TAPE 1, SIDE 1
MR. COLLINS: Last time we had a discussion, we concluded with an examination of your attempt to develop an improved navigation device for the difficult landings over at Honington Air Force Base in England. Is there anything else you wanted to add to that part of your story before we move on to the postwar developments?
GENERAL PHILLIPS: Well, a small correction. The device that I was working on was a navigation device for area navigation, as opposed to a landing aid. It would have been useful in finding the home base and for landing purposes, just to find the base, but not for assistance in landing. Well, I'm sure that there are other things that we could talk about concerning my involvement in the war itself, and our fighter group. But I think for now we might just move on chrologically. When the war in Europe ended in May of 1945, the fighter group that I was in, the 364th fighter group, which was then and had been during the war based at Honington in England, started retraining, anticipating being moved as a group over to the Pacific. So our flight crews, pilots were, you know, starting to give some study to the general situation with Japan and the Pacific and to the training. As I said, we were retraining for transfer to the Pacific. I'm sure that a large number of military units that were then in Europe as that war ended were in one way or another being prepared to move to the Pacific, because, as I recall, in May of 1945 there was expectation that there would have to be a massive military effort to bring about the defeat of Japan, and there was anticipation of the need for landings in Japan in order to end that war and massive military forces to be involved. So our group, like many, was on the list to make that transfer.
COLLINS: Let me just quickly ask, in terms of the retraining, was this because of the different tactical requirements of the war in the Pacific? What did you need to be retrained for?
PHILLIPS: Well, as I think about it now, the word retraining is probably a bit of an overstatement. Retraining largely amounted to certain lectures and a fair amount of reading about what was going on in the Pacific and Japan. You know, we'd all been concentrating very hard on the progress of the war in Europe, and had, I guess, sort of a knowledge of Japan that would come from reading newspapers and magazines. So it was largely a matter of starting to become very interested in the progress of the war in the Pacific and the situation relative to Japan. The flight training part of it was pretty minimal. It amounted to little more, I think, than just maintaining efficiency in our P-51 fighters. As far as tactical retraining was concerned, we hadn't gotten really serious about any of that, by the time the war in Japan ended in August of 1945. With the advent of V-J Day, the end of the war in Japan, there was a massive push throughout Europe to get the troops home, and I can recall almost the fever of the situation. You know, the logistics, the larger stations were trying to get every troop ship they could into the ports. In France they set up massive camps along the port cities, Cherbourg, to process U.S. forces from the Army and of course the Air Corps which I was in was part of the Army, but to process people home. There was a system of points, as I recall, that determined when people were eligible to be shipped home, and the points were determined by how many months one had been overseas and what their war service had been. I bring that up largely because that was all irrelevant to me, it turned out. I was the last person remaining in our fighter group who got a regular commission, and the rules didn't permit anybody with a regular commission to go home. They had to stay there and mind the store and organize the activities of close-down and get people out and all that. So I don't remember the exact month, but fairly shortly after V-J Day I received orders transferring me to Theatre Headquarters which was in Frankfurt, Germany. It was called USFET, United States Forces European Theatre, and it was commanded by General Eisenhower. By that time, the headquarters was well established. It had established its German military governor branch or section, which was headed by General Clay, as the first--I think the title was military governor. In any case, General Clay under Eisenhower's command headed the army of occupation, or he headed the part of the U.S. forces army of occupation activities which provided for the governing of Germany. And Clay's headquarters was in Berlin, I recall, as a branch of the Eisenhower headquarters which was in Frankfurt.
COLLINS: You were attached to the Eisenhower headquarters or the Clay headquarters?
PHILLIPS: The Eisenhower headquarters. I was assigned in G-1 which in civil parlance is personnel. G-1 was headed by an Air Corps major general, Jim Bevins. As I recall, there were three of us Air Corps officers, all majors, who were in the same status, regular officers who had been in fighter groups who were assigned to theatre headquarters and all of us were G-1.
COLLINS: What were your responsibilities?
PHILLIPS: I was in the section that was involved with troop morale. So my principal activities had to do with the establishment of the several things that an army does anywhere, but in a foreign country in particular, to look after the morale and welfare of the troops. So I was concerned with policy matters, in the main, that had to do with the establishment of non-appropriated funds and the activities that non-appropriated funds can provide for, which includes sports activities and the base exchanges or post exchanges, which are one of the generators of non-appropriated funds. I was concerned with the establishment and operation of all manner of clubs, officers' clubs, NCO clubs, enlisted clubs. One of my close associates, another major from a fighter group that was transferred into the headquarters at about the same time was Robert F. McDermott, who had been a P-38 pilot in a 9th Air Force fighter group, which was the tactical air forces for the invasion of Europe. McDermott's functions primarily had to do with the planning for getting dependents of the army of occupation over to Germany. I might add, as I think back on it, that with the war only just ended, and with a massive effort to get the U.S. troops home and to organize the remaining forces that were going to be the army of occupation--remember now, this is just the fall of 1945, the early fall, that the planning for bringing dependents over was going on early. If you think about the scale of the logistic efforts required having to do with providing housing in a devastated country, just the processing of people back here in the States, the wives and children, the ships, the logistics--as I think back on it, it was kind of a massive effort for a young fighter pilot Major McDermott to be responsible for, but the first boats brought dependents over in April of 1946, and my wife and then oldest daughter were on either the first or the second boat, ship, that brought dependents over.
COLLINS: On the question of morale, what were some of the concerns? I know that there were some discussions that this was expected to be an acute problem, particularly in this case.
PHILLIPS: Well, the concerns were, first, that the troops that had been there for a long time, you know, for a considerable period in the war should go home, and wanted to go home. So I think it's obvious that the troops that were in the army of occupation should in the main not be those who felt that they had earned, that they had paid their dues by fighting the war and should go home. Yet at the same time, you needed an appropriate number of the older, more experienced people in the officer and non-commissioned officer groups mainly. So that was one thing, to be sure that the processing of troops to go home was accomplished.
We were very much concerned with the Black Market. Remember, of course, that Germany was an absolutely devastated country. Frankfurt, the city, was virtually a pile of rubble, and about the only part of Frankfurt that really still had a building standing was the building that had been the I.G. Farben, we called it the "Ee Gay Farben" building, which had been the headquarters of the cartel, the Farben cartel there in Europe. It was a large building, and that was the building that was largely undamaged by the war, which building was taken over by the theatre headquarters, and in an area around that building, there were what we would think of as town houses or row-type apartment houses. The damage varied around the housing area, but they were not levelled, as was much of Frankfurt.
Let's see, other matters that you asked for, that we would be concerned with, on troop morale--that the troops of the army of occupation were meaningfully employed. You know, part of keeping morale up and keeping people out of trouble is having things for them to do, and adequate facilities for recreation, a wide range of recreation, sports as well as clubs that were appropriately established and supervised, with adequate facilities of the post exchange, and as families came over, commissary-type facilities. Ability to get around in the country. We had to set up the rules, regulations, and I suppose you'd think of it in a sense as the laws that would permit people to own automobiles and to get around, and I mentioned we were concerned about Black Market activities in a devastated country. So we set up barter markets where, in a legal way, people with U.S. items, but in a controlled manner, could in effect turn those in to a store and then get credit points and at the same time the local populace would bring in their items, getting points, and it was a barter market, is what it was.
COLLINS: Was there a concern about the occupation army's interaction with the country's residents, in this case the Germans?
PHILLIPS: Yes, and fraternization, at least in the early months, was prohibited. Yes, obviously that was a matter of tension, which was, I guess one, of the reasons for making it possible for families of married service men to come over. At least for many months, and I've forgotten the duration, it was prohibited to have social involvement with the local populace. At the same time, especially as families came over, it was quite possible and easy and proper to hire the local populace to work, whether it was housework or other kinds of tasks. I should mention, currency regulation was a significant part of this Black Market attention, so the U.S. forces set up a system of scrip. It was printed paper money, all the way from five cent pieces up to like ten dollar bills which was the only legal tender that it was permissible for U.S. troops to have. They were paid in scrip, although you know you could have your pay sent to a U.S. bank, but as far as what you had locally was concerned, it was scrip, and it was illegal in a regulation sense to possess German currency at that early stage. Later on, that all got modified.
COLLINS: Did you have any knowledge of or association with the various efforts to talk with the German technical personnel and bring them over to this country, all of the various Army and Navy technical missions, including the ALSOS missions?
PHILLIPS: No. I didn't. As a matter of fact, I was not even aware really that that sort of thing was going on at the time. It was not a subject of any discussion in any of the official councils that I was involved in. It was not reported in a news way that triggered any reaction on my part. We were very much aware of a very large number of displaced persons, especially around the Frankfurt area. People that had been displaced by the Russian push from Poland and the eastern countries, and people who had been conscripted really as slave labor by the Germans and had been brought into Germany from many countries. So there were, gosh, there were thousands if not hundreds of thousands of displaced persons. They had large--they were just called DP camps, where the U.S. Army was taking care of them and trying to process them to get them back home or dealt with. We had peripheral involvement with that there in the headquarters, although most of it was being handled by the German, the Clay part of the headquarters, the German government activities.
COLLINS: So this sort of responsibility was pretty much constant for you over the period that you were assigned at the headquarters?
PHILLIPS: Yes. Yes, it was. Another thing I should mention as part of the morale activities was to set up education opportunities. I was personally very interested in that. I somehow had a motivation in that direction. The Army, in that period, had--as I remember it was called an I and E, Information and Education Activity, which was administered under the personnel activities and it gave opportunities for correspondence courses and it led fairly early to the establishment of some branch activities of U.S. universities there in Germany. It seems to me the University of Maryland was one of the first to take up that opportunity, and to set up local faculty and curricula to make available for the U.S. forces. I don't remember just when this branch of U.S. university activity actually started on the spot, but at least the preparations for it were starting right after the war. And among the activities was the opportunity to apply for higher education, and that was available broadly. You know, people who hadn't yet finished high school could apply for courses that would permit them to get a high school diploma. Those who were interested in graduate education and appropriately qualified could apply for graduate work at a U.S. university. And so those kinds of things were also started, as part of the morale and welfare work. I'll come back to that later, because I took advantage of it, a little later.
One of the initiatives that I took was to make it possible for appropriately qualified individuals in the army of occupation to engage in amateur radio activities. So I took the initiative to do the staff work, working with the chief of the Signal Corps part of that headquarters, to set up a regulated way for individuals to become licensed to operate amateur radios. During the war years, amateur radio was closed down, and that was pretty much world-wide, certainly in the U.S. You recall, I had an amateur radio license which I'd acquired years earlier. But as the war ended, amateur radio activities opened up, and I thought it was quite proper for those of us who had U.S. amateur licenses to be able to legally get into action over there. So what we set up was a system of issuing radio calls to those who qualified, that were under the German nomenclature. The German government--they did whatever they were authorized under the occupation rules to do as far as German nationals with amateur radios were concerned. My activities had to do with the army of occupation troops. So we set up a call letter, it was D-4, and then three letters that followed, and I was issued the fourth one that was issued. It was D-4-AAD. So I got the fourth license that was issued to the army of occupation. That would have been in, I think, early part of 1946. By the time my family got over, I had visited a signal depot where there was a lot of surplus radio gear, and I had one whole room of the third floor of this little apartment or town house that we occupied with an amateur radio station, and was able to talk to home that way. Well--
COLLINS: What led to your move from your headquarters to Langley Air Force Base?
PHILLIPS: Well, it was--I don't recall exactly what the rules were. It was the end of a tour. In the summer of 1947, so that made it almost two years from when I was assigned to the Theatre Headquarters, and it made it--see, I arrived in Europe in January, as I recall, of '44. So that made it three and a half years. It seems to me, as I remember, it was just a sort of a normal rotation time, and my orders were to Langley Air Force Base, to the first AACS Wing, the first Airways and Air Communications Service Wing. That was the organization in the then new Air Force responsible for all of the communications and navigation and airfield radio and control tower and airways control functions.
COLLINS: Did you have any input as to where you were going to be assigned?
PHILLIPS: As I remember, the Army had a form you could fill out which was your preference. In other words, a statement of preference kind of form in which you could list your qualifications and experience and desires for where you wanted to go. I don't remember this in detail, but I can visualize that my background and education, electrical engineering and experience with the Civil Aeronautics Authority, certainly fit with that assignment. That assignment, that part of the Air Force was doing for the Air Force about what the Civil Aeronautics Authority did for civil aviation, and the two obviously had to coordinate their activities, in order that the rules and regulations that govern military flying would be compatible with the civil air rules.
COLLINS: So was this an effort to establish policies and procedures that would be applicable across the country for the whole Air Force?
PHILLIPS: Yes, and in addition to that policy or regulatory aspect, and coordination with what was still then the Civil Aeronautics Authority, that organization was responsible for the operation of all of those kinds of facilities for the Air Force, was responsible for operating control towers on Air Force bases, for operating the GCAs, ground countrol assist landing aids, for establishing and operating the instrument landing systems, for operating the communications associated with the Air Force's worldwide weather network. There were other things, but it was an operating activity as well as a regulatory and coordination with the civil. Those activities over the years up to now have changed rather materially. I haven't been in contact with it now for some time, but it is not necessary for the Air Force any longer to have as large an organization doing as many things, I think, as was necessary for us to be doing back in the forties, as a part of the Air Force.
One thing that we should mention is the obvious in history, was the establishment or the 1947 legislation that established the US Air Force as well as the Department of Defense and many other things. With that legislation, which was in 1947, I can recall that I was still in the Theatre Headquarters in Germany when it passed, provided an opportunity for all of us who were officers in the Army Air Corps to either stay in the Army or to transfer to the new U.S. Air Force. Well, my choice seemed fairly obvious, to stay with the--because in the main the U.S. Army Air Corps became the United States Air Force, but there was an option for officers, and I'm sure enlisted as well, to not make that transfer to the new service. Well, that was a digression.
COLLINS: Did this change in organizational setup affect your career in any other way? Or was it just kind of a formality in a sense?
PHILLIPS: Oh, it was more of a transition that occurred without a whole lot of surface effects. You know, there wasn't much that changed, really. I still got my paycheck every month, and I didn't worry about where it came from, and immediately at least we didn't change our uniform, and over time, the Air Force brought out its own uniform and set up its own finance system. But immediately, you know, it was just a matter of a transition with the Army I guess slowly phasing some of its support and activities out. But for those of us at my level, the changes weren't very visible initially.
COLLINS: So specifically as director of operations for this AACS wing at Langley, what were your specific responsibilities? Was it essentially what you've already sketched out?
PHILLIPS: Well, I sketched out the broad picture of what the whole wing was responsible for. And the operations organization, which I was in, was responsible for operating the facilities on all of the U.S. Air Force bases, so our activities were primarily in the operating field, operating control towers, and that meant providing for training of control tower operators, for one thing, and there was training of other specialties that I'll mention. Administering subordinate organizations, because we were involved with, oh, squadrons and detachments that were detailed to the many Air Force bases, where an AACS detachment would be responsible for operating the control tower, the GCA, the ILS--
COLLINS: That's for instrument landing?
PHILLIPS: The ILS is the Instrument Landing System, and the GCA, Ground Control Approach system, and for operating communications facilities. So as a headquarters our domain was the continental United States. So the first AACS wing which as I say was the headquarters I was in was responsible for the continental US. That wing reported to the AACS which, as I recall, was located I guess in Washington, and the AACS headquarters to which our wing reported was responsible for the same kinds of functions around the world, like in Germany etc. One of the facilities that I know received quite a bit of our attention was the GCA units, Ground Control Approach units. They were new--they didn't come on the scene until after the war, and the Ground Control Approach system was a search radar located on an air base that would locate accurately the position and track of an airplane at some distance, and using that search radar, and an operator, the operator would provide instructions to a pilot as to what heading and altitude to fly in order to fly a pattern to bring him in for a landing. Then on the approach, they switched to a precision approach radar, which accurately gave--very accurately--the position relative to the flight path and the elevation at whatever distance so that they could track an airplane very accurately down a glide slope to a landing at the runway. And the GCA was new. The first one I saw was on what is now Rhein-Main Air Force Base in Germany. That was while I was in the army of occupation in Germany, and that was probably in the fall of 1945. That's the first time I was exposed to it, and when I first heard about it, I had no idea even what it was. As I recall, I was asked by a control tower operator if I'd like to try the new GCA there at Rhein-Main, and I said, "Sure, what is it?" And they then guided, directed me to a landing. So that was my first exposure to it. Well, the equipment was very extensive and also expensive, so allocating GCA units was one of the functions of our headquarters. In other words, what bases got them, and the training of operators for this new skill, new field of directing pilots to a landing, training the operators and then providing a quality control. One of the functions of the operations organization was to periodically test these facilities around the country, to insure that they were up to the right standards.
TAPE 1, SIDE 2
COLLINS: What was the nature of the things that needed to be coordinated between the civil side and the military side? Was it that you wanted a uniform system for handling air traffic?
PHILLIPS: Yes, that's one of the things, because in the late forties, I don't remember now what the ratios were, but a significant percentage of the traffic around the US airways was military. The airlines were still relatively young in those years. So a lot of the traffic in the air was military. I was not personally really involved in that coordination aspect with the civil side. That was occurring elsewhere in the headquarters.
COLLINS: Was there also a consideration that civilian airfields needed to be on a compatible system in the event of an emergency that would require military use of civilian airfields? Was that part of your planning for this kind of effort?
PHILLIPS: Not at that stage. Not in 1947-48 when I was involved, at least at the levels that I worked. Later on, that clearly became important, as Strategic Air Command came into the picture, but that was quite a bit later. And if you think back to 1947, '48, World War II had just ended, and I think there was relatively little attention being paid, at least in the fields that I was working in, to a need for rebuilding the military. Our job was more to manage a build-down than to be concerned with the imminence of another war. Now, it wasn't too long after that the tensions with Russia built, and probably at some level they were building even in the '47 '48 period, but it was at a level that was not really apparent from where I was working at that stage.
COLLINS: Is there anything else we should discuss about that Langley experience?
PHILLIPS: Well, I might mention just two things. One is an awareness on my part that the NACA had a major activity there at Langley on the other side of the field, which was an activity that in later years I was very much associated with, as the Langley Center was a part of NASA. But Langley, the NACA part of Langley back in the forties and even earlier was one of the key aeronautical research activities in the world, and I was generally aware of its existence, but not, from my vantage point at that time, was not either involved or aware in any great detail. The other thing I wanted to mention is that it was while I was at Langley that I became seriously interested in graduate work and did apply for further education, and the opportunity that I was offered was to go to the University of Michigan for a Master's degree in electronics, which is what I did.
COLLINS: Was this a school of your choosing, or the result of some arrangement between the University of Michigan and the Air Force?
PHILLIPS: It was not of my choosing, I remember distinctly, but at that stage, I wasn't particularly trying to make a choice of a university. I was more interested in going to a good university for graduate work in electronics. The decision actually was made by the Air Force Institute of Technology, which is at Wright Field. I wasn't aware of it at the time of my application, but the processing of those applications was done by AFIT, the Air Froce Institute of Technology at Wright Field, which had been a long established part of the Army Air Corps, and in transition to become part of the Air Force. AFIT had for years had a resident program to train Air Corps and Air Force officers at the graduate level in aeronautics and other technologies, but by '47, '48 their program had expanded to include civilian universities, and I learned later, after I got to the University of Michigan, that the Air Force had contracted with the University of Michigan to start up a specially designed curriculum to train people in guided missiles. So Michigan was the university that was set up for this guided missile course. Well, I was sent there, in effect, in parallel with the people that had been selected to go to that guided missile course. I was sent there for electrical engineering, electronics, and I suspect that the selection system had channeled me sort of into the communication side of things because of my prior interests and activities. So I got to know a number of the people who were assigned there in the guided missile course. I took a lot of the same courses that they took, and as a matter of fact, once I learned what was going on there, I started to take as electives in my curriculum courses that were established for them, such as instrumentation, telemetry, all things of interest to me.
COLLINS: Were there other universities that specifically had guided missile related curricula that you know of?
PHILLIPS: Well, my knowledge of the total program at that time at least was too limited to know the answer to that question, but I of course learned later, when I became responsible for some of these sorts of things, that there was graduate training at MIT, a significant part of it being under Dr. Draper in what became, it was an instrumentation course largely, but it was inertial instruments, and that later became the Draper Lab at MIT and later was spun out as the Draper Lab Corporation. Purdue had a very active course, I know. They had an active program for the Air Force. I think their emphasis was in electronics and aeronautics. I think the University of Michigan was the only one that had the title guided missiles.
COLLINS: How were you thinking about your career now, as you went on and got additional education? What were you thinking it is that you wanted to do?
PHILLIPS: I wanted to be involved in engineering. At that stage, I had never been to Wright Field, heard a lot about it, so my hope or desire as I came to the completion of my graduate work was that I would be assigned to Wright Field in the engineering division because I wanted to be involved in some of the advanced engineering work that I knew was going on. And I was then assigned to Wright Field in the engineering division, in the electronics subdivision.
COLLINS: Let me just ask a couple more questions about Michigan. Do you remember who some of your student colleagues were from that period?
PHILLIPS: I can't remember any names right now.
COLLINS: Let me ask the question a little differently. Did this group of people who went through the guided missile program at Michigan move into the building of missile programs in the Air Force?
PHILLIPS: Yes. Yes, they did, and initially, I think, all of them, certainly the majority of them went to Wright Field, which is where the focal point of all of Air Force research and development was. I can remember some individuals. I can't right now bring up the names. But they did go to Wright Field and they were involved in the early missile program. It was while I was at the University of Michigan that the transistor was invented. This is one sort of point of reference, because I can well remember the publicity that was going around the engineering school, with the announcement of the invention of the transistor. And that occurred just about the time I was really beginning to really understand how vacuum tubes worked, and I was very much interested in electronics or in field theory and propagation, how antennas worked and how waves propagate. I can remember a Professor Atwood who was I think one of the leaders in propagation theory. And I remember Professor Dow who was really one of the pioneers in the motion of electrons and in space charge and how vacuum tubes work. And this is incidental, one of the texts I studied from was co-authored by Si Ramo. The one I have in the book case upstairs. It was some wave theory written by Ramo and Wintery.
COLLINS: Do you recall whether you had any classes with Robert McMath? Do you recall him?
PHILLIPS: Robert McMath.
COLLINS: He was, I think in the astronomy area but he also had links with the engineering department at that time.
PHILLIPS: I don't remember that name.
COLLINS: Was it your sense that the professors were familiar with or interested in military applications of this technology?
PHILLIPS: In a word, the answer is yes. It's interesting, I think it was more of a reverse situation at that point. Remember now, this is 1948, which is when I went there in the summer of '48, and one of the main texts that we were using was a whole book shelf came out of the Radiation Laboratory at MIT, which had been the World War II classified work on radar and related electronics. I can remember while at the University of Michigan obtaining some of the books out of the Radiation series and some actually paperbound Army published technical manuals, for some of the early radars, which originally were classified but they had been declassified by then, and using those manuals as texts. So my impression is that in one sense, academia was drawing out of the World War II military developments, and drawing on it, and at least my recollection is in 1948 that there was more of that going on at the University of Michigan than there was thinking about military applications. My imression could be a little wrong here, because you know, at the same time here you have a faculty that is on contract with the Air Force to train, to educate officers in the academic fields that relate to developing guided missiles, so they had to be thinking in those terms in order to do that job and to educate people, because there were so many new things. Instrumentation was new. Telemetry was new, those being a couple of the key technologies in early missile work.
COLLINS: Did you have to do a thesis while you were at Michigan?
PHILLIPS: No, interestingly enough, I did not. It was not a requirement for a Master's degree at that time. I guess I never gave it much thought, because it hadn't ever occurred to me that the Master's degree required a thesis. I knew, of course, that the Doctor's degree would. Incidentally, one of my regrets is that I didn't learn about and take some initiative to go on for a PhD degree. I think I could have.
COLLINS: At that time, you mean.
PHILLIPS: Yes, I could have applied. I was doing well academically, and I think I could have applied to stay on for some period more to go on for a PhD degree.
COLLINS: Was the Air Force supporting that degree of scholarship?
PHILLIPS: Yes. Oh yes, the Air Force graduated or did educate quite a number of people. I don't know what the numbers were, but a number of officers did go on for PhD degrees. Somehow I wasn't aware of the opportunity, and I suppose I was anxious to get back to work, to some extent. But I want to mention that during all these years, this being now my duty at the Theater Headquarters in Germany, my duties at Langley and now at the University of Michigan, I maintained a very active program of flying. I never diminished in my interest in and desire to fly. At the University of Michigan, those of us who were pilots were assigned to Selfridge north of Detroit for our flying, so I would go over there quite frequently, and I spent a number of weekend days and evenings going back and forth to Detroit and flying whatever was available out there to fly, to Selfridge. This is again a bit of a digression, but when I was assigned to the Theater Headquarters there in Frankfurt, the Army Air Corps had set up its operations down in Wiesbaden, as the Air Corps part of the army of occupation. So they were headquartered at Wiesbaden, and of course in '45 we were all Army, but those of us who had wings, which were Army Air Corps, were really kind of foreigners in the Army. Foreigners isn't the right word. We were regarded as different, I guess. There were only a small number of us in this very large Theater Headquarters. The Air Corps types were all down in Wiesbaden except for a small number of us that somehow or other the assignment bill put us in the Theater Headquarters. So what is today Rhein-Main was in the fall of 1945 a pretty dumpy, badly bombed out Luftwaffe base, as I remember it, and it had been reconstructed by the Army Corps of Engineers to the point of, extended, of being a kind of a typical World War II type operations, and they had all kinds of airplanes there. They'd brought them in from all of the war activities. We had P-51s, P-47s, A-20s, B-26s, B-25s, C-47s, and so I had a great time learning to fly all those different airplanes. I'll tell you, the checkouts were fairly unprofessional at that stage. But it's at least a notable commentary that in a atmosphere of war and immediate postwar, the requirements for checking out in a new type airplane were really not what the very professional US Air Force found it necessary to establish shortly thereafter.
COLLINS: But it was a lot of fun.
PHILLIPS: But it was a lot of fun. And at least from my recollection, we did very well, and I don't remember any accidents.
COLLINS: So back to Wright Field. What were your first areas of responsibility there?
PHILLIPS: There was the Air Materiel Command, and the Air Materiel Command in January or February of 1950 when I was assigned was responsible for all of the materiel activities of the Air Force. Research, development, procurement, what today we would call acquisition, or production, for maintenance, supply, the works. It was the total logistics for the Air Force. Within Air Materiel Command, one of the major directorates was engineering. And it was in the engineering directorate that the planning and contracting and conduct of R and D in a wide variety of fields, and the prosecution from an engineering standpoint of the development of new airplanes, new guided missiles, etc. Within the engineering division there was an electronics subdivision which I was assigned to. When I was assigned there it was commanded, I remember, by Gordon Blake, who later incidentally preceded me as director of the National Security Agency by a few years. But under the electronics subdivision of the engineering division, there were some laboratories. The laboratory that I was assigned to was called Components and Systems. There were other laboratories there. I remember the Aircraft Radiation Lab, which was responsible for communications and radar devices and so on on airplanes. There was the Aircraft Lab. There was Structures and Aerodynamics and Power Plant Lab, Engines, etc. I was in Components and Systems, and the project that I was assigned to-- and I was a major now--was as a project engineer on a control systems guidance and control systems for the airplanes being converted to drones for nuclear testing. So I was the project engineer for the P-80--the P-80s that were being converted to be flown as drones, the T-33s that were being converted to be the radio control directors for those drones, for the B-17s that were going to be drones and the B-17s that were going to be directors. So there were quite a number of airplanes that were involved. Our lab and my work was concerned with the guidance and control system. I did quite a bit of design work, as a matter of fact. I remember at one stage in our development, there was a lot of concern among those who were going to operate the drones that in the event of a certain radio link malfunction, that they'd lose control of the drone. So I took on the task of figuring out an emergency system for them, which in simple terms wound up being a redundant receiver and transmitter path, but then designing the circuits that would enable this redundant emergency path with limited features to take control of the key aspects of the drone, you know, the power and the control surfaces. So it was the emergency system. Well, in all my years in engineering, that's one of the things I actually designed myself and got it built in the shops there at Wright Field and installed and so on. Because of my experience as a pilot, as well as an engineer at that point, I spent a lot of time with the Sperry Company at Garden City, Long Island, which is where the airplanes were all being converted. They had the contract to do the work. And so I did a lot of the flight testing--it was flying to perfect various things as the equipment was being developed, and then to do the acceptance work, to accept the completed airplanes.
COLLINS: Were you, in essence, a contract monitor for this activity?
PHILLIPS: Yes. As a project engineer, I parlayed that into participating in the work at the factory, and in flight testing. The development, flying, and the ultimate flight testing of the equipment. And I guess it was a natural, I don't recall particularly taking any great initiative myself, that I was assigned to accompany those airplanes to Eniwetok. This would have been now probably a little more than a year after I'd been assigned to Wright Field, the end of '51, as I remember. So I went out to Eniwetok with the drone and director airplanes, and was responsible out there for what amounted to the Wright Field support of those airplanes. They had been taken over by that point by an operating unit that had been formed and operated out of Eglin Air Force Base, so there was an operations organization that was responsible for the operation. So my function on Eniwetok was as the Wright Field technical coordinator and representative.
COLLINS: How much were you aware of the purpose of the tests out there?
PHILLIPS: Oh, quite familiar. One of the primary purposes was to obtain data on blast effects on airplanes in flight when nuclear bombs were detonated. Another primary purpose of those drones was to gather debris from the bomb, which was used in turn then by the bomb scientists to evaluate their weapon. My function, our function was concerned not with bomb development, but with weapon effects evaluation. But I emphasize again, the gathering of debris is what I call it, was one of the prime functions of the drones, and for that purpose they were equipped with rather elaborate devices that scooped the air. We actually flew them through, some of them, through the nuclear clouds in a controlled path, where they gathered material on their filters and brought it back for evaluation.
COLLINS: Your primary role was to send up drones that would provide evidence of blast effects.
COLLINS: Did this involve sending them in different patterns around the blast?
COLLINS: Distances and that kind of thing?
PHILLIPS: Yes. Yes, and the data from Project Greenhouse, which was the one that I was on, and from the one that followed, which as I recall was Castle (I was not involved in it), the data, the weapon effects data from those two test series were the primary handbook for designing airplanes and other, well, guided missiles, concerning nuclear effects.
COLLINS: So did you want to determine the strength of the structure that was necessary to withstand a certain force of blast?
PHILLIPS: Yes. The effects of the over pressure, the blast wave, the effects of radiation, the effects of the intense light. I saw all of the weapon tests in Project Greenhouse, and it's almost impossible, to describe one of those weapon blasts. The first one I saw was on the island of Eniwetok. The weapon was being detonated on some other part of the atoll, I've forgotten now how far away, but you know, before the blast we put on these absolutely opaque, absolutely opaque black goggles. You wouldn't think you could ever see anything through those. And at the instant of detonation, you could see through those absolutely opaque goggles just like it was the brightest of sunlight. It's the most intense light you can ever imagine. I saw some of the other tests from director airplanes and as you said, the purpose of those airplanes was to be at various positions relative to the detonation, in terms of altitude and slant range distance, so as to determine with quite elaborate instrumentation on the airplanes the effects of blast, overpressure, radiation, heat and the other effects of the weapon.
COLLINS: Who was responsible for the instrumentation, the sensors? Wright Field people?
PHILLIPS: Yes. Yes, we were the ones that developed them, as part of this project I described. One of the technical items of interest that I've talked to people about a number of times since--we equipped those airplanes with quite a sophisticated tape recorder. It was a multi-channel recorder, this now being 1951. It was a pretty early version of a tape recorder but it had a large number of channels to record instrumentation on tape, taking a lot of pressure, temperature, other kinds of measurements throughout the airplane. Now, in addition to the tape recorder, all those sensors were also feeding a telemetry transmitter, and it was one of the fairly early versions of PCM telemetry transmitter, Pulse Code Modulation, which is widely and commonly used, but it was fairly new in that period. I don't remember exactly what the frequency range was of the telemetry transmitter, but it was way up in the UHF, Ultra High Frequency spectrum, quite high. On the first nuclear test, you know, everything was checking out fine with the airplanes, they were all performing magnificently, including the telemetry signals coming down to the receiving stations we had on the island, and then at the instant of the nuclear detonation, losing the telemetry signals, and that was a bit of a mystery. You know, the question is, what is the thing that caused this? We did a lot of scrambling to try to figure out why the telemetry was failing us right at the critical instant. Fortunately we had the tape recorders on board, so that airplanes that weren't blown out of the air brought their data back. But it turned out to be quite a bit later that it was finally diagnosed as the effects of EMP, Eletromagnetic Pulse effects on our equipment, and EMP protection is a very common standard now in all military equipment. But at the time we observed the effects and suffered the consequences on our telemetry transmitters, we didn't have enough information to understand and diagnose just what the problem was.
COLLINS: This had been the kind of problem that you would have, say, consulted with some of the nuclear scientists who were participating in the project?
PHILLIPS: Yes. I remember--the only name I can remember at this stage is Rose or Groves. He was the scientist in charge of the weapon development.
COLLINS: Are you talking about the Army General Leslie Groves?
PHILLIPS: I must have my names confused. What was the name of the Army general who headed the Manhattan Project?
PHILLIPS: That was Leslie Groves. Well, that isn't who I was thinking about.
COLLINS: Okay, we can fill that in later when it comes back.
PHILLIPS: Your question prompts me to think that probably more could have been done than was done at the time to work with or coordinate with the people involved with the weapon work. We didn't really do very much of that, and I'm sure there were a number of reasons for it. They were busy, too busy to be bothered, I'm sure, with all their weapon work. But as I think back on it now, your question is a good one. I'm sure that since they had very elaborate instrumentation on the weapon and its firing and its effects, and very elaborate instrumentation, they probably had some scientific know-how that could have helped us to diagnose that problem faster. That's a lesson in, we could have done better, probably.
TAPE 2, SIDE 1
COLLINS: Before we broke for a moment, we were talking about your experience at Eniwetok. Is there anything else you want to add to that?
PHILLIPS: Well, I remember one of the tests, where the wind shifted in an unpredicted direction, and brought a lot of fallout back across our base there on the Eniwetok Atoll, and of course all of us in the operation were wearing exposure badges continuously while we were out there. One of my responsibilities was to be involved in the recovery of the drones after the tests, and I was always out at the remote control site at the end of the runway. See, the director of airplanes would bring the drones in on final approach. They would control them down on final, but the final landing was taken over by a crew at the end of the runway with radio control equipment and with various siting devices to make the final touchdown and landing, and brake them to a stop, and then they were pulled up by tugs to be towed back to their parking areas. Of course, some of them which purposely had been flown through the atomic cloud were quite radioactive, and of course the recovery crews were all appropriately dressed for radiation exposure at the anticipated levels, but the event I'm mentioning was an unpredicted shift of wind after the explosion which brought the cloud and a lot of the nuclear fallout back across our base, and of course everybody who wasn't directly involved in the recovery operations was ordered to get under cover, and the cover wasn't very much. Incidentally, it was aluminum barracks buildings that didn't have any windows. I remember standing out there during all that recovery operation, and I never did find out how much exposure, how much radiation my badge reported, which is an interesting--
COLLINS: You were wearing badges at that time.
PHILLIPS: I was wearing a badge. It's just kind of an interesting afterthought. I'm sure I got a lot of radiation that day and so did others who were involved in the recovery.
COLLINS: Overall, what was the scale of this operation? The number of people involved? It sounds like a truly--
PHILLIPS: It was big. There was a task force established, a task --I'll really have to delve in my memory. I think it was Task Force 3, I think was its number, and it was commanded by General Bob Lee. He and I have talked a little bit about it since. We're both retired generals so we see each other every year or so. Bob Lee was the task force commander. The commander of the task group that had the drone operations was a Colonel Tom Gent. I was by that time a lieutenant colonel, and of course I was not assigned to the organization that was operating the drones, I was assigned to the task force of Wright Field liaison officer, technical representative. But it was a large operation. I can only guess now at the number of Air Force people involved in that, but it had to have been several hundred, I just don't know.
COLLINS: Were you also responsible, or this operational unit responsible for fishing planes out of the sea that didn't make it back to base? Is that a contingency that just wasn't provided for or wasn't possible to do?
PHILLIPS: I don't recall that we had any that went in the ocean during our test. And the fact is I just don't remember what the thinking or planning was for that kind of contingency. We did have some drones, a very small number, that had obvious deformations from the nuclear effects, but we recovered them successfully by remote control landings. One of the B-17s was purpose positioned quite close to the blast, and took a very high overpressure, as I remember, had the bomb bay doors caved in, and quite a number of significant structural effects. It was obviously as an airplane built strong enough to stand it, and our radio and remote control equipment were sufficient to bring it back by remote control. That and other airplanes, and the measurements and the effects data, as I said, served as the basis for a handbook for aircraft design then, the design to withstand the effects of the nuclear weapons.
COLLINS: After the Project Greenhouse then you came back to Wright Field. What were your responsibilities at that point?
PHILLIPS: For some period after Greenhouse, I continued to be involved in the technical work related to drones. I don't remember the exact timing now, but shortly after I came back from Eniwetok, I was assigned to go to Maxwell Field for the Air Command and Staff School, and that was a short course. It was three months long. I don't remember the exact timing of it, but it seems like probably September through December of 1952. I'd have to check the records to be sure of the exact date. It was wither '51 or '52. It was right after Greenhouse. It was during that short Air Command and Staff School course, which incidentally, as I said, it was a three month course. Later on that course was expanded to a year's duration. So at the time I went in the early fifties, it was quite a short course, but it was a very concentrated, a very good course.
COLLINS: The purpose of which was?
PHILLIPS: To train Air Force officers in a broader perspective of Air Force operations--you know, the major, lieutenant colonel level of officer, for staff and command work, throughout the Air Force. But for me it was a very concentrated broadening course, and an opportunity in a formal way to study Air Force doctrine, Air Force tactics, related to ground troops, related to interdiction, to strategic campaign. This was really still the aftermath of World War II, and the very early period of the formation of what became SAC, Strategic Air Command. I did do a thesis there, incidentally, it was called a thesis, and the subject I picked was proximity fuses. I think I mentioned those in our discussion earlier, in the paper that I worked on, getting data out of the archives, concerning the developments both in Germany and the US of radar devices and particularly proximity fuses, and the effects of or effectiveness of those fuses. And one of the conclusions I drew was that had the Germans perfected an effective proximity fuse, well before the war ended, the outcome of the war could significantly have been affected. The reason I drew that conclusion is that during my World War II experience in escorting those large bomber formations, as those bomber formations had to fly into their targets, they were literally flying into what looked like black clouds of exploding German 88 mm shells, and they had their effects. They did an awful lot of damage and destroyed a significant number of bombers. The German tactic primarily was to put up what we used to call just a flat box. They'd just have a cube in the sky that they just tried to keep full of shells, that the bombers had to fly through. But if they'd had proximity fuses, the lethality would have been considerably higher. And for that matter, I had enough anti-aircraft shells go off above me or near enough that I feel I probably would have got knocked down in the fighter if there had been the proximity fuse. Anyhow, that was my "thesis" at the Air Command and Staff School.
When I returned to Wright Field from the Air Command and Staff School, I was moved to a new different laboratory, and I think the sequence was, to the Armament Laboratory. Initially I was put in charge of what was called bomber gunnery in the Armament Laboratory, and that organization was responsible for all of the fire control systems on bomber airplanes. In those years, we were doing a lot of work in our own facilities there with military officers and civil service people. We had quite an extensive hangar and airplane modification facility, flight test facility, or flight test activities which were conducted both out of Wright Field and Eglin and even out here in California at what became Edwards. We were developing the radar control turret systems for the B-47. It was a tail gun on the B-47 that was radar directed. It was while I was in that laboratory that we started the work for the fire control system for the B-52, which was a whole new generation of fire control radar. We were doing a lot of experimental work with fire control systems for--you know, thinking of improvements for the B-50, which became, was the forerunner or the follow-on to the B-29. Of course, the B-36 was in operation by then, and the B-36 was--if you think of a flying fortress or flying battleship, the original B-36s had a number of turrets, and fire control stations, I've forgotten now but it seems like there were at least a couple on top of the airplane, one on each side, and a tail system and as I say, I've forgotten the number now. I was so deeply involved, I probably should remember. But the B-36 fire control system needs 20 millimeter guns and it was controlled both by gunners with sighting devices operating the guns in these exposed gun bays, and by radar from--especially for the tail system--and the 20 millimeter guns were notably unreliable, and the radar system for the tail guns was not as reliable as it should be. The Strategic Air Command which was really coming into the forefront in that period, was quite rightly up in arms over the unreliability of the fire control system in the B-36. So I spent an awful lot of time and energy working the project to improve the reliability of that system.
COLLINS: Was this a case where you needed to or had developed a prototype which then went to a manufacturer for production? Was it the case that you already had something that needed improvements?
PHILLIPS: Well, by the time I got into the Armaments Laboratory, the B-36 was already operational. It was already in service. They were still being built, as I remember. I know they were. So our problem was to take a system that was already in service and still in production, and literally to make it work. Its earlier origin, which predated me, I don't know, I wasn't involved in, so I don't know exactly how it was developed, between the Air Force and--the air frame contractor of course was Convair. The airplanes were built in Fort Worth, the Forth Worth division of Convair, which of course later was part of General Dynamics. The fire control, all of the turret systems and guns and fire control equipment was built by General Electric, and most of it was built in--part of it in Schenectady, New York, and part of it in another plant in the New York area, that I visited a number of times. So I'm beginning to remember now. I organized what amounted to a task group approach to the problem, and gave it a name. It was called Project Fireout, and its purpose was to make the fire control system on the B-36 work with sufficient reliability that it could do its job for SAC.
COLLINS: Did this involve bringing in some of the engineers from General Electric, or was it still in-house?
PHILLIPS: No, it involved bringing in everybody I could get. I borught in people from General Electric, from Convair, also from in-house there at Wright Field. And it amounted to, my simple minded approach to it was to identify the problems, what are the problems, and so in fairly rapid order we were able to identify what the technical problems were, and then to set up combinations of testing and engineering development, redesign, modification, to fix the problems, and the problems were pretty much across the board. The 20 millimeter gun, which I had come to know as--because we had one of those guns in the P-38 in World War II, so it was the same gun. We had one 20 millimeter cannon in the nose of the P-38 surrounded by four 50 caliber machine guns in the nose. Well, that same 20 millimeter cannon was in the turret systems on the B-36. It was not particularly reliable on the P-38, so I had some exposure to it. The problems ranged from the effects of cold at high altitude to just marginal mechanical designs for moving these heavy belts of ammunition through to fire. Problems with the servo systems that moved the gunmount mechanisms. Problems with the radar. So the first effort was to identify the problems and get them categorized. I spent a lot of time in the various plants that were involved, GE with their two plants in New York, and Convair at Fort Worth, and I also spent quite a bit of time with SAC, and I made a number of flights with SAC in the B-36 just to get real first hand experience with how the thing was really working. Remember now, I was the head of a branch in the Armament Lab that was concerned with bomber gunnery, so we were starting to do studies and contract with people to do studies about possibilities of using guided missiles to defend bombers, thinking of a bomber defense missile. We were involved with advances in radar systems for fire control, one of which was applied to the B-52. As a branch chief I was well aware of what the fighter gunnery people were concerned with, and it was in that period that the F-84, 86, 89, there were several fighters that were being developed and were produced and made operational. Each of those, of course, was equipped with armaments for its intended purpose. The point I really wanted to mention here is, it was in that period that the Air Force was so deeply involved with Hughes, who was dominating the fighter fire control world, dominating may not be a fair word--they were the leaders and they had the majority of the business, to design and build the radars and other systems that were on those fighters. It was in that period that there might have been difficulties at Hughes, and it was also in that period that some of the top technical people in Hughes became disenchanted with what was going on. That's the period when Ramo and Wooldridge both split up. These were names that were not particularly important to me at that time, but--
COLLINS: You were aware.
PHILLIPS: I was aware of the general problem, going on there under the general responsibility of the armament laboratory. I should mention some other, I think, interesting developments that were going on, that we in the armament laboratory were involved in to some degree, although the parent sponsorship to some of these was in other labs. There was a project to tow fighters on bombers, and I remember a B-50 that had been equipped for an F-84 to hook on, one on each wing tip, and to be towed out to the combat zone. The F-84s were to be dropped off and do their thing of protecting the bomber, and then hook up again for the ride home. That was the theory. That reached some stage of development and I think flight testing. There was another one where a fighter was towed on the belly of one of the big airplanes, and I think none of these ever really became operational, but they were fascinating development projects with very legitimate purposes, to try to figure out how to provide long range escort for bombers.
COLLINS: A bit of a digression here. One thing we haven't mentioned is the advent of the Korean War. Did that have any impact on the activities at Wright Field that you were involvedin?
PHILLIPS: It had to have had. I'm trying to think of specifics. Let me tell you some things I remember about the Korean War. I'd have to be reminded just what the dates were. The Korean War was going on while I was still at the University of Michigan. Strange how some of these things stick in your memory, but I can remember, when the weather was holding me up from doing some flying in Selfridge, I was sitting in the pilots' ready room there, and one of the Air Force publications sitting on the table that I wound up reading was a justification for the Korean War. Why were we involved and why was it important? The Korean War clearly had its effects at Wright Field, because the F-86 was the big actor in the Korean War. It was the F-86s that were the prime fighters in the DMZ and involved with protecting from Chinese attacks across whatever that line was. The Korean War didn't have any really direct effects on what I was doing. I can remember, now your question prompts me to remember--we were beginning to pay much more attention then to what was going on in Russia, and interestingly enough, it was in the early fifties when I got my first briefing on Russian Bear Bombers, and Bears are still in the news here in 1988. Like B-52s, I guess the Bears have been modified and upgraded to meet the needs of the times over a lot of decades now.
COLLINS: You indicated, in the immediate postwar period when you were at Langley, you didn't have much sense of the Soviet Union as our principal adversary, as a military threat. When did that begin to become a fact of life for you?
PHILLIPS: In whatever year the Berlin Air Lift became predominant. What year was that?
COLLINS: It's '49 or '50, I think, maybe '48, I don't have the date for that.
PHILLIPS: Well, let me more directly answer your question. From my own personal standpoint, from what I was involved in and doing over the years, the Berlin Air Lift period is the first time when from my professional consciousness, we had a serious potentially --you know, potential military conflict or war situation. During the period that I was in Europe, through the summer of '47, I was of course aware of the subdivision of Germany and of the British, French, US and Russian sectors. I traveled quite freely around Europe during the times that I was there, including to Berlin a number of times, both by air and by train. So in the years while I was still in Germany, up through the summer of '47, from my vantage point, I was not really concerned about the Russian threat. At different levels obviously they were. It really wasn't until I was at Wright Field and starting with my activities there in the Armament Laboratory, and going on to other things I was concerned with, that the tensions with Russia and the potential for conflict really affected my thinking seriously.
COLLINS: You say, affected--can you elaborate? In what way?
PHILLIPS: Yes. I tended to be involved--and I think this starts with my bomber gunnery period at the armament laboratory--pretty heavily during the rest of my career with strategic forces. The bomber gunnery was principally to help Strategic Air Command, as a still pretty young organization, be able to penetrate defenses with the principal anticipated adversary being Russia.
COLLINS: We can pick that theme up, your involvement in strategic matters, as our discussion goes along. Returning back to your activities at Wright Field, you mentioned the Hughes situation. Did you at that point begin to become more involved in the Falcon project, in guided missile activity?
PHILLIPS: That came a little later.
COLLINS: What we were talking about when Hughes came up was their predominance in the fire control field. Is there anything you want to follow from that point?
PHILLIPS: Well, I don't think so. I'm trying to stick with the chronology of my activities. The fighter fire control activities that Hughes was a predominant force in was already much involved with extension of fighter aircraft armaments to include missiles, and the Falcon series was their initial vehicle. I guess it was while I was still in the Armament Laboratory that developments were already underway, with me not being directly involved, for extensions of air defense, the continental air defense, and that included guided missile developments like the Bomarc that Boeing built as a ground-launched supersonic air interceptor missile. Navy had a system that was called the Talos, which had originally been built for ship defense, but a version of it was being adapted by the Air Force for air defense intercept. The Navy also was developing, largely in-house at China Lake out here, the Sidewinder, and a little later, I was very much involved with adapting the Sidewinder for Air Force use, and of course it's still now in 1988 one of the prime armaments for both the Air Force and the Navy. But from the standpoint of my bomber gunnery activities, our principal efforts were to see if we couldn't get a meaningful research and development program going for some form of missile that would be useful in defending a bomber, and we didn't, during my time there, ever get beyond paper studies kinds of work. I'm aware of projects that have been pursued in various ways since then, and there still hasn't been developed, to my knowledge, a really suitable guided missile for use in defending a bomber against fighter attack.
COLLINS: This would be an air-to-air missile that would be placed on the bomber?
PHILLIPS: Yes. To be used to counter an attacking fighter airplane. There have been, as I said, some number of projects over the years to address that problem. To my knowledge, no project has ever gone very far, so that there is not such a missile in the inventory.
COLLINS: Is there special technical difficulty with that situation?
PHILLIPS: Yes. There are. Just the aerodynamics of the situation is one of the obvious ones. A typical attack on a bomber by a fighter is a tail attack. And you visualize firing a rocket propelled missile rearward from an airplane that's going rapidly forward. The maneuver requirements in that aerodynamic environment. I don't remember now what all the problems are, but I guess it's some combination of realistic consideration of the military requirement versus the cost of developing and the trade-offs between anticipated operational effectiveness versus the cost that has probably led to the fact that there never has been a really serious effort undertaken to develop such a missile.
COLLINS: During this period at the Armament Lab, did you have any involvement with any of these missile projects that were in the works at that point?
PHILLIPS: Yes. I'm trying to remember the timing of my assignments, to digress for a minute. From the Bomber Gunnery branch, I think my final assignment in the Armament Laboratory was director of operations. I think my assignment out of the Armament Laboratory was as what today you'd call the program director on the B-52. And from there then to heading what was called the fighter missiles branch, where I had responsibility for all of the missiles that were involved for airborne defense. So as I moved up in the Armament Lab, I was more involved with and concerned with the things going on at Hughes that affected the fighter fire control situation, and was at least more interested in the progress of developments in Falcon and Sidewinder. So that was my first exposure to those.
TAPE 2, SIDE 2
COLLINS: Is there anything further we want to talk about with respect to the armaments lab and your work with the fire control activities?
PHILLIPS: No, I think at least for now, we've touched on a number of the important things there in the armament lab. I guess I should mention that fire control computers in the late forties, early fifties were pretty primitive. One of the people I looked up to in that period was Lee Davis, who later retired, many years later, as a lieutenant general in the Air Force. Lee was one of those who had been educated to the PhD level in the earlier years. He was some years older than I, and was a real professional technical expert in fire control dynamics. The fire control computers that we were using in bomber systems were, as I said, fairly primitive; the computations that those computers could do could consider only first order terms in a mathematical equation. It wasn't until digital computers became practical, which was some time later, that fire control in a smooth way to take account of the higher order terms and dynamics of the fire control could be applied, as it can today. I wanted to mention Lee Davis and his role. He was one of the real leaders in fire control developments.
COLLINS: Were you aware during any of this period of time at Wright Field of the Air Force's contract and relationship with the RAND Corporation?
PHILLIPS: I was aware of it, and can vaguely remember reading some RAND material or studies. I was not directly involved with RAND myself in those days.
COLLINS: The next thing to discuss then is your appointment as project director for the B-52.
PHILLIPS: In that period, this being in the early fifties, I don't remember exactly what year I was assigned to that role. Probably '54. The Air Force was still organized--well, let me digress and pick up on something important. When I was first assigned to Wright Field, as I mentioned earlier, Air Materiel Command was responsible for the whole range of activities that related to materiel. The importance of technology and its development and exploitation which had been so well recognized by people like General (Hap) Arnold during World War II had caused a considerable debate in the upper levels about the need for the technologists, scientists, science engineering, to have a more predominant role in developing the needs of the Air Force for the future. Well, that debate, which was extensive and widely reported, led to the formation of the Air Research and Development Command, and the cadre for the formation of that command was the engineering division of the Air Materiel Command. Well, I was, as a major and a fairly newcomer to Wright Field, and very pleased with my new role in engineering, was very much aware of that debate, and really very much in agreement with the side of the argument that said that the science engineering side needed a stronger voice. So I became a part of the new Air Research and Development Command, just as a member of the engineering division of AMC. So by the time I was assigned to the B-52 program we had two commands concerned with the development of the new airplane. We had Air Research and Development Command responsible for the engineering development, and the Air Materiel Command through its procurement division responsible for all the contracting and ultimately for its production. So I was assigned as one of two project officers responsible for the B-52. The other was Ed O'Connor. See, by then I was a colonel, full colonel, and O'Connor was a colonel. He was in Air Materiel Command, a procurement specialist. I was in ARDC and an engineering specialist. The general rules had been written into Air Force regulations by then that said that up until a certain point in the development of a new system--and I've forgotten exactly what the transition point was--the project was really under control of the Research and Development organization with AMC supporting. But at some milestone, and it probably had to do with turning the first ones over to the user or something, the primary responsibility passed to the other command then for the production phase. So this was called a JPO, a Joint Program Office. At the time I was assigned, it was still in engineering and development. Incidentally, Ed O'Connor and I worked extremely well together and it really didn't matter which man was in charge at that stage--but I emphasize that because in later years, this, what I thought then and still do, the illogical division of responsibilities among Air Force commands led to the formation of the Air Force Systems Command, which pulled out of AMC the procurement responsibility and production responsibility. So the first step was to form ARDC, Research and Development, and then it was several years later that what I think of as the reorganization was complete to form a full acquisition command which was the Systems Command. Incidentally, I understand now, here we are in 1988 with some discussion going on as to whether they ought to reverse it back to putting it all under one command again, which would take it back in the cycle to where it was 40 years ago, but anyhow, that's a diversion. The B-52 was conceived as being the intercontinental bomber clearly to replace the B-36 and to be the prime strategic weapons system. In the period that I was involved with the airplane, there were some quite important technical or configuration decisions made, one of which was whether the airplane should be tandem, as the B-47 that preceded it, or have side by side cockpits. General LeMay was personally adamant that it was going to be a side by side airplane.
COLLINS: We were talking about the B-52 project, and you mentioned Curtis LeMay's interest in a configuration. How did you work with SAC people in setting up the performance requirements?
PHILLIPS: Well, I think we worked well together. There was fairly frequent interchange between SAC headquarters and me and my program office, this being at the colonel level. During the period when I was--I still think of it as program director on the B-52--I made fairly frequent trips to Omaha, to Offett AFB, to brief General LeMay and the SAC staff on the project and its progress and to coordinate our interests. So the formal mechanism for coordination existed earlier than my time in the requirements formulation and the formalization of a set of military and performance requirements. That had preceded me, so that's a formal process that the two commands both have a voice in. The place where, as project officer, program director, and the interaction with SAC occurs are the various formal reviews, one of which was the mockup review. At the mockup stage, this being in the parlance of that time, the mockup review was before some of the configuration decisions had been made, and it was at that time that SAC, largely through the very strong voice of Curt LeMay, insisted that it was going to be a side by side airplane. The technical trade-offs were anticipated loss of some performance through adding drag, through widening the fusillage at the front, versus the crew aspects of side by side performance. As I said, Curt LeMay was personally leading the SAC insistence that it be a side by side airplane. I and we in the ARDC and the AMC organizations were not really opposed to that. Our interests were to present or to understand the technical aspects of the expected drag increase and the effects on range and so on, and with that in hand, to not oppose the decision which the operations commander insisted was essential. Well, Curt was right. That airplane would have been wrong if it had been built as a tandem airplane. But that was one of the early important decisions. Just to recall some that come to mind--we had to make decisions about whether we were going to equip that airplane to carry both nuclear weapons and conventional weapons. You know, that kind of decision is a top level Air Force decision. We were the principal instruments in bringing that kind of thing up for decision. It was equipped and delivered with racks for both kinds of weapons, incidentally.
COLLINS: I guess I'm surprised that was even a question at that point. I mean, this was to be the principal strategic bomber.
PHILLIPS: Nuclear weapons were the only expected strategic offensive weapon at that point.
COLLINS: Right. Was there a question that it would not carry nuclear weapons?
PHILLIPS: Oh no, the question was whether it could also carry conventional weapons.
COLLINS: Oh, I see.
PHILLIPS: Because the wracks for the two were radically different. We went through some extensive technical studies and work with Boeing about whether we should remove the ailerons from the airplane and rely entirely on flaps for lateral control. We wound up making, again, I think the correct decision, to reduce the aileron area but to retain some aileron capability, some aileron function in the airplane. One of the very difficult technical jobs in developing that airplane was the distribution of power around the airplane was by pneumatics, and in earlier airplanes, typically you distributed energy around the airplane through hydraulic systems, or electrical systems, but the B-52 was principally pneumatic, so masses of hot air were ducted out of the engines and manifolded then and distributed out to places where it drove turbines, to generate electricity, alternators, which then had to be paralleled across the airplane, and drove pumps to perform various other functions. Well, a little later, after I had left the B-52 project, the pneumatic systems gave a lot of trouble, this being during the early operational period of time in SAC, and some airplanes were lost and some very fine people were killed in the process of failures of the pneumatic system. In other words, typically I think the failures involved what amounted to a rupture of the ducting which was ducting this high pressure very hot air, a rupture of that duct then would spray the terribly hot air in ways that would weaken structure and cause fires, and airplanes were lost due to that.
COLLINS: Was the pneumatic system meant to control the control surfaces of the airplane, or what were?
PHILLIPS: Well, it was principally used as a way to transmit energy, transmitting hot, high pressure high velocity gas which is energy, transmitting energy, which is then converted to some other form of motion by devices such as a turbine, which would convert it at various places in the airplane to electricity, an alternator, or to a hydraulic force through driving a turbine driven hydraulic pump, to actuate a surface.
COLLINS: Okay. I see.
PHILLIPS: It was used also for de-icing, you know, through hot wing, and so that was one of the very difficult developments. I remember the Sondstrand Company was deeply involved with that system. I guess Sonstrand was developing alternators that were driven by the turbines, and their research was involved, and Boeing, obviously. They were the airplane designers and integrators.
COLLINS: So this was one of the--in essence--first really major systems that you had responsibility for putting together and seeing that it operated properly, the components fit together and it worked, interfaced properly. Is that correct?
PHILLIPS: Yes, that's true. That was my first program director in a total large complex program sense. I need to check the record. My recollection is it was 1954 when I was assigned to that position.
COLLINS: As part of this function of program director, were you letting out contracts to research and develop certain components of the project, or was this again something that was done in-house?
PHILLIPS: The B-52 was very largely a prime contractor development, the prime contractor being Boeing. Now, the exceptions to prime in a total weapons system sense were engines, which were provided by Pratt and Whitney on direct contract from the Air Force. We had direct contracts from the Air Force for fire control. It was with the Arma Corporation. And so the fire control systems and the turret systems were all being delivered to Boeing by Arma. There were other systems that were being bought by the Air Force directly and furnished as government furnished equipment to Boeing to incorporate in the airplane--the engines, fire control. I think probably the same was true of the bombing system.
COLLINS: But Boeing was responsible for developing pneumatic, hydraulic, electrical systems.
PHILLIPS: Yes, they were responsible for that whole integrated system in a contract sense. Others involved were subcontractors to Boeing. There's an interesting relationship that's evidence by a prime contractor, in this case Boeing on the B-52, and the provider of a major subsystem such as a tail turret fire control system, the Arma Corporation. See, on the one hand, the Air Force is contacting directly with this fire control supplier, but at the same time, it's contracting with Boeing in a way expecting that Boeing is going to carry the responsibility for the final integration in every sense--you know, functional compatability and operational performance of a very major subsystem. That was true of engines, true of the bombing system, and there were probably others. But it's a relationship which I think can be made to work very well. I think we made it work well in that period, and there have been many instances since.
COLLINS: The problem being, or one of the areas of concern perhaps being that Boeing didn't have contractual control over, say, Arma and the fire control development. Is that what you were leading to?
PHILLIPS: Well, it's a fact that they did not have contractual control, as they would in a full prime, with them contracting in a sub way. What I was trying to do, and this could take more time than it's worth probably, is to say that it was then and it still is quite practical to set up a way in which you can effectively use an integrating contractor such as Boeing with some responsibilities to integrate equipment that is bought separately by the Air Force, but which must perform in an effective way in an integrated weapon system. So clearly you have to set up a mechanism whereby this prime integrating contractor can have appropriate inputs and influence on the design of the subsystem, and even as it gets into later stages of testing, some opportunity to insist on some changes being made, because typically some changes are required as you get into the final full performance testing of a highly complex integrated set of systems. But you can make it work. It's not necessarily worth a lot of time here in this discussion. But that was in prior years and to some extent still is one of the elements of debating, how best for the Air Force or a military service to acquire a major complex weapons system. Should they do it by contracting everything completely to one prime contractor who in turn then subcontracts? Or as I've described, the way the B-52 was done, with the Air Force contracting with a number of system and subsystem suppliers whose equipments will be integrated in a major complex weapon system by a prime and integrating contractor.
COLLINS: Obviously what has bearing on that is what evolved with Ramo-Wooldrige. But in this case, what role did the ARDC play in helping Boeing to execute this integrating function?
PHILLIPS: It was active and effective. I'm trying to think of how to describe it. Boeing as the prime contractor had a direct and uninhibited communication with these major subsystem suppliers, plus a lot of tradition on which they could work, because this practice was not new. It had been typical for years if not forever for engines to be delivered separately, and major armaments and so on. So the prime had a direct and uninhibited communication with that supplier, would be involved in the earlier stages with both that supplier and with the Air Force in perfecting the technical specifications against which things would be designed and built. They could never issue a direct contractual direction, but anything that their engineering and development and testing work indicated had to be done or changed in one of these systems, you know, unless the data is there and reasonable engineers can look at it together, a reasoned decision can be made about the need to direct a change. That perhaps is a little longer loop than going directly, but we made this work through our change control processes, and I think quite effectively.
COLLINS: In other words, when a change is required, Boeing or the subcontractor would have to come to you and say, "This is the change we want to make in the system" and then it would go from there.
PHILLIPS: Yes. That's how it worked. You know, in a formal and oversimplified sense, if Boeing engineering believed that a change needed to be made in a Pratt and Whitney engine, that was going to cost money, they submitted a change proposal or a change requirement to the Air Force, and the Air Force then made a decision and issued a change notice against Pratt and Whitney on the engine. The opposite could work as well.
COLLINS: At the same time, would there be informal communications between Boeing and Pratt and Whitney about this?
PHILLIPS: Yes, and that's what really made the thing work. That's what I was saying, open and uninhibited communication between the contractors.
COLLINS: And were the contracts at this time cost plus fee nature or?
PHILLIPS: Yes. I'm pretty sure--yes, the contract through some of the early production of the B-52s was CPFF contract, yes. Some of the later production was various versions of fixed price, but during all the period I was involved, it was CPFF.
COLLINS: Well, I guess this might be a good point to break for today.
COLLINS: Thanks very much.