SP-4302 Adventures in Research: A History of Ames Research Center 1940-1965

 

PART II : A NEW WORLD OF SPEED : 1946-1958

 

2

People and Events

 

[127] IN August 1946, Robert T. Jones, originator of the sweep theory at NACA, transferred to Ames from Langley. Bob Jones, a self-trained aerodynamicist and mathematician, had built up a national, if not international, reputation through his perceptive and original work at Langley. For this work he was given the IAS Sylvanus Albert Reed Award in 1946. The genius of Bob Jones seemed, in part, to lie in his remarkable ability to extract the essence of a problem and express it in understandable and useful terms. His approach to problems was always of a fundamental character and often yielded results of broad significance. Jones would certainly give added strength to the Ames technical staff; and the contributions of his wife Doris, a competent mathematician who also joined the Ames staff, were expected to be substantial.

In 1947 DeFrance's title was changed to "Director" of the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, and a year later he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Merit for his outstanding leadership in directing research for the advancement of aeronautics. He was further honored in 1948 by being elected vice president of the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. Smitty DeFrance had gained the reputation of running a tight and efficient operation at Ames and was highly respected in aeronautical circles.

The Laboratory suffered a blow in April 1947 when John Parsons became seriously ill and it was learned he would not be back to work for some time. Harry Goett assumed the position of Acting Chief of the Full-Scale and Flight Research Division and, in October 1948, was made Chief with Lawrence Clousing as Assistant Chief. In August 1947, Carl Bioletti was appointed Assistant to the Director of the Laboratory, and Manley Hood replaced him as Assistant Chief of the Theoretical and Applied Research Division. Parsons was out for one year and, on his return, was appointed Assistant to the Director, a position parallel to that held by Bioletti. DeFrance had wanted to make Parsons Associate Director at this time, but Headquarters in Washington had objected to the appointment. Nevertheless DeFrance's appreciation of Parsons' great abilities was evident.

 


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Robert T. Jones, theoretical aerodynamicist.

Robert T. Jones, theoretical aerodynamicist.


Carlton Bioletti.

Carlton Bioletti.


Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, Director of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics from 1947 to 1958.

Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, Director of National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics from 1947 to 1958.

 

[129] Another event, sad but important, during this period was the death on July 12, 1948, of Dr. George W. Lewis, who for years had been Director of NACA Everyone in the fields of aeronautics and Government was aware that Dr. Lewis had performed with great vision and ability in guiding the development of the Nation's aeronautical sciences through NACA. Lewis never sought glory for himself but served NACA and his country with the utmost modesty and effectiveness. His death had certainly been hastened by the tinselfish way in which he had driven himself in the construction of the new Engine Research Laboratory at Cleveland. Thus, on his death, it was more than fitting that the Cleveland laboratory was renamed the "Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory."

Actually Lewis' final illness had required that he give up the NACA Directorship almost a year before he died. Replacing him as Director on August 22, 1947, was Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, a well-known and respected scientist and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, who had come to NACA from the National Bureau of Standards. It was indicative of the times that the leadership of NACA had changed from an engineer to a scientist. In this connection, it may be noted that two additional positions, to be filled by scientists, had been authorized for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.1

The end of the war brought a change in the pattern of dissemination of the information produced by NACA. Security conditions eased considerably and a great many classified reports published during the war were declassified and republished as unclassified "Wartime Reports." These reports were thus made available to the information-starved agencies which had not been able to qualify for the classified documents. In the case of new publications, NACA returned to its prewar series of unclassified Technical Reports (TR) and Technical Notes (TN), but added a new series of Research Memorandums (RM) to be made classified only as required. A typical designation for one of the new Research Memorandums was RM A7B05. In this designation, A would stand for Ames, 7 for 1947, B for February, and 05 for the fifth RM issued during that month.

In the postwar period NACA came to the conclusion that it was not sufficient to disseminate technical information only through reports, as the reports often did not appear for a year or more after the research was completed It was decided that, to supplement the reports, technical conferences should be held, as needed, to dispense late information acquired by NACA in fields of current interest. This plan was put into effect and the resulting conferences were attended by aeronautical engineers from all over the country They filled a very important need of the industry, the military, and the universities during this period of rapid growth in the aeronautical sciences.

[130] Conferences were held at each of the NACA laboratories with the other laboratories contributing. At Ames a conference on "Aeronautical Problems of Transonic Airplane Design" was held in November 1947 and a conference on "Supersonic Aerodynamics" in July 1948.

As a further means of transmitting information to the interested public, a custom which had long been followed at Langley but which, during the war, had been discontinued, was restored to general use in NACA This was the custom of holding annual "inspections"-a sort of open house -to which a large number and a broad spectrum of individuals were invited. Special displays and semitechnical presentations were made to give the visitors some appreciation of the problems of aeronautics and the activities of NACA. In the renewal of the custom, it was felt undesirable to attempt to hold an inspection at each laboratory each year. Rather, the task was divided among the laboratories and, at Ames, inspections were held in 1946 and in 1948. The occasion of the 1946 inspection was taken to hold a dedication ceremony for the 12-foot tunnel. The dedication address was delivered by Dr. William F. Durand.

During the early postwar period, NACA became increasingly conscious of its public image. It had more competition and was spending more money, and there was a greater public interest in how that money was being spent. Never before had NACA felt it necessary to employ a public relations agent; in fact, so circumspect was NACA management that the use of a public relations representative was looked on as being almost unethical. Nevertheless, pressure was brought to bear by John Victory and such a representative was appointed for Headquarters and for each of NACA's laboratories. At Ames the man selected for this position, in March 1949, was Don Wiley. NACA, still fearful of the term "public relations," conferred on Don and his colleagues the title of "Aeronautical Information Officer" with all the rights and privileges, few indeed, pertaining thereto.

It is perhaps to be expected that any history of a research laboratory will concern itself largely with the research operations of the establishment and thus will tend to neglect the vital supporting activities that make effective research possible. The heroes of such a history turn out to be research men; whereas all the other contributors, including some in the top echelons, appear to reside in vacuo. The present history-writing effort will not deviate greatly from the general rule. Nevertheless an attempt will be made, at various points within these pages, briefly to acknowledge the vitally important contributions to the operations of the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory that were made by the major supporting groups and their representatives.

Throughout the years of initiation, wartime strain, and postwar adjust meet, no branch of the Ames organization had a more difficult role to play than did the Administrative Division. Heading this activity, as Administrative Management Officer, was Arthur B. Freeman. His assistant was Miss...

 


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First annual inspection, 1946.

Above: First annual inspection, 1946. Below: William V. Shaw (left) and Arthur B. Freeman (right).

William V. Shaw

Arthur B. Freeman

 

....Manie Poole. Art had been trained as an engineer; he and Manie were among the charter members of the Ames staff who had come out from Langley.

The task of setting up an Administrative support operation for the new Laboratory was difficult enough, but was even more difficult because De-....

 


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Lucille D. Baker. AIvin S. Hertzog. Helen M. Davies.

Lucille D. Baker [Left]. AIvin S. Hertzog [Center]. Helen M. Davies [Right].


...-France had established very high performance standards for his staff and maintained a close scrutiny of every significant detail of the Laboratory's operation. Smitty had a temper, too, and his wrath would suddenly rise in a colorful display that everyone sought diligently, but not always successfully, to avoid. Probably no one at the Laboratory had his hair parted by Smitty's thunderbolts more frequently than Art Freeman, and in some cases Art was not to blame-it was just the devilish circumstances that continuously surrounded his job. Fortunately Smitty's ire would fade very quickly and it was then that he would exhibit one of his outstanding traits: fairness. Quick to pass judgment, he was equally quick to admit error. Nevertheless things were lively in Art Freeman's department and simple survival, which he somehow managed, was evidence of his tremendous success.

Art had a lot of good help, of course, and many of the members of his staff were oldtimers who had either come from Langley or who had been employed soon after the founding of the Laboratory. There were, for example, Bill Shaw, in charge of the Fiscal Branch, and Lucille Baker, the highly dependable head of the Administrative Services Branch which provided typing, filing, reproduction, communication, library, and many other services for the Laboratory. Then also there were John Van Etten, who served as Security Officer, and the team of Alvin Hertzog, Mark Greene, and Charlotte Holmes, who handled the highly specialized and extremely varied procurement needs of the laboratory.

A very important element of Freeman's organization was the Personnel Branch. Originally headed by Walter Peterson, the Personnel Branch was taken over by Miss Helen Davies when Walter went to war. The selection of [133] a woman for this difficult position may have been a wartime necessity but it turned out very well. By the time that Walter returned and decided to devote his energies to budget rather than to personnel problems, Helen had proven herself the logical person to continue as Chief of the Personnel Branch. She was ably assisted by Vincent Pettine and Lester Briggs. The mission of this triumvirate was of critical importance to the Laboratory and was rendered more difficult by the perennial shortage of qualified manpower and the painful restrictions imposed on the Laboratory's employment activities by congressional and Civil Service regulations.


1 As indicated in NACA 33d Annual Report 1947.


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