RADM Kenneth C. Malley
Director Strategic Systems Programs
Department of the Navy
Washington, D.C. 20376-5002
Dear Admiral Malley:
I am taking the liberty of providing you a copy of an official verbal history of the Polaris system in my own words as told to the official Naval verbal historian, Dr. Mason.
This has proved to be a much sought after document. Mr.David Packard asked for a copy and wrote a very complimentary letter saying he wanted to use it as a guide for highest priority programs.
It occurred to me that perhaps you would like to make this a part of the official history of the Polaris Program as it reveals the fancy footwork of many people responsible for the Polaris job. The Polaris history part, per se, commences on page 24. The initial pages were given to Dr. Mason at his insistence that a background of my previous Naval experience and qualifications would be an important part of the management system which evolved.
With warmest wishes,
Red W.F. Raborn
A: Admiral, I’m delighted that you’ve consented to do this story on Polaris. It comes from the horse’s mouth, so to speak: I wonder if we shouldn’t begin, however, with a bit of your personal background in the Navy.
You were the man who had all the qualifications that seemed necessary to head up the Special Projects Division in the Navy. Both Admiral Burke and Admiral Sides were in agreement on that. How did you happen to acquire all of the necessary experience? How did you happen to have this in your background? Perhaps you might talk about that for a bit.
Adm. R.: That’s a difficult subject to address because the evolution of a person’s life is so markedly influenced by his associations and assignments to duty in the case of a military person. Some of the ingredients, I think, that were important to this kind of a job, or, as a matter of fact, any kind of job which requires dedicated effort are a basic enthusiasm for life, a great amount of personal energy, and a thorough appreciation that a person doesn’t have to do everything by himself, and that the collective efforts of those that are around him have to be utilized and brought to bear in an optimum way on the problem at hand.
Going back a little bit in my own naval career, it was filled with great enthusiasm for sea duty and for the Navy life in particular. The motivation which I received at the hands of the officers in the Navy at that time was great. Obviously they should receive credit for the enthusiasm with which young officers like myself tackled their job and dedicated themselves to the Navy life. This is part and parcel of the word leadership which the Navy and the military in general prize so greatly. For example, in officers as well as enlisted men, the element of leadership is given top rating or effectiveness of a person. Leadership is known in civilian circles as the ability to manage and get things done, I believe.
Q: Some of that is part of one’s natural endowment, some of it is acquired.
Adm. R.: I suppose that the combination of enthusiasm, energy and dedication just makes a person a better leader. You dedicate yourself to your job, you learn more about it, you become enthused, you enthuse other people, you get people to dedicate their efforts, and the result is you have a buildup of ongoing efforts which commanding officers or officers aboard ship show and result in a ship being a good ship, a ship that’s smart, and in which people respond to their duties with pride, and they’re alert. All of these things are bound up in the word leadership.
My duties at sea were many and varied. They were principally in the ordnance end of the Navy, gunnery officer of ships and so forth. I did have some communications duty, which was collateral. But at an early age, five years after graduating from the Naval Academy, I entered flight training and became a naval aviator, and for the rest of my career I was a naval aviator. I was a rated pilot until the day I retired in September 1963.
Q: Did your experience with aviation, perhaps, contribute to your later ability to make clear-cut and rapid decisions, which was a factor in your success with Polaris?
Adm. R.: I suppose the qualities that made a good naval aviator undoubtedly encompassed many of the qualities of which you speak. Obviously, to fly a fighter plane and I was a fighter pilot for a large number of years you had to do things well, if you were going to live, and so that zeal for proficient flying became a guiding way of life for successful fighter pilots. So I emphasize that enthusiasm and the zest for living, is part and parcel of a good leader. The ability to make good decisions and live with it and live because of them was a part of our normal training. I never considered myself an outstanding officer, but I always felt that I could carry my part of the load. My training and duties in aviation squadrons had to do with gunnery. Gunnery fascinated me from the time I was a little child, guns of all kinds.
We found certain gunnery deficiencies in my duties in naval aviation squadrons. For example, it was my dream to teach people to shoot fixed machine guns from fighter planes better, also teach them to dive bomb better from planes. So I was sent to Pensacola as a fighter plane instructor for two years, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Then went to duty in long-range sea planes (patrol planes) about two years before the outbreak of World War II. Patrol planes, or flying boats, as they were called, were considerably short on ordnance equipment, ability to do offensive things. The planes were large and could carry tremendous weights, yet we had no aviation torpedoes, we had no way to carry torpedoes aboard planes. Obviously, these planes could range thousands of miles from the base and could very well come upon an enemy vessel in time or war and, if they had torpedoes on board, they could perhaps sink or cripple the ship.
We had no aviation depth bombs to use against submarines, enemy submarines in time of war. We had no way to carry them. We did have bomb racks, one on each wing. So I took it on myself with the cooperation of people in other parts of the Navy locally in San Diego, to adopt surface-ship torpedoes so that they could be carried on the wings of patrol planes. The Torpedo Station prepared the torpedoes for running and we fixed box fins on the tail to give it some aerodynamic qualities as they dropped from patrol planes, and I myself flew the planes and did all the testing. I had another plane alongside to take pictures of it, and we were able to develop fins and altitudes and attitudes of the plane for dropping destroyer (ship) torpedoes successfully from patrol planes.
We sent in, I remember, an official report to the then Bureau of Ordinance along with pictures in sequence from the time the torpedo was dropped until it entered the water and, theoretically, hit the target which was a destroyer, and we got a blistering letter back saying, you can’t do that, these actions exceeded our authority, such things were not a matter for the fleet to experiment with, and this was not to be done. This was my first brush with entrenched bureaucracy!
Q: You were adequately cowed by that, I suspect. Adm. R.: No, we were not. We just felt, well, no wonder we don’t have aerial torpedoes for planes with that kind of attitude at the seat of the government.
Also, we had no depth bombs designed to be dropped from airplanes and we had no way to carry them, as I mentioned before. So, with the aid of metal smiths, we concocted out of steel rods a device that fit into the bomb racks which would carry a ship type depth bomb on each wing. These were destroyer depth bombs, 300-pound non-streamlined babies. But we also took these out and dropped them very successfully. So we were rather smug about making ourselves in a makeshift way, prepared for battle against surface ships and submarines. As a matter of fact, our wing patrol planes were deployed to Pearl Harbor at Kaneohe just 22 days before World War II broke out. When we got there the aviation admiral in charge of all the aviation units in Oahu looked at our innovations and said ”These must receive the highest priority,” and he ordered immediate manufacture on a round the clock basis and racks to carry torpedoes and racks to carry depth bombs. I think it was significant that history records a miniature Japanese submarine trying to enter Pearl Harbor was sunk by one of our patrol planes carrying a destroyer depth charge on its wing. He recognized it as a Japanese submarine that was submerged, so he let it fly and the submarine was sunk. That was really the first American use of aerial depth charges in World War II to my knowledge.
Q: That was an interesting development and a new dimension to the reconnaissance concept, wasn’t it?
Adm. R.: Yes. Well, this is the kind of thing that it was my privilege to participate in, and my interest in guided missiles missiles of all kinds was heightened when I was sent to the Bureau of Ordnance for duty. I was the assistant for R&D for all aviation ordnance and also of all ship based guided missiles then being developed by the Bureau of Ordnance.
Q: Was this the Regulus?
Adm. R.: No, the Regulus was a Bureau of Aeronautics missile. The Buord missiles were the three T systems, Terrier, Tartar and Talos anti-aircraft ship based missiles, the 5 inch air-to-air rocket which later became useful for air-to-ground work, the 2.75-inch rocket, and various others quite a few of these rockets and guided missiles (or other follow on versions) are in use in the fleet today. As a matter of fact, in some considerable numbers.
That tour in the Bureau of Ordnance research and develop- ment heightened my interest in guided-missile work. It gave me additional visibility to people who were running the Navy, and I presume that these kind of experiences, which are just among a few, brought me to the attention in a favorable way of folks who were in the process of selecting someone to heat up what later became known as the Navy’s Polaris Program.
Q: In this tour of duty at BuOrd, is this where you acquired an ability to deal with scientists, which is a very special ability? Adm. R.: Perhaps. We certainly had to form close working relationships with the scientists.
Q: This was one of the requisites for the Polaris job, I understand.
Adm. R.: During World War II I was brought back to Washington for a year to establish and set up an aviation gunnery training school because at the outbreak of World War II I was at Kaneohe and I was shocked to note the lack of training for personnel manning machine guns in patrol planes, for instance For example, on the night of 7 December after the devastating attack one of the pilots called me from Pearl Harbor, saying “They’re sending me out tonight on a mission with people in waist guns who don’t even know how to load the guns! Can’t you do something about it!” This was a deplorable state of training, so I determined right then and there that we had to do something about training all of the patrol plane personnel in the Hawaiian area even though they belonged to other commands. So the next day I started a gunnery training school at Kaneohe by going down and getting my ordnancemen together and fished the machine guns out of the burned out hulks of the patrol planes and set them up on a point a Kaneohe. Then we put a plane in the air to tow sleeves and set these machine guns up on stands on the ground with the ordnancemen standing besides these flight people, we started training gun crews. The idea caught on and other commands in the area happily sent their flight people over to join in.
Many innovative things were brought in there. We took gun turrets out of torpedo and patrol planes, electrical gun turrets. We set them up on mounts at the gunnery range which was established there on the edge of Kaneohe. We shot at sleeves. We taught people to use the same equipment that they were going to use in the air. I emphasize we took the waist enclosures out of the patrol planes and sat them up there and made them shoot from the same kind of thing they were going to use when they were in the air, except they were on the ground shooting at sleeves, of course. That was the difference. We did teach people, though, the basic mechanics of taking care of the guns, how to shoot guns, and the result was we had trained, when I left there to come back to Washington to head up the Navy’s aviation training program, more than 3,000 gunners.
It was heart warming to hear expressions of appreciations from former student fighter pilots from Pensacola and patrol plane personnel on one of my visits to the combat forces at Guadalcanal. I must say, however, Jimmy Thach did more for fighter gunnery than anyone else. We all admired his pioneering combat techniques.
Q: In what period of time, was this done at Kaneohe?
Adm. R.: I guess it was about thirteen months or something like that. We put them through an accelerated course, but it was all work. And we had lots of enthusiasm for this because we had a war going on and people realized they had to know how to shoot a gun.
Q: That was the new element that was introduced? Adm. R.: Sure. It was real stimulation. And of course as I have mentioned before my interest toward teaching people how to use machine guns was reflected back to three or four years before when I was at Pensacola and one of the many instructors who taught people how to shoot fixed machine guns from fighter planes by aiming the fighter plane, and how to dive bomb and so forth.
The experiences at Kaneohe was followed by duty in the aviation training department in Washington and we established many aviation gunnery schools over the country to teach aviation gunners how to shoot guns from fighters and patrol planes. After about a year the Navy sent me back to sea and I was executive officer in the aircraft carrier Hancock. My long living with gunnery found another area to express itself when I found the machine guns in the fighter planes were not being cleaned properly when they returned from combat. They were jamming in the air in actual combat! So I got the aviation ordnance men around and made sure they knew what they were to do and then checked up on them to see that they did it when their planes returned from combat – that those guns were cleaned with soap and hot water, as they were supposed to be, soap and water, properly oiled, and made into apple-pie shape. The bomb racks also were all checked after every flight.
I imported some of my old aviation ordnancemen buddies from the United States schools who knew their business, got them ordered out to the ship by name and the result was our ordnance and gunnery department was the pride of the ship.
Q; Heretofore it had been somewhat secondary, had it?
Adm. R.: In my opinion it was a sloppy operation. The object of the whole game of being out there is to have those guns shoot well. Now, the second part of this, of course, was the defensive guns of the ship. The Essex- type carrier was armed with four gun mounts of 5-inch guns and had sponsons containing 40mms. both twins and quads, and then along the catwalk on the flight deck were reams of 20-mm guns, which the flight deck crew manned when we were being attacked.
I noted that in the practice gunnery which we had regularly, shooting at sleeves out in the battle zone when we didn’t have live targets to shoot at, that they left considerable to be desired. So I took over groups of these, one at a time, for the gunnery officer, set the boys down, and talked to them like a Dutch uncle and reminded them that if they were going to hit a duck they had to shoot in front of them and they had to keep moving the gun as they were shooting. Now, these 20mms were equipped with a lead computing sights which would compute the lead to hit a plane provided that one of the men on the guns would turn a knob to keep the wings of the airplane properly matched within two movable pointers. But in the excitement of combat I’m sure this isn’t being done, so I said, “You just go right on and try to keep those wings circumscribed or bounded by these two pointers, but for the man who’s actually moving and shooting the gun I want you to lead the target just like he was shooting ducks. If you’re going to miss, miss ahead of the plane. You may hit the guy.”
Well, the result was with this toning up of the ship’s gunnery personnel they got so good at shooting down the target sleeves that we were not permitted to shoot at sleeves until all the other ships had finished because every time it came by we shot it down with almost the first burst with 5-inch guns, or 40mms., or 20 mms. They said. “Hancock”, no shooting from you until we tell you.”
Q: Excellence was a handicap!
Adm. R.: No, it wasn’t a handicap but it was a source of great pride to our crew and the tow pilots were happy as they didn’t have to stream as many sleeves. It took a lot of time to stream sleeves, so they said you will shoot last. They knew the first pass that the guys would make with the long sleeves being towed, why, down would come the sleeve for we’d shoot if off and they’d have to stream another. Of course, this coupled with special attention and training of lookouts made this aircraft carrier, which of course would be a bull’s eye for attacking planes (aircraft carriers were the target for attacking planes) the pride and joy of the task force commander as far as its ability to defend itself and to shoot and shoot well. We knocked down many a plane. We had a great big old fat battleship over there with guns coming out of it from bow to stern and it didn’t seem to be hitting anything but when attacking planes jumped us we knocked them down and got direct hits on them. That didn’t keep us from getting damaged sometimes because a plane did suicide us, maybe we hit him solidly but of course he was like a bomb exploding right over the ship. There wasn’t much you could do about this.
Q: An early attempt at kamikaze, wasn’t it?
Adm. R.: We don’t know whether it was a kamikaze or not, but we did hit him and knocked him out of the air but he plunged on into the water. There were several other planes that we hit and knocked out of the air and we got away very fortunately. A bomb would fall on one side and the engine on the other side and all of that, just so we were not touched, sometimes we would have some burning debris on the deck which was quickly put out and pushed over the side.
I guess these kind of associations with naval weaponry at sea and ashore accumulated to a place where I was just one of many officers identified with ordnance and gunnery. So in 1955 when it was decided in Washington that the Navy would join with the Army in an attempt to use at sea the Army ballistic missile to be developed the Navy looked around for a program manager. The Navy had been able to persuade the then Secretary of Defense to join up with the Army in this project. Secretary Wilson – “Engine Charlie” Wilson, I believe he was popularly called to differentiate him from the Charlie Wilson who was head of General Electric, who was fondly called “Washing Machine” Charlie Wilson – (these were all terms of endearment), of course made this decision a very wise one indeed. I learned later that there was quite a group of people who were pulling for one person or another to head up this Navy endeavor with the Army, to see if they could use it aboard surface vessels. Converted merchant ship first and later perhaps in submarines. I later learned that the Bureau of Aeronautics wanted to be the lead in this effort. The Bureau of Ordnance also wanted to be the lead Bureau. I’m not sure, but I think a classmate of mine who is now deceased, was their candidate. He was an ordnance PG, and eminently qualified. Although I had served in the Bureau of Ordnance for one year I was not an Ordnance PG, yet it was only natural that they would turn towards a competent ordnance PG.
Q: At that time it was thought that it should be an effort within the Navy itself under the direction of some Bureau?
Adm. R.: Yes, that’s right. A person would have to have the support of a bureau in order to do this – there were a myriad of things to be done, all the way from getting and maintaining personnel, the support of personnel and office supplies, contractual support, and you name it. The bureau of course was the kind of organization that could provide these services. Admiral Sides, I was told later, was in the middle of this selection. I don’t know how he voted, but Admiral Russell told me later that he was sorry not to be designated as the lead bureau, but “they kept him quiet by taking his candidate for the job”, which fortunately was me. Then they gave the project to the Bureau of Ordinance. Now I was summarily jerked out of my job in Norfolk – operations officer for the C in C Atlantic Fleet told me to come to Washington on the run!
Q. You had to leave in 24 hours or something? Adm. R.: Well, yes. I was told to get up there overnight. So my wife and I loaded our things in two cars and drove up. The job was explained to me and I was told to go to work. Going to work meant going over to an office in the Bureau of Ordnance and I had one officer, Captain Hassler, who is now retired and living in Sunnyvale, California. He was the one person in Bureau of Ordnance who met me. So we started out with one office and one officer. He had been one of the prime movers in the Bureau of Ordnance to try to get the project for the bureau.
Admiral Burke made it very clear, along with Secretary Thomas, the high importance and absolute top priority within the Navy and on the national scene that the effort was to have, and I was, of course, to work with the Army who had set up a similar organization in Huntsville, Alabama, under Major General Bruce Medaris, to build a large liquid-fuel (main-propulsion engine) ballistic missile which was later named Jupiter. This was supposed to be a 1,500 mile bird and it was in direct competition with the Air Force’s similar efforts to build a land-based, as the Jupiter was, missile called Thor.
Adm. R.: No, it wasn’t Atlas. Atlas was a 2,500-mile bird. This was a 1,500-mile similar version. In any event, there was considerable haste on the part of the Army and the Air Force to be the first to develop a 1,500-mile land based ballistic missile, and I’m sure that the imposition of the Secretary of Defense on the Army that the Jupiter had to be used aboard ships was not too well appreciated by the Army because undoubtedly to try to make it useable aboard ships at sea would be a hindrance to them. There’d be many navy requirements laid on them which would not be necessary at all for land-based missiles, and this would impede their progress and cause them to lose the race to the Air Force as to who was going to be the first to provide a 1,500 mile, land based ballistic missile.
Q: Admiral, why did the Secretary of Defense impose this upon the Army and the Navy, too?
Adm. R.: I think it was due to the persuasiveness of Admiral Burke and Secretary Thomas. As I understand it, they were out to Admiral Burke’s quarters one night and they were discussing the matter that the Navy should have a ballistic missile at sea. There have been many people who had thought of this and wanted to do this. As a matter of fact, they did launch a large German built liquid-fueled missile from an aircraft carrier at sea. It was very spectacular but obviously not very practical because of the size of the missile and because the ship moved around too much in the seaway.
So Admiral Burke and Secretary Thomas were persuasive and Secretary Wilson said all right, join up with the Army. The Army, I think, in a way, was pleased to have the Navy support. Obviously, the two services working together were a formidable group.
Q: Was the Navy equally as pleased to have it a joint project, or would they have preferred to have gone their own way?
Adm. R.: Well, in my opinion the Navy actually didn’t know and had considerable reservations. When you say “the Navy” that takes in a lot of people, but let’s say most of the senior officers in Washington, with the exception of Admiral Burke, were not deliriously happy to embark on such a risky and costly venture like this. They felt – and I think very properly so – that a large liquid-fueled missile aboard ship was a very dangerous thing. There were dangers of leaking fuel from pipes and pumping and all this sort of thing, even on the open launching stations, on the deck where this large thin-shelled bird would be erected and held in place and then just fueled before launch. Conceivably, you’d be in more danger from that than you would if you were under fire from the enemy, and those of us in the Navy project office had reservations too. But national urgency caused us to give it a real try.
As a matter of fact, later on, during our initial tests of mock- ups of the bird and ships’ structures we proved very conclusively that in those days the carrying and launching of large liquid-fueled missiles aboard a surface vessel was very, very hazardous because when we’d topple them over to see what would happen and the resulting fire and explosion just made it very difficult thing to countenance, or to really go ahead with. The though of putting these missiles in the confined spaces of a submarine underneath the water, would make an internal combustion engine out of the whole submarine. Of course storage able liquid fuels have advanced tremendously since then but the inherent safety of solid fuels still gets my vote.
So, as these tests with liquid fuel engines moved on, we were experimenting with large solid rocket boosters that could become, perhaps, motors for ballistic missiles. Of course, the Terrier, Tartar and the 2.75, and the 5-inch HVAR rockets were all solid- propelled boosters, so the Navy was not entirely ignorant of the capabilities of solid propellants. But the specific impulse, or “oomph” of the motors built for solid propellants was not nearly as high as the isp that you could get from liquid fuels. However, solid fuel motors were far more safe and we had some considerable experience in handling them aboard ship and aboard airplanes, so that the Office of Naval Research, in some of their work, with Atlantic Research Corporation, which is in the vicinity of Washington, fortunately about a year after we had been working on liquid fuels motors came up with some rather startling advances in the specific impulse that you could get from solid propellants. The rule was formerly that the addition of a substance, like powder aluminum in solid propellants, up to a certain point you could get an increase in specific impulse. The people down their said, well, what would happen if you put massive amounts of aluminum powder in it? So they did that –
Q: Ignoring that cut-off point and going ahead beyond it? Adm. R.: Yes They ignored what the textbook said, so they went ahead and came up with a marked improvement in the amount of specific impulse, which clearly showed us that now it was possible to build large solid fuel motors that could propel a large missile some 1,200 to 1,500 nautical miles.
Q: This, incidentally, was achieved by two young scientists, was it not, Rumbeau and Henderson? Adm. R.: I think so, yes, under the sponsorship of the Office of Naval Research.
We delightedly seized upon this and went to work with our principals in the contractual family which we had by this time gathered around us to try to put the Jupiter to sea and to our delight, we came up with a very, very much smaller missile carrying a respectable warhead and one which would be entirely safe to put into submarines. It was very obvious to us that putting ballistic missiles in surface vessels was not nearly as attractive as putting them in submarines, because, one, the submarine was more difficult to find, and secondly, if we could launch it submerged while the submarine is submerged the missile would have a very stable platform. It’s not rolling around storm-tossed as the surface vessel would be.
So we directed our attention to this matter and evolved a program putting solid-propellant ballistic missiles into submarines. I very proudly carried this over to Admiral Burke and the Secretary of the Navy, and then to the Secretary of Defense Wilson. I contrasted it with the previous program when he had approved for us to go ahead and showed him a series of slides of what it would do for size and costs of the vessels and where we could use it and how in submarines. The last slide showed the contrast with the program he had approved, and that we could put it into submarines and we could save up to $50,000,000.
Q: Was it not 500,000,000? Adm. R.: No, it was 50,000,000 for the liquid fuel missile place in surface ships. In any event when I finished the presentation, the Secretary of Defense looked most appreciative and he said, “Well, Admiral, you’ve shown me a lot of sexy slides this morning, but I tell you that last slide where you showed me the tremendous saving, was the sexiest one of all.” Q: Money speaks! Adm. R.: We walked out feeling very good indeed about this and, in due time, he indicated that he would give his approval to the dissolution of our working partnership with the Army and to proceed on our own. Acceptance of this program in the Navy, however, was coming along not as good as we had hoped. Admiral Burke called a meeting of all of his senior flag officers in his office and had me there, I guess as the piece de resistance, and he told what we planned to do and sought their advice. Of course, this was typical of Admiral Burke. He didn’t try to “bull” his way through. He tried to get people to see things as he saw them and then tried to explain the rationale behind this thinking, hoping that they would come to the same conclusion that he did.
He asked them at the end of his dissertation on what we planned to do and sought their advice that they would advise him to do. Not one of them was enthusiastic about the program.
Q: Why? Adm. R.: Most of them felt that it would be a waste of money, a tremendous drain on the Navy’s budget, and that is would not be successful. The result would be that many things that they needed in their areas of responsibility would not be purchased or would not be done, and the Navy would get a big black eye out of this program, and they so expressed themselves to Admiral Burke.
Q: The overriding issue of national defense didn’t -? Adm. R.: It wasn’t that so much. They too were participating in national defense. They had charge of building submarines and destroyers and aircraft carriers, and so on, and to take literally millions and millions of dollars and put it in something they were not convinced would be successful it was a normal reaction. After all, launching a missile from a submarine while submerged was an entirely new idea. It had never been done, and so on. There were so many things that had yet to be proven.
Q: At the time of this conference, had the Secretary of Defense ordered the funds for the development of this missile to come from the Navy budget? Adm. R.: Well of course, it was obvious to everybody that the initial funds would have to come from the existing Navy budget to get started until the new fiscal year came around. I’m sure that this played a major part in the attitudes of the admirals because they could see many of their cherished programs going down the drain, which were quite important and no one can say they were not. It was not selfishness. They had a responsibility for a certain part of the Navy and it was obvious that it was important and proper that they speak up for their part of the Navy. Q: Were you invited to speak your piece at the conference? Adm. R.: At the end of it, as a sort of finale, Admiral Burke turned to me and said, what do you think. And, in my youthful enthusasm, I said, “if the Navy didn’t go ahead with it, it would be making the biggest mistake it had ever made.” With that we were dismissed, and Burke then decreed that we would proceed and proceed with the top priority, and wrote a memorandum to that effect. He sent me a copy and it dictated, in effect, that I was to have absolute top priority on anything I wanted to do and everyone in the Navy would be responsive to my requests. If they found that they could not be, there were to come instantly to him with me and he would take it on himself to say no if he thought it was proper.
Obviously this was a “magic” piece of paper. I carried it in my shirt pocket for days and weeks and months. I only had to show it once or twice and sort of apologetically, you know, the boss told me to do this. And “gosh, this is something I’ve just got to do and I hope you understand.” Of course, we were given carte blanche on everything, including people that we wanted to come in. We asked that people be ordered in from all over the United States. I got one gent off a destroyer off the south coast of Africa. He was flown back and put to work.
Q: How did the admirals who opposed the idea react to this? Adm. R.: Well, actually, they were a fine group of people, as admirals, as a rule, are. Once the boss made up his mind they fell in behind him on this program quite well. This didn’t stop all the bickering, this didn’t’ make me immediately a “hero”. Everybody thought well of it, of course. They had their reservations, but they had their orders, so they carried out their orders, and I think this is to their great credit. The thing, I think, that shook them up the most of all was that no one had anything to say about the program except me. No one in the Navy could tell me “what” or “how” to do this.
Q: This was completely innovative as far as the Navy went. Adm. R.: Completely. We had complete, absolute authority, and no one was to look over our shoulders and try to tell us how to do something or what to do. Q: I take it there was no precedent for this at all? Adm. R.: No precedent before and, I think, after.
Q: In any one of the services? Adm. R.: I would think that’s right. There were several similar examples along about that time, but they didn’t have the complete authority that was given to me, I know for sure. General Schriever had something similar to that, but he had to come and plead and beg whoever was head of their air staff, I know, on many occasions. He had something quite similar and perhaps to him, working within the Air Force command, it was similar and was equivalent. I don’t know. But, to me, this was absolute authority. I had the authority of the Secretary of Defense, as authority currently is now known, and this innovation and responsibility, I think was one of the keynotes key factors of getting this program off to a fast start and its performance of the military industrial team, which has continued to this day.
Q: Obviously, the results proved that point. I wonder, for the sake of this story, Sir, if you wouldn’t want to leap back at this time and deal with your first concern, which was the joint effort with the Army and Jupiter- going back to December of 1955 and so forth, because this development that you’ve just described was the end of 1956.
Adm. R.: Yes. Well, we worked with the Army for the best part of a year. We set up a cadre of officers down at Huntsville and I made many trips down there myself to be sure that we were working together in the best possible way and to ensure that our requirements levied on the missile’s characteristics were properly understood and were being met by the Army so that we might have the best chance of using this missile.
Q: What was your attitude on this? Were you optimistic that it could be accomplished, for the Jupiter?
Adm. R.: My attitude was let’s give it a fair trial. This was the direction in which we were pointed by both the Navy and the Army, and so it was our responsibility to develop the idea to the maximum extent to be sure that it would go, that it would work or would not work. And this we did. The Army gave us, I thought; very fine cooperation, although we were a hindrance to them obviously. We had to do a lot of extra work and a lot of extra study. Dr. von Braun was then the chief technical officer to General Medaris, and considering the circumstances the relationship between the Army and the Navy was very good. Obviously it was not a happy one for them exactly because we did slow them down and they were in a race with the Air Force. And it was not happy for us because we were trying to make somebody else’s missile which was specifically designed primarily for use from land against land targets and we were trying to pump some salt water into it so that we could take it to sea! That was a tough job and –
Q: Can you cite anything specific in the way of these problems? Adm. R.: No. They were mainly personal problems – problems of education. We would say we need this characteristic and the Army engineers would say – well, why, why in the world do you need it, you’re going to cause us to go back and re-do all of this, that, and the other. So it was an educational process which was, at times, a little painful, particularly when folks were in a hurry and obviously our requirements were slowing them down –and expensive, too.
It was a natural thing but, as I said before, under the circumstances I think our relationships worked out very well indeed. As a matter of fact, most of those people are good personal friends of mine right today. But I’m sure they had a sigh of relief when it was determined we were going to go our own way because they were unfettered and released. They could proceed to optimize the weapon for their own use without any further hindering requirement for naval use.
Q: When you were working with the Army on this joint project, how did you and your fellow officers and scientists develop the overriding wisdom of the Navy’s end of it? Tell me about that. Adm. R.: We established a contractual family, an industry contractual family, to develop the application of the Jupiter missile. It was not a full contractual family such as we had in Polaris because the Army had already selected the missile contractor, which was Chrysler. They had selected a guidance contractor, and they had the engines contractor, which was North American Aviation (at that time). So we had nothing to say about the selection of the industrial partners. Q: You had to work along with them?
Adm. R: We had to work along with them, and then one of the things we did to make sure of an optimum relationship was to ask Chrysler if they would also be our (the Navy) missile contractor – prime contractor, because inasmuch as they were building the thing for the Army we didn’t want to have one group going and explaining what we wanted for another group. We explained it to the same group and the same group of engineers and were then trying to work out both problems.
Q: Did this not result in some confusion in their minds, in industry? I mean there were riding two horses, were they not? Adm. R.: No, not much confusion. It would have been more confusing had we had another company than Chrysler. They were working for the same boss and they were being motivated by the same boss, I mean their own bosses, civilian bosses, and they were being told by their civilian bosses to please both customers. So they had motivation – I’m talking about the Chrysler people – they had motivation for both customers. The result was you got more cooperation at the working level than you would if you had another contractor, civilian contractor, come in and try to tell them what their client wanted them to do. The principal contractor would resent that. Q: I see. It would have been kind of chaotic if you had another contractor. Adm. R.: It would have been terrible if we’d got another prime contractor than Chrysler. That was just sort of a “warm-up” phase – it actually turned out to be a “warm up” phase. We learned a lot, and when it came time to go into the Polaris effort, the bird which we later named Polaris – Q: Which you named, I understand?
Adm. R.: Yes – we started with using some of the solid propellant motors, having got approval for the program by the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations, we then took about three weeks to select our own industrial family, our associates. We not only had to have a missile contractor, we had to have a missile-guidance contractor, and a missile launching contractor. We were going to do something that has never been done before, and that was to launch large ballistic missiles from a submarine when it was submerged. We had to have a navigational contractor because the submarine was supposed to stay submerged for long periods of time, and we had to know with great precision where it was at all times and have the ability to update the navigational position with minimum exposure of the submarine at regular intervals and this depended on how good the navigational equipment aboard ship was of course we had to select that contractor.
The selection of various contractors for this widely diversified program involving a missile that had never been built, a navigation system which could precisely locate the position of the submarine, a fire control system to resolve the information to inform the missile what it should do to land on target, and a missile guidance system which could take this information and steer the missile until it told the solid propellant motors to cut themselves off with precise timing in order that the warhead would follow a ballistic course to target – all involved pushing back the frontiers of science to a degree and scope which had never before been done.
To select the contractual family of industry working in partnership with the Navy had to be done with great care but at the same time, because of the urgency of the program, it had to be done on an expedited basis. There was no time for a long drawn out formal competition between various companies for these several elements of the overall weapon systems. And indeed it would have taken literally years to have come up with anything remotely resembling what we actually did develop because of the lack of experience in science and technology at that time. So happily we used the common sense method of selection of contractors which involved an intense scrutiny of the capabilities of various companies, and importantly, the work-load which they already had in-house which would be in competition for their top technical people with our program. Fortunately our small group of naval officers and civil service engineers were quite well-informed on the various companies who showed an interest in our program and they constituted a review board which gave each of the civilian contractor companies a day to come in and tell us of their ideas and how these unknown developments could best be tackled. Importantly, they were also required to give us a list of names of top technical people who would be dedicated to this job.
So in a period of about one month we were able to sort out with considerable accuracy those who were best fitted to take major prime contractual roles in the various major elements of this entire weapons system, i.e. the missile in its entirety with the sub primes for the solid propellant motors and the guidance package, the navigational system contractor, the fire control and missile guidance contractor, the launching and handling contractor who would help develop a successful means of shooting a missile from a submerged submarine and, importantly, a program office management concept to manage this entire program through the major sub-system prime contractors.
When a program as innovative as this is initiated it really doesn’t make much sense, if time is of importance, to conduct a long drawn-out competition between many contractors and then have a couple of C-130 aircraft fly them to Washington where they will be studied for another year or so before the contractual family is selected. I consider this a very wasteful way of doing business because the technical approaches finally selected will largely be obsolescent by this time and as the program goes on, a major part of this work will have to be discarded with millions of dollars of our taxpayers money wasted and the program in effect set back time-wise because of this unnecessary and over-cautious approach.
So with our contractual family selected in my program office, my first impulse was to go over and tell the Secretary of the Navy who we had chosen, but then it occurred to me that he had given me all of his authority in writing to act for him on all matters pertaining to this project. So I said why in the heck should I abrogate part of this responsibility, so we wrote a telegram and put our selected contractors under contract, over my signature, and then sent them out.
Then, I went over and told the Secretary of the Navy, and, as usual, he had me ushered in promptly. No matter what he was doing he always excused the people who were there and said, “Show Admiral Rayborn in. He has top priority.” It was a little embarrassing at times to have senior admirals shooed out of his office and walk in. I was a “frocked” admiral then. (I’d been selected for admiral. I was wearing an admiral’s uniform, but because I had not yet made my number, I was drawing a Captain’s pay!). I went in and told the Secretary of the Navy that we’d made the selections for the team and they were put under contract.
He looked at me with a startled and surprised look and said, “I thought I had some responsibility for that.” I said, “Yes, Mr. Secretary, you certainly have but, you recall, you delegated your complete authority and responsibility to me and I have exercised it. Here are the people who are now under contract to us.” He looked over the list, looked up and beamed and said, “Well, you sure made some good choices, no question about it. I recognize these people. They’re all good people.” That was the way this thing was done. What a contrast to today drawn out, expensive to the taxpayers, “Follow the book” way of doing business!
Q: Did you include on that list any of the contractors who were working on Jupiter, too? Was Chrysler on your list? Adm. R.: No, Chrysler was not. We chose Lockheed for the missile contractor and chose Westinghouse for the submerged launching contractor. Also I had gone up to talk to Dr. Stark Draper at MIT Instrumentation Laboratory about taking on the technical job of evolving the missile guidance. He had done some very fine work, to my knowledge, on inertial platforms, inertial guidance work, and he agreed to take on the missile guidance job. We brought in the General Electric Company, the Pittsfield GE Division, to be his industrial back-up, to actually manufacture the gyros and accelerators in production that were to go into the missiles – and the inertial tables to go into the missile guidance package, but all of this was to be under his technical direction, because he was and still is the world’s leading technical genius on inertial platforms for missile guidance. (It is interesting to note that this Polaris guidance team were later hired by N.A.S.A. to guide the astronauts to the moon and back!)
We selected Aerojet General for missile propulsion, to build the solid fuel propellant motors. We had instrumentation people, Interstate Electronics, who were to do the instrumentation of our range and ships and so forth, and they’re still doing that job for Poseidon. This whole contractual family was kept together and we obtained from them promises of a completely dedicated group of people and separate buildings for our work. We constructed the buildings as necessary to put them into business in order that our work could be absolutely segregated from the rest of the contractor’s work and be given absolute top priority in their plants. We established an on-site naval civilian representatives of our own, naval officers in small teams, to follow their work on a day- to-day basis and, of course, we had a small team here in Washington. We had truly a magnificent military-industrial partnership.
Q: Were there any repercussions to your selectness once they became known? Some of the concerns that had worked and were working for the Army, did they not feel they should be in on this particular project? Adm. R.: No, we had no reverberations whatsoever. Q: None from the congressional area? Adm. R.: No, none whatsoever. I think that there’s entirely too much about this today. I think the idea of competition for competition’s sake is time consuming, expensive, and sometimes, particularly if you put the award of contracts on the lowest price without due regard for capability, you are buying a very bad thing for the defense posture and the taxpayer. As a matter of fact, it’s one of the most uneconomical things and wasteful things you can do – to take somebody who really doesn’t know what the problems are all about and, due to ignorance, they in effect “buy” in, and you are required by law to give it to the lowest bidder. This is the most wasteful thing that you can do. No one who’s building a house, if he advertised for bids, would take a guy who obviously had no record of success to speak of. Just to take this bid because he is the lowest would be the most foolish thing to do and he’d know it. Well, if you can translate that to a major program dealing in new and unknown technology, you can see how silly it is to slavishly follow “standard” procedures” instead of exercising judgment! It is impossible to cast out a R&D program. We’ve been building houses for 3,000 years or more, but we still have boo-boos and over-runs in houses. For example, if you want to get a surgical operation on your body, you don’t go to the cheapest surgeon, you go the best surgeon that you can interest in your case. National defense deserves equally first class care. Otherwise the corporate body could become corpus delicti!
So the selection of the Polaris team was that kind of thing. We got the best we could for the country, to our judgment, and they in turn have distinctly proven to this country and to anyone who wants to look into it in an unbiased basis that this kind of awarding contracts is the best way to go, because I believe the Polaris contractual team have performance unequaled by any contractual family of a major project before or since. In their performance- time schedules they consistently under ran those set for the program. And this performance was obtained by cultivating a real team spirit and effort! Today people want to set up all kinds of managerial techniques which are theoretical in nature by men who frequently have had little or no practical experience in managing programs. These elaborate and theoretical procedures enforced upon program managers hinder rather than help get the job done. Of course they are supposed to prevent a manager from making mistakes, and this is ridiculous. It seems to assume that everyone is inexperienced so you have to go through a set routine in order to get anything done. This kind of slavish devotion to check off lists permits no exercise of brains and literally costs us taxpayers millions of dollars. It penalizes the armed forces of the United States for they are not as fully armed and fully equipped as they could be if people could use good judgment instead of endless reviews by others. Much money is being wasted by unnecessary competitive efforts and wasteful allocation of contracts to incompetent “low bidder” people. That’s what’s going right now under the guise of, “well, this is the way the ‘book’ says to do it.” The best way by whose standards? Performance? Certainly not! The various echelons of review seem to feel that only they are competent to pass on the program actions.
The lessons of Polaris have certainly been lost on this country. It was a very successful effort of major proportions – but now people seem to be more content to “stooge” along following the many rules, feeling “protected” while more bureaucrats write more rules to prevent mistakes as if they can ever be a substitute for common sense.
Q: Has it been because it hasn’t been published to that extent, or what?
Adm. R.: People don’t want to work this way. There are millions of people in the government – and when I say “millions,” I guess it’s at least a million people in government whose jobs are built up on the bureaucracy of paper work and endless reviews of the program managers work. Their jobs would be jeopardized if they streamlined action taking and did things in a more common sense, straight forward way. So, obviously we are not going to get this kind of thing turned around. We have unbelievable management “top-hamper” in the Government. They don’t want to believe any other way can be successful or profitable, except the way that they are sponsoring. So we have procedural papers and procedural reviews and methodology which is the most wasteful thing I know of in this country, absolutely the most wasteful, under the guise of efficiency! It’s the most inefficient thing that I know of, and no one can get anything done, from building a house to developing a new major weapon system under these kind of procedures and do it efficiently and do it effectively, and do it effectively against time. Talk about inefficiency in defense procurement. How does the civilian metro system in Washington D.C. compare? Or take a look at the new senate office building job over-runs.
In the Polaris program we knocked off some three and a half years off the program schedule, and this was not a stereotyped program such as building subways! This was an innovative, completely new, never been done before weapons system. We didn’t know how to navigate submarines with precision while submerged, we didn’t know how to launch a large missile submerged in the water, we didn’t know how to guide it once it got into the air and deliver it with adequate accuracy, we didn’t have a warhead for it a nuclear warhead. None of these things had been done before and yet naval officers in uniform, and our civil service managed their contractors and it was done superbly well by this consortium of military and industry family. And we had “letter” contracts for about the first two years. As a matter-of fact many of our management techniques are now “standard procedures” in civilian industry. We simply brought out the latent talent in people and gave them performance goals to reach without crippling and excessive supervision. Many people have asked wasn’t this expensive? And I said, “Sure, it was expensive, but we were spending at the rate of 1.2 billion dollars a year and we produced the system three and half years ahead of schedule, so we saved six and a half or seven billion dollars, just in time alone.” So, how much money did we waste? I don’t think we wasted much. The Country had a weapon system it needed, when it needed it! How much is our country’s safety worth!
Importantly, we got this system in the hands of the Navy and the country for its defense in a very timely way. It is vital to recognize that it is not important what you’ve got on the drawing board or in test, when “the balloon goes up” as we used to say in World War II, when the balloon goes up you can only fight with what you have in adequate quantity in the hands of the troops. And yet now we have people in high places who are so entranced with all of these procedural matters of management, procedural manners of competition, and mountains and mountains of paper work now required in weapon proposals. As if these are the important things. The cart is before the horse! The efforts of all those procurement people could be better spent toward doing the thing that has to be done, and you save two to three years on every major program and literally millions of dollars. More importantly the military services would have much needed weapons in hand to defend our Democracy!
Q: What was the overriding consideration which caused you to set aside the established way of doing thing and go about your work directly?
Adm. R.: Well, we were told that this was of the upmost urgency for the defense of our country that we bring this weapon system into existence at the earliest possible time. So we didn’t spend time about working on procedures. We spent time on working on the job to be done. We said, “well” – and were all men of some experience – “what’s the best way to do it?” “All right, let’s do it that way.” The staff which we had assembled around ourselves was small but highly talented, they didn’t have to go and hold formal one or two competitions to know what was the best thing to do. They had enough experience to say, all right, let’s select these contractors and proceed along these lines and learn more about it as technical “savvy” is applied to the job. We went slowly at first but more rapidly as things fit into place. It can be compared to flying an airplane from one place to another. The plane can climb to altitude over the airfield before proceeding, or it can climb en route to the altitude needed. Q: Admiral, what did you learn of techniques during this initial year when you were working with the Army? Was there anything of particular importance to you that you could apply when you got working on Polaris? Adm. R.: Oh, I think any effort engaged over a period of a year, as this was, you’re bound to learn some things. It would be, I think, silly to say that a man can live a whole year and not learn anything. We were exposed to the Army’s way of controlling their programs, managing their programmes, and I’m sure this was helpful. We were exposed to industry, firms that were interested and talented in this kind of work and this was helpful. We operated in this environment, the military-industrial environment, of big missiles which gave us a lot of insight into the capabilities of the firms. It added to our store of knowledge and I think it was a very good warm-up, although we didn’t use any of those contractors for Polaris because none of them were particularly fitted, we thought, for the specialized application of a submarine launched solid propellant missile that we were going to use.
Q: You speak of “we” constantly, perhaps this would be a time, then, to talk about the team that you began to assemble around you in that initial year.
Adm. R.: Here, again, we were given this job of top priority in the Navy and co-equal to any in the country. We looked around and said, who do we want to assist us? I need a good deputy, and Captain J.B. Colwell came to my attention. (Later vice admiral). I had known of him favorably. He was a man of mature, calm judgment, a wise man. So I asked him to be ordered in. Obviously, the admiral for whom he was working was not too happy about this and I heard about that in no uncertain terms. I had been told that this then Admiral boss would be approached by another admiral and told about this before the orders were issued, but unfortunately that did not occur.
So Captain Colwell came in, and then we started selecting our technical in-house team, a technical director and assistant and we chose then (Captain Grayson Merrill and Levering Smith) by the same kind of familiarity with their past accomplishments. We looked for a good top civilian (civil service), one who knew money management, who knew comptroller duties and planning duties, and the name of Gordon Pehrson came to mind. He was then working for the Army over in the Chief of Staff’s office to assist them in their planning. I read some of the work that he was doing for the Army and realized he was a very astute planner. Q: You didn’t know him personally? Adm. R.: I didn’t know him personally. So I asked him to come over and let me talk to him. This he did and we told him what we wanted, that we wanted a “top” civilian. He would run the administrative planning side of the house. He would be the comptroller, he would be the planner, have the management of the funds, of budgets, contracts, the whole thing and he would be counterpart of the technical director and support the technical director in doing his job.
He was persuaded to come over and I promised him a GS-17 classification if he would come and I had a devil of a time getting that billet and other civil service billets approved. I had to go through the White House to get the Civil Service Commission to give me a GS-17 billet. The lower level civil service people, just rebelled, they wouldn’t do it. A “super grade civilian” was just out of the question to them. So I had a friend in the White House and he, in turn, got hold of the chairman of the Civil Service Commission and said to him, in effect, your organization is holding up the Polaris program. You ought to go down to see what they are trying to do and you ought to help. So he sent his Number Two man over. I explained to him why we needed the civil service billets and what jobs we wanted them to have, why we wanted men of this quality, and the GS-17 billet, too. He called in the local Civil Service people who passed on these things and “dressed them” down in my presence and said, you go out and prepare the paper work for every one of the Civil Service billets that Admiral Raborn has requested and have them ready pronto. You’re not to go home or leave your offices until they are in my hands. This kind of action was unheard of. In other words, the billets, descriptions and the justification for them, which we had previously given the Civil Service people had not been moving with any speed. But now they were required to stay there until they were finished. So we got a GS-17 and we got every one of our civilian billets approved overnight.
It took that kind of action. I didn’t know the Chairman of the Civil Services system, the Americans can move when necessary. The Civil Service Commission proved it to us all. Need I say more?
Q: Do you want to name him, the White House contact? He was a great help. Adm. R.: Yes he was a great help. He’s now deceased. We needed friends, so I went out of my way to introduce people such as him into the program, with what we were then envisioning to accomplish and how important it was to our country.
Q: Did you have to use White House influence any other time? Adm. R.: No, we did not. It was not necessary, as a matter of fact. Importantly though, the secretary of the National Security Council did interest himself in our work and I took the pains to go over to his office and keep him and the members of his staff up to date on how we were doing. This I continued to do when Dr. Gordon Gray was the secretary of the Security Council for President Eisenhower. It was apparent to me that it was most necessary that important people in government – science and industry, who could speak a good word for you and help you – had to be acquainted with this program and its status. I took a major role in this. I had a little “road show”, which I kept updating, of about thirty minutes and did it all myself bringing along my good buddy, the civilian who ran the viewgraph and slide projector, etc.
Q: And you lectured? Adm. R.: Yes – Anybody who seemed to be reluctant about the program or had reasons to be kept up-dated. I took it on myself to seek an audience with him and explain what we were doing – how we were doing it and why we were doing it. This just took me even to the Secretary of the Treasury, the National Security Council, members of Congress, particularly all the members of Congress that had a direct responsibility in our program.
Q: Did you appear before committees? Adm. R.: Well, yes. But what I was describing was informal and in addition to formal committee appearances. I always tried to brief the chairman and their staffs before formal appearances, so that they might have a better idea of what they were going to hear and they would know the status of the program and thus hopefully make the formal hearings go more smoothly, and this indeed it did. They could prepare their questions, etc. I briefed Carl Vinson and his staff, chairman George Mahan and his staff, Senator and Chairman Stennis and his staff, and others. They all became intensely interested in the program, and a major reason why this program went so smoothly was that everyone connected with or had anything to do at all with the program, from the executive branch of the government to the congressional branch and into the military industrial contractual family, were all informed of the true status of the program. Complete honesty within one organization and to those above us was our watch word! We were convinced that if everyone connected with the program were properly informed it would go better.
So we had a very planned, methodical campaign which was carried on by a whole cadre of officers who always made themselves available to go and talk on Polaris. I took it on myself to keep the people in Washington officialdom constantly up to date on our problems and how we were solving them and our successes (or failures), this included the Bureau of the Budget.
In this way, the people who were actually working in the program made it a part of their lives. It was their program. They became involved in it. In our industrial family, as well as our military, we had dedication talks. For instance, we would send out a top man from Washington (and I myself would go sometimes), and we’d have the entire Polaris work in a factory on Saturday morning close down. We’d have all the management and workmen. They were asked to invite their families, wives and children to be present for the presentation. Sometimes there were loud-speaker systems or closed circuit television systems set up – or whatever system was proper and available. Then we would explain the whole concept of the program. I or someone from my office would explain ‘ the “big” picture and tell them what was being done to bring this weapon system into being and why it was so necessary for our country, for them.
Then the local manager would get up and tell them about their company’s part in this over-all big program, with the emphasis on how necessary it was for their (the people’s) future, the preservation of this country, the continuance of our way of life, etc. This was a major weapon system designed to play a major role in protecting our country and to protect them individually. In this way, we involved the families of the people who were working on Polaris, both military and civilian folks.
Q: Psychologically, that was wonderful!
Adm. R.: Yes – in these meetings we would have soft drinks and cookies for the kids, After the talks, papa would take mama and the kids and showed them where he worked, at what lathe, or where or what he did. This Polaris program then became known. We required dedicated performance on the part of all our people, our officers and civil service everywhere, our home office people and importantly the industrial family. So when a wife would note a neighbor would come home at 4:30 every afternoon and her husband working on the Polaris program would get home at six or seven o’clock – or maybe they wouldn’t get home that night! She naturally needed motivating too! We worked Saturdays, all day, and sometimes we worked on Sundays. This took its toll until we hit upon the idea of motivation, and the result of the motivation was that the families were proud that their husband was working on this program. Many a time, I’m told, when a guy maybe had one too many drink the night before, he’d ask his wife to call in and tell them he was sick, and she’d say “Get out of bed and go to work. You’ve got an important job to do for us.” So he’d be sent to work! This motivation thing was a very real effort on our part and it paid off in dividends far beyond anything that I can begin to express in these few words. If I’d find an officer some place and it seemed to me that he was not up to “speed” and not doing the job, I’d call him into my office, sit him down, and I’d go over the whole thing with him. “Evangelistic” fervor, that’s the way we approached it. I got him wound up real good and sent him out and let him do his job. They became like tigers. As a matter of fact I called them “my tigers.”
Q: This use of motivation like that, how did you arrive at it? Did it spring from your toots on the Bible Belt? Adm. R. I guess. A lot of my family are evangelistic preachers, Baptist preachers, gospel singers. We all loved fried chicken. So we became “tigers” and the “tiger” became a symbol. Everybody everywhere had a little toy tiger on their desk, a little tiger symbol. We went after our work like “tigers.”
Q: Talking about briefing people and giving them a picture of what you were doing, did you get to the President — was General Eisenhower interested? Adm. R.: Yes. General Eisenhower was quite interested in this work because he initiated it and he called us in, General Schriever, General Medaris, and I, in one day for a Security Council meeting and asked us to make a presentation of our programs, which we did in the White House, in the cabinet room. I remember how struck I was at the evident youth of General Schriever. He’s young looking for his age, and I’d never met him before. When he came outside and we’d left the presence of the President, I turned to General Schriever in mock seriousness and said, “You daggone Air Force generals give me a pain.” He looked at me and kind of wondered, “What in the world is wrong with him?” I said you and your youthful appearances make us old admirals look as old as we actually are!”
That was the fist time we’d ever met, so we became good friends and have remained so ever since.
Q: You spoke before going to the Secretary of the Treasury – and that was George Humphrey – Adm. R.: Well, at that time, it was the former Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Texan, who was Secretary of the Treasury. Bob Anderson.
Q: Why did you select him? Adm. R.: It was timely. The program was growing by leaps and bounds and the need for money was getting to be quite sizable, and I just thought, well, it wouldn’t be a bad thing because of his former tour as deputy secretary of defense and he was in the high councils, to have him speak a good word for us would be fine. So I called him up and said, “Would you like to see what we’re doing, what program we are planning for next year? You’ve got to print the money.” He said, “Send it over.” So I sent over the program for the upcoming year. Then I had second thoughts on it because I hadn’t yet exposed it to the Secretary of Defense! So I told one of my friends in the Secretary of Defense’s office, “Would you mention to him that the Secretary of Treasury indicated he’d like to see it and I thought it would be the courteous and gracious thing to do.” He promised he would, but it turned out two or three weeks later when the Secretary of Defense and I were going to inspect the Lockheed installation on the West Coast, that I found that my friend who accompanied him that he had not told the Secretary of my informing the Secretary of Treasury. So riding in the car from San Francisco to Sunnyvale, I mentioned the subject to the Secretary of Defense, the Honorable Neil McElroy. He became rather disturbed about this. I won’t say he was angry. He certainly contained himself. And I said, “Well, I recognized that maybe you had better things to do and hadn’t had a chance to review it. So I will retrieve the document immediately. Obviously I didn’t want him to get it from the Secretary of the Treasury that he had seen the program before SecDef had looked at it. This was a mistake on my part and my enthusiasm for keeping people informed got out of step this time. A good lesson for me!
It behooves anyone trying to do a job of this kind to ensure that people who are going to pass on it are kept well informed on program status and plans! This includes the then Bureau of the Budget – I used to go and talk to Mr. George in the Bureau of Budget who was assigned the job of reviewing Polaris. I used to go over and talk over our budget and explain to him what we were going to do and why, and this was the bill for the work contemplated. Well, we got fine cooperation from the Bureau of the Budget. We got no nit-picking whatsoever, one because Mr. George is a man of great stature, and he made this become one of his programs for personal review.
Q: You have some political instincts, too, I believe!
Adm. R.: Perhaps. Maybe this story will illustrate. I well remember a trip to Hughes Aircraft Company. At long last they got a job–we decided to have a back-up in the submarine fire control and missile guidance work. I’d like to emphasize that we had lots of competition in industry. We generated our own competition after we got started. For instance, the guidance platform was a very difficult thing to do. As a matter of fact, the gyros and accelerators that went on the platform were very, very difficult to manufacture, and we had five major companies trying to build them and there were only about two that wound up being able to do it.
We wanted to have an alternate supplier for the guidance package, which includes the inertial table and the electronics. So we chose to team Honeywell and Hughes Aircraft. Honeywell was to build the stable table and Hughes to build the electronics. Well, in due time, as was my custom, I made regular tours of the industry team who were making parts and so I went by Hughes and our old friend L.A. “Pat” Hyland – he’s still out there and running a good show –said, “Would you like to see our work?” I said “sure.”
So we went down there and there on this very large floor was a block of about 300 girls working, and they were in assembly lines making the electronics that were going on this small inertial table in the missile guidance. I noticed as I was walking through the line, being escorted by a supervisor, who was a woman, that all the girls at the work benches were dressed in red, white, and blue middy blouses and skirts. I remarked on this and said, “Why is this that they’re all in this patriotic uniform?” And she said, “We’re so proud to be part of the Polaris family that we decided on our own that we’d go buy these and we wear them every Wednesday.”
I said, “Gee, but this is Thursday.” She said, “Well, we heard you were coming.” “So we wore them to show you how proud we are to be a part of the Polaris program!”
They had a picture taken of them, all of them in a large group, and they all signed their name on the back of it with a little dedication message, dictating their best efforts to this wonderful program. I think that’s symbolic of the kind of motivation we had of the people on the factory floor. They would knock themselves out to do a good job, and they did. It’s people who do the job. People turn out their best efforts if they’re properly motivated and managed. Then you’ve an unbeatable team.
That was just absolutely symbolic of the whole military- industrial family, no matter where they were. Of course, we were responsible for putting weapon systems into submarines. We also were responsible for the submarines and everything that went into them. We were responsible for the supply ships, logistic spares and the training of the weapon crews.
We worked directly with the Bureau of Ships but at first we were not working as well because we didn’t have good lines of communications with them. So I went over to see the very wise then Chief of the Bureau of Ships, Rear Admiral Al Mumma, who left the Navy at the end of his tour and became President and Chairman of the Worthington Corporation, and I told Al, whom I’d known for many years, that we were not working together as well as we could, and he said, “Well, what would you suggest?”
So I said, “I’d suggest that you get one of your rear admirals, a naval constructor, and order him down here and give him your authority in writing, so that the whole Bureau of Ships establishment, no matter where it is, will know that he is Mr. Polaris and he’s exercising Chief of the Bureau of Ships share of responsibility for the Polaris submarine. You all are going to build it. We’re putting the weapon system into it, but you’re going to build it.” We had to fund everything that went into the submarine. The whole submarine was funded through my budget and, in effect, we were responsible for it.
He said, “That’s a good idea.” I said, ‘”he’ll set up a management center similar to ours, except yours will be devoted to your work, but it will be in consonance with ours so that we can speak to each other, and we’ll know and you’ll know how things are going, where the soft spots are and where the effort is.” He said, “Have you got any ideas?” And I said, “Rear Admiral Jimmy Farrin comes to mind.” So he said, “Well, you can pick ‘em too. He’s ideal, in my opinion, as your man.” So Jimmy Farrin got telephone orders, dispatch orders, that same day to report bag and baggage without delay, which means immediately, to the office of the Chief of the Bureau of Ships, and he was given additional duty in my office, as my deputy for ships, for shipbuilding. So I fixed up an office that was even bigger than mine and put him in right next to my office. I said, “This is your office, Admiral, and you’re my deputy now for the shipyards, the building of ships, and the work of installing everything in the submarine. I’m looking to you to see that it gets done. My people will work with you and your people.” I had a “ships” section which worked directly with me directly on my staff.
That turned out to be a very fine, excellent relationship and management technique. We didn’t go in and try to give orders to the shipyard fellows, but we had one of their own admirals there who handled those duties for us. So what we did was utilize the existing chain of command to do the job. They knew the people to do the job, rather than going in and trying to tell them how to do the job, as is so much the case these days. That was a very happy arrangement.
Q: These were tremendous insights that you were acting upon. Adm. R.: I don’t call it an insight. It just seems to me to be common sense. Who goes in the kitchen and tells the wife how to cook? Only a good cook, and I’m not a good cook. Not being burdened with a great deal of knowledge about anything, I just depend on a lot of people to do the work for me, and I really used this principle. It was well quoted and well known. I would never do anything if I could get someone else to do it because, one, the other fellow probably knew how to do the job far better than I, and two, it gave me time to do the things that only I could do. It gave me time to think. It gave me time to look at the soft spots, the soft spots in performance or in part of our military-industrial team or soft spots in protecting the political lines in Washington. It gave me time to go and do something about it. That’s why I had a good deputy. My deputy ran my show – the deputy and the chief civilian and the technical director were known as the “Board of Directors.” Do you think I attended the Board of Directors? Hell, no! I didn’t want to get into the minutiae.
Q: The technical director was Levering Smith? Adm. R.: It turned out to be Levering Smith.
Q: Tell me about his selection.
Adm. R.: He came on the scene at a change-over from the Jupiter to the solid propellant missile. Our first technical director was a Bureau of Aeronautics man, who was a very fine gentleman, and he was quite talented – his name was Captain Grayson Merrill and he was a very fine technical man but not particularly knowledgeable in large solid propellant technology.
In my tour in the Bureau of Ordnance, which was during the Korean War some years previous, I became acquainted with Levering Smith who was a lieutenant commander at the Naval Ordnance Test Station, Inyokern. He was in charge of solid rocket work out there. He came into my office one day with plans for a shaped-charge head which would fit on the 4-inch HVR rocket, which was an air to air rocket. (Aircraft against aircraft).
This shaped charge was a technique of pinpointing the explosive and directing it direct in a straight line and sort of funneling it against the target rather than having it going in all directions, as a normal explosion does. It’s a very fine technique that optimizes the effect on a relatively small area.
Q: It focuses!
Adm. R.: Yes, focuses, exactly. We didn’t have any rockets that would knock out those Korean tanks. These 5-inch HVR rockets had a fragmentation head which was designed to knock down aircraft. The result was there was a big hue and cry, why don’t we have a shaped-charge head. Well, the shape- charge head for that application was, by gentlemen’s agreement, in the hands of the Army Ordnance Department at that time, because they couldn’t didn’t fly combat airplanes at that time, Army ordnance were not much interested in this. They had priorities elsewhere.
But Levering Smith and his cohorts in Inyokern said, well, why don’t we put a shaped-charge head on 5-inch rockets which would be carried by airplanes and aimed at tanks. He presented himself with this idea and in those days a mere naval captain could start such a program by just merely giving the word. So I told him to go back with the utmost priority and develop this shape-charged head for the 5-inch rocket. Then I sat down and wrote out a TWX and sent it to him, confirming it.
Within ten days’ time they had fabricated this and fired it at a slab of ship armor, which was 17 ½ inches of homogeneous armor –it had penetrated 17 ½ inches which was at an angle of 75 degrees from the horizontal, using a door-bell button for the initiator so that they’d have the necessary stand-off position. The door-bell triggered off the mechanism, the shaped charge was focused, and boomed right through and penetrated it. Well they came dashing back to Washington with the news. That, of course, was a tremendous breakthrough, so the Chief of Naval Ordnance was delighted with this, heartily applauded it, and told them to go ahead and hand-build as many as they could, and when they had a plane load there was an Air Force plane, which was an R-4D, waiting to fly the load directly to Korea.
That was my introduction to Levering Smith. He was quite an authority on solid propellants. So when it became evident we were going to go into solid propellants for motors, I brought him in, even though Captain Merrill was there. Shortly after that Captain Merrill decided he would retire from the Navy on his own volition.
Q: No trips to Europe or anything? Adm. R.: Captain Merrill had a boat lying in the Chesapeake and he went down there and played around on that boat for two weeks, and he decided that he was going to get out and go into civilian life. I of course, was appalled by this and told him, “You’ve just queered two weeks leave for everybody else. I’ll never give anybody two weeks to think about their troubles.” One week, max!
So, when Levering Smith came on board, I said, you’re the technical director, go to work. So, he went to work. He’s very dedicated and intelligent and I think he’s the best scientist in uniform today. There’s no question about it in my mind. He’s dedicated, thorough, entirely wise. He and I would usually close up the shop around seven or seven-thirty. I’d start home and go by his office and he’d be there working, and my invariable greeting was “What’s the matter? Did somebody forget to wake you up? It’s time to go home.” He’d grin and go on working.
But he, I think, has proved himself to be the finest scientist in uniform and he is, I guess, probably the most respected by the military and industry – technical officer, in my time. I don’t know anyone that approaches him. Now there have been some very good ones, there’s no question about that, but I believe that over the years he has gained this enviable niche. It was a very happy thing for me to have a man like him – a very happy thing for the program and for our country.
Q: How did you happen to involve somebody like Jack Dunlap?
Adm. R.: Dunlap and I had collaborated when I was – I told you earlier that they got me back from World War II for one year in Washington to establish the aviation gunnery training program for the whole Navy, and Dunlap, an industrial psychologist, was then in uniform as a lieutenant commander in the Chief of Bureau of Medicine and Surgery’s office. I needed people who knew how to intelligently conduct tests to analyze the worthiness of this training equipment via a vis that training equipment. What it would do, so that you could teach a person aerial gunnery using machines on the ground. We had to use a lot of simulation machines to teach people because we couldn’t afford to use the regular equipment and we wanted to have something that could be evolved in short order and get it in place in the numerous schools that we had established or were establishing.
So I called over there and got hold of a doctor friend of mine who was a psychologist who I thought might be helpful, and he said, “Yes, we have some very good people over here. They are Reserves brought back on active duty.” So he sent Dr. Dunlap over, who had a Ph.D. in math and a Ph.D. in psychology, which is quite a combination an ideal man because he knew a lot about controlled testing and he had great initiative. He used my authority and my name with considerable effect, going in and seeing the Commander in Chief Atlantic, and saying, “Captain Rayborn in the office of the CNO for Operations has asked this test to be run and I’d like a squadron of planes.” “We’re going down to Florida and we’re going to do this, that, and the other – we’re going to test this gun sight or that piece of equipment, and so on and so forth.” He was amazingly efficient and brazen.
In the Polaris program it occurred to us that one of the real things that we had to explore and break ground in, was the adaptation of man to the machine. We were going to bring into existence machines and equipment which the Navy had not seen before, had no experience with. The necessity for the maintainabil- ity of the equipment aboard the submarine and the operability of the equipment by the personnel was very high on our list. We wanted to optimize the knowledge of the people to maintain it and to make the equipment easy to maintain, make it self-diagnostic for trouble shooting as much as we could. To make it easily repairable and easily maintainable, because space aboard a submarine is quite limited, as you know, and we wanted to put aboard spare parts and replacement parts for the equipment only to the extent absolutely necessary, because we just wouldn’t have room for it. Something else had to “give”, for everything we put aboard.
I asked Dr. Dunlap, who headed up his own firm, Dunlap and Associates, if he would like to take on a job of human engineering the whole program. He was delighted and said, “This is the kind of thing I just love to do.” So I said, “All right,” and I gave him a letter that delegated my authority to him. He had the authority to go into all of our principal contractors that were building these odd, weird and wonderful pieces of equipment and set up human engineering divisions that had absolute authority over how things were made as to their maintainability and operability by our naval personnel. So he had human engineering staffs in these various major companies, because he said there are lots of guys running around with a human engineering title that he wouldn’t let in the front door, much less do the work. So he had to staff them with competent people.
As it turned out, years later when the Defense Department just couldn’t believe the high “up time” that the weapon system was consistently turning in on station, they sent out a very smart intelligent group of technical analysts to ride herd and see if these reports that the weapon system was completely operable and “ready” the very high portion of time on station were actually true. They came back with their hats in their hands. It was actually true.
The Navy evolved this system of pulling a sub off the line on signal as they would get in wartime, fire the missiles into a designated area, a realistic test. DOD would have people there to observe the efficiency of the tests. They were excellent! So I have to give Dr. Dunlap and his people a real plus in making the weapon system ready to go all the time, and, of course, that’s the name of the game. He had at that time (during development of the system) my priority and he worked at this. I’m sure that he and his people got in the hair of the engineers, “any old dumb cluck ought to be able to do this, that and the other thing”, but he said never mind about that we will not be using highly scientific engineers with PHDs on the submarines. We must make the equipment simple and easy to maintain and operate. Rugged!
Q: This, too, I suppose, was entirely new to the industries?
Adm. R.: Yes. I believe it was, particularly this amount of attention on human engineering, this emphasis, and we made a lot of todo about this, so that in the Polaris schools and so forth training was simplified. And well it was, for the Polaris system is not childs play. At first we didn’t have actual weapon systems equipment for our schools, but I fought like a tiger and got the money and set up a school at Dam Neck, Virginia with actual weapons system equipment. We build it out of whole cloth, new buildings, new everything, and I’m embarrassed to say that they named the building after me. I said you have to be dead to get that kind of award and they said, not in this case.
Anyway, this school has a complete Polaris/Poseidon weapon system. The actual equipment is there and it’s grouped by subsystems in classroom sizes – here is the navigation system, here is the missile guidance, here is the fire-control system, and here is this, that, and the other – and here’s the launcher and they can fire dummy loads in the air.
So the people coming back off patrols and those people com- ing new into the program go through this extensive training at Dam Neck, Virginia, and they operate the same equipment in the same way as they will aboard the submarine, and it is a rule that any new piece of equipment going to be introduced into submarines at sea – I’m talking about the weapon systems now – first has to go to Dam Neck before it goes out into use in submarines. Because we want the people to be trained in it. The only real fight I ever had with that great gentleman Mr. Franke, Secretary of the Navy Franke, was when he wanted to cut me 50 million dollars -I asked for 100 million for the school and he cut it in half. I argued with him and argued with him. He said “You’re the hardest man to say no to I’ve ever seen. I’ve thrown you out of my office three times and here you come right back.”
I said, “Well, I can’t let you make this mistake. This is a huge mistake.” “Well,” he said, “I’m going to make it. I’ve got to make one in this program” or something like that! So he whacked me 50 million dollars. I laughed. I said, “Well, okay, if you want to make one mistake, you can for you have been such a tremendous help and supporter of the program.” But he turned right around on the next year budget and made it up, so we were about six months late doing all the things we wanted to do, but we got them done. There isn’t anybody who knows anything about the program at all who would say that that approach of putting the actual equipment in the school isn’t absolutely essential. I must say Sec. Franke was funny, great man and a great supporter. I couldn’t have worked for a finer man.
Q: Tell me how Clement Hayes Watson got involved in your program?
Adm. R.: At the very outset, of course, it was extremely important that we always in our contacts with other people present our ideas in a rational, effective way “what” we were going to do, “why” do you want to do it, in our presentations or whatever they were. Somebody put a little pamphlet on my desk which was issued by the Chief of Naval Personnel on how to make a presentation. I read it and was quite interested. I immediately saw that this was really the work of great skill and wisdom and whoever wrote that for the Chief of Naval Personnel really knew his business. It just went home like that. So I said who was the man who authored this? Well, his name was Watson. Where does he live? In Connecticut, what is his phone number? They didn’t know but they knew where he lived, so I called him on the phone and I said, “Mr. Watson, I’m calling in regard to one of the highest priority programs in the United States. We need your skills in teaching us to be effective in our presentations. Could you come down and talk to us about helping us?” And he said, “I will, certainly,” and he came down the very next day.
He was a Reserve naval officer in World War II.
Q: He was no longer with J. Walter Thompson? Adm. R.: No, he was running his own firm. He came down and I told him what we were doing and he said, “Gee, I’d be happy to,” so we put him under contract. We required all of our officers and men officers and civilians at the home office to take this course on how do you prepare your materials and how do you talk and make an effective presentation.
Q: Sort of a Dale Carnegie set-up? Adm. R.: Exactly, and he was very efficient. In fact, I sent him out to the principal contractors. We offered his services and he was received quite well by them. We’ve got to give him a lot of credit for the effectiveness of our presentations.
Q: This “road show” that you put on, he was – Adm. R.: That was being put on by a lot of our people at all times, everyone, and we brought in what we called technical information officers who, in effect, were PRs, public information. They were very, very good. As a matter of fact, one of them turned up to be Deputy Chief on Navy Information. I think his name was – Ken Wade. He currently runs the State of California’s office here in Washington. He got me down and gave me some practice about mannerisms and so forth. “I noticed when you were talking you had a match box you were bouncing around,” he said, “you know, that was very distracting for the people. You ought to stop things like that.” And I said thank you very much. Effective presentations were, I think, a very helpful element in the total result, getting the total job done.
Q: It’s interesting, Sir, that you had this appreciation of the value of public relations and pursued it. This aspect of Navy life has not always been paramount. How do you account for that? Adm. R.: I don’t know. Of course I’d had two tours of duty in Washington before – or three tours, or something like that – so I was not unacquainted with the way you have to get things done in Washington, the people that you had to contact, the people you have to convince that what you want is proper, correct and needed, and get people to have confidence in you.
Q: But the Navy was rather reticent about this, wasn’t it? Adm. R.: I think that most naval officers spend a lot of their time at sea, and I was one of those, but being first in battleships and destroyers then in aviation, I had more time at sea duty than actually anybody else in my Admiral class. I think that statement is correct. But the importance of being able to present these things well and to get to the general public with our story – because there was a great deal of gee-hawing between the services. Each thought their own missile programs were the best for the country, and that’s proper, there’s nothing wrong with that opinion. That’s a reality. Each of them had their supporters, their own associations and Navy Leagues or whatever you call them, and people as a whole across the United States were interested in this program. It was new and imaginative, something like the moon program when it first started. The result was than none of our officers once turned down an invitation to make a speech. I encouraged our officers to make speeches. They carried the Gospel, so to speak, about how important Polaris was, because a submarine goes out there and loses itself in the so-called trackless wastes of the ocean, yet always be ready to go, zeroed in and pinpointed on the target. Without pointing the finger at land-based installations, we did, I think, in due fashion bring out before congressmen and others the advantage of the submarine approach to the ballistic missile defense.
Q: That was your party line! Adm. R.: Yes sir. We never spoke badly about anybody or any other program. We made a policy of this, and it paid us big dividends. We had something to sell and why knock the other, any maybe competitive products. We held the view, rightly or wrongly, publicly that we were not in competition with land based missiles. We were providing sea-based missile, and you shouldn’t think of them in the same terms. They were a natural adjunct – strong adjunct – of the over-all national missile program. The contractual family in their normal PR work showed how proud they were of being on the team.
This was very, very helpful. As a matter of fact, I have several plaques. When I left the program they had a luncheon for me, all the PR types were there. Of course, they were all extroverts and great guys and they gave me a silver plaque containing a couple of silver spurs mounted on the plaque! Somebody said they wanted to put a little blood on it – a little red paint or something! This is the kind of total dedication you’ve got to have, and this was symbolic.
Q: The fact that you put great emphasis, and so rightly, on public relations leads me to ask you about the matter of security. Was there any great concern in that area in the development of these sensitive matters?
Adm. R.: Security, yes. We were concerned about security in two ways. One, safeguarding valuable blueprints of innovative things which we were developing and bringing into existence. We had a fire once in a blueprint vault, a secure classified vault, at Lockheed. It was caused by a lamp that was too close to some blueprints. Fortunately they were able to put the fire out, otherwise we would have lost lots of valuable time because of these valuable, one copy of a kind, blueprints that were in that vault. It was a huge vault. Instantly I was on the phone to Gene Root and I said, “I want you to establish two other repositories of blueprints. Whenever you make a blueprint, you make it at least in triplicate for stowage, make three copies, and I want you to stow it at two other places, secure, classified, top secret. When it comes off the machine, one goes to your vault and the other two go to two separate vaults and none of them in the same city.”
Q: Not in the same city? Adm. R.: Not in the same city. There was such a thing as sabotage. Obviously this was a very important program and we didn’t want someone throwing an incendiary bomb in there and, gee, it would throw us back two or three developing the missile. So these were the kind of precautions we took. As far as handling classified materials, we just applied the normal precautions, and dedication of the people out on the factory floor and elsewhere to this program precluded a serious leak. If there was anyone against this program he would have been mobbed instantly by his fellow workers, you see.
Q: For the most part it was not secret except for the atomic aspect of it? Adm. R.: Oh, no. All of the weapon systems, navigational equipment, etc. was quite secret, quite classified. No one had ever done this before and obviously it behooved us to protect it. No one had ever built a stable guidance table that could be fired from under water, the motors igniting after coming through the water, and the missile on its way to hit a target. No one had done that. No one knew about the launchers. The launch equipment was secret. The formulation of propellants, how do you blend it, how do you put it in the motors, how do you keep it from cracking, and all that was quite secret. These were military assets of the first order.
Q: Were there any leakages? Adm. R.: I don’t know of any, but obviously as time went on, why I’m sure that the exchanges of technical information and things that could be declassified, a great majority of things that could be declassified. That’s all right. I mean that’s a normal thing. Q: That’s evolution. Adm. R.: Yes, that’s right. It’s just the normal thing that goes on in the technical world all the time. There’s nothing wrong with it at all.
Polaris – a story of dedicated government-military-industry cooperation in a working free society, and free from excessive bureaucracy, developed out of whole cloth a revolutionary weapon system in an unprecedented short time, fully operational and on station in a little over for years!
There’s a lesson in this program for someone today. But can we turn back the tide of ever enlarging bureaucracy in military procurement!