record - coupled with his years of service to the NACA, where he was vice chairman of the prestigious Aerodynamics Committee at war's end, and would soon become chairman of its subcommittee on high-speed aerodynamics - made him a natural choice to succeed George Lewis. He was in fact Lewis' choice, quickly endorsed by Hunsaker and the rest of the Main Committee. The director of the National Bureau of Standards, an ex-officio member of the NACA, reluctantly let him go.5

By prearrangement, Lewis stayed on as consultant to the Committee, and the research staff at headquarters was enlarged slightly to provide expert technical advice for the new director of aeronautical research. By design or happenstance, Dryden brought no close associates with him to the NACA and thus assumed his new position surrounded by a predecessor and staff schooled in the old ways. Nevertheless, Dryden soon made it clear that his mousy appearance and mild manner camouflaged a firm will and a determination to run things his way. After less than two months in office, he advised the Main Committee at its annual meeting in 1947 that he was planning "a better formulation of the Committee's research programs." That euphemism....



Showing the resolve with which he took over the directorship of the NACA, Hugh L. Dryden poses in front of the motor and fan powering Langley's 19-foot pressure tunnel. (LaRC)

Showing the resolve with which he took over the directorship of the NACA, Hugh L. Dryden poses in front of the motor and fan powering Langley's 19-foot pressure tunnel. (LaRC)


....was his way of announcing some sweeping revisions in the internal workings of the NACA.6

The revisions began with a formal delineation of Dryden's authority and responsibilities and his relationship to John Victory. The roles adopted by Lewis and Victory over the years were not entirely to Dryden's liking; he preferred an arrangement more in keeping with the one he had known at the National Bureau of Standards.

The change was precipitated by external events. Since 1944, when Lewis was overburdened with war work and his health was already failing, the rules of the NACA had provided, that Victory "upon authorization by the Chairman, may exercise functions required by law to be performed by a head of department or agency." Hunsaker described this revision of the rules to President Roosevelt as a "perfecting amendment" that did not "involve any substantive change in policy or procedure." It merely allowed Victory to sign on behalf of Hunsaker the reams of paperwork that nominally required approval by the head of the agency. Victory was the chief administrative officer and the logical one for this pro forma function.7

Outside the Committee, however, the amendment created confusion as to who headed the agency, the director of research or the secretary. An executive pay bill introduced in 1949 provided a pay increase for top civil-service executives. Though the NACA was at first not included in this bill, Hunsaker fought with the Bureau of the Budget and won the inclusion of one NACA position. That put a [228] premium on establishing officially who was head of the agency. Clearly it was Dryden, and just as clearly the NACA regulations needed amendment to settle the issue formally.

On 7 February 1949, Hunsaker submitted to President Truman a set of proposed amendments to the NACA Rules and Regulations. The changes in article 2 elevated Victory to the position of executive secretary and created a new post of associate director for research, to which John Crowley acceded after having served the interregnum between Lewis and Dryden. Most important, the new rules designated Dryden "director" instead of "director of research" and provided that he would "be the head of the agency in all matters except those which by law or regulation require action by the Chairman." This would end the division of labor worked out unofficially by Lewis and Victory, with the director of research managing the technical business of the agency and the secretary handling the administration. Now there would be a single head of the agency, with one technical and one administrative deputy.

This profoundly simple and momentous step became entangled and lost sight of, however, in the politics of the same executive pay act that had precipitated it. While the amendments to the NACA rules were pending, the possibility arose that the pay bill might be amended to include a second position for the NACA. Who, then, should get that raise - Victory, or John Crowley, the associate director of aeronautical research? To the NACA it was clear that, Victory was second in line, but the Division of Administrative Management at the Bureau of the Budget doubted whether an administrative officer with "no program responsibilities" should be assistant head, of a technical agency, With that observation the issue was joined, and the expansion of Dryden's role was upstaged by a dispute over the history and personality of John F. Victory.8

The management personnel at BoB looked on the amendment of the NACA regulations as a "subterfuge," "a device for obtaining a better pay rate for the Executive Secretary." When they questioned the logic of the arrangement, they were advised that Victory was a special case: his long and unique service had led the Committee to this organizational scheme; when he retired, the associate director of aeronautical research would become the assistant head of the agency and Victory would be replaced by an executive officer, "At bottom," concluded the management personnel, "the whole matter involves personal considerations."9

Not so, said Willis Shapley, of BoB's National Security Branch, the section that handled NACA appropriations. The proposed amendments reflected the NACA organization as it then existed: far from being a subterfuge to get the executive secretary a higher pay rate, it had the effect of preventing him from getting the director's raise, "on which he [229] had a reasonable claim" under the old regulations. Furthermore, said Shapley, it was not self-evident to him that an administrative man should not be assistant head of the agency. While he conceded that the NACA planned to replace Victory with a technical man when he retired, Shapley wondered about the advisability of giving over such an agency entirely to the scientists. He wrote to the assistant director of BoB:


A specialized scientific agency like the NACA requires somewhere in the top command someone whose qualifications extend beyond the scientific fields covered by the agency, and while some members of the main committee meet this need in part, I believe that it would be desirable if either the head or the assistant head of the agency be a nontechnical person. The Research and Development Board is learning the hard way that the management of a scientific research and development program does not require scientists, but administrators and it is well known that it is very rarely that one finds scientists who are also administrators. In my opinion the Bureau of the Budget would be making a serious mistake to base any action on the assumption that scientific agencies should in all cases be headed by scientists. Specifically, I think there is no merit in the argument that the assistant head of NACA should necessarily be a scientist.


Shapley stopped just short of saying that science is too important to be left to scientists, but his meaning was clear: Neither the NACA nor the BoB should lose sight of the need for sound management and administration in any government bureau, no matter how scientific its mission. For the time being, however, the NACA and Shapley saw eye to eye and the proposed amendments to the rules were approved.10

As often happened in the NACA's history, Victory's personality intruded on this business and obscured the truly significant issue - Dryden's elevation to director. Although that personality changed little in the 43 years of the NACA's history, it had undergone a shift in orientation that altered Victory's behavior just at the time of this flap with the BoB. In the 30 years up to the end of World War II, Victory had both grown and swelled in office. The Committee's reputation for efficiency and economy owed much to his fastidious administration, and his expertise in the ways of Washington was admired by even his critics. Unfortunately, he was always officious and priggish, and in his later years he grew downright pompous and oracular. With the war won and George Lewis gone, Victory, came to view himself as something of a dean to the American aeronautical community, by longevity and association if not by importance. Though obsequious still to members of the Main Committee and others whom he considered touched by greatness, he would pontificate to lesser mortals on any occasion [230] and virtually any topic. Like the Committee he served and molded in so many ways, Victory seems to have spent, too much time reading his bouquet file, and he became imbued with a sense of self-importance and historicity out of proportion to his real but finite achievements. He took to the lecture circuit after the war, billed more than once as "Mr. Aviation," armed with anecdotes and sermons about the contributions of the NACA and the transcendent importance of aviation. In 1949 he took leave from his Committee duties to write a history of aviation, which he never finished. In the 1950s he began a history of the NACA, which he carried into retirement and left undone at his death. In short, he yielded to his less becoming traits and neglected the habits of a lifetime that had indelibly marked the style and reputation of the Committee. The NACA genuinely appreciated his long and valuable service, and his job was secure for as long as he wanted it. But to some at BoB and elsewhere, it was not clear that his worth was any longer increasing with the years.11

After 1949, however, Dryden was in name and in fact the director of the NACA,12 working comfortably with Jerome Hunsaker, who seemed happy to hand over some of his wartime responsibilities to this trusted colleague. Though Hunsaker was nominally an engineer running an engineering department in an engineering school, he, was a scientist at heart, having more in common with Dryden than he ever had with Lewis.13 Dryden and Hunsaker held earned doctorates; shared membership in the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, the American Physical Society, and other professional organizations; published in scholarly journals; and viewed the NACA with a detachment and perspective that Lewis perforce could not attain. Perhaps more than anything, they wanted to see the NACA more open and participatory than it had been under the Lewis regime.

One way to achieve this was to revitalize the technical committees, a change in operating procedure almost on a par with Dryden's elevation to director. During and immediately after World War II, there was grumbling and confusion both within the NACA staff and among the committee membership about the proper role of the technical committees. Though there were opinions to the contrary, most critics felt the technical committees were passive or ineffective, rubber-stamping the recommendations served up to them by the NACA staff and providing free information to members who contributed nothing. Lewis had authorized the replacement of deadwood but failed to clarify or expand the role of the committees, perhaps because of the press of war business followed quickly by his own physical collapse, perhaps because he really did not want the committees to grow too powerful and thus cut into his own considerable autonomy.14



John F. Victory, first employee of the NACA and ultimately its executive secretary. (LaRC)

John F. Victory, first employee of the NACA and ultimately its executive secretary. (LaRC)


The sad state of affairs was revealed in one particularly damning memo of late 1946, in which one of the headquarters staff asserted that technical-committee members were woefully ignorant of even the basic information necessary to discharge their duties. Upon their appointment, new members were given only a certificate of membership, a one paragraph statement of the committee's function, a list of the members, an oath of office, and information on the Espionage Act, the safeguarding of confidential information, and government travel regulations. Tellingly the staff member noted that


the new subcommittee member receives no information regarding the membership or functions of the parent committee to which his subcommittee reports, or any inkling of the nature of other NACA committees. And if it were not for the fortunate circumstance that the membership of the main Committee appears at the top of the NACA letterhead, he would not even be advised of that important information.


The staff member recommended that in the future technical-committee members be briefed on NACA history, policy, research organization, [232] committee structure, research policy and programs, and facilities; that the committees meet regularly at the various laboratories and become acquainted with the research staff; and that they attend the regular laboratory inspections.15

Some in the NACA felt that the technical committees already played too large a role, and Lewis seems to have been one of them. In any event, nothing was done about the recommended reform of committee procedures until Dryden took over. Then a thorough analysis led to publication on 1 January 1950 of anew directive on "Functions and Responsibilities of Standing Committees and Subcommittees of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics," a document containing many of the reforms suggested to Lewis in 1946.16 This was the first written formulation of how the NACA research program should work, from policy-setting by the Main Committee, through management by the director and his staff, to actual research in the laboratory. Much of the directive formalized what had been done for years, but it placed a new emphasis on the role to be played by the standing committees. Specifically, they were responsible for the following:


1. Review research in progress by the NACA and by other agencies.
2. Recommend problems that should be investigated by the NACA or by other agencies.
3. Assist in the formulation and coordination of programs for research by the NACA and by other agencies.
4. Serve as a medium for the interchange of information regarding investigations and developments in progress or proposed.


Of course no published policy could by itself change the comfortable habits established over the years. Almost two years after the new policy took effect, one subcommittee member complained to the NACA that his group was "far from being an effective body." It spent "too much time....talking about what has happened in the past," he said, "and too little....discussing what should be done in the future." He felt that "the Subcommittee follows meekly, and does not lead boldly."17 This may have been what Lewis had wanted in his day, but it was not what Dryden and Hunsaker wanted. In the years following publication of the new policy, they built up the technical committees of the NACA so that in the 1950s, at least, these bodies were more active, aggressive, and informed than their prewar predecessors had been.18

Revival of the annual industry conferences after World War II posed a similar problem, one in which George Lewis was more amenable to change. In the 1940s and 1950s, there were several laboratories to visit, literally hundreds of specialists from industry, academia, and [233] government to accommodate, and a NACA research program to explain that simply could not be summarized in any digestible way. "It is not like the old days when we could have alt the group down' in one day," lamented George Lewis in 1947,19 yet something like the old conferences seemed a useful, even indispensable, part of the NACA tradition.

The solution was to have a series of rotating inspections at the various laboratories, modeled upon the military inspection routine adopted just before World War II but retaining the old NACA tradition of carefully orchestrated and exhaustively rehearsed presentations by the working engineers. The Langley and Ames laboratories alternated as conference hosts every other year. An inspection was held every 7 year at the Cleveland installation which became the Flight Propulsion Research Laboratory in 1947 and the Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory in 1948, when the former director of aeronautical research died.

The undisguised purpose of these conferences was, as it always had been to some extent, public relations. Even' Dryden appreciated the importance of this function and took no steps to temper this "selling" of the NACA. As he wrote in a 1949 address,


the director of research has certain duties which are kin to those of the sales departments and public relations departments of commercial firms. The program and its results must be "sold" to many groups, the supplier of funds, the technical design group or other user group of the results of the research, often to the general public. This is true not only in the direction of industrial or applied research but also equally in the purest of pure sciences. The user group may be only the fellow members of a limited professional group and the scientist may be his own research director, but unless this group as well as the individual scientist is sold on the competence and merit of the work, support will suffer.20


So Dryden let Victory continue to have his Way with the inspections, turning them into glossy extravaganzas, hosting hundreds of guests at the laboratories over the course of several: days, and taking poetic license with technicalities of research in order to impress his guests with the complexity of the NACA task and the skill with which it was being accomplished.21

For his part Dryden supervised the numerous technical conferences held each year on specific topics with a limited number of informed guests. These smaller meetings took over the function of information exchange once performed by the prewar industry conference. Stressing content more than style, they were less spectacular but no less effective. One set of conferences was for substance, one for show. Both served the purposes of the Committee.




[234] Not all the Committee's business could await the arrival of Dryden and the subsequent reordering of the staff hierarchy. As World War II drew to a close, the NACA had been in military harness for more than half a decade. The transition to peacetime operations called for fundamental policy decisions by Lewis and John Crowley. Though Dryden would oversee (and in some instances modify) these decisions, he had always to cope with an inertia of several years' growth. Chief among these transitional issues were the return to fundamental research, the declassification of wartime reports, the reestablishment of the Committee's European Office, and the clarification of the postwar draft status of NACA personnel.

Far and away the most serious of these issues, at least to the leaders of the NACA, was the need to return to fundamental research. The most common complaint in the immediate postwar years arose from the lamentable shortage of fundamental data caused by the NACA's wartime preoccupation with cleanup and testing of military prototypes.22 Politics motivated this plea in part, for the NACA was anxious to reestablish its claim to virtually exclusive dominance in fundamental aeronautical research. In part the claim was justified by the legitimate requests from industry for answers to new and basic questions about high-speed flight. Still the call for fundamental research echoing from the NACA had about it the ring of dogmatism. For one thing, the term itself was a study in compromise, more suited to blurring boundaries between research functions than clarifying them. Nor was it entirely clear to everyone within the NACA that it was in the Committee's best interests to return to this role, even if it were possible.

First of all, much development work had to be done in NACA tunnels. As had always been the case, some NACA tunnels had unique capabilities unavailable elsewhere in the United States. When industry or the military services needed a 40- by 80-foot full-scale tunnel, the NACA had to accommodate the research, fundamental or not. Furthermore, the industry and the services had grown accustomed during the war to consulting the NACA on an unprecedented range of development problems from cleanup and testing to problem-solving and redesign; always more interested in getting the current prototype up to specifications than in solving problems of the future, they were reluctant to let the NACA abandon the development services they had come to rely on.

More serious still was whether the NACA staff was really qualified now to do the fundamental research that the Committee claimed as its territory. Edwin Hartman, the NACA's western coordination officer and himself an aeronautical engineer familiar with both the NACA and the....



Among the unique facilities of the NACA was Langley's free-flight wind tunnel. In this 1946 test of a fighter model with forward-swept wings, the <<pilot>> at lower left maneuvers the model while the tunnel operators keep watch at right. (LaRC)

Among the unique facilities of the NACA was Langley's free-flight wind tunnel. In this 1946 test of a fighter model with forward-swept wings, the "pilot" at lower left maneuvers the model while the tunnel operators keep watch at right. (LaRC)


...industry, had suggested in 1944 that after: the war the Committee should direct more of its attention to development: "the research for which in the past the Committee has received the most credit is of the development type," he wrote, citing the NACA cowling and the Committee's work on deicing as telling examples. The success of the cowling was undeniable. The deicing research, begun in 1928 at the request of the army and coming to fruition in World War II, was about to win the NACA's second Collier trophy, emphasizing the worth of Hartman's analysis. Lewis A. Rodert, first at, Langley and later at Ames and Cleveland, had led the NACA deicing research program through every conceivable avenue of attack on the problem, trying mechanical, chemical, and thermal methods of deicing, using flight tests and the specially developed ice-research tunnel at Cleveland, and studying the nature of ice build-up and decay, the aerodynamical and structural consequences of various deicing devices, and the practical application of thermal deicing through heat exchange with exhaust gases (the method finally settled upon in World War II and deem: d worthy of the Collier trophy). This was cut-and-try research, involving no fundamental scientific breakthrough or new theoretical understanding, but rather painstaking, methodical, careful research of the engineering sort. It was....



The critical need for icing research is revealed in those two photographs from the mid-1940s. Above, interior view of a B-17 windshield during flight in moderate ice conditions; the left windshield has a double-panel heated-air installation. The DC-3 pictured below had just landed at Seattle, Washington, at 3 in the afternoon. (ARC)

The critical need for icing research is revealed in those two photographs from the mid-1940s. Above, interior view of a B-17 windshield during flight in moderate ice conditions; the left windshield has a double-panel heated-air installation. The DC-3 pictured below had just landed at Seattle, Washington, at 3 in the afternoon. (ARC)


....fundamental in the sense that it applied to all flight, but otherwise it was engineering or development research.23

Hartman went beyond merely commending the Committee's development work, however; he asserted in writing that "no more than 20 percent of the Committee's present engineering staff is qualified or capable of performing fundamental research." This unfortunate situation resulted from two currents in the NACA's history, one recent and [237] one of long standing. The rapid expansion o f the NACA during World War II, the loss of some researchers to industry and the military services, and the shift in work from fundamental research to routine testing and problem solving on prototype military aircraft had diluted the prewar staff with a large number of engineers and technicians who did not meet the Committee's earlier standards for researchers. Many of those people were now ensconced in the civil service and unwilling to relinquish their secure if unpromising positions on the NACA ladder. As a percentage of its total workforce, the Committee simply had less talent and research potential than it had before the war.24

But Hartman's letter raised another issue, one that had been lurking below the surface since Max Munk was forced out in 1926. If the NACA was doing basic or fundamental research - " scientific study of the problems of flight" - where were the scientists, where were the people to distinguish NACA research from what the Committee called the "engineering research" conducted by the armed forces? Men like Theodore Theodorsen at LMAL surely qualified as practicing scientists in both their scholarly credentials and the nature of their work, but the NACA had only a handful of them, and even these were careful to keep their work rather close to applied science. The NACA could rightly claim that the proper place for aeronautical theory was in the universities, on which they drew consistently over the years; but, just as there was no clear dividing line between fundamental research and development, so was there no clear dividing line between fundamental research and theory. Hartman's recommendation that the NACA continue to devote a large part of its work to development spotlighted not only the wartime dilution of the staff but also a continuing weakness on the theoretical end of the research spectrum.25

This issue was raised the following summer by a disgruntled LMAL employee who appeared unannounced one day at the Bureau of the Budget with a list of grievances about the operation of the Langley laboratory. The man claimed that the NACA did not get the best scientists available, leaving the LMAL to be "run by men who are not themselves research scientists and who do not have sufficient scientific background or initiative to make the fullest use of the ability of scientists in subordinate positions." The source of this problem was the NACA system of recruiting young engineers fresh out of college and training them up to the NACA way. In promoting these men, length of service was valued "out of all proportion to scientific ability," and Dr. Lewis was reported to have "placed loyalty to the NACA ahead of anything else in evaluating the members of his staff." The critic complained that staffers of scientific bent were denied attendance at meetings and visits to other establishments (a common complaint among scientists with restricted budgets), depriving them of contact with their....



During a visit to the Langley laboratory in 1951, NACA Director Hugh L. Dryden explained the difference between basic and applied research, omitting the concept of <<fundamental>> research the NACA often claimed for itself. (LaRC)

During a visit to the Langley laboratory in 1951, NACA Director Hugh L. Dryden explained the difference between basic and applied research, omitting the concept of "fundamental" research the NACA often claimed for itself. (LaRC)


....peers outside the Committee, and that "some sort of formalized appeals procedure" was needed at Langley if the competent scientists there were to be heard through the layers of engineering bureaucracy that separated them from top NACA management.26

While the complaints of disgruntled employees cannot be taken as the measure of an institution, this man's observations warrant consideration. They corresponded to Hartman's, had the ring of truth, and touched a resonant chord at the Bureau of, the Budget. Willis Shapley, to whom the man told his tale, reported that his "description of the situation at Langley Field corresponds very closely to the account" he and other members of the BoB staff had heard the previous fall from another source. Whether or not this perception of the NACA was accurate, it was shared by some within the NACA staff, and more importantly by some outsiders close to Committee affairs and influential in determining the Committee's fate.

For more than one reason, then, the NACA did not return after World War II to the concentration on fundamental research it had enjoyed before the war. Pressures from industry and the military as well as the strengths and weaknesses of its own staff ensured that the NACA would actually engage in both fundamental and development research. Of course it claimed only fundamental research, but it would [239] readily concede when pressed that some of its work was developmental and that there was no really clear dividing line between the two. To cover such a broad front, it of course needed more money, and this meant that throughout the late 1940s the NACA asked for ever-increasing appropriations. The justification always stressed national security and the pressing needs of the military both for fundamental data on high speed flight and for problem-solving on the new generation of jet propelled aircraft then in the making. Though the NACA had fallen foul of the BoB in 1944, when it badly overestimated its requirements, it recovered quickly in the postwar years, regaining its high esteem at the Bureau and winning generally strong support there. Congress, too, after the initial demobilization cutbacks, gave the Committee most of what it requested through the 1940s, a tacit endorsement of the NACA's role and performance.27

The means and the mandate to conduct fundamental research were merely the first among the postwar transition: issues facing the NACA. Equally pressing was the need to declassify the results of its wartime research. Because some of its prewar work was on military projects or industrial developments with proprietary restrictions, the NACA had some limited experience with classifying and later declassifying its research results, but nothing on the scale of what it faced in 1945. Virtually all its work in World War II was for the military; virtually all of it was classified. The NACA was anxious to have its wartime achievements more widely known and the industry was anxious to learn what the NACA had accomplished on projects that only the participating firms were privy to. Furthermore, a presidential order had mandated a governmentwide program of declassification, and some critics suspected that the NACA was dragging its feet. For all these reasons the Committee was eager to publish any wartime reports freed from national-security or proprietary restrictions.28

The Committee reviewed its wartime reports, selected those that could be declassified and were still important', and published them in a new series called Wartime Reports developed for just this purpose. Between 1946 and 1948, the NACA published more than 1200 of the more than 3000 reports it had generated during the war. And in place of the numerous wartime categories of classified reports, the NACA instituted in 1946 the Research Memorandum, a less formal report than either the Technical Report or the Technical Note. This new series, intended for limited distribution, provided a medium for publication of classified material and also served as an advanced research report on preliminary results for industry and the services.29

Even this series, however, did not resolve all the problems of classification in the postwar world. With so much of the NACA program still directed toward military applications, many results could not.....



The cost of research increased dramatically in the postwar years. The electrical analog device shown at top was needed to simulate the heat generated at high speeds by air friction on aircraft. Though primitive by comparison with modern computers, the device nonetheless added to research costs. (ARC) just three years after that photograph was taken, the new control room shown below was opened in the Lewis laboratory's engine-research building. (LeRC)

The cost of research increased dramatically in the postwar years. The electrical analog device shown at top was needed to simulate the heat generated at high speeds by air friction on aircraft. Though primitive by comparison with modern computers, the device nonetheless added to research costs. (ARC) just three years after that photograph was taken, the new control room shown below was opened in the Lewis laboratory's engine-research building. (LeRC)


[241] ....be published. The NACA always deferred to the military on what reports to classify and for how long. More complicated was the question of what to do with discoveries that might have military applications as yet undetermined. Here the NACA sacrificed on the altar of national security the personal advantages its staff members might have gained from early publication of their research results. The NACA's errors were always on the side of overclassifying.30

A third problem of postwar transition' requiring action by the NACA came to the attention of the Main Committee when Hunsaker returned from a trip to England in the summer of 1946. He reported wasteful duplication in London by competing American agencies gathering aeronautical information and intelligence. The Main Committee agreed with him that the NACA should resolve this problem by reestablishing its European office, which might in time perform the functions of all the various attachés and representatives then in London. John Jay Ide, who had been called from the naval reserve to active duty after the closing of the NACA Paris office, in 1940, was just then leaving active duty, having spent the war years working on aeronautical intelligence in London. He was the natural choice to fill the post and was soon formally proposed by the NACA to the U.S. ambassador in London. Ide insisted on being attached to the embassy staff, for this connection greatly facilitated housing and other living arrangements in overcrowded London, and in any event Ide had always wanted embassy status to ease his travels and visits about Europe. London was the logical place for him to locate, for he had served there during the war and cooperation was stronger and more consistent with England than with any other country. The American ambassador in London, however, vetoed the Ide appointment because his staff was already overlarge and not the least of the glut was in aviation experts. Though the State Department favored the NACA plan, it refused to overrule the ambassador.31

In 1949 the Committee decided to reestablish the Paris office on its own hook much as it had been before the war. The Committee's new nemesis, however, thwarted the plan. Congressman Albert Thomas, now chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, decided that the Paris office would be an unwarranted duplication of the work already being done by military attachés. He refused to fund the item in the Committee's budget for 1951 and in conference he won the Senate to his position. The 1951 NACA appropriation bill specified that "no part of this appropriation shall be available for the operation of a field office outside the continental or territorial limits of the United States." The NACA considered trying to overturn this ruling, but soon thought better of it. In 1952 Ide received from the Committee its distinguished [242] service medal and passed from the NACA's' history like the Paris office, one more cherished hallmark of the Committee's golden days.32

The final postwar conversion problem to face the NACA was the draft status of its personnel. During the war Victory had negotiated a series of agreements with the military and the Selective Service to keep critical NACA personnel on the job. With the termination of the war, these agreements expired and many on the staff became subject to the draft. Again it was Victory who took the lead in working out a new set of compromises 33 that got the Committee by the immediate postwar crunch with little trouble. The greater significance of the draft question, however, was its relationship to the u coming battle over recruitment, retention, and pay of qualified NACA employees. In this area Victory was to make perhaps his greatest contribution, both to the NACA and to the country at large. This is properly a story of the 1950s and will therefore be treated at length in chapter 11. But it should be kept in mind that the postwar crisis over draft eligibility links Victory's later work on retention of qualified civil servants with his wartime struggles for draft exemption, where the foundation for the entire policy was laid.




The third great task facing Dryden when he joined the NACA - after restructuring the agency and completing wartime work - was to meet the demands of industry. As before, some of the responses here were already under way when he took over. During World War II and immediately thereafter, the industry had won representation on the Main Committee and increased representation on the technical committees and subcommittees. These seats, coupled with the role of the Industry Consulting Committee, gave industry a forum to voice its demands. Most important, the increased role in the technical committees gave industry a major influence on the pace and direction of the NACA research program. Partly this was a reflection of the shakeup in committee memberships begun by Lewis during and immediately after the war. Partly it was a reflection of Dryden's conviction that the technical committees should play a stronger role in policy formulation. For the rest of NACA's years, the technical committees were more aggressive and influential than ever; as industry grew after the war to hold up to 50 percent of the seats on these: committees, it came to have the strongest single bloc voice in how that influence should be exerted.34

Industry's other principal demand after World War II was for better dissemination of NACA research results, getting more information out sooner to a wider audience. Really this lay behind industry [243] demands for greater "representation" on the technical committees, because there was no better way to get the ',latest NACA information than to be on the committee overseeing the NACA program. On this issue, however, the NACA held firm under both Lewis and Dryden. Membership on NACA technical committees was an individual's service to the country, not an NACA service to industry. It was a means whereby the NACA could get the best technical advice available, not a mechanism whereby the industry could stay apprised of technical developments in the NACA and elsewhere. Though the NACA did distribute its memberships as equitably as its own needs for expertise and talent would allow, it never satisfied industry demands for information. So the Committee was forced to disseminate information to industry through other channels.

One channel existed before Dryden joined the Committee. In 1946 Lewis had created a Division of Research Information at NACA headquarters, prompted by "the greater productive capacity of the laboratories, combined with the greater need for the quick application of research findings by the military services and the aircraft industry as a result of the rapid changes taking place in the science of aeronautics." Each of the three subordinate offices in this new division was intended to solve one phase of the problem.35

The Office of Aeronautical Intelligence was to continue, and speed up if possible, the function for which it had been created in 1918: serving as a central clearinghouse of aeronautical information, gathering documents not only from within the NACA but also from government and private, military and civilian, academic and industrial laboratories all over the world. Of course, things had changed since the 1930s. Aeronautics had become far more complex, more people were at work in the field, the European office was no more, and much of the best new work was classified. Aeronautical Intelligence could never stay abreast of all the latest developments as it had before the war; but, within the limits imposed by this increased complexity, the office tried to collect and disseminate the most important information.36

The Office of Publications consisted of the old editorial staff, one of the more controversial groups at headquarters. NACA reports were accorded almost biblical credence by aeronautical engineers around the world, a source of great pride to Lewis and the entire NACA staff. Behind this accomplishment lay an exhaustive and exhausting editing process, involving layers of review and revision at the laboratory and at headquarters before any NACA report saw the light of day. Reliability crowned this process; undue caution and delay were its hazards. The philosophy at work was the engineer's, one greatly at odds with the scientist's that Hugh Dryden brought to the NACA in 1947. The engineer wants a solid, dependable, careful report that will last through [244] time. The scientist wants his latest results in print as soon as possible, believing that the free exchange of ideas, even the disproving of one idea by another, will advance the state of knowledge. This Year's report may be outdated or even proven wrong by next year's, but if it advances knowledge it will serve its purpose. Of course, the engineer wants to get into print as soon as possible to establish the priority of his work, and the scientist wants his research to be as sound and verifiable as possible, but there is nonetheless a real and distinguishable difference in their attitude toward publication.

When Lewis created the Office of Publications in 1946, he clearly meant to expedite the editing and publication of NACA reports, but not at the expense of reliability. In part he was institutionalizing expedients that had arisen during the war when duplication and distribution of Technical Notes and the various wartime reports were taken over by the Langley laboratory. No Technical Reports were published during the war, and after the war the Technical Reports series in the NACA Annual Report became a mere compendium of the best and most significant Technical Notes, republished in a more permanent and more widely distributed form. Dryden continued and streamlined this procedure, letting the laboratories establish their own review and editing criteria. The result was a more scientific: publishing policy that still retained the caution and much of the reliability of an engineering report.37

The Office of Research Analysis was an entirely new creation in 1946, addressed to a problem that had floated about the NACA for years: criticism of the NACA for incomplete analysis of the data generated in its laboratories. Ed Warner, especially, was relentless in his complaint that the NACA was missing the implications of its research, failing to tell the design engineer what the data meant and how it might be interpreted. During World War II this criticism grew louder. The staff excused itself by pleading the press of war business. This could not explain away the shortcomings in earlier years, when a certain lack of daring seemed to be at work, and it left the Committee open to the demand that it improve when the war was over. To this task was the Office of Research Analysis devoted, giving the NACA for the first time a mechanism for examining the purport of NACA research, and other aeronautical research as well, and for extrapolating a program for future investigation. 38

The division of research information did not, however, satisfy the industry demand for more and faster information. The industry insisted that the NACA also publish a list of all its current projects so that everyone could know what the NACA Was working on, when new results might be available, and what direction the NACA program was taking. The NACA resisted this request for more than four years, [245] hoping perhaps that the division of research information would obviate the need for such a list. Dryden took up the resistance where Lewis had left off, telling industry representatives that the NACA had hundreds of research projects under way at any one time,: none of which could be neatly summarized in a form that would be:, both informative and of reasonable length. Such a list would overburden the staff and cost more in time and money than it was worth.39


The NACA conducted so many different research projects at the same time that it was reluctant to provide industry with a complete inventory.

The NACA conducted so many different research projects at the same time that it was reluctant to provide industry with a complete inventory. The research pictured here - a 1949 study using balsa dust to reveal the airflow generated by a 1/15-scale model coaxial helicopter rotor - was not yet ready for release to industry. (LaRC)


But industry was not to be denied, and the NACA finally compromised. It agreed to publish an annual listing of its research projects, with no description beyond the project titles. The Committee published these lists for the remainder of its history and, though the staff remained disgruntled, the industry received the report with enthusiasm and real interest.40

One suspects there was more here than merely staying abreast of NACA work. A minor source of controversy for years was the issue of negative results. If the NACA ran a series of tests on a new idea or device and found it wanting, should it publish the results? This was largely a question of institutional self-confidence and security. If one is sure of his position and his worth, he won't hesitate to admit his mistakes, especially if he thinks those mistakes were reasonable guesses in a complex and confusing field, and if he thinks his errant pursuits might prevent others from walking the same dead-end path.

Lewis's record on this touchy issue is mixed. In 1934 he said that "in many respects it is desirable to include negative information which prevents others from investigating methods that have been found unsatisfactory," but in 1946 his newly created Office of Research Analysis [246] withheld "the most recent findings" from the gust tunnel because "the factual data are not too favorable for America's would-be high speed transports." Politics surely helped determine what the NACA did or did not publish, and surely the NACA was more sensitive than most agencies about advertising its shortcomings to Congress. Even the cool and scientific Jerome Hunsaker became uncharacteristically testy on this point when he was prodded by the Mead committee in 1946. "You wouldn't expect us to publish a discussion of a dead cat," he stated rhetorically. As a matter of fact, many in the industry would probably have wanted to know what the cat died of.41

The publication of negative results remained a problem for the Committee. In 1950, for example, headquarters advised the Ames laboratory that "the brief reporting of unsuccessful attempts is considered of some value in itself in informing and warning the readers," but went on to suggest that the treatment of an unsuccessful research strategy in a proposed technical note was "overly detailed and detracted from the presentation of the more successful method."42 No industry action could keep this sort of thing from going on within the NACA, but the annual list of projects would at least tell the industry whether the NACA had buried a whole research project.

The list of projects also helped to substitute for the loss of the old industry conferences. Industry representatives knew it was no longer possible to be briefed on all the NACA projects in a single day at Langley, or even in a single visit to all the laboratories, and they welcomed the specific conferences on isolated topics that provided the detailed exchange of information they used to get at Langley. The list of projects filled the gap between the specialized meetings and the new "inspections" and showed where the specific topics fit into the overall NACA research program.

Another change in policy brought about by the passing of George Lewis was the slackening of restrictions on publication of NACA research methods. From the time of the variable-density wind tunnel, the development of innovative research techniques and equipment had been one of the NACA's greatest achievements, but Lewis seldom allowed this information to be published lest the NACA's competitors learn how to duplicate its results. Though this barrier began to fall as soon as John Crowley became acting director of aeronautical research, the habit of secrecy about research techniques and equipment was so deeply ingrained that it was years before such publications began issuing from the laboratories.43

The postwar years also brought some lesser responses to industry suggestions or demands. The NACA engaged in more contracting with universities, in part to blunt past criticism that it was "standoffish" to academics and in part because such contracts really benefited everyone [247] concerned. They lessened the research load on NACA tunnels, lent support to independent laboratories, kept the NACA in touch with some of the best theoretical minds in aeronautics and with the latest research, and helped to train the new engineers needed in growing numbers by both the NACA and industry. And the NACA established a new policy on proprietary information, granting greater safeguards to industry.44




The fourth major problem confronting Hugh Dryden when he took over the NACA in 1947 was choosing new fields of research for the Committee. Many new projects emerged in these years, from aircraft fire prevention to the aerodynamics of internal flow (the airflow within the ducts and turbines needed to support jet propulsion). But three areas overshadowed the others in urgency, importance, and glamor: high-speed flight, missiles and rockets, and nuclear power for aircraft propulsion. Through his technical-committee memberships during the war, Dryden had been instrumental in launching all three. After joining the NACA, he guided them through the politics that came to surround them, with fateful consequences for both himself and the NACA.

High-speed flight was the new area in which the NACA had the clearest mandate. In fact, in its original plans for a national supersonic research center, the NACA had hoped to have an exclusive role in this research. Though that was not to be, the NACA did not know it in 1945. What it did know was that until supersonic tunnels became available, other means would have to be found to conduct high-speed research. In his role as vice chairman of the Aerodynamics Committee and chairman of the High Speed Aerodynamics Committee, Dryden was deeply involved in the solution of this problem.45

The most obvious solution was the research aircraft program, a joint venture between the NACA, the military services, and industry to develop and fly supersonic aircraft. The story of this unprecedented cooperative program and the NACA role within it has been told in Richard Hallion's Supersonic Flight 46 and need not be repeated here. Three features of the program, however, deserve mention for their influence on NACA history.

First, the cooperation between the NACA, the services, and the industry exemplified the seamless web of coordination that had evolved during World War II into an indispensable ingredient of radical aircraft development. Military sponsorship was needed for money and raison d'être; the NACA was needed for fundamental concepts of design and instrumentation; and industry was needed for design, development, and production facilities. Additionally, each of the three partners had....



Fire prevention leads to the ultimate in destructive testing: an experimental fire-source inerting system prevents a fire, as this plane is crash-tested and the let engine torn from the left wing is sent tumbling through the fuel spray behind the aircraft. No fire resulted. (LeRC)

Fire prevention leads to the ultimate in destructive testing: an experimental fire-source inerting system prevents a fire, as this plane is crash-tested and the let engine torn from the left wing is sent tumbling through the fuel spray behind the aircraft. No fire resulted. (LeRC)


....talent and expertise in areas for which it was not formally responsible. Industry could speak to wing flutter theory just as readily as the military could address fabrication techniques, and the NACA had at least one resident expert on everything. So successful was this industry-military-NACA collaboration that it succeeded in "breaking the sound barrier" within 2.5 years of letting the first contract for a supersonic aircraft.

Second, the NACA won in this program a plum that it would lose in the struggle over a unitary wind-tunnel plan. Its proposal for a national supersonic research center had included an airfield for high-speed flight testing. When it lost the NSAC, it lost the field. But meanwhile the Committee had sent a small detachment of Langley engineers to Muroc Air Base in the desert of southern California, where the research aircraft were to be test-flown. Originally no more than a liaison detachment existing at the indulgence of the air force, this group expanded over the years to become the NACA Muroc Flight Test Unit in 1947, the NACA High-Speed flight Research Station in 1949 (still a satellite of LMAL), and finally the High Speed Flight Station (HSFS) in 1954, an autonomous NACA research organization ranking just below the three great NACA laboratories. Richard Hallion has told this story also in his On the Frontier: Flight Research at Dryden, 1946-1981.47

The third observation warranted by the research-aircraft story is that reality looked very different at the NACA laboratories and at headquarters. Relying largely on the recollections of the Langley staff, Hallion has described them as forcing the research aircraft program upon a conservative headquarters in something of a revolt of the engineers. At headquarters, it looked as if the Langley staff had to be restrained from pursuing reckless experiments that could destroy not only an expensive aircraft, but the entire NACA as well. In the event, the Langley crowd was right, but that does not automatically discredit the headquarters perspective. Stack and his colleagues had only to keep a small airplane aloft; Lewis and the headquarters staff had to sustain the entire NACA. The laboratory staffs were largely insulated from the Washington politics that made Lewis choose as he did, even while they were immersed in aeronautical data that made them choose as they did. All organizations with field units controlled by a headquarters know of the tensions between the branches: the field personnel, on the cutting edge of the agency's mission, resent direction from a headquarters less informed than they of the problems on the frontier and mired instead in a morass of seemingly senseless red tape, whereas the headquarters personnel think the field staffs cannot see the forest for the trees. These problems of empathy and communication are compounded in a research agency like the NACA, where the field work is esoteric and....



Isolated from Washington politics, John Stack poses in 1946 amid the models and research equipment that would help him win his first Collier trophy the following year.

The model in the background is the supersonic D-558, shown at right in cutaway to reveal the extensive NACA instrumentation used in 1947 at Muroc Air Base to test the plane's flight performance. (LaRC)

Isolated from Washington politics, John Stack poses in 1946 amid the models and research equipment that would help him win his first Collier trophy the following year. The model in the background is the supersonic D-558, shown at right in cutaway to reveal the extensive NACA instrumentation used in 1947 at Muroc Air Base to test the plane's flight performance. (LaRC)


....unpredictable and the headquarters is constantly on call to justify the agency's existence.

Langley staffers were fond of recalling how they triumphed over headquarters in the research-airplane program, and of lamenting less successful contests with the forces of bureaucracy. These conflicts were not, however, as clearcut as they thought; even now, establishing who was right is difficult. The research aircraft program was a success, but more clearly as a psychological breakthrough and a public-relations coup than as a research enterprise. Breaking the "sound barrier" brought the NACA another Collier trophy, popular and political support, and worldwide approbation within the aeronautical community. But Clarence L. "Kelly" Johnson, the design genius of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation, considered the whole enterprise merely an engaging stunt costing millions of dollars that could have been more profitably spent on other research projects. Even the defenders of the program are hard pressed to justify it in terms of cost effectiveness. Ironically, the technical staff at Langley congratulated itself for a success measured by the intangibles of publicity and prestige that the headquarters was berated for pursuing. This example points up the hazards of claiming credit or laying blame for the achievements and shortcomings of the NACA, and leaves unanswered and unanswerable the question whether the NACA's conservatism hastened its demise or prolonged its life.48

The research-aircraft program took on a life of its own and overshadowed its original purpose. At first it was just an expedient for conducting high-speed research. Other methods used by the NACA in the late 1940s, while less spectacular, produced equally useful data. Since the wind tunnel was at the heart of the NACA tradition, the [251] Committee devoted substantial amounts of money and manpower to improving wind tunnel design, especially in the anomalous transonic region just below and above the speed of sound where previous aerodynamic research proved inadequate. In a normal wind tunnel, proximity of the tunnel walls distorts the flow over the model from what it would be in the open, and this undesirable effect increases drastically at transonic speeds. The problem at these speeds was to devise a new kind of tunnel that would reduce this effect to acceptable limits. John Stack's group at Langley took the lead in this campaign, as it had in the research-aircraft program, with equally stunning results.


Bumps provide transonic flow before the transonic tunnel is developed; left, a stability model mounted on a bump in the Langley 7- by 10-foot tunnel in 1947. Right, a smaller model is mounted on the wing of a test aircraft. Both models experience transonic flow while the airstream is moving subsonically with respect to the tunnel or the test aircraft. (LaRC)

Bumps provide transonic flow before the transonic tunnel is developed; left, a stability model mounted on a bump in the Langley 7- by 10-foot tunnel in 1947. Right, a smaller model is mounted on the wing of a test aircraft. Both models experience transonic flow while the airstream is moving subsonically with respect to the tunnel or the test aircraft. (LaRC)


Another way to gather data in the transonic and supersonic regions, both in tunnels and in flight testing, Was to place small models on the upper edges of wings where the airflow could pass through and beyond transonic range even though the airfoil itself remained at subsonic speed relative to the air. The problem with this method was that, to fit within the high speed layer of air passing over the wing, the models had to be exceptionally small, thus yielding low Reynolds numbers and questionable results. Yet another method was to drop models from high altitude and let them fall to supersonic speeds. This technique was compromised by the difficulties of telemetering the measured data before the model crashed.49

This period also saw much low-speed, conventional testing of high-speed models and airfoils, for one major problem was how to design [252] supersonic aircraft that could also maintain stability and control at speeds low enough for safe and practical landing. Stability and control were in fact the main problems of high-speed flight,50 but they were now critical not only in the old regime but also in new areas where the rules were not the same.

The NACA's role in missile and rocket research was less clear. Here, Hunsaker took the initiative. In December 1944 he prepared a memorandum on guided missiles in which be stated outright that "the policy of the Committee is to include scientific and engineering research bearing on the design of guided missiles and their means of propulsion and control." 'When he presented this to the Main Committee, one of the military members wanted to know if "these new missiles [were] airplanes." Hunsaker had come armed with the official NACA definition of an aircraft as "an), weight-carrying device designed to be supported by the air either by buoyancy or by dynamic action," which he clearly felt encompassed missiles. Though Vannevar Bush recommended caution - "We cannot tell how far this thing will go," he said - Hunsaker quickly won agreement that "the NACA should have the same relation to guided missiles as it has to airplanes." The following month the Executive Committee authorized Hunsaker to appoint a special committee on self-propelled guided missiles with Hugh L. Dryden as chairman.51



The NACA did some missile research in its wind tunnels.

The NACA did some missile research in its wind tunnels. Here, a Northrup Snark missile stands ready for testing in the Ames full-scale wind tunnel. (ARC)


Soon, however, Bush's note of caution proved prophetic. Missiles and rockets were then (and for the foreseeable future) exclusively military devices; research on them needed coordination, especially between the navy and the air force, but not the kind of coordination the [253] NACA had done in the past in bringing together civilian and military interests, private and public sectors. All the necessary coordination could be done within the military establishment, and when its Research and Development Board came into existence' under the chairmanship of Vannevar Bush, it quickly established its own guided missiles committee. This rendered Dryden's committee redundant, and it was abolished in 1947. The NACA continued to do research in guided missiles and rockets, and members of its staff sat on the military committees coordinating these programs, but in this case the NACA played no central role.52


An aerial view of early facilities at the Pilotless Aircraft Research Station, Wallops Island, Virginia, in 1947.

An aerial view of early facilities at the Pilotless Aircraft Research Station, Wallops Island, Virginia, in 1947. The launch ramp in the foreground sent rockets out over the Atlantic Ocean, beyond the beach at the right of the photograph. (LaRC)


The NACA's research in missiles and rockets, especially before supersonic wind tunnels became available, called for flight I testing. None of the existing NACA laboratories was suitable for launching missiles, so the Committee acquired use of a small island, Wallops, on the Virginia coast north of LMAL. This installation began as the Pilotless Aircraft Research Division of Langley, run by a small contingent of Langley engineers, much as the High Speed Flight Station had begun. In time it grew into the semiautonomous Wallops Island Pilotless Aircraft Research Station, though while in NACA it never broke loose of Langley as the HSFS had.53

As the last new facility the NACA was to obtain, Wallops Island closed two chapters of the Committee's history. First, Wallops gave the [254] NACA the other ingredient of the National Supersonic Research Center that had been lost in the compromise unitary plan. The original NACA proposal had called for a missile-launch facility; with Wallops and Muroc and the tunnels built at the existing laboratories, the Committee got everything it wanted in its proposal - every thing, that is, except the new center and a monopoly on supersonic research. Second, in the decade from 1938 to 1948 four new research facilities had been created out of nuclei drawn from LMAL. Langley had served as the mother laboratory from which all others were born, a pattern that was to repeat itself, though not without exception, when the NACA became NASA.



The unitary plan supersonic wind tunnel at the Langley laboratory had two test sections; the exit passages Joined at this irregularly shaped section of the tunnel. Technicians in both passages are working on the guide vanes. (LaRC)

The unitary plan supersonic wind tunnel at the Langley laboratory had two test sections; the exit passages Joined at this irregularly shaped section of the tunnel. Technicians in both passages are working on the guide vanes. (LaRC)


The third great field of postwar research, nuclear propulsion for aircraft, was the one in which the Committee's role, and Dryden's in particular, would return to haunt them in', later years. At first, nuclear propulsion for aircraft seemed a natural pursuit for the NACA. When one of the navy members of the Main Committee asked the NACA to enter this field, the Committee agreed and turned to Edward U. Condon, then director of the Bureau of Standards, a veteran of the Manhattan Project, and an adviser still closely involved in atomic energy matters. Condon himself agreed with the sense of the NACA [255] that a special committee should be set up to guide this program. Before he could recommend this formally, however, General Curtis LeMay, deputy chief of the Air Staff for Research and Development, wrote him that the Army Air Forces already had this research area thoroughly in hand through its NEPA (Nuclear Energy for Propulsion of Aircraft) project, "the sole approved activity' to pursue research and development in this field." LeMay warned that "the establishment of a new and separate N.A.C.A. committee or group to pursue such work, would, in essence, duplicate to a large degree authority and responsibility already vested in the A.A.F. and, insofar as is presently understood, would be contrary to the desire of the Atomic Energy Commission."54

Condon, a maverick who would soon run afoul of the witch hunt in Washington that accompanied the "red scare" of the late 1940s and early 1950s, chose to ignore LeMay's warning and recommended that the NACA go ahead with plans to establish 4s own committee. The NACA, however, was far more politic. It withdrew instead into the subordinate role dictated by LeMay. Although it did important research in this area at the Cleveland laboratory, it conceded to the military, as it had done in missile and rocket research, the leading and coordinating role it had enjoyed in such fields before World War II.55

Of course, supersonic flight, missiles and rockets, and nuclear propulsion for aircraft were only the most dramatic of the new fields of research into which the NACA moved in the late 1940s, but the Committee's record in these areas reveals the general drift of events. The NACA was clearly losing ground in the jockeying for position behind the scenes, even though the public image was one of achievement and triumph. Within six years after the end of World War II, the Committee had gone a long way toward restoring its reputation and dimming the memories of how it had been bested by Germany during the war. In those six years it won three of the five Collier trophies that it was to receive in its entire history, and the achievements that won those awards reflect the transition the NACA was going through.

Lewis A. Rodert won the trophy in 1946 for his work on thermal ice prevention. Two decades of research lay behind his accomplishments - the old, plodding, unglamorous, cut-and-try engineering so greatly appreciated by industry and the services and so true to the notion of a practical solution to a problem of fight. The following year John Stack shared the trophy with industry and the air force for breaking the sound barrier. As previously noted, this achievement was more important psychologically than technically: the barrier existed only in the minds of skeptics who thought it could not be broken. Once it was broken, the NACA could bask in the glory of a feat that had more popular appeal than technical worth. The symbolic importance of the....




NACA veterans liked to claim that there was never a sound barrier. That view was not shared by staffers at the Ames laboratory who prepared this NACA exhibit for the Santa Clara County Fair in September 1947, just one month before the barrier was broken. (ARC)

NACA veterans liked to claim that there was never a sound barrier. That view was not shared by staffers at the Ames laboratory who prepared this NACA exhibit for the Santa Clara County Fair in September 1947, just one month before the barrier was broken. (ARC)


....Collier award for the NACA was that, by sharing the award with industry and the military as Dryden insisted, the NACA became publicly identified with the military-industrial teamwork that had dominated aircraft development in World War II.56

In 1951 John Stack shared the Collier: trophy again, this time with his associates at Langley, for developing a transonic wind tunnel in which wall effects had been reduced enough to yield reliable data in the most troublesome of speed ranges. Although other researchers had despaired of achieving valid wind-tunnel results in the transonic range, Stack and his colleagues had persevered to a success emulated and copied around the world. Once more it was fresh, brilliant, daring research that was winning public accolades for the Committee in contrast to the more mundane achievements of icing research, even though the latter might benefit a larger group and be more widely appreciated by knowledgeable people.

The NACA could and did exploit all these achievements to win continued support from the Bureau of the Budget, the Congress, and the general public.57 Breaking the sound barrier was especially important, for it captured the imagination of those who knew little of the....




Left, a worker examines a model in the test section of Langley's 16-foot high-speed wind tunnel in 1951, shortly after the tunnel was repowered and equipped with the new slotted throat that reduced wall effects and permitted accurate testing in the anomalous transonic region around mach 1. Right, two workers survey the return passage of the same tunnel; the diameter here is 58 feet. (LaRC)

Left, a worker examines a model in the test section of Langley's 16-foot high-speed wind tunnel in 1951, shortly after the tunnel was repowered and equipped with the new slotted throat that reduced wall effects and permitted accurate testing in the anomalous transonic region around mach 1. Right, two workers survey the return passage of the same tunnel; the diameter here is 58 feet. (LaRC)


John Victory (left) and Hugh Dryden (left, center) display some concern about the prospects of John Stack's (right, center) lasting out the evening of celebration in Hampton's Chamberlin Hotel, marking the award of Stack's second Collier trophy. The ever steady Henry Reid stands beside Stack. (LaRC)

John Victory (left) and Hugh Dryden (left, center) display some concern about the prospects of John Stack's (right, center) lasting out the evening of celebration in Hampton's Chamberlin Hotel, marking the award of Stack's second Collier trophy. The ever steady Henry Reid stands beside Stack. (LaRC)


[258] ....technicalities of flight but could understand what it meant to fly faster than your voice and leave a sonic boom in your wake. But, to those who had a glimpse behind the scenes where the NACA was suffering from both internal dissent and unprecedented criticism from the industry and the military, the future looked less rosy. The new position into which the NACA was being forced in the late 1940s was neither as powerful nor as comfortable as that of the prewar years. On the NACA budget officer's copy of the "Estimates of Appropriations, Fiscal Year 1950," someone had penciled "'wither are we going'." 58


378-384] Notes


1. Richard K. Smith, compared, The Hugh L. Dryden Papers, 1898-1965: A Preliminary Catalogue of the Basic Collection (Baltimore: Milton S. Eisenhower Library, Johns Hopkins University, 1974), pp. 19-20, 38.

2. Biographical information is drawn from Smith, Dryden Papers, pp. 19-33, and Jerome C. Hunsaker and Robert C. Seamans, Jr., Hugh Latimer Dryden, 1898 1965: A Biographical Memoir (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969), reprinted from National Academy of Sciences, Biographical Memoirs, vol. 40.

3. This quotation appears in Smith, Dryden Papers, p. 20, without provenance.

4. In the 1920s and 1930s Dryden was author or coauthor of 14 NACA technical reports, the most formal and most prestigious of the NACA report series. See NACA, Index of NACA Technical Publications, 1915-1949 (Washington: NACA, 1949), pp. 5, 8, 10, 17, 20, 66, 218, 553, and 566.

5. Johns Hopkins University, Milton Eisenhower Library, Hugh L. Dryden papers, subject files, box 3, 1947, June July August. Correspondence re Hugh L. Dryden's Appointment as Director of NACA, esp. Hunsaker to Dryden, 30 June 1946.

6. Dryden, "Report of Director of Aeronautical Research Submitted to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics at its Annual Meeting, October 23, 1947, 11 attached to minutes of the meeting.

7. See appendix A. In 1945 Hunsaker went a step further and gave Victory a blanket authorization to act as head of the agency. He wrote: "As Executive Secretary of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, you are authorized and directed, under provision of Article 11 Section IV of the Rules and Regulations for the Conduct of the Work of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, with amendments approved by the President to October 23, 1944, to exercise the functions required by law to be performed by a head of department or agency. "There was some question as to whether or not this was legal, let alone advisable; see W.M. Shea, draft memo for [E.H.] Chamberlain," Heads of Departments Delegation of Authority, undated. Shea apparently worked in the Office of the Comptroller General, where Victory had sent a copy of Hunsaker's letter on 14 Nov. 1945.

8. Hunsaker night letter to James E. Webb, director of BoB, 13 Dec. 1948, in 62 A 35 (41), 010 legislation general 1942-1948; Victory to distribution, 19 May 1949, in 65 A 953 (2), interoffice memos, 1950; appendix A; Hunsaker to Elmer B. Staats, 21 Feb. 1949. The quote is from C.B. Stauffacher (Arnold Miles, Irving Lewis) to Staats, "Amendments to NACA Regulations," 5 Apr. 1949, which actually says "new program responsibilities," clearly a slip of the pen in light of the context.

9. Stauffacher to Staats, "Amendments to NACA Regulations," and I.J. Lewis to Arnold Miles, "Proposed Amendments to NACA Regulations," 21 Feb. 1949. This latter memo argued that the NACA proposal "would not provide for an integrated organization," a continuing criticism in some quarters at BoB.

10. National Security Branch (W.H. Shapley) to Staats, "Proposed amendments to NACA regulations submitted February 7, 1949," 11 May 1949. On his copy of this memo, Miles, of the Div. of Administrative Management, wrote "Methinks [he] doth protest too much." Reporting the debate to his superiors, Shapley said that "the administrative Management Division has agreed to disagree." (Shapley to Veatch and Ramsey, 11 May 1949)

11. The postwar change in Victory can be traced most clearly through his personal papers in the Special Collections Branch of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, which contain copies of his history drafts and the notes he used in numerous speaking engagements in the 1940s and 1950s.

12. The heads of the NACA laboratories were assigned the uniform title "director" in July 1947, two months before Dryden succeeded Lewis but one week after he learned of his selection. Perhaps one reason that the title had not been used before Dryden's time was the opposition of Vannevar Bush. He said in 1939, "I don't like 'director.' It implies line & this is staff." Bush to Lewis, 4 Sept. 1939, in NA RG 255, entry 3, box 4, Bush, 1938 1940.

A curious footnote to the entire story is that, as soon as Dryden was appointed director by Hunsaker's letter to the Executive Committee of 19 day 1949, he authorized Victory to act as head of the agency. This was the same power Hunsaker had previously confer red on Victory; the difference was that it now came from the director. See Victory to Hunsaker. I Feb. 1949, and General Administrative Directive 1-49, 19 May 1949, in 62 A 35 (52), 300.1 1948-1949.

13. On Dryden, see note 2; on Hunsaker, see the biographical information in the Hunsaker papers, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

14. See, for example, M.B. Ames, Jr., to Lewis, "Proposed reorganization of NACA Committees on Aircraft Structures and Materials," 5 Jan. 1943; H.C. Chandler, Jr., H.M. Conway, and W.J. McCann memo, "Recommended reorganization of' Committee on Aircraft Structures and Committee on Materials," 26 May 1943; Thomas Neill to Lewis, "Membership for coming year on: Committee on Power Plants for Aircraft, Subcommittee on Heat Exchangers, Subcommittee on Supercharger Compressors," 22 Dec. 1943; Neill to Lewis, "Membership for coming year, 1944, on the Committee on Power Plants for Aircraft," 29 Dec. 1943; McCann memo, "Reappointment of NACA Special Subcommittee on Heat Resisting Alloys," 27 Sept. 1944; Addison M. Rothrock to executive engineer, AERL, 16 March 1943, in 62 A 35 (9), 123.3, research; Rothrock to Lewis, 1 Aug. 1944, in 59 A 2112 (26), 112.11, 1940-1951; Rothrock to Lewis, 9 Aug. 1946, in 59 A 2112 (12), 110 subcommittees (gen) 1945-1946; R.E. Littell to director of aeronautical research, 17 Apr. 1946, in 62 A 35 (2), 122.3; and John G. Lee to Hunsaker, 26 Sept. 1946, in 60 A 635 (12), 110. 1, Lee, John G.

15. Harrison C. Chandler, Jr., to Lewis and Crowley, "Relations with NACA Technical Committees and Subcommittees," 2 Dec. 1946.

16. See appendix H.

17. F.W.S. Locke to NACA, 30 Oct. 1951.

18. At least one member was as concerned about the Main Committee's effectiveness as others were about the technical committees and subcommittees. E.U. Condon of the National Bureau of Standards wrote Hunsaker in 1946: "Although I have been a member of NACA for about a year it is not yet clear to me just what degree of responsibility for the operations we are supposed to have." He asked for more information, implying that he wanted to make his own judgments instead of depending on presentations made by the staff for the Main Committee's approval. Hunsaker provided him with the information he requested, but seems not to have changed the policies surrounding the Main Committee as Dryden was doing with the technical committees. Condon to Hunsaker, 28 Oct. 1946; Hunsaker to Condon, n.d., filed at NACA on 2 Dec. 1946.

19. Lewis to James H. Doolittle, 10 June 1947, in NA RG 25-5, entry 3, box 6, Doolittle, 1946. [Blank in the original].

20. Hugh L. Dryden, "The Responsibilities of Research Directors," a talk delivered to the Institute on Administration of Scientific Research and Development, American University, Washington, 7 June 1949, p. 13. The next and last sentence f the quoted paragraph is: "In this extreme case and in others, the sales effort may be merely a clear and excellent presentation of a scientific paper," revealing clearly where Dryden's deference's lay.

21. Appendix H provides an excellent insight into headquarters thinking about inspections at this period, and indeed throughout most of the Committee's history. Abbott's comment that "Erroneous impressions may.....result from talks that re strictly accurate" is probably no more sinister than Saki's observation that "a little inaccuracy sometimes saves a ton of explanation."

22. For example, in its Annual Report for 1946, the Committee observed that abandonment of fundamental research during World War II "amounted to sacrifice of the future to the present." Recalling its exclusive preoccupation during die war with problems of immediate application, it continued:

Now the reserve of knowledge available when we entered the war, and without which victory would have been greatly delayed, has been exhausted.
This forces us to face the urgent necessity for renewed emphasis on fundamental research. Without certain essential design data the development of very high speed aircraft and guided missiles cannot proceed on a sound basis, nor can tactical or even strategic plans for air warfare be developed with any assurance of practicability. (p. 2)

23. Edwin Hartman, "Comments on Aeronautical Research Policy," 28 Aug. 1944, in 62 A 35 (.73), postwar research policy, Sept. Dec. 1944. The story of icing research appears in George W. Gray, Frontiers of Flight: The Story of NACA Research (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948), chap. 14.

24. Ira H. Abbott to Monte D. Wright, 30 April 1980, encl., p. 17; John V. Becker to Monte D. Wright, 30 May 1980, encl., p. 350.

25. Theodorsen revealed the narrow line he walked in justifying a proposed research authorization on "General Theoretical Investigations of Flutter, Compressible and Potential Flow, Boundary Layer and Transitions," pending 18 Sept. 1941:

In many problems studied at the [Langley] Laboratory it is necessary to extend the scope of the original authorization in a theoretical direction in order to obtain the fullest understanding of the underlying principles. A certain amount of this work is necessarily going on at all times. This R.A. is to cover theoretical work not otherwise chargeable and also experimental work of the fundamental nature not directly chargeable to existing specific R.A.'s. (57 A 415 (1), 1-1)

26. Willis H. Shapley to [Roger) Bounds, BOB, "Visit Of MT. Miller of the NACA Langley Field Laboratory," 11 July 1945.

27. Victory wrote to Hunsaker on 11 Nov. 1948 that the head of defense estimates at BOB had told him that the NACA makes the best budget presentations of any government agency (59 A 2112 (11), 31 1, Hunsaker, 1948 1952). The "favorite project" of another man in the same branch, however, was "reducing the size, bulk, and weight of the NACA budget presentation" (Shapley to Veatch, "NACA 1950 Budget Presentation," 13 Aug. 1948). In a pile of documents as large as that which the NACA annually presented to BOB, it was difficult to separate comprehensive justifications from a calculated avalanche of detail. Throughout the 1940s, the NACA budget rose every year save 1946. See appendix C.

28. Thomas L.K. Smull attended a classification conference in 1945, where it was implied that "the NACA might possibly be unnecessarily withholding information." He concluded:

From the trend of the discussions at the meeting, it was readily evident that the NACA should take immediate steps to declassify and give a rather wide distribution to such information as may now be classified. It was quite obvious that pressure would be brought to bear to see that steps were taken in this direction. Smull to Lewis, "Conference on the declassification and dissemination of technical information at the Department of Commerce on September 5, 1945," 5 Sept. 1945.

29. See appendix G.

30. See, for example, LMAL to NACA, 27 Apr. 1948, in 58 A 454 (1), special file, RA 35 1, Jan.-Sept. 1948.

31. Minutes of Executive Committee meetings, 15 Aug. 1946 and 24 Nov. 1947; minutes of NACA meeting, 24 Oct. 1946. The entire story can be traced in 62 A 35 (53), 300.1, 1940-1950.

32. See appendix A, and minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 21 Sept. 1950.

33. Minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 6 June 1946, pp. 13-14.

34. See appendix B, and pp. 163-164.

35. Lewis to distribution, "Establishment of a Division of Research Information in Washington Headquarters Mr. E. Eugene Miller, Chief," 18 Sept. 1946

36. The Office of Aeronautical Intelligence was expected to deal only with published material. Work in progress, especially at universities, remained the responsibility of the Coordination Office. The complexity of the task and the difficulty 4 staying abreast of aeronautical research is suggested in: W.R. Sears to Hunsaker, 30 Mar.; Hunsaker to Dryden, 5 Apr.; Dryden to Hunsaker, 13 Apr.; and Dryden to Sears, 13 Apr. 1948. Sears, a member of the NACA Committee on Aerodynamics, had attempted to poll all leading academic aeronautical research institutions to prepare a summary of research in progress; Hunsaker and Dryden considered this impractical.

37. See appendix G, and Abbott to Wright, 30 April 1980, encl., p. 18.

38. On Warner's criticism, see his letters to George Lewis in 57 A 415 (2), 1-5A, 1926-1932. By 1941 the editorial group at headquarters had already adopted the position it would take all through World War II:

Under the stress of the present emergency, it as not been practical for authors of our technical papers to give as much attention to analysis of results as is desirable, and this may account for the fact that the conclusions are not always as definite as they should be. An effort will be made, however, to keep the standard as high as practicable. (Quoted in Lewis to Hunsaker, 13 June 1941, in NA RG 255, series 3, box 10, NACA general correspondence [Hunsaker] 1941.)

When Warner suggested in 1941 that NACA reports contain an executive summary, at least one staff man demonstrated sympathy with what Warner had been trying to get across over the years. He wrote Lewis:

It is appreciated that the ideal form of an NA A publication is a scientific research report in which a thorough and complete analysis of the problem at hand is presented. It is also appreciated that in aerodynamic tests, large amounts of data are obtained which would be impractical to represent in published reports, and consequently these data should be analyzed by the laboratory staff and the results of the analyses only could be presented in the interest of keeping reports from being too voluminous.
The suggestion of Dr. Warner that NACA reports be prepared so that a busy executive can glance at them and obtain a quick idea of the scope of the investigation and the results, the writer believes this is essential at this time [sic]. The arrangement of NACA reports to provide this quick summary need not interfere with the usual thorough NACA presentation The Committee on Power Plants for Aircraft has voiced a strong opinion that ore original test data should be included in NACA reports. (R.E. Littell to Lewis "Content and form of NACA reports," 31 Dec. 1941, in 63 A 29 (3), 618.2 wings.)

The last sentence of Littell's memo demonstrates that the NACA was often damned if it did and damned if it did not. While Warner was asking for more analysis, many engineers in industry were asking that the NACA not fair its curves d at it present the point results of its tests on graphs rather than averaging them out to curves approximating specific findings.

39. Minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 19 May 1949, pp. 11-12.

40. The entire story can be traced in 65 A 953 (36), A 34, 1957.

41. Lewis to C.F. Taylor, 3 Nov. 1934, in 57 A 415 (2), 1-5A, 1933- ; David Baker to John Foster, Jr., 4 Dec. 1946, in 62 A 35 (68), 317, 1946-1947. Hunsaker's comment appears in Senate Special Committee Investigating the National Defense Program, Investigation of the National Defense Program, hearings on S. Res. 55, 79/2, 1946, part 33, p. 16845. Interestingly, the senators seem to have been well primed by earlier industry testimony. One replied "Why not?" Another suggested that it "would be help to research men in the Army Air Forces and in industry who might get a similar idea years from today and go through the same rigmarole and come up with another 'dead cat' Hunsaker replied that "engineers and professional men are not in the habit of writing papers about false ideas unless they are very important ideas held by a lot of people, and then sometimes the controversy is worth publication." When asked, he stated his conviction that the NACA was publishing the papers that merited publication.

42. NACA to Ames, 7 Nov. 1950, in 56 A 35 (4), TN-2288.

43. Abbott to Wright, 30 April 1980, encl., p. 19. Lewis role in 1934 that "it is not the policy of the Committee to release in any form detailed on the design and construction of special instruments developed by the committee." (Lewis to LMAL, 2 June 1934, in 57 A 415 (22), 21-14, 1934.)

44. NACA thinking on university contracts can be traced in Thomas Leland K. Smull to Lewis, "University research future policy," 7 Sept. 1945; Smull to Lewis, "Expansion of the NACA Contract Research Program Fiscal Year 1948, 27 Aug. 1946 and W.H. Shapley, "Proposed Increase in the Research Contract Program of the NACA, memo for record, 29 Apr. 1948, wherein appears the term "standoffishness." For evidence of the latter, see Hunsaker to Lewis, 22 May 1944, in which the chairman raised the possibility of a suspicion in academic circles that university cooperation with NACA needs a salesman or an inside track," even at MIT, which held more than 40 percent of the institutional memberships on NACA subcommittees. (Thomas T. Neill, "Summary of Institutional Memberships on Subcommittees and Institutional Research Funds for period 1939-1948 (Incl.)," 8 Feb. 1950.)

On proprietary information, see the policy reprinted in appendix H, originally adopted because of a dispute with one of the engine manufactures and later expanded to include all NACA research. See minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 16 Dec. 1949, p. 6.

45. Indicative of the emphasis then being put on high speed flight was the 4 Oct. 1945 letter to George Lewis from Brig. Gen. L.C. Craigie, chief of the Engineering Div. at Wright Field, which said in part: "This command feels that the fundamental problems of high speed flight are of such magnitude and importance to this nation that the pertinent facilities of the NACA should not be diverted to any other purposes."

46. Richard Hallion, Supersonic Flight: The Story of the Bell X-1 and the Douglas D-558 (New York: Macmilllan, 1972).

47. Hallion, On the Frontier: Flight Research at Dryden, 1946-1981 (NASA SP-4303, in press).

48. Clarence L. Johnson to Milton B. Ames, Jr., "Minority Opinion of Extremely High Altitude Research Airplane," 21 Oct. 1954, states in part:

1. At any given time period in which we were flying the research airplanes from the type 558-1 through the X-3, tactical airplane types were available which had better aerodynamic form and higher performance at reasonable altitudes than the research airplanes involved. For instance, wing thicknesses, wing sweep angles, and general aerodynamic design of the research airplanes were actually behind tactical aircraft designs by the time any research flights could be performed.
2. Our research airplanes have developed startling performance only by the use of rocket engines and flying essentially in a vacuum. Testing airplanes designed for transonic flight speeds at Mach numbers between 2 and 3 has proven, mainly, the bravery of the test pilots and the fact that when there is no drag, the rocket engine can propel even mediocre aerodynamic forms at high Mach numbers.
3. I am not aware of any aerodynamic or power plant improvements to air-burning engines that have resulted from our very expensive research airplane program. Our modern tactical airplanes have bee designed almost entirely on NACA and other wind tunnel data, plus certain rocket model tests. The flight expenditures for one type of research airplane was, roughly, one and one half million dollars per flight, with very little flight information obtained that is useful in future designs. Lack of suitable power plants and terrifically long development periods were responsible for such costs.
4. While a great deal of information has been de eloped on stability and control at high Mach numbers, this data has applied to aerodynamic forms not typical of airplanes actually designed for supersonic flight speeds.

Johnson's criticisms must be discounted for professional jealousy and the "not-invented here" syndrome. Furthermore, the research aircraft program had begun in the second half of the 1940s, before the transonic wind tunnel was available to give researchers the mach I flight data they needed. Johnson was nevertheless a giant in the field, and his objections, especially about the relative cost of the program, have not been addressed in print by the supporters of the research aircraft.

Hallion paints this conflict in bolder colors in his Dryden book than in his earlier Supersonic Flight. The later volume relies heavily for this topic on interviews with old NACA hands still at Dryden center or in retirement, and it was perhaps from these men that Hallion derived his interpretation of what happened. The staffs a: all the laboratories liked to think of themselves as more knowledgeable than the headquarters staff, and they were not above using their positions near the work to get their own way. In this regard, Lewis was and always had been fighting a losing battle. The remarkable thing is how much and how long he kept control. That he lost out on this issue is further testimony to the growing complexity of aeronautics and the NACA program and to Lewis's own failing powers.

Of course this syndrome is not unique to the NACA, Langdon Winner has observed: Research on organization communication has shown that decentralized segments of organizations use the information they possess as a resource to further their own specific purposes and thwart control by a central source....Particularly in work that involves highly sophisticated expertise and the quest for results that cannot be determined precisely in advance, hierarchy and centralization are counterproductive. (Autonomous Technology: Techniques Out of Control as a Theme in Political Thought (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1977), p. 254)

49. Gray, Frontiers of Flight, chap. 15.

50. Russell G. Robinson wrote to George Gray 28 Mar. 1948 that "the most important technical problem in aeronautics at this time is that of retaining control of the airplane through the speed range near the speed of sound." In 59 A 2112 (10) 1.00 (Gray) 1947.

51. Hunsaker, NACA memorandum, "Guided Missiles, NACA Program and Facilities," 15 Dec. 1944; "Notes on Discussion at Meeting of NACA, December 18, 1944," 18 Dec. 1944. When Hunsaker appointed the special committee in January, he listed its functions:

1. To recommend most promising fields of research in support of naval and military development needs.
2. To propose specific research projects to the appropriate NACA technical subcommittees.
3. To exchange and evaluate information on technical developments in order to guide American research efforts.
4. To cooperate with other Government agencies active in guided missile development.
5. To cooperate in research with foreign representatives as may be consistent with military policy.
6. To invite attendance of persons interested in particular problems and projects with a view to coordination of effort.
7. To review NACA research results and to control their issue as reports. (Hunsaker to members of Special Committee on Self-Propelled Guided Missiles, 25 Jan. 1945)

52. The debate over guided missiles reveals the proliferation of technical committees advising the military and supplanting the NACA. A Committee on Guided Missiles was created in Jan. 1945 by the joint Committee on New Weapons and Equipment of the joint Chiefs of Staff, The joint Research and Development Board, which replaced the Office of Scientific Research and Development in 1946, had its own Committee on Guided Missiles; when the Research and Development Board replaced the JRDB under the terms of the National Security Act of 1947, it took over that committee as well as the Guided Missiles Committee. This was the year in which the NACA abolished its short lived Committee on Self Propelled Guided Missiles.

53. Joseph Adams Shortall, A New Dimension: Wallops Island Flight Test Range, the First Fifteen Years, NASA Reference Publication 1028 (Washington: NASA, 1978). At first, only part of the land on Wallops Island was purchased; the rest was leased. In 1949 the NACA purchased the entire island.

54. Letter from Adm. Leslie C. Stevens, dated 10 Jan. 1947, quoted in minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 24 Jan. 1947, p. 11; Victory to Condon, 30 Jan. 1947; LeMay to Condon, 4 Mar. 1947.

55. Minutes of Executive Committee meeting, 24 Jan. 1947, p. 11; Condon to Hunsaker, 16 Apr. 1947. How cautiously the Committee was treading here can be inferred from a letter that J.W. Crowley sent the Cleveland laboratory on 19 Aug. 1947, titled "Laboratory progress report for period July 1-31, 1947." Crowley informed the staff that in their report he had changed "Nuclear Energy Propulsion Research" to read "Fundamental Heat Transfer Research," and he directed them to make the same change in all outstanding copies of the report. He went on:

Because of the present unsettled conditions surrounding the Committee's research on nuclear energy, it was not considered advisable to let the report go out in its original form....It is requested that until further notice, no reference be made to nuclear energy in the laboratory's progress reports.

56. Although the Collier trophy for breaking the sound barrier probably would have gone to the three contributing institutions in any event, Dryden was adamant that the NACA not promote itself alone for the award. In a letter from HJ.E. Reid to Victory, 20 Oct. 1948, forwarding material to support the award, Dryden penciled in:

I still feel strongly that any award for the XS-1 achievement to an individual or single group, whether NACA or outside, will in the end be very harmful to NACA and handicap further competitive effort. The best interest of NACA and the nation will be served by the joint award to NACA, Air Force, and Bell [Aircraft Corp.]. (In NA RG 255, entry 2, box 10, public information.)

One of the insights Dryden brought to the NACA was he perception that self serving could be self defeating.

57. See, for example, "Statement to Budget Officials by Dr. J.C. Hunsaker, Chairman, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics," 13 Oct. 1948; AR 1948, p. 1; AR 1949, p. 1.

58. This copy of the estimates is in 64 A 518 (11), 1950.