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|Named Person:||Jack N James|
|Document Type:||Archival Material|
|All Authors / Contributors:||
Jack N James; John Bluth
|Notes:||A typescript of the original sound recording. Some early audiocassettes missing.
Title supplied by archivist.
|Event notes:||Interview recorded by John Bluth at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California December 1993 - January 1995.|
|Description:||Transcript: 357 p. 14 sound cassettes (13:45 hours) : analog, mono. 3 WAV files digital.|
|Series Title:||Jet Propulsion Laboratory Archives Oral History Program.|
|Responsibility:||by John Bluth.|
Tapes 1-3: Bluth asks James to describe his early years, his family, birth place, early education, and the influences that led James into the field of engineering and space science. James says he was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1920 and was raised in Oak Cliff, a town outside of Dallas. He did well in school and at age 16 graduated from high school and planned to major in journalism at a local university. However, because it was the depression and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas had a coop program in the engineering school he decided to major in electrical engineering and alternated quarters between course work at school and employment in the oil fields until he graduated in May, 1942.
Tape 4: The interview resumes on January 25, 1994 when Bluth asks James to discuss what he did once he graduated and went out into the nonacademic world. James says because of the depression there were few job opportunities, but he was able to work in a test engineering apprentice program at the General Electric Company where participants moved to different plants throughout the US every 3 months. It was during the war and the work was performing tests on manufacturing equipment primarily for the military. James also attended courses offered by General Electric including the advanced engineering program which was significant to James because in the program he was given the opportunity to work on real practical major engineering problems. It was 1943 and the US was at war and James decided he wanted to join the service and the Navy wanted people to work in radar and felt James had the appropriate background for the job and offered him a commission.
Tape 5: James passed the physical at the Navy Bureau of Personnel office in Philadelphia and was told he would be given his orders, however, it was also time for him to change to a new area in the GE apprentice program and he chose to work on ship board steam turbines in Lynn, MA while waiting for his orders from the Navy. After one month of working on the turbine tests, James received an order to report to the Navy Base in Fort Schuyler, NY. James discusses a trip he took to visit his family in Texas, his indoctrination into the Navy, and his social life including the courtship with his wife, Ruth Schockley. James tells stories about his Navy training experiences at Fort Schuyler and then at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine where he completed radar training and was introduced to electrical engineering work. Then the Navy sent him to MIT in Boston for more training before he received his orders to report to Algiers, Louisiana to be the radar officer for a squadron of LST (Landing Ship, Tank) ships.
Tape 6: James reflects on his disappointment for not receiving the assignment he applied for which was a battleship, cruiser, or carrier and discusses his experiences with installing radar systems on the LST ships which were then staged in the Gulf. All along James continued to court Ruth Schockley and was granted permission for leave time to marry her before receiving his proceed-without-delay orders to be an instructor at the radar school in Princeton, New Jersey. James liked teaching at the radar school, however, his commander wanted to promote him but could not because James did not have experience at sea. Then within a month he received orders to report to Bell Labs in New York City where he worked on a new advanced radar system for shooting down Kamikazes.
Tape 7: James picks up where he left off discussing his experiences in New York City and the group he was in at Bell Labs working on a new fire control radar technology for firing anti-aircraft guns. Next, James received orders to report to a reassignment pool at Pearl Harbor. While waiting for his assignment, James set up an anti-aircraft training site in Oahu. Next, James was assigned to the aircraft carrier Hornet as a working passenger to be transported to the South Dakota where he was a radar maintenance officer.
Tape 8: James describes his experiences as a naval junior officer when WWII ended and the fleet returning home to San Pedro, California and then on to the Philadelphia Navy Yard where he was put on inactive reserve. On his return he was resumed work with GE (General Electric) and moved to Schenectady, New York. Here James took an assignment working at the Malta Test Station, New York and he describes the development of the rocket program.
Tape 9: James continues discussing his early rocket work with GE. At the time, the Army was interested in developing a guided missile program with GE and was also working with propulsion and rocketry at JPL. James describes in greater detail the development of the U.S. rocketry development post WWII. Also, discussed is attending graduate school at Union College in Schenectady, New York while working at GE, family life and living conditions, and trips to White Sands, New Mexico to test the guidance systems he worked on with GE and the Army.
Tape 10: James discusses GE?s organizational decision to move the division he worked in (the Aeronautics and Ordnance Systems Division) to Rochester, New York his interest in teaching, and his decision to continue working in systems engineering at RCA in Camden, New Jersey. James discusses the decision to transfer the guided missile systems developed by GE to JPL to be joined with the Corporal propulsion and air frame. James was only with RCA for nine months when he accepted an offer to work JPL.
Tape 11: James discusses the Corporal development and testing work by JPL and shares stories about the colleagues he worked with at the lab and at White Sands. Also discussed is work done by JPL to transfer the Corporal launch and guidance system procedures to the Army including writing the training manuals for the system and helping set up the school. James discusses the accuracy of the Corporal impacts and how they were verified.
Tape 12: James discusses an article brought brought to the interview from the March 5, 1955, issue of The Saturday Evening Post called "Inside Rocket Test Cell 'F,'" by Ronald M. Deutsch. His point was to highlight the negative reaction of lab personal when a colleague sought any type of publicity for the work done at the lab which at the time was primarily classified. Also discussed is the lab culture of doing complex systems that had not been done before. James continues telling stories about the Corporal project and working with the military and transitions into talking about the Sergeant project.
Tape 13: Sergeant was the predecessor to the Corporal guided missile and James discusses the improved reliability of the Sergeant developed at the lab. James describes the enthusiastic spirit of the lab at the time as work moved from the military to space missions with the Rangers and the Mariners spacecraft. James then discusses his experiences on the search committee to find a new lab director to replace Pickering when he retired in 1976.
Tape 14: James discusses the Dr. Pickering years once NASA was created and the labs transition to deep space exploration. James describes his experiences of working with NASA in the early years including the interactions and relationships of his lab colleagues with NASA personnel. James discusses the reorganization of the lab from and working with NASA administration. Also discussed are changes in spacecraft sterilization and testing policies for lab missions.