SP-4310 Way Station to Space

 

- Chapter 5 -

In Mississippi Mud

 

 

[71] Draining The Swamp

America's rocketeers recognized an astronomical fact on their way to the Moon: they had to travel through Mississippi to get there. And on that boggy road leading to outer space, engineers first had to drain a swamp before they could ignite the fire in the deflector buckets of the monolithic test stands. After achieving great success, the bottom literally fell out of the sky in south Mississippi in 1964. The great craters the workers dug for foundations filled with rainwater and slush.1

The Mississippi Test Operations (MTO) employees left work to enjoy the 1963 Christmas holidays, with visions of soon testing shiny, aluminum Moon rockets; instead, they returned after New Year's day to find the construction site covered with a 6-inch snow. The big oaks and lesser brush covered with the unexpected, fluffy crystals were an unusually beautiful sight to see. The few makeshift roads forged by the workers and the rutted, dirt trails the paper companies used for their skidders were impassable. The giant holes dug to encase the reinforced concrete and steel foundations for [72] the test stands had water standing in them. One of the bigger holes was referred to as "Lake NASA."2

The record dry spell of 1963 turned into a record downpour during 1964, with torrential rains breaking a 30-year record. The crews knew in advance that they would be working in one of the nation's wettest regions where annual rainfall could exceed 60 inches. But, they did not anticipate the additional 20 inches that fell during 1964, turning the topsoil into a sticky, gumbo-mud that sank their draglines and the tractors and trucks in over their axles. NASA had to use surplus Army halftrack troop carriers to transport employees to the work sites. Pumps chugged at full-throttle to pull giant puddles of water out of the excavations.3

The engineers and managers, who were to put the giant Saturn V first- and second-stage rockets to the test, shook their heads in dismay when they reported back to work after the holidays and surveyed the dripping wetness. By month's end, 9.5 inches of rain had fallen and most work was completely halted, with several feet of water standing in the bottoms of the excavations for the navigation lock and in the giant holes dug for the foundations of the A-2 and B-1/B-2 static test stands. The bosses of Greenhut Construction Company, contractor for the test stand foundations, wondered when they could continue their work. They had excavated 410,000 cubic yards of dirt, but they still had 1,670 steel and concrete pilings to drive before they could begin pouring the huge concrete and reinforced steel substructures. Indeed, Greenhut's March completion date was in jeopardy.4

The bleak outlook for contractors facing more rain and work slowdowns contrasted sharply with a 1963 year-end summary given by Captain Fortune, who was "satisfied with the progress" of the project. The optimistic naval officer observed, "The work is moving along fine. The dry weather has been to our advantage and we are really moving dirt out there in the harbor, the canal, the lock, and the big missile site. We are moving as fast as the funds are made available." In a humorous postscript, Fortune quipped, "We have dug a lot of big holes, now we have to fill 'em up!"5

 


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An enormous crater marks the site where the A-2 test stand was being built in 1964 at the Mississippi Test Operations.

An enormous crater marks the site where the A-2 test stand was being built in 1964 at the Mississippi Test Operations. The dark rim of gumbo mud around the excavation is the remains of an old river bed, which some geologists believed was the ancient path of the Mississippi River. (SSC-64-652C).

 

One of the first NASA visitors to see the muddy mess was Jerry Hlass, an engineer dispatched from NASA Headquarters to manage the construction in Mississippi. Hlass later reflected, "Members of a congressional committee were puzzled by a photograph we had supplied them... . They asked what the huge hole was in the picture with cars and trucks parked all around the outer edge. It turned out the picture was of the excavation for the S-IC test stand and the cars and trucks were stuck in the mud!"6

[74] Hlass worked closely with the engineers and budget managers at NASA Headquarters, the Working Group in Huntsville, the Corps of Engineers, and Captain Fortune and his small onsite MTO staff. Hlass also had the important assignment of assembling a biweekly report on the Mississippi project for Senator Stennis. Jerry Hlass would return many years later to make even greater contributions as manager of the static-testing facility and as the first center director.7

 

The Work Quickens

Even the great rains of 1964 did not dampen the spirits of NASA and Corps of Engineers personnel and the growing number of construction contractors at work all over the 13,500-acre construction site. One count showed 30 draglines at work at one time. Foundation work began to take place where the giant test stands would rise in the Saturn V Test Complex. The "clang-clank" sound of pile drivers could be heard a mile away from the area as they hammered hundreds of steel beams, some 110 feet long, into the mushy, peat-like soil, pounding through thousands of years of geologic history.8

Taking full advantage of a lull in the rainfall, builders worked around the clock trying to recover the time lost earlier. Over 851 cubic yards (about 3-million pounds) of concrete were poured during a 16-hour period to form one of the piers for the bascule bridge (a balanced drawbridge) crossing over the navigation lock at the south end of the site. Workers and community residents called the job "Operation Big Pour." Three concrete batching plants operated 7 days a week to handle the demands of the builders, who were taking advantage of the rare Mississippi winter sunshine.9

Structures began rising all over the site, as the bright orange-painted steel frames of the buildings appeared in the clearings. Trucks, tractors, and a wide variety of earth-moving machines groaned along muddy roads and trails, hauling concrete, dirt, and steel. Tractors strained to pull trucks and other...

 


[
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These large concrete walls were erected as part of the navigation lock and bascule bridge which was and is part of the waterway system used to transport propellants and rocket stages on barges. The navigation lock portion of the canal system is located at the south entrance into the SSC. (SSC-64-666C).

These large concrete walls were erected as part of the navigation lock and bascule bridge which was and is part of the waterway system used to transport propellants and rocket stages on barges. The navigation lock portion of the canal system is located at the south entrance into the SSC. (SSC-64-666C).

 

...vehicles out of the soggy morass and the blue glow of welding torches flickered in the forest like fireflies. Floodlights lit up the work areas so the workers could work around the clock. At dawn, workers would huddle around shiny, siver-bodied food trucks, affectionately called "roach coaches," clutching Styrofoam cups of steaming-hot New Orleans blend coffee, excitedly talking about "the damn rain" and the impossible schedules laid down by "them Crazy NASA Cats." The workers exchanged "see ya's" as the shifts changed, sending craftsmen to their homes in Picayune, Slidell, or on the Gulf Coast.10

[76] After a hard day's worked at the construction site, the commute home was not an easy one. During the early years, the construction site was accessible only by two-lane highways. While the crews were busy building the test facility, news of another construction project south of the NASA site gave weary workers something to look forward to - the laying of Interstate Highway 10 through the southern buffer zone and the Honey Island Swanp. Survey crews started surveying the route in the winter of 1964 for the east-west nationwide artery and announced that the high-span highway bridge across the Pearl River would be part of the project. NASA requested that a bascule-type bridge be built, so the large rocket boosters could be transported up the river to the test site and back down the river after testing. NASA placed $4.5 million into the federal-state road fund to cover the special span across the Pearl River.11

 

Boom Towns

NASA was keenly interested in the development of the towns around the test site, for they would become the future homes of their site employees. The construction workers were looking for temporary homes in the surrounding communities, while the NASA and Corps of Engineers personnel sought permanent homes.12

At the urging and with the assistance of NASA, a Regional Planning Commission was organized in hopes of ensuring an orderly growth of the area. The first meeting of community leaders was hosted by NASA at its Information Center. B.U. Jones and Bill Mabry helped leaders in the communities organize the commission. The Planning Commission was comprised of representatives from the Pearl River, Hancock, and Harrison Counties in Mississippi and St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana. Special legislation was passed in Louisiana and Mississippi allowing the county and parish representatives to participate as a "regional" two-state commission.13

[77] State Representative Walter James Phillips of Hancock County said the Planning Commission would enable the Gulf Coast area to "plan facilities for the great influx of population due to the Michoud Plant in New Orleans and the Mississippi Test Operations of NASA." Phillips further noted that "an immediate benefit will be to provide for mosquito control measures and provide a way to finance such a project."14

Phillips was joined by the entire delegations of Pearl River, Hancock, and Harrison Counties in support of a bill allowing the counties to participate in the two-state commission. Meanwhile, Joseph V. Colson, Waveland realtor and merchant, was elected the Planning Commission's first president. Other officers were chosen to represent the three Mississippi counties and the Louisiana parish. The commission continues to operate today in Mississippi, with headquarters in Harrison County.15

NASA's strong interest in community affairs increased as the site began to dig out of the mud and to show signs of dramatic growth. As the rains subsided, contractors at the site added more workers in hopes of making up lost time. NASA announced on 1 April 1964 that more than 1,000 workers were on the site - 683 of them engaged in construction. The small NASA cadre was 34; General Electric (GE) and its subcontractors, 109; Corps of Engineers on site, 126; Corps of Engineers, Bay St. Louis, 37; Raytheon, 6; Weather Bureau, 8; Hancock County Security Patrol, 6; and 1 each with North American Aviation (NAA), Boeing Company, and Sverdrup and Parcel.16

Marion Kent, of the MSFC, had great influence on the community leaders during the MTO's early growth. Kent came down to Mississippi to help coordinate community programs with local area officials. He prepared several reports and studies on the impact in Mississippi of the new space installation. These reports proved helpful in later years, serving as a "baseline" guide in developing new programs. Leo Seal, Jr., Hancock Bank president and CEO, remembers Kent as a man with authority and responsibility, someone who would "answer questions" from local residents and listen to community leaders as they all prepared for the NASA impact.17

[78] Kent and other NASA officials offered some innovative planning to the people of south Mississippi. A map drawn by the MSFC Master Planning Office outlined a model city that could be built around the historic community of Pearlington at the mouth of the Pearl River. NASA expected Pearlington to be a desirable location for test site workers because of its location 9 miles south of the installation. A large number of former residents of Logtown, Napoleon, Gainesville, and Westonia selected Pearlington to live in because they could remain close to their old homeplaces.18

The NASA model city plan for Pearlington included zoning for residential and business areas, plus motel, hospital, small industry, park, high school, and elementary school locations. The design even called for a civic center along the banks of the Pearl River. A similarly planned community was under construction in Clearlake, Texas, near the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (at Johnson Space Center). The Pearlington plan was presented by NASA officials to community leaders in Hancock County, and the concept did stimulate some serious thought. The plan, however, never materialized, and the planned city was never built. Employees generally selected the existing communities, with their schools and municipal assets already in place.19

As giant structures slowly arose at the test site, more and more workers arrived to rush the project along. The presence of new workers provided encouragement to local community and business leaders, who awaited the promised prosperity. Captain Fortune announced on 18 June 1964 that over 2,000 persons were working at the site, an astounding increase of 1,000 workers in just over 2 months. Even with the slight break in the rainy weather and the increase in construction personnel, the lagging schedule began to worry Corps of Engineers officials, who quietly issued warnings that the project was falling behind.20

The increased activity, however, brought NASA and other government officials down to south Mississippi to see the landmark construction project in full swing. Senator Stennis made trips during the summer to survey the work and meet with local community leaders. Fortune briefed the Senator on [79] the project in a makeshift conference area, on what was once the dance floor of "Shorty's 43 Club." Von Braun brought Washington officials to see the progress and to make them aware of potential problems. The famed rocket scientist, obviously proud of the engineering miracles being worked in the swamp, made three inspection trips during the summer of 1964, escorting Dr. Robert C. Seamans, Jr., NASA Associate Administrator, and George E. Mueller, Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight; members of the NASA Manned Space Flight Advisory Council; and several members of his own staff from the MSFC.21

Von Braun, during a visit to the area, said that the testing facility would grow and become more important "as time goes on." He linked his observation to an appeal for Mississippi to develop both its schools and citizens for the "great space program," so Mississippi talent could be used as much as possible. "It is so important that the youth of this area develop themselves in science and mathematics for the great future that awaits them here," von Braun said. He also stated the need for qualified minority individuals to fill positions in the technical community at the installation. "There is a strong need to get rid of some old traditions and face the future and its challenge, and the need for men of both the black and white races to develop," von Braun advised. Commenting on the task at hand, Von Braun said the work was "very nearly" on schedule and not delayed "much" by the unusual rains.22

Fortune deserved his boss's praise. His efforts to lay a foundation for community support paid off when Mississippi Governor Paul B. Johnson, Lieutenant Governor Carrol Gartin, and members of the state legislature visited the test site. Fortune briefed the group outdoors on the bank of the Pearl River behind the Rouchon House at old Gainesville. Fortune, in his calm and reassuring manner, advised the Governor and the state lawmakers that the test site would have a "dramatic [economic] impact" on the state. The friendly Navy captain was well-received by the state government officials.23

[80] Statements by von Braun, Fortune, Stennis, and other notables visiting the site during those formative years; the extensive coverage by the media; and the bustling onsite construction activity gave south Mississippians every reason to believe they were in the midst of a boom of monumental proportions. Indeed, evidence of growth mounted with the arrival of large numbers of new workers searching for places to live. Realtors were especially pleased to meet the NASA, GE, Boeing, and NAA employees because they were known to be part of the permanent party that would be buying expensive homes and investing their taxes and payroll checks in the communities.24

Early predictions by von Braun that the NASA space center was the kind of activity Chamber of Commerce people "dream of" seemed to become a reality. A "cover story" in the 20 July 1964 U.S. News & World Report entitled "Space Billions - Now a Boom" further stimulated the expansion of towns and cities in the area. The article was reprinted in local newspapers and described the space program as a new industry in the southern states worth "billions." The article also referred to the "Space Crescent" and stated that money for the space facilities was being spent at the rate of "one-million dollars every two hours."25

"Whole areas are undergoing drastic alteration in appearance and in their way of life," said the article, "a boom is predicted for three cities near the test ground in Mississippi - Picayune, Bay St. Louis in Mississippi, and Slidell, just over the border in Louisiana." The U.S. News & World Report article predicted final cost of the Mississippi facility at $750 million. The only way such a cost could be incurred would have been with the full impact of a Nova-class rocket, which never came to pass. Adding even more high-powered economic fuel, area newspapers followed with editorial comments. The New Orleans States-Item carried an editorial headlined "Awesome Space-Age Impact Seen" that elaborated on the U.S. News & World Report article and stated, "Merely witnessing the industrial and economic changes will be an exciting adventure."26

On the heels of the boost from the national magazine, NASA Administrator James Webb, dynamic leader of the nation's lunar-landing program, paid a visit to the test site and requested a "private" meeting with community business....

 


[
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James E. Webb, NASA administrator (center), talks to Harold Mullins, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (left), and O.L.<<Dusty>> Rhodes, NASA, of the Mississippi Test Operations during the early days of construction. (SSC-64-600A).

James E. Webb, NASA administrator (center), talks to Harold Mullins, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (left), and O.L."Dusty" Rhodes, NASA, of the Mississippi Test Operations during the early days of construction. (SSC-64-600A).

 

....leaders. At Webb's direction, Fortune's PIO (Herring) and community relations staff hastily invited about 20 businessmen from the Gulf Coast, and they assembled in Captain Fortune's office at the Rouchon House. News reporters were invited, too, but they were held outside until the closed-door session was over. Inside, James Webb charmed his south Mississippi audience. He took off his coat, displaying his red, wide-band suspenders, and he opened the meeting by telling the select group, "I'm just a country businessman from North Carolina. I was surprised when President Kennedy called me up on the telephone and asked me to head up the space program." With the audience relaxed by Webb's "down-home" demeanor, he made himself comfortable by sitting on Captain Fortune's desk, thumbs latched under his red suspenders.27

[82] Webb stressed the importance and magnitude of the test facility to the businessmen, who gave him their undivided attention, expecting to gain "inside information" from the NASA chief. "The entire nation will benefit from the tests here," Webb said. The local businessmen told Webb their "biggest worry" was bridging the gap between the specialized needs of the many new opportunities opening up and the present education and training available in the area. Webb answered by making a promise on behalf of NASA that many of those present never forgot. "We are willing to help and meet any community half-way in providing help to bridge the gap," Webb answered emphatically.28

After the executive meeting, Webb told waiting reporters on the porch that the projected MTO payroll would be $20 million when the facility was in full operation. The NASA Administrator cited a survey made of the impacts of the MTO and the Michoud plant, in eastern New Orleans, on the general area. The survey showed 70 new apartment buildings under way, 36 new residential subdivisions started, 1,346 new homes erected, and 176 new businesses started. Webb emphasized that these figures included St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, which was largely influenced by the huge Michoud plant already employing 11,505 people. Webb stated that "community relations in the area are very good."29

Webb's visit provided reassurance to business and community leaders, who were feeling "growing pains" from the impact of more than 2,500 workers crowding their towns. In addition to providing a much-needed cash-flow to the area, one of the many side benefits from the space facility was its first United Fund drive, conducted in 1964. The proceeds from the drive went to the communities on the Gulf Coast and to the Greater New Orleans Area United Fund. As a result, NASA became a leader among coast communities with its charitable donations.30

 

[83] Some Drawbacks

Not all NASA community influence was rosy for local officials, who had to cope with the massive influx of new people into their towns and cities. For example, Mayor John Scafide of Bay St. Louis told the Long Beach Knights of Columbus Council that his city was experiencing "economic prosperity never before witnessed in this section." He also told the Knights that Bay St. Louis's efforts to improve water and sewage systems and its streets had gotten the city into trouble. The city worked tirelessly from 1961 until 1968 in attempts to wade through a bureaucratic maze, imposed by the Federal Area Redevelopment Administration and the Federal Housing and Home Finance Administration, to obtain grants. After all, NASA was urging communities to "upgrade" to meet the standards required by incoming NASA families.31

Harry Gorman, the MSFC deputy director, endorsed the Bay St. Louis "upgrade" with a letter, and his representatives urged Mayor Scafide to pursue the project. However, even Senator Stennis failed to move the sluggish bureaucracies in Atlanta and Washington, and Bay St. Louis had 40 miles of torn-up streets, many impassable, for newcomers to review while looking for homes. Needless to say, many chose to live in Picayune, Pass Christian, or Slidell, as Bay St. Louis struggled to pay for its well-intended efforts to upgrade.32

Even with the growing pains of Bay St. Louis, the county seat, Hancock County employment doubled to over 8,000 workers between 1960 and 1965. One old industry had some problems with the progress taking place in southwest Mississippi. The making of illegal whiskey was big business in the area around Kiln, Mississippi, on the Jourdan River, and there were stills located in the lands attached to the NASA "fee area and buffer zone." The presence of these stills was not a major concern for NASA officials, as they viewed the moonshiners and their stills as a humorous topic of conversation, rather than a source of legal concern. In turn, the location of the NASA site proved only a passing problem for the moonshiners because they simply moved their stills outside the fenced NASA perimeter.33

[84] The effects of the arrival of the NASA boom and the building of new industries could best be seen in the rapid inflation that occurred in Picayune. Seal's Cafe on Canal Street was known for years for its "home cooking" and 5-cent cup of coffee. When the new workers began arriving, a handwritten sign went up in the cafe's front window: "The Boom Is On - COFFEE 10 CENTS."34

 

Leadership Changes

With communities changing before the very eyes of newcomers and natives, the landscape at the construction site was taking on a new look, with towering steel structures rising high above the cypresses, oaks, and pines. And, with these changes, NASA, the Corps of Engineers, and the new contractors began sending in a new team of leaders. Superb leaders were emerging during Project Apollo; many had proven their merit during World War II, the Korean War, and in private industry during the pioneering days of modern rocketry.35

Colonel Robert C. Marshall was named, in midsummer 1964, as district engineer for the Corps of Engineers, replacing Colonel D.A. Raymond, who guided the upgrade from its inception. Colonel Marshall directed the Mississippi construction from his offices in Mobile, Alabama. One of Marshall's first appointments was Colonel Roy P. Beatty as area engineer, replacing William R. Coryell, acting area engineer. Colonel David Roberts was deputy district engineer for NASA support. These appointments placed military men in all but one of the Corps of Engineers key management positions. To that position, Colonel Marshall named Coryell, a civilian, deputy area engineer under Colonel Beaty.36

Experienced veterans in the growing aerospace industry joined Captain Fortune in top management positions to activate and operate the test facility. Frequently referred to as the "big four," these managers were Fortune, NASA; William R. Eaton, GE; John J. Cully, Boeing; and Harry C. Cox, NAA.37

[85] In 1964, another NASA leader, Gordon Artley, appeared on the scene to help prepare personnel and facilities for the Project Apollo test program. One of America's pioneers in rocketry, Artley was a favorite of Heimburg, and Artley earned a reputation in the Air Force missile program and private industry as a charismatic, lone-wolf manager who "got things done."38

 

A Turning Point

Artley's arrival and the ending of 1964 marked a turning point in preparing the test facility for the Saturn rocket stages. The Corps issued an earlier warning that "more money and people" would be needed to recover the time lost due to the heavy rains and the shortages of critical building materials. In addition, evidence of construction schedule slippages became apparent during late 1964 when fixed-price contracts awarded by the Corps of Engineers were not completed. Coupled with weather conditions and technical problems, it became necessary for NASA to re-evaluate its position and to establish a recovery program to meet the Saturn V schedule requirements for stage acceptance tests.39

The Corps of Engineers assembled about 80 leaders from NASA, the Corps, construction contractors, and labor organizations for a one-day "seminar" on 29 November 1964 to "stress the national importance of the lunar-landing program." Major General A.C. Welling, of the Corps's South Atlantic Division, Mobile District, arranged for von Braun to be keynote speaker at the meeting held in Biloxi, Mississippi. Discussions during the seminar centered around completion of the S-II Test Complex, which would be the only place in the country that the Saturn V second-stage rocket could be tested.40

Von Braun stressed the critical nature of the work at hand, noting that "It will be at the S-II stand now under construction that [the stage] will receive its only full-duration firing before a lunar mission." In a somber voice von Braun pointed out that "If our program slips one year it would [86] cost $1 billion. This kind of money is not available from Congress just for the asking."41

At the time of the Biloxi meeting and von Braun's motivational address to the builders, the work population at the test site was slightly more than 2,700 persons, mostly construction personnel. The frantic construction scene, however, began to shift to the next category of work. Because of the magnitude of the building projects, the work was divided into three phases: (1) construction, (2) activation, and (3) operation.42

The construction phase overlapped the activation phase in that it integrated construction, equipment installation, checkout, and demonstration readiness testing. NASA critically studied its position in Mississippi as activation work began in earnest during 1964 and early 1965.43

An official estimate published by the MTF Working Group in Huntsville placed the S-II second-stage rocket schedule 17 months behind the original contract date. The schedule was designed to have a flight stage on the dock at Kennedy Space Center in time to meet Project Apollo lunar-landing schedules. Artley said his studies actually put the work 22 months behind schedule. The schedule slippage caused alarms to go off all the way to NASA Headquarters, where managers were mindful of the country's commitment, while closely monitoring the Project Apollo program's progress.44

Completion of the S-II stage test facilities emerged as the "pacing item" in the Apollo program, since there was no other place in the country being prepared to test the new, Saturn V second-stage, liquid-hydrogen rocket. The Apollo decision makers knew the facilities in Mississippi had to be virtually complete in order to test and flight-certify an S-II rocket in time to meet the launch schedules. In other words, the lunar-landing program was in jeopardy.45

Earlier plans allowing the Corps of Engineers to proceed with a conventional and orderly construction, and then to turn the brick and mortar facilities....

 


[
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Construction crews install steel reinforcing rods at the base of what became the A-2 test stand.

Construction crews install steel reinforcing rods at the base of what became the A-2 test stand. The excavation for the stand went down some 50 feet with steel H-beams driven approximately 95-100 feet deeper to form a foundation for the huge piers of the test stands. (SSC-64-134C).

 

....over to NASA and its contractors for installation and activation, were no longer possible. Drastic actions had to be initiated. In order to achieve the S-II activation, the navigation lock, canal system, A-2 test stand, and all instrumentation, data, and propellant systems had to be completed.46

 

Artley's Alligators

Von Braun assigned Gordon Artley the task of overseeing the critical activation phase and bringing the test facility on line; and he decided to give Artley the job of recovering the lost time. Artley was strongly recommended by Brigadier General Edmund O'Connor, head of the MFSC's recently organized Industrial Operations; Dr. Hermann K. Weidener, Chief, Structures and [88] Mechanics Laboratory; and Karl Heimburg, who developed a great trust in Artley's management ability on earlier rocket projects. All felt that Artley's expertise was what NASA needed in Mississippi. In addition to Artley's impressive credentials with military missile and rocket projects, he had served as Chief of Test Operations for Heimburg in Huntsville. Artley had also worked for Army Major General Holger N. Toftoy, who was instrumental in bringing the von Braun team to the United States.47

Artley spent a few weeks incognito at the Mississippi site evaluating the tremendous task ahead. After he introduced himself in December 1964 to the NASA and contractor crews, he was easily recognized. He dressed in a white shirt with an open collar, cuffs turned up, casual slacks, and black ankle boots. He wore his hardhat everywhere, a part of his "uniform" that added to his special charisma.48

Hardhats were required protection for everyone as construction was under way almost everywhere on the 13,500-acre installation. The "Artley look" was soon imitated by his lieutenants, and others involved in the activation phase who wanted to be identified with the team.49

Artley set about putting together an extraordinary activation team, of government and contractor employees, to meet the Project Apollo test schedules. His first action was to set up activation headquarters in the Rouchon House. Fortune and most of his staff moved into the partially finished three-story Engineering and Administration Building (Bldg 1100). The GE employees occupied office spaces at the opposite end of Building 1100 from Fortune and his NASA crew. Fortune busied himself with recruiting and organizing an operating staff, while Artley began recruiting experienced personnel.50

Artley found that only a handful of engineers and technicians onboard in Mississippi had the specialized experience needed for activation of the test stands. In April 1965, there were over 3,000 workers on the site. GE, the support contractor from which Artley would have to draw most of his help, had 443 employees, with subcontractor personnel numbering 179. NAA, the company that would be testing the Saturn V second stage, had 97 workers, mostly from California, to begin the job of getting ready for the static engine testing. [89] In order to recruit workers with activation installation skills, Artley met with contractor managers and insisted they hire employees who could be used immediately. "The contractors brought in 300 new people for our activation team in one month," Artley recalled.51

Artley had a following of dedicated missile workers at other sites, and he called on them to join him in Mississippi. Many of his former activation experts were with the Martin Company, a company that gained a tough, no-nonsense reputation for getting the job done for the Air Force. These experts were strongly loyal to the Martin Company, with a reverence for Gordon Artley as their leader.52

One of these former activation experts was O.J. Howe, hired by GE at Artley's request and put in charge of Work Control for the entire base, with 19 contractor personnel from the Parsons Company helping him direct the work traffic.53

Another activation expert recruited was Tom Flynn, a quiet, capable westerner who helped on other missile projects with Artley. Artley said he also depended heavily on Fred Kohl, who was one of his most valued assistants. In fact, Kohl was so valued by Artley that he was named by GE as head of the activation efforts. Jim Boyland, another missileman, had worked for Artley at a Titan site near Sacramento, California. Boyland answered Artley's summons and came to Mississippi to "straighten out the warehouse mess." Howe, Flynn, Boyland, and Kohl all remained through the activation and operation phase and eventually retired in the Gulf Coast area.54

In a further move to strengthen the activation work, the MTF Working Group in Huntsville was disbanded and its capable engineers transferred to Mississippi on "continuing temporary duty." Some of these personnel were A.J. Rogers, Jr., Tom Edwards, Kenneth Riggs, Henry Dyer, W.L. "Willie" Shippey, Summers Taylor, and Colonel Charles Palmer. Having key members of the Working Group on the construction site was especially valuable, since they were instrumental in the design of the facilities and technical systems being installed. For example, as Artley said, "some detailed drawings showed cryogenic pipe connections joining in a certain [90] place on the test stand. But when you examined them in the field, they may have ended up a couple of feet apart!" With the Huntsville engineers on the spot, these kind of problems were resolved in minutes, rather than days.55

Artley also had the benefit of the detailed test site activation plans developed by Henry Auter. Auter's activation plans documented what was needed to see the activation phase through to completion. And Artley had Auter present to help guide the work of thousands of personnel, many of whom were the key engineers recruited by Auter.56

Artley used a management technique that worked for him on the Titan sites to organize and track the activation work. He called the technique "Complex Operational Group" (COG), and he divided all the work projects into COGs. "I liked the acronym," Artley recalled, "because it spelled cogs, which are what keep a wheel moving." There were six COGs; the S-II complex was COG 1 because of its immediate importance. The other COGs included the S-IC stand, test support, data operations, propellant operations, and waterways. A tried-and-proven management tracking concept, called Performance Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) was used to keep track of and give visibility to every project on the site. The PERT system employed a master control room, located in the main administration building - Building 1100, with smaller control rooms located in various COGs. The smaller "field" control rooms electronically tied back to the Building 1100 master control room. All work status was posted daily, and work managers could see at a glance the status of their work and the exact locations of their problems.57

According to many who worked for Artley, motivating others was Artley's strongest suit. He held a meeting ("Sunrise Service") every day at 6:30 a.m. and assembled his lead personnel and supervisors to review the work status and determine the next step. Anyone who attended one of Artley's Sunrise Services never forgot his high-pitched "sermons." George Beasley, a NASA engineer from Alabama, once called Artley's attention to an article in the morning newspaper. Gordon Artley said in his high-pitched voice, "George, when do you have time to read the newspaper?" Beasley meekly replied, "Early in the morning, Gordon, on the way to work." Gordon retorted, [91] "George, that means you are getting up too late because you must have sunlight to read the newspaper; you should be out here at work when the sun comes up!" Beasley would have felt "left out" if he was not included in one of the famous "chewings" by his flamboyant leader.58

Artley employed positive motivation techniques through development of a bona fide mascot to help boost employee morale. He met with well-known site artist Charles Swan and outlined his need for a motivational symbol. Artley and Swan talked about both the armadillo and the infamous alligator, a ferocious reptile that abounded in the rivers and swamps around the NASA site. Artley said, "The armadillo is too harmless, we need something strong and powerful like the alligator." Swan drew a cartoon of an alligator that became the symbol of the activation team. As one of Artley's motivational awards, the top Activator of the month won the "Alligator Award" certificate, which entitled the recipient to a free trip to Huntsville to witness a static firing. The fired-up "Alligators" worked day and night and went to all lengths to win the simple certificate and a trip to Huntsville. Later, Henry Auter revived the Alligator Award and presented it to those retiring from the test facility. The Artley-inspired, Swan-original cartoon is still held dear in the hearts of the oldtimers who remember the Artley era.59

 


Notes

1. "Weather Stalls MTO," The (Bay St. Louis, MS) Sea Coast Echo (henceforth referred to as The Sea Coast Echo), 2 January 1964.

2. "Operation Mudhole," The Picayune (MS) Item, (henceforth referred to as the Picayune Item), 23 January 1964.

3. "9.5 Inches Rain Bog MTO Work," Picayune Item, 30 January 1964; "Significant Problems Encountered," Henry Auter working papers, pp. 1-2, Stennis Space Center Historical Records Collection at Stennis Space Center, MS (henceforth referred to as the SSCHRC).

4. "MTO, The Big Year," Construction News, vol. 31, no. 10 (4 March 1994), pp. 17-23.

5. "Fortune Satisfied With MTO Progress," Picayune Item, 21 November 1963.

6. NASA News Release, "Biography of Jerry Hlass," 1976, SSCHRC; Jerry Hlass, interview by Mack Herring, Long Beach, MS, 2 August 1995.

7. Hlass, interview by Mack Herring.

8. "MTO Progress is Evident to Eye," Picayune Item, 13 February 1964; "MTO, The Big Year," Construction News, pp. 17-23.

9. "Pour Pier For Bridge at MTO Between Rains," The Sea Coast Echo, 6 February 1964; "Operation Big Pour Sees 851 Yards of Concrete Dumped to Form 1st Step of MTO Bascule Bridge," Picayune Item, 6 February 1964.

10. "MTO Progress Is Evident To Eye," Picayune Item, 13 February 1964; Audrey Faye Bufkin, interview by Mack Herring, Bay St. Louis, MS, 5 July 1995.

11. "Agencies Agree On Location Of Interstate Bridge," Picayune Item, 19 March 1964.

12. Roy L. Bullock, "Mississippi Test Facility Utilization Data," executive study, NASA Headquarters, attachment 3, 1968, pp. 1-5, SSCHRC; Michael Kent, "Space Activity In An Agrarian Economy," MSFC management study, 1963, p. 9, SSCHRC.

13. "MTO Planning Unit Appointed," The Slidell-St. Tammany (LA) Times (henceforth referred to as The Slidell Times), 6 February 1964.

14. "Official Status Will Be Sought For Commission," The (Biloxi/Gulfport, MS) Daily Herald (henceforth referred to as The Daily Herald), 27 February 1964; "NASA-MTO Area Planning Group Elects Officers," Picayune Item, 27 February 1964; "Planning Unit For MTO Asked," The Daily Herald, 4 March 1964.

15. "NASA-MTO Area Planning Group Elects Officers," Picayune Item, 27 February 1964; "Planning Unit For MTO Asked," The Daily Herald, 4 March 1964.

16. "Workers At Mississippi Test Operations Pass 1000 Mark For First Time," Picayune Item, 2 March 1994.

17. Edward A. Ling, Sr., The Space Crescent: The Untold Story (Huntsville, AL: The Strode Publishers, 1984), pp. 58-64.

18. MSFC Master Planning Office, Pearlington As A Planned Community, map, color artist concept, SSCHRC.

19. Ibid.

20. "Total of 2,000 Persons Now Are Working At MTO Site," Picayune Item, 18 June 1964; Leo L. Jones, "A Brief History Of The Mississippi Test Facility 1961-1966," comment draft, (Huntsville, MS: MSFC Historical Office, 1967), p. 57, SSCHRC.

21. "Senator Stennis Pays Visit To MTO Test Site," Picayune Item, 14 May 1964; "Dr.Von Braun Makes Tour Of Gainesville Site," The (New Orleans, LA) Times-Picayune, (henceforth referred to as The Times Picayune), 3 May 1964.

22. "Schools Big Need," The Sea Coast Echo, 14 May 1964; "Von Braun Pleased With MTO Progress," Picayune Item, 14 May 1964.

23. "Lawmakers Wind Up Two Days On Coast Tonight," The Daily Herald, 11 April 1964; "Johnson, Gartin, And Solons In Tour Of NASA Operation," The (Jackson, MS) Clarion-Ledger, (henceforth referred to as The Clarion-Ledger), 11 April 1964.

24. Bullock, "Utilization Data." attachment 3, pp. 1-3.

25. "Space Billions--Now A Boom?" U.S. News & World Report, 20 July 1964, pp. 24-29.

26. Ibid.; "Awesome Space-Age Impact Seen," editorial, The Times-Picayune, 25 July 1964.

27. "Space Program Beginning," Picayune Item, 17 September 1964; Leo Seal, Jr., interview by Mack Herring, Gulfport, MS, 27 September 1994; W. Henry Lambright, Powering Apollo, James E. Webb Of NASA, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), pp. 1-14.

28. "On The Moon By 1969, Webb Forecast," The Times- Picayune, 15 September 1964.

29. Ibid.

30. "Joint Fund Drives At MTO Agreed To," The Sea Coast Echo, 10 September 1964.

31. "Scafide Tells Test Operation Impact In Area," Picayune Item, 8 October 1964; Bullock, "Utilization Data," 1968, attachment 5, pp. 1-3.

32. Bullock, "Utilization Data," 1968, attachment 5, pp.1-3.

33. Ibid.; "Moonshine May Fuel Hancock Rocketships," The (Jackson, MS) States-Times (henceforth referred to as The States-Times), 2 November 1961.

34. "Still Destroyed Near Santa Rosa," Picayune Item, 1 October 1964. "The Boom Is On," Picayune Item, 1 November 1964.

35. News Release, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (henceforth referred to as COE), 7 February 1964; News Release, COE, 2 August 1964; "Corps of Engineers Has Vital MTO Role," The Clarion-Ledger, 1 April 1965; News Release, COE, 2 June 1963.

36. Ibid.

37. Ibid.

38. Leo Seal, Jr, interview by Henry Auter; "Summary Working Papers," Executive Director Collection, SSCHRC. "Big Four For MTO Highly Experienced," Picayune Item, 30 April 1964.

40. A.J. "Jack" Rogers, Jr., interview by Mack Herring, Gulfport, MS, 7 April 1995.

41. "Significant Problems Encountered," Auter working papers, SSCHRC. "Stresses Test Stand Importance," The Daily Herald, 30 November, 1964.

42. Ibid.

43. "Sequence Of Mississippi Test Facility Development," Auter working papers, SSCHRC.

44. ibid.

45. Roger E. Bilstein, Stages To Saturn, A Technological History of the Apollo/Saturn V Launch Vehicle (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration SP-4206, 1980), p. 74; "Mississippi Test Facility Development Plans And Schedules," Auter working papers, SSCHRC.

46. Artley, interview.

47. Ibid.

48. Artley, interview; Orville J. Howe, interview by Mack Herring, August 1995.

49. Howe, interview; James Boyland, interview by Mack Herring, August 1995; Charles Swan, interview by Mack Herring, August 1995.

50. Howe, interview; Swan, interview.

51. Artley, interview.

52. Ibid.

53. Ibid.

54. Howe, interview.

55. Artley, interview; Boyland, interview; Howe, interview.

56. Artley, interview.

57. Ibid.

58. Ibid.; Jones, "Brief History Of Mississippi Test Facility," pp. 23-24.

59. Howe, interview; Boyland, interview; Swan, interview.


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