Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Newsletter July 2014: National Museum of WW 2 Aviation

The National Museum of World War II Aviation

World War II and the Greatest Generation
In 1935, British engineer Robert Watson-Watt was working on a "death ray" that would destroy enemy aircraft using radio waves. His "death ray" instead evolved into radar-or "radio detection and ranging."
Major Challenge Grant Received
July 2014
In This Issue
Greatest Generation
Challenge Grant Received
Herbert Weiss
Museum Volunteers
Airshow Approaching
Your Comments

  Slattery Family Foundation Challenge Grant Received

The Board of Directors of the National Museum of World War II Aviation has received a $5 million challenge grant from the Slattery Family Foundation for construction of Aviation Hall, a 60,000-square-foot exhibit hall and education facility on the museum's Colorado Springs campus. In addition, the Slattery Family Foundation awarded the museum a $1 million gift to immediately begin design and development work on the new facility.  

Aviation Hall Exterior View 
Upon accepting the $5 million matching grant, the board is announcing a capital campaign to raise the matching funds. The museum is in discussions with a number of Colorado-based foundations, and will be approaching individual and corporate donors for support.

"As we move forward with the design and development process, we will be reaching out to find partners to work with us on this important project," said Bill Klaers, co-chairman of the board and president of the museum. "It's a great opportunity for Colorado to build on the Slattery family's generosity, and create a world-class museum and education center that will have a tremendous impact on our economy."

"This project will be a huge step forward for the National Museum of World War II Aviation. It will create a world-class venue that will allow us to fully document the story of World War II Aviation, and honor those who contributed and sacrificed so much to win the war," said Jim Stewart, co-chairman of the museum board.

Opened to the public in late 2012, the National Museum of World War II Aviation is a unique learning environment that documents the role that military aviation played in the emergence of our nation as a world power after the Second World War.

Aviation Hall Looking West
Through a combination of exhibits, interactive displays and docent-led tours, the museum tells the story of our nation's tremendous technological advancement during WWII, and describes the lasting social and economic changes that were essential to the success of the Allied war effort.

The museum is developing its historical collection and building relationships with industry leaders and educators who share the museum's mission--inspiring future generations through the story of World War II aviation.

At the heart of this effort is the museum's highly successful K-12 education program that promotes STEM-based learning within an aviation context. More than 3,500 students participated in the museum's STEM program during the 2013-2014 school term.

Building on this solid foundation, the museum is now ready to expand its campus at the Colorado Springs Airport. The focal point of the project will be the 60,000-square-foot Aviation Hall, which will house the museum's main collection and serve as the new home of the National Aerospace Education Center, a broad-based coalition of public and private sector organizations that will work together to create a center of excellence for aerospace education and training.

Herbert G. Weiss Visit and Lecture 

Radar expert Herbert G. Weiss captivated his audience during an April 12, 2014, presentation at the National Museum of World War II Aviation at Colorado Springs Airport. He told 186 listeners of his time at the Radiation Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology's famous incubator of such war-winners as airborne interception radar, blind bombing radar, air-to-surface vessel radar, and gun-laying radar.

Mr. Herbert G. Weiss
In fact, the Rad Lab developed over 100 types of radar during World War II, and sparked industry to produce radars valued at $1.5 billion, according to MIT. "It is frequently said that, although the atomic bomb ended World War II, it was radar that won the war," MIT says.

Weiss, now in his 90's, became head of the Radar Division at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory before retiring in 1978. He was a young engineer working on an air traffic control problem in early 1941 when he was recruited for war work.

He initially worked at the state-of-the-art lab at Tuxedo Park, N.Y., of Aflred L. Loomis, a wealthy entrepreneur who became a force behind the development of radar and the atomic bomb.

"Loomis was a very skilled guy and he had an appreciation of the importance of microwaves before many other people," Weiss said in an interview. Radar operating in the microwave region ultimately allowed the fine discrimination to see things like a surfaced enemy submarine among ocean swells.

In September 1940, during the Battle of Britain when it seemed that England might be invaded by the Nazis, British scientists under Sir Henry Tizard secretly brought a treasure trove of scientific and technical advances to the U.S. One was the resonant cavity magnetron, a device invented only a few months before that promised to give radars far sharper eyes than those of Britain's Chain Home early warning system that was helping to keep the Luftwaffe at bay. The key was its ability to generate centimetric, or microwave, transmissions, as opposed to the metric wavelength transmissions of radars then in use.

Initial efforts at Tuxedo Park and the Rad Lab -- whose formation was prompted by the Tizard visit -- centered on development of microwave radar for British night fighters and bombers. But when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, new emphasis was put on countering the U-boat threat to England. After the U.S. entered the war in December 1941, it too came under the U-boat threat.

The H2S radome (top) and its enclosed scanning antenna (bottom) on a Halifax aircraft. 
In early 1942, U-boats in waters off the U.S. East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico were often sinking an American ship every day. "The word came back to the Lab to do something," Weiss said.

"It was a challenge" but engineers were sure that a microwave radar with its sharp beam and short pulse could see a surfaced sub, Weiss said. "So, some gear was thrown together in a hurry" and he and others took it  to Norfolk, Va., where it was installed on Army Air Forces bombers. It worked, and this and other systems ultimately defeated the U-boats.

During Weiss's time, the Rad Lab was divided into departments for work on things like antennas, duplexers, displays,  power systems, transmitters and receivers. His work in the receiver department put him on the list to go to England to help support a British blind bombing system called Oboe. It was very accurate out to about 300 miles from England, and was heavily used for attacks on targets in Germany's industrial Ruhr Valley.

Oboe used two widely separated radar stations in England, called "cat" and "mouse". A plane would fly to the target along the arc of a circle whose radius was the distance from "cat". When the plane intersected the signal from "mouse", bombs were dropped. Accuracy from 30,000 feet is said to to have been 120 yards, phenomenal for that day.

The Halifax aircraft with the H2S equipment installed.  This aircraft crashed in June 1942 killing several radar engineers. 
To offset equipment limitations and inaccuracies on maps, a British "Pathfinder" Mosquito plane would fly a mission the day before, but using reciprocal headings, Weiss said. In other words, the pilot would take off from England and head away from Germany. He would use "cat" and "mouse", but in reverse fashion.

For a typical trial run, "the target, instead of being in Germany, was in Scotland, [but] the same distance from each station," Weiss said. The pilot would drop bags of flour on the simulated target,"and you could calibrate the system very accurately" for the real mission the next day. On the real mission, the Pathfinder would mark the target with flares for following bombers.

After D-day, mobile Oboe units were moved to France to extend Oboe's line-of-sight view. Nevertheless, the Rad Lab developed other blind bombing systems like H2X (a version of the British H2S) and Eagle. They were invaluable in the typically cloudy skies over Germany that often hampered the Norden bomb sight, an optical system.

Earlier, Weiss helped develop a radar for the P-61 Black Widow night fighter. When a prototype failed, he "ad-libbed a demonstration before Navy czar Ernest J. King by peeking out the test plane window and hand-manipulating centering knobs to emulate the target aircraft on the cockpit scope," according to one account.

During the final months of the war, Weiss was acting project engineer for the Rad Lab's Project Cadillac, an APS-120 radar mounted in the belly of a TBM aircraft to detect Japanese Kamikaze planes attacking U.S. ships. Weiss was aboard a carrier that would have used the system, but Japan surrendered and it was never used in combat.

England didn't have a comparable airborne early warning radar system to offset German V-1 buzz bombs, Weiss said, but it did have the Rad Lab's SCR-584 gun-laying radar. That, coupled with the Lab's proximity fuze for anti-aircraft artillery shells, knocked down many V-1s. It also gave the U.S. a significant advantage in the Pacific.

When German troops during the Battle of the Bulge captured an American ammunition dump containing the proximity fuzes, an electronic countermeasure was quickly developed by the Aircraft Radio Lab at Wright Field in Ohio, but its use was never required. Harvard University's Radio Research Lab supported the Wright Field effort. RRL, which specialized in countering German and Japanese radars, got its start at the Rad Lab.

(Sources for this story include "Tuxedo Park" by Jennet Conant; "Stalking the U-Boat" by Max Schoenfeld; "The History of U.S. Electronic Warfare" by Alfred Price,  and  "The Invention That Changed The World" by Robert Buderi.)

Rich Tuttle Mr. Rich Tuttle
Former Editor of Aerospace Daily  

Exceptional Museum Volunteers 

As we approach the first Pikes Peak Regional Airshow on August 9th and 10th, it is appropriate to recognize all of the dedicated volunteers who have been working long hours to prepare displays, create crowd control barriers, develop signage, create work plans, and focus on all the other tasks which will make the airshow a success.  Each of our volunteers brings skills developed over their professional life as a member of the military or civilian work force.   

When asked why they volunteer, invariably, it's about the opportunity to again put their talents to work.  But it is also about being around talented people who share the desire to preserve this important part of America's history.  Many of our volunteers remember their parents' and grandparents' contributions during the war and see their participation as a way to honor their service to our nation.  Some enjoy interacting with the youth who visit the Museum with their classmates and learn science, technology, engineering and math through hands-on projects.

Our volunteers are consistent, committed, and true professionals.  Unfortunately, we have so many applicants that some must be turned away as we engage only the best.  Being a volunteer at the National Museum of World War II Aviation is very special to our staff, Board of Directors, and the visitors who get to look over your shoulder during their museum tour.

Since Colorado Springs is a military city with Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force retired in the local area, there is no shortage of skills related to design, engineering, and construction of some very complicated devices developed and fielded during World War II.  Our volunteers' creativity is on display in the exhibits, restorations, displays and other projects which support the Museum mission.  Thanks to all our volunteers who will make your Regional Airshow experience something you will talk about for months to come.  And thanks to their families for allowing the Museum to use their talents.       

Regional Airshow Rapidly Approaching 
Tigercat The Pikes Peak Regional Airshow is planned for August 9th and 10th, 2014 at the Colorado Springs Airport westside near the Colorado Springs Jet Center.  The show times are between 11 am and 2 pm each day.  Gates will open at 8 am.  Information about performers, flybys, static displays, and facilities is available on the airshow website

This airshow is sponsored jointly by the City of Colorado Springs Airport,  the National Museum of World War II Aviation, and the Peterson Air and Space Museum.  We expect this will become a biannual event in Colorado Springs.  The flying aircraft and static displays will primarily be warbirds.  Some current local military aircraft may be available for display.    There will also be several education displays for youth of all ages.  We welcome corporate and personal donations in support of the airshow and our education mission in Colorado Springs.

Mark your calendar now for a great weekend of aviation fun and plan to attend.

Your Comments
Thanks for your great comments and suggestions posted through our website.  We read every submission and work to implement your great ideas.

The National Museum of World War II Aviation remains at number 3 of 85
attractions in Colorado Springs and we are the number one rated museum according to  Thanks to all our visitors and volunteers for your support.

The Facebook page for the Museum is a great way to follow the daily activities including veterans' visits, new artifacts, and warbirds that may be visiting and could be seen during your tour.  The Facebook link is or click on the link above.  Take a look at the link for the Pikes Peak Regional Airshow planned for August.  Check back often for additional information on performers and static displays.  In the footer below, you will notice a link to Update Profile/Email Address.  Please take a moment to update your information so we can personalize our contact with you.  Spread the word.  This is your tribute to the greatest generation and the opportunity to educate the next generations.

For Twitter users, you can find us at 

National Museum of World War II Aviation | 775 Aviation Way | Colorado Springs | CO | 80916

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