An Interview Conducted by John Bryant
IEEE History Center
11 June 1991 Interview # 079
For the IEEE History Center
The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Ernest C. Pollard, Electrical Engineer, an oral history conducted in
1991 by John Bryant,
IEEE History Center, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
Interview: Ernest C. Pollard
Interviewer: John Bryant
Date: 11 June 1991
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Bryant: This is John Bryant, member of the IEEE History Committee,
Center for History. This is Tuesday afternoon, June 11th. I am
talking to Dr.
Ernest C. Pollard. Dr. Pollard, would you start briefly by giving us
background? Perhaps you could tell us about your father and why you
become a scientist?
Pollard: My parents were missionaries in China. During my formative
years-from ages six
to ten-I lived in a very remote, primitive part of China. I disliked
all that. I reacted
very much against it. I couldn't stand their superstition. For
example, an old, old
city in China was in the middle of a fertile plain. They used up
half the plain for
graves. I didn't like any of that. So right from the very beginning
I wanted to get
into engineering. My desire has never left me. By age 11, I was
determined to be
a scientist. After my father died in 1915 we were poor, and I had to
earn my entire
way. I got all the way through my undergraduate work and started my
Cambridge. There was no other option than nuclear physics. My boss
Chadwick. I've written a little about him. I didn't particularly
physics; I didn't have a choice, but I liked it. When the
opportunity came along in
World War II and Ernest Lawrence spoke to my boss and asked if I
released to work in the Radiation Lab, it didn't take me more than a
days to decide yes, I would. Besides my family was in England. I am
background. I was then an American citizen and I'd married an
and had American youngsters. I could foresee that being at the
would be a very good thing indeed, during the war. So going in to
help in the war
was a good idea, and I took it. That is where I started, just as
described this morning. I had no knowledge of radar. I was using my
loved it. It was a very great experience to get started there.
Bryant: You were at MIT Radiation Lab from January 1941?
Pollard: January, 1941, yes.
Bryant: Whose group were you in?
Pollard: Tom Barker's group, the indicators.
Bryant: I think, that the technical side has been fairly well
recorded. I'd like to concentrate
today more on the personal and the sociological side of working at
Compose it however you'd like to.
Pollard: It was a big experience. In my little book there, I
described Jane and Bill
Fairbank. I put them in that order.
Bryant: This is the book "Radiation."
Pollard: The "Radiation" book. They were wife and husband. Many
years later, Jane
Fairbank told me she was honored by it.
Bryant: She's being interviewed back there.
Pollard: I haven't seen her. What she said was very significant. She
was always treated as
a scientist and not as a woman. She said it was probably the first
time she had
encountered that kind of an atmosphere. I think, sociologically,
important. She was an attractive young woman, but nobody treated her
They treated her as a research scientist. Obviously everyone has
Everyone is liked, disliked and so on, in varying degrees. We all
interact that way.
She wasn't treated differently specifically because she was a woman.
I think the
Radiation Lab was well ahead in that respect. So that's one thing I
I spoke to Norman Ramsey this morning and said that I thought he had
one very important thing in his talk. He took it for granted. That
was the extreme
resolution with which the Radiation Lab fought the war. All the
mattered in the Lab had only one single objective: to use the radar
purposes of the war. If something wasn't suitable for the war, it
pretty fast, even if it was interesting. Ramsey himself said it was
a surprise to him
that the shorter wavelength--the 3-centimeter wavelength--actually
It turned out to be an extremely useful thing. He pointed out that
it was probably
a marginal decision to go ahead with this more fundamental research
pursue the absolutely practical thing. The
for-you" sort of attitude was very strong. It came down from
Rabi, and Ridenour. They all had that attitude. As a group leader
first and a
division head later, I had no difficulty whatsoever riding that
momentum. It was a
very good thing. I think that's interesting in itself.
Bryant: The momentum kept going?
Pollard: I think right toward the end in 1945 it perhaps did falter.
But my goodness, the
Germans were already licked. The war with Japan was not going to
nearly so much on radar as perhaps we had thought. I mean, it was
Now, of course, we also had no knowledge of the work at Los Alamos.
know. We all suspected what might be happening. What was interesting
although a good many of us were nuclear physicists--I mean, at least
a dozen were
basically nuclear physicists--the amount we talked about nuclear
essentially zero. We never brought it up among each other. We sort
decided: Yes, it's possible. It would be very expensive. It's
doubtful, so we forgot
Bryant: Those are extremely important points that need to be
Pollard: We did see people go. I saw Bainbridge go. I didn't know
Bainbridge was going to do, but I knew very well what must have
They must have seen that there was some sort of success in making a
weapon. They knew it was possible. Now they needed to take a few of
and use them. They took Bacher, Alvarez, Bainbridge, and some
Bryant: You were on the steering committee that ran the place?
Pollard: I was on that committee toward the end.
Bryant: There's two or three things I'd like to get at. Tell me
about the type of meetings
you may have had for instructional purposes. I think there was a
meeting or lecture. There were the William Hansen Lectures.
Pollard: Yes. And Slater, Condon.
Bryant: What time of the week did the steering committee meet?
Pollard: Saturdays at one o'clock.
Bryant: That's very interesting. On the sixth work day, Saturday
afternoon, you'd have the
Pollard: Yes. There was a certain amount of impact of the British
here. The British didn't
have the equivalent lab. There was no exactly equivalent lab because
didn't have the fire control and the radar in the same lab. The Army
had a fire
control lab, which was different. It was in the same town, but the
normal place for
us to interact was with TRE. They worked Sundays. They had Saturday
People could enjoy the things they could do on Saturday, and then go
work on Sunday, which wasn't such a good day for shopping or going
movies or whatever you liked. The English were a little different.
also allowed them to hold what they called Sunday Soviets. That
meant that the
lab management--the top people in the lab, the equivalent of our
committee--were free to invite people from the RAF, to come to the
took advantage of this by scheduling their equivalent of the
meetings on Sunday. Now, we didn't organize Sundays that way, but
Lab worked until one o'clock Saturday. The steering committee was
the only part
of the Lab that worked Saturday afternoon. We worked until five and
worked 'til one o'clock on Saturday.
The steering committee took advantage of Saturday afternoon a little
bit like the
British did, but they didn't invite people from outside. It was all
very much a
family affair. The only person I remember addressing the steering
Lloyd Berkner. He was very close to the Radiation Lab. He was
physicist, and he worked, I think, for the Naval Air arm. The
airplanes were a bit
complicated, and we hadn't settled our relationship with the U.S.
Air Force yet.
He was one who had the voice in it. He did, I think, on one occasion
talk to the
steering committee. I wasn't there when he did, but I think he did.
[made] our own decisions.
Bryant: In the steering committee?
Pollard: In the steering committee each of us would have our chance
to bring up our
particular area of interest. We all understood, explicitly
DuBridge made the decisions. The only thing you could do in the
committee was to advise him. Loomis and Rabi acted as advisors. So
dictatorship, if you wish, in management. Now, of course, DuBridge
never interpreted it in a dictatorial way at all. This was only for
the purpose of
getting things done with little debate. Every now and again
would arise, and it wasn't clear which way to go. I was a loser in
some of those
debates. I have no ill feeling about it. I recognized that there
were balance points.
By my very nature I automatically favored my side of the balance,
was not where the push ought to be. After the meeting it was up to
he would decide. It wasn't up to me. That was the one side of the
committee. There were some very rough afternoons. I was worn down
the Saturday afternoons, which used to go from one 'til six, than
the whole of the
rest of the week. The issues we discussed affected a lot of people.
if a project involving 50 of your people was put into low priority
essentially sent down the tubes, you couldn't relax. You knew the 50
employed in good projects. They were not going to lose their jobs or
that. But you still knew that they had invested a great deal of
inventiveness into their work. Knowing that was going to be lost
hurt a great
Bryant: That sounds tense.
Pollard: Yes. It was very tense. I wouldn't want to live through
those afternoons again.
Bryant: This created an atmosphere of tenseness for the managers.
Pollard: Yes. It did for the division heads. Are you interviewing
Getting at all?
Bryant: Yes. Someone else is interviewing him tomorrow.
Pollard: He was also on the steering committee. He could understand
what I'm talking
about because his area and my area were close. His was a much better
had a much more firmly set up system, due to him. I give him credit
for that. He
was an extremely good manager. You might have called him a project
would say he was the best of all.
Bryant: I'm curious to know what was the recourse if you felt that
there had been a
miscarriage of justice or a mistake had been made.
Pollard: The office of the three people in charge of the Lab was
wide open. Anybody who
was on the steering committee could essentially get instant access.
of the Lab, any technician--which was the lowest of all: the red
numbers on the
badges, (which they finally gave up) could always talk to the
would always be a chance. Now you might have to wait two or three
days. But if I
felt on Monday morning that there'd been something done wrong on
afternoon, I would be in one or another of those offices-probably
before lunch. I couldn't reverse a decision, but what I could do was
to give him
the extra information that I thought he should have had, and he
might choose to
act on it.
Bryant: Right. Doing justice to the subject.
Pollard: Yes, that's right. Once in a long while you did feel that
the personalities of some
of the advocates had undue influence and were more persuasive.
and Zacharias nearly always could put a point over very well. It
isn't that they
were more skilled. The Laboratory set-up was such that they were
closer. As a member of a systems group, I was often out in the
field. When I came
back, I was always listened to most closely. But the point is that I
was also away,
and I wouldn't always know the sorts of things that were burgeoning
in the minds
of the people that were running the Lab. And also you could perhaps
designer of the Lab in one way. I wouldn't fault him, but I think
you could. They
divided the Lab into components groups and systems groups. While
divisions were very important, we never quite had the strength of
the two component systems had. In a way that seemed a little unfair.
It used to
bother us that we would not get the talent that we wanted in the
systems. But I
think this is normal management paranoia. Almost any management
matter who he is, has the feeling the system isn't working quite as
well as it
should. I don't think there's any difference. But the truth is that
the numbers of
people that worked in the components systems did get very large. But
would say the Radiation Lab was a model that other big outfits could
think it was. I learned a lot.
Bryant: Did DuBridge spend much of his time supervising the various
Pollard: Very little. DuBridge was somebody you went to. That's a
very sensitive question
that you've asked. It's one that I want to answer right. First of
all, I had never any
feeling that DuBridge was not in touch with what was being done. But
I think he
also felt that he wanted to be "hands-off." I don't think he felt it
was his place to
wander down the hallway into my department and then take a look at
it. I don't
think he felt that. Here I think is a rather an interesting and
sharp division between
a lab with a practical purpose, such as the Radiation Lab, and a
Only, I would say, 15% of our work was research. 85% of our time was
to development and production. Our ethos was: get it to work and get
it to work
simply and reliably. In a research lab you keep asking questions of
experiments and then facing what you get. Now, I think in a research
director goes around asking: "What are you doing?" "What luck have
"How is it going?" "Do you need a little more of this and that?" But
more formally organized, and none of those questions were
significant. When the
director goes into somebody's office and sits down and talks with
that person, it
impacts everyone. I don't think DuBridge wanted any part of that.
Bryant: How many people did he know by name?
Pollard: He knew at least a hundred well, I would say, out of one
thousand. We were
divided into groups of engineers, scientists and people helping. We
had a total of
three thousand people at the Lab. About a thousand were engineers.
Out of that
group he would know a hundred, maybe more.
Bryant: Would Wheeler Loomis have known more of them?
Pollard: He might.
Bryant: Did he make a practice of going around checking on people's
progress or finding
out the results of what was talked about in the last meeting?
Pollard: No. If anybody came around, it was in the stage when Louis
Ridenour was also
one of the directors. DuBridge was the director. Then Loomis and
the scene, but Ridenour was also there for a while. There were three
Louis Ridenour was one, and he played his part quite differently and
effectively. I had quite a lot to do with this moving target
indication in the very
early stages. One day Louis Ridenour came up through the stairs into
the lab and
looked around. He didn't ask any questions about what we were doing
like that. He came in and said, "Ernie, there's a thing that the
British are doing
which looks as though it might have some importance. It's possible
that it's more
than important for us because we may have to fight the war in China.
full of mountains." Of course, I knew that it was full of mountains.
That was my
birthplace. I knew it well since Kunming (where we were fighting)
was where the
Burma Road was built. I worked and grew up in Yunnan, the province
Kunming. So I recognized the fact that our ground radars were going
to be useless
in the mountains. So he gave me this as a sort of a project. He
said, "Why don't
you work on it, think about it, consult your group about it? Above
all, make dead
certain nobody has the slightest idea what you're going to do. This
is a higher
level security than anything." And he was right. That was very
highest level of security comes when you start. Because if it's
blown then, you
give the other fellow an equal chance to compete. If you blow
you've already developed the components and made the parts and so
competitor has got to do all that in order to catch up. So I
prepared a report
showing various ways to improve on ground radar, one of which proved
MTI. Another idea of mine was a rapidly up and down radar.
Bryant: The Beavertail?
Pollard: It turned out to be the Li'l Abner. That's the only one I
ever won a patent on.
Bryant: I have a question here. To what extent did the flow of
information follow the
channels defined by that formal organization?
Pollard: That's a hard one to answer. There were two kinds of
about the radar systems and what the Army was going to do with them
many they were going to make and all such filtered down from the
Information about production techniques spread out more freely. For
someone came up with a much better brand of crystal that gave you
db's of sensitivity, that news went --whooosht-- around. You'd get
like that by word of mouth all over the place.
Bryant: This would be shared around by person-to-person--networking?
Pollard: Yes, that's right. Questions like whether the Navy would
order 100 sets or not
came from the top there. I can't answer exactly how it went.
Bryant: Do you have the feeling that you had sufficient input on
that's a fair question. If not, why, we'll go to the next one.
Pollard: Oh, it's a very fair question. Not always. Sometimes you
inherited a program
that you would have liked to alter. In my case I inherited the
problem of ground
control of interception from Bainbridge. Bainbridge had a developed
towards this ground control of interception. It derived from the
by the R.A.F. For that they had Ground Control of Interception and
was more precise. That was what Bainbridge had decided to develop.
concluded the job could be done using two 584-type sets: One on the
one on the bomber. Then he shrank that down to one precision radar
one to the other. The high-power ground group was initially supposed
this concept. It was a smash hit on our aircraft carriers.
Bainbridge was exactly
the engineer for the job. He knew all the detailed things that he
needed to know
to make it work. He knew how to work the pitch and the roll and the
also understood how the stable element worked and all of that. They
did build the
radar for aircraft carriers, calling it SM. That went on all of the
new large aircraft
carriers. It was wonderful! It was high-priority work. After that he
tried to sell it
to the Army and the Air Force. But the Army and the Air Force
wouldn't buy it.
You see, you can't put two big sets on one of the aircraft carriers.
carrier's loaded already. They're almost ready to go over anyhow.
Army wanted a thing that would give them a good plan position with
bearing, and they wanted a separate set to find height. He resisted
that. After he
left for Los Alamos I found myself having to maintain his policy,
and I didn't like
it. I would have given the Army what it wanted. In the end we did.
The thing they
called the MEW has become the model for all radars you see in the
Bryant: But the MEW was already under development.
Pollard: It was under development, but I would have pushed it
harder. Also, I would have
developed it differently. I would have worked it out so it had the
it as well. But I didn't get a chance to get that across. It would
have been useless
anyway. If you start changing an important policy in the middle of a
suggests something is not working and delays will be the result.
Bryant: What internal conflicts were you aware of?
Pollard: Oh, they were personal. I don't know if you're going to
record this. I don't know
that I would like to have too much of that kind of information
Alvarez was very bright and ahead of many in practical thinking. I
think he didn't
feel he was appreciated enough. I think he left with a little bit of
a bad feeling on
his part. I got on fine with him, and there was no trouble. He was
in our car pool.
Car pools were quite important. I remember there were five in the
car pool. They
traveled to and from the Lab once a day and once on Saturday.
Bryant: Were you aware of the presence of Alfred L. Loomis? He was
absent most of the
Pollard: Yes, he was. On the other hand, he was obviously on our
side. He would let
people use his apartment in Washington on occasion. But, no, he
didn't show up. I
would expect Alfred Loomis to want to have more contact with
Rabi than with us, the Indians. He would rather consult with the
chiefs than the
Indians. So the Indians wouldn't see him very much.
Bryant: Alvarez talks of spending a whole evening with him and
ironing out the GCA
Pollard: That would be quite in keeping with Alfred Loomis.
Bryant: We've heard about informal groups of employees--some people
gangs. I assume these groups were social. Jolly Boys and things like
Pollard: I never got anywhere with those. That's something that I've
never been involved
in. We had plenty of social life, but none of that kind. It didn't
come my way
Bryant: Earlier I read an oral history by L. C. Marshall that's
recorded in here.
Pollard: Larry Marshall might easily have been involved with that.
Bryant: He makes a statement that sometime in '43 the organization
was growing and
there was a growing set of demands for liaison and making hardware
applications. There was a lot of pressure to bring in a sizable
engineers. But Rabi opposed that. There's also statements made that
management, namely DuBridge and Loomis and Rabi, initially opposed
Pollard: The latter would be very difficult to document. I can't
remember my dates.
Fieldwork in the very early days made no sense. We didn't have
anything to go in
the field with. But when they did have things to go in the field
with, I don't
remember being conscious that DuBridge and company were stopping it.
I myself spent considerable time in Panama in 1942. We had people in
In fact, we had cheery names for these places. Panama was Yellow
Florida was Orange Crush, and these were designated names for the
I don't think you can say that field work was discouraged. I believe
probably was some objection to the engineers. It's possible that the
of resentment was financial. One of the things you ought to
understand was the
way people were paid at the Radiation Lab. It was really pretty
Bryant: The compensation system was crazy?
Pollard: It was the absence of system. I was hired at my Yale salary
plus $150 a month.
Then every so often--I think every six months--Loomis would call me
review my salary. The basis on which he reviewed it was more or
Yale be promoting you if you'd been there? What would you do if they
interpreted this very liberally on his part. So he would jack me up
a little bit.
Ultimately the base pay that I got was an assistant professor at
Yale plus $150 a
month plus a few raises. At that stage I was actually on the
and running a division. In an ordinary outfit, I would certainly
expect to be
getting three times the average salary. I wasn't. It was perfectly
clear that full
professors who were hired well after me were being paid in a similar
They were getting more money than I was and not doing work that
much responsibility. I think cost could have been a factor in
Loomis's feeling. If
you bring engineers in, they're going to want to be paid. He might
that, paying them more would cause jealousy inside the place. These
be getting the extra three or four thousand a year that should have
gone to the
university people. Rather than just saying it was prejudice, it
might have been an
informed decision based on the people that Loomis had to work with.
I give you
that suggestion. In my little "Radiation" book, I do discuss this in
a page or so. It
was very tricky one to write.
Bryant: What do you regard as your most important work in Rad Lab?
Pollard: I think convincing the Navy that the navigational radar
using microwave radar
was possible. I was one of that group working on the Semmes. I was
seasick. Nevertheless, I navigated them through a fog for the
watching my radar.
Bryant: This was the U.S.S. Semmes, the Navy's test ship?
Pollard: That's right. I was a very impressive demonstrator. I am
proud of the work I did
later on bushing the set they called the MEW, which is now the
Bryant: I used MEW when I was in uniform.
Pollard: Alvarez was the original designer. Two or three people
died, nearly all valuable.
Sam Simmons and Mort Kanner died there. The people who actually
MEW were Ed Schneider, Mike Chaffee, Al Bagg, and Bob Watt I
them in the book. It came into my division when Alvarez left for Los
immediately put everything I could behind it. I think I did all
right on that.
Bryant: It paid off?
Pollard: That's right. I think I didn't do too badly with the little
Bryant: The TPS-10 project?
Pollard: You can't isolate one contribution, however. You contribute
all the way around
and never quite know how your efforts add up. Strange people come up
to me and
say, "Remember me?" I didn't realize my work even impacted on them.
Bryant: You were a teacher of course before you went to the
Bryant: You felt you were able to continue instructing people?
Pollard: That's a very sharp question.
Bryant: You were accustomed to summarizing information and giving it
to people for
their use. Of course, you were on an informal day-to-day basis
there. You did
prepare for classes? No? How did you schedule a project? Did you
have a formal
Pollard: That's a terribly sharp question! That's a most interesting
question, too. I do love
teaching. I am a good teacher, and in fact I've done some innovative
which has proved to be a success in its way. Part of my life now is
living out that
teaching. I'm trying to get science more widely understood by
people. That's what
that little book of mine you were very kind to buy is all about. But
now you ask
me that question in reference to Radiation Lab. I'd have to answer
differently for that time of my life. I'm beginning to see why I'm
having a little
trouble telling you this. I'm beginning to realize that the
pressures were different.
When you're teaching, your pressure is to get that class to
understand what it is
they've got to know. That's your pressure. You judge yourself in
terms of whether
you succeed or fail in that. As soon as you apply this to the
Radiation Lab, the
pressure becomes knowing the right thing to do. It's knowing the
right thing to do.
It's not so much telling people the right thing to do. It's knowing
the right thing to
Bryant: It's solving the problem.
Pollard: Yes. The issue was making the compromises you needed to get
the thing to
actually go. One of my failures was using too small an antenna.
should have been as big as the MEW. It wasn't. It was six feet long.
You see, the
wrong compromise was reached on that project. All of those mistakes
eat away at
you. All day long we were making decisions. Somebody would come up
and say: Look, I can get this little sweep to go out on the tube all
right, but to do
that I've got to have 350 volts. Now the only way I could easily get
that within the
weight limitations and the size limitations was to throw something
else out. But if
I could have that work at 200 volts, in which case it would be a
little smaller, I
would be quite all right. So now he would come to me with this. So I
down and, almost like a doctor, try to weigh all the factors in my
mind. I had to
decide what the compromise would be and how I could maximize all of
together. That's not exactly teaching, is it?
Pollard: You don't prepare and explain. You assess and aid
decisions. Those, I think, are
the words. You know a person who's never been justifiably seen
Robert Oppenheimer. I understood exactly the position that Robert
found himself in. I think he did magnificently in that position. I
don't think too
many people give him credit for it. He discovered almost nothing,
but he had all
these great minds there coming to him with problems. He understood
what they were trying to tell him. He had the kind of mind that
could do it. I
don't. He did. He could understand the ways in which they would have
together to get the result. He was extremely good at that. There's
category you can put that person in.
Bryant: Well, that's quite a contrast to the Radiation Laboratory
management you were
talking about because Oppenheimer knew all the details.
Pollard: Yes. Absolutely. I think he was needed.
Bryant: But he could also allow other people to work.
Pollard: Yes, yes.
Bryant: That's quite a talent.
Pollard: Yes, it's really a talent. He had an easier job than the
Radiation Lab because his
attention was not divided. He had a single job.
Bryant: He had one customer.
Pollard: He had one customer. That's right. It was easier. In many
respects, I think, the
Rad Lab was the greater of those labs, though it hasn't the
reputation of Los
Bryant: Some writers have said that Oppenheimer, in the beginning of
especially, used a lot of the Rad Lab know-how for his organization.
Pollard: He did.
Bryant: He consulted heavily with DuBridge and others who were
already recognized as
Pollard: He talked with Rabi in particularly. Rabi was the only
member of the Radiation
Lab who was consistently in on what was done in Los Alamos. Of
would have carried over his ideas about management to Los Alamos.
Alamos did have that miserable infliction of having the Army run it.
I think one
of the great credits to Oppenheimer was his ability to get along
Groves. May I say also that great credit should go to General Groves
that he could get on with Oppenheimer. I think the country owes
those two people
Bryant: Oppenheimer had to keep all of the military at bay and at
least settled down if
they were not happy.
Pollard: That's right.
Bryant: That was a talent in itself.
Pollard: It was. He did very well.
Bryant: So someone in our government--very high up--did an awfully
good job of
selecting the right kind of person.
Pollard: They did. I don't know who did pick Oppenheimer. It was a
Bryant: I suspect that Compton, Stimson and Loomis were in on it.
Stimson was probably
the strongest member in government.
Pollard: Yes, Stimson was a really remarkable man.
Bryant: I'd like to ask some questions about Radiation
Laboratory-military relations. How
were military needs communicated to the Radiation Laboratory?
Pollard: They were communicated to us as directly as possible. Quite
early on we had two
avenues of approach to Washington. First of all, Stimson had an
forgotten the name of this, but it was run by Edward L. Bowles who
was at MIT.
He had several very good people working with him, including Julius
MIT and one or two other people. One of those, I think, was Ramsey.
name them all. That office was a very important liaison place
between the Rad
Lab and Washington. I wouldn't be able to work through that office,
DuBridge, Rabi, Loomis, Ridenour-all of them-could phone up Bowles
and go at
it. That's was the first avenue. The other one was that we would set
appointments with the sort of lieutenant colonel type of individual
knowledgeable in radar. I won't call our contacts low level.
Sometimes we met
with captains. Captain Fogle was one contact. I can't think of the
name of the
lieutenant colonel I got very friendly with.
Bryant: You were in a position to make these appointments yourself?
Bryant: Could you travel on your own?
Pollard: Yes. I could.
Bryant: I think that's very important that you were delegated that
Pollard: I was. I had to consult with either Loomis or DuBridge.
Anybody out of my group
could visit, but they would have to check with me. The only reason I
saying "no" to anyone would be: Was he going to see the right person
thing that he had scheduled? Secondly, was he a person I could trust
to present it
correctly? Otherwise, they went.
Bryant: You've described some rules and regulations. Were these
codified, or were these
Bryant: Yes. You had no handbook of instructions [Chuckling] or
Pollard: No. A very, very interesting thing came up today. He
mentioned a Rosebud. This
is a little transponder.
Pollard: Now this Rosebud was the product of a young man in my
division named Robert
T. McCoy. The beacon group did not build this. The British IFF
Friend and Foe) was tied up in a dreadful political entanglement. If
you want to
put your finger on a point of prejudice, here's a good one. Rabi in
couldn't see this deal with the British accomplishing anything. Mark
V IFF, as far
as Rabi was concerned, was silly, and a waste of time.
Bryant: That was his feeling toward IFF in general?
Pollard: No, toward that particularly great big project the English
Bryant: Was this because they had an adequate IFF system already?
Pollard: I don't know what stroke of genius operated in Rabi's mind.
I think he felt that
when you had precision radar, you probably didn't need something
else to tell you
whether it was the other guy or not. I think he felt that you were
more in control
of the situation that you could direct what would happen. But now
as though I knew what Rabi thought. The point is that because of
there wasn't the development of this transponder, which would have
This guy, McCoy, from Rosebud, Texas, assembled the necessary parts
around the Radiation Lab until he built one or two of these. The MEW
hold of one, and it immediately glowed, and they wanted more. They
moonlighting making Rosebuds.
Bryant: My MEW set in France and Germany had one. Yes, sir. It was
Pollard: That's right. Oh, you had one of them?
Pollard: They're great. Oh, it was largely McCoy, and bless his
heart. I'm happy I backed
that project although it hardly entered the books as a project.
Bryant: What was the usual procedure for choosing and planning RL
projects? How many
were internally generated and how many were direct responses to
in the military? In the course of a project was there consultation
with the military?
Pollard: Up to, I'd say, 1943 about half were internally generated
and the rest were
external. After '43 the military largely initiated our projects.
You've got to
realize that having decided on a project it took about two years to
get it out. So
that's a hard question to answer. The question is whether up to '43
most of it
wasn't internal. But after '43 if it didn't somehow jive with what
wanted, it didn't get done.
Bryant: How did dealing with the Army compare to dealing with the
Pollard: It would depend a great deal on the local conditions and
who they were. I got on
fine with my particular group in the Army Air Force. They then
separated off and
became the Air Force. Then they had their own procurement things.
Bryant: That was at Wright Field?
Pollard: Yes. I think this didn't happen until late '44. Our
deteriorated when that happened. Up 'til then they'd been very good.
Bryant: This was the Signal Corps Aircraft Radio Laboratory at
Pollard: The Signal Corps was not too bad. When the Air Force took
essentially built their own signal corps. The people assigned to
them didn't seem
to me to be the best. The Army was a bigger outfit, and they had all
the clout. And
the ones that were assigned were down lower and now became up there.
Air Force procurement people were the ones that went by the book.
never went by the book. Rad Lab was always concerned with whether it
done and whether it could be engineered well and what was the best
others were looking at the specification books a lot of the time.
Bryant: You mentioned one difference between the situation here and
the British. Their
Navy operated quite differently. The radar operated separately.
Bryant: Even the Army and the RAF--Royal Air Force--had separate
establishments, even though they were both eventually located in
Pollard: That's right. They did talk to each other. They were,
Bryant: What effects did your Rad Lab experience have on your
Pollard: Lots. The biggest single thing I learned from that
experience was that if you
wanted to achieve something, you did it better with group wisdom
single wisdom. When I set up a biophysics division, as I did at
Yale, right away
those of us that were working in that group met every so often--once
a week, to
hash out what would be done.
Bryant: By group wisdom you're saying that at least the professional
people on the staff
influenced each other and the final decision, too.
Pollard: Yes. I made as sure as I could that everyone had input.
They interacted not only
in things I cared about, but in things they cared about too. The
curious thing is
that I steadily ran into opposition as time passed. It became
distasteful to the
university faculty members not to be regarded as single experts. I
ran into trouble
because of that. I still want to say that my way--the Radiation Lab
You get to achieve more. Then of course Radiation Lab taught me, as
Ramsey said, to think big and to get on with it. You didn't sit
around. Once we
decided on a project we immediately set it up and did it.
Bryant: You were more accustomed to goals.
Bryant: You kept a goal in mind.
Pollard: As soon as the goal was established, you went right to work
on it. You didn't
question. In some ways, for research purposes, that's not all that
may set a goal and you may follow it but it doesn't work. So you've
gone all the
way down and then you have to go back. I think my faculty people
didn't like my
weekly committee meetings. They may have had a point, but I wasn't
Bryant: Could we go back a moment to the operation of the Radiation
Lab and some of
the more, maybe, informal and formal instructional events. Was there
like a Monday night lecture?
Pollard: Every Monday night, without fail, from seven-thirty 'til
nine o'clock, some person
gave a talk. Sometimes a person in the Lab would speak. For
instance, I gave a
talk on MEW. But mostly the series would be planned educational
wrote a little book on microwaves. He introduced that bit by bit on
night. I think he had ten sessions. Hansen gave a number of
Condon gave a number of sessions as well. I don't remember Pound
but the people in those component groups would give sessions on the
components they were working on.
Bryant: Where were these meetings held?
Pollard: One of the big rooms at MIT was made available on Monday
Bryant: Did this include a dinner?
Pollard: No. You managed dinners on your own. You all went out to
dinner. Nobody went
home. There wasn't enough time.
Bryant: What compelled you to attend? Apparently attendance was very
Pollard: Yes. But it wasn't super. You'd expect 200 to attend. There
was a committee that
organized the series. I think Sam Seeley was on that committee. The
were chosen to talk considered it a great honor. So they would come.
Bryant: This was a committee that actually scheduled it and made
arrangements and so
Pollard: I wish I knew more about that, but I'm sure there was such
Bryant: Were DuBridge and Loomis and Rabi much involved in these?
Did they attend?
Pollard: Oh, yes! All of them would attend almost every time.
Bryant: What kind of discussions did these things generate?
Pollard: It varied with the speaker. You wouldn't expect too many
Q&A's for Slater or
Hansen. You could buttonhole Hansen afterwards and go at him. Let's
was the other one? You could have Q&A on Condon. He'd [Chuckling]
right back at you. These sessions were pretty open and fun. I have a
set of them.
At one stage they gave 30 sessions going through all the different
aspects of the
Lab. This became a Radiation Lab book, available internally. I was
one of the
editors of that.
Bryant: That exists, filed away I assume.
Pollard: I'm not sure whether it's in file or not. Ten years after
the war. MIT was not too
interested in that.
Bryant: There's lots of archives over in the Federal Archives in
Washington. I'm pretty
sure there's a lot there.
Pollard: Yes. I may have one myself. It was classified. They were
Very few were "Secret." They were mostly "Confidential" or
Bryant: Who was in charge of security as far as classification of
Pollard: The people that had the stamps.
Bryant: Were they technical or administrative people?
Pollard: It got more elaborate as the war went on, and I think there
were people who
decided. Originally, they wanted to stamp everything "Secret." Of
course in the
first nine months security was maintained entirely inside the Lab.
It was very
good. Norman Ramsey's point about not talking to anybody was
on they initiated a new security system.
Bryant: How much did security requirements and regulations hamper
your operation of a
Pollard: Very little. When I came to start work on the Moving Target
Indicator, I ran into a
little bit of a trouble with security. I mean, if you ever went into
concerned with counter-measures, you had an awful time of it.
wanted state-of-the-art anti-jamming devices. Well, you had the
devil of a time
finding out what the jamming was [Chuckling], you see. You couldn't
the state-of-the-art anti-jamming.
Bryant: Your counter-counter-measures involved hardening your radar
to be not
vulnerable to their jamming.
Pollard: Yes. That's right. We had some trouble with that. But we
licked it. We did
reasonably well by being our own counter measures people and
figuring out what
you had to do and so on.
Bryant: I'd like to find out one more thing. You mentioned William
Hansen. I looked him
up in the biographies of Rad Lab, and I found that he had a badge
of '40 right through '45. Did he lecture each week?
Pollard: Oh, no!
Bryant: Well, what were the Hansen Lectures then?
Pollard: The Hansen Lectures were one of those sets I've described.
I think there may have
been 15 of them.
Bryant: He didn't lecture on a regular basis then?
Pollard: Over one particular period he gave these lectures.
Bryant: But these were in the Monday Night Lectures.
Pollard: Yes, they were all on Monday nights.
Bryant: So the Hansen Lectures were only a part of that. They were
not very distinctive
at all. Guerlac's book doesn't seem to interpret them this way.
Pollard: They are in collections. You could find all of Condon's
lectures. Those should be
in the collection there. You can find all of the Rad Lab discussions
I described to
you. You ought to be able to find Slater's book. You know, we didn't
It would all be dittoed. You ought to be able to find Slater,
Condon, and Hansen's
lectures all in ditto.
Bryant: I've seen Hansen's. It's about three volumes. It's very
extensive. I thought he
gave it pretty much on a regular basis.
Pollard: He didn't stretch out his lectures through the entire time.
I think Hansen was
early. I think Hansen came before Slater.
Bryant: Of course the whole thing comes down to people and what they
Bryant: You mentioned when Edward L. Bowles got down to Stimson's
office, he had a
good role to play.
Bryant: He actually didn't go down there 'til '42.
Pollard: I think that's right.
Bryant: So he was in his MIT office during the last part of '40 and
Pollard: Yes. In that time, we were not so dependent on the military
arm. After all, the
Army really got into the war at the beginning of '42.
Pollard: Here's the way the impact on the Lab went. It was begun
when Taffy Bowen
brought over Airborne Interception. The idea was to put this in the
so the pilots could see the target. You couldn't use the longer-wave
anything higher than ground level. From the air, the ground wiped
out the signal.
Bryant: You just got a big ground signal message?
Pollard: That's right. So if the enemy was flying low and all of
that, it was no good. The
idea was to have the narrow beam which would not hit the ground. So
we did in the initial stages was in terms of airborne interception.
A month after
that, Project 2 began, which was the SCR-584. I don't know who
need for gunlaying. By about the end of January 1941, there were two
the Lab: AI and then the beginning of Project 2. I was in one of the
when they tried an experimental AI. We noticed we could see a ship
with the airborne--the AI--radar. Very, very crude radar. Horribly
But we could see a ship. Actually Bowen was navigating along with
the pilot, and
he saw it. He said he wanted my notebook, and he wrote in the
course that the pilot was to fly. He pushed that over to the pilot.
The pilot flew
this course back and forth, and all the while the radar echo showed
where the ship
was. He knew he'd got the ship. As soon as that came back to the
Lab, we got to
work on an Air-to-Surface Vessel, ASV. Simultaneously, they decided
to put a set
a destroyer on the Semmes. Instantly, the trees started to set out
you see, we didn't need any military input for this. The Semmes was
military, although you could hardly say it was. So all through that
year we were
riding along on the AI, ASV, the Naval thing "SG" and the 584. You
Pound gave his badge number as 311. That was in '42. So the
wasn't up to very big numbers. We even ran out of money, too, as you
Rockefeller kept the lab afloat for six months. So we weren't a very
Bryant: I assume that Rockefeller got reimbursed.
Pollard: I assume that. Sure. It was in '42 that Bowles would become
important to the
Bryant: Bowles never had a badge at Radiation Lab as far as I know.
Pollard: I think he did.
Bryant: Did you see him physically in the place? Were you aware of
Pollard: Yes. Not very often. That's a good question, too.
Bryant: In the L. C. Marshall interview it's stated that sometime, I
think probably in
January and February, DuBridge and John Trump took a trip to
Washington to get
Bowles removed from the activity. I just make that as an
Pollard: Let me add my little bit to that. Mind you, I was not as
high up in the Lab as
Larry Marshall at that time. When the Lab activities were diluted, I
floated to the
top. That's, in truth, a very good statement of my position.
Consider my role on
the MEW. Bowles had a committee called the Stratton Committee. They
examined all the options on radar that were being presented to the
They concluded that the MEW was not needed.
Bryant: This was after he was already down at the Pentagon?
Pollard: Yes. This was a great thorn in all our sides because he had
also castigated several
other things from the Radiation Lab. I don't know what those were.
At the same
time they were testing an early version 15-foot of the MEW down in
the Air Force test site. They'd run some tests on the MEW. It
detected all of the
aircraft without the slightest trouble. It recorded all those
distances with beautiful
plots and everything. It was extremely accurate. The officers down
had never seen any radar come close. The Pentagon got the word: YOU
WANT THIS THING? [Laughter] IF YOU DON'T GIVE US THIS YOUR'E
Bryant: Increase the funding, don't cut it off.
Pollard: That's right. Before the report came out, there had been
bad feelings. If you want
my calibration on Larry Marshall it is that he added color to
anything. If it the
issues were black and white, he'd illuminate the differences a bit
Bryant: Well, I certainly do thank you.