Irvin Nathaniel Spielberg (born 1918)
Dec 1 1935
he was co-opting somewhere as a machine operator
1940 (October) - draft card
March 09 1941
March 23 1941
june 7 1941 - aeronautical engineer
june 26 1941
1942 (June 28) - big wedding
jan 21 1943 - Now in the army ? where was he before this?
Feb 18 1943 -
"private" irvin spielberg ... at miami beach
may 04 1944 - ENLISTMENT ?
national jewish welfare board card
1955 - Mrs Spielberg politically active
1957 (Feb) - Astronautics Symposium - Irvin Spielberg with "Ramo-Wooldridge Corp."
"The Astronautics Symposium was held at San Diego, Calif., February 18 to 20 , 1957, under sponsorship of the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Convair Division of General Dynamics Corporation . Attending were 600 scientists and engineers from the armed services, independent research organizations, universities and colleges and industrial concerns."
1958 - Now in Los Angeles
Aerodynamic Analysis Of A Statue
During the summer of 1958 I was summoned to the office of Will Duke, Vice President and Associate Director of the Systems Engineering Division, Space Technology Laboratories.
He said that Jimmy Doolittle, the Chairman of the Board of STL, wanted an aerodynamicist to perform a loads analysis of a statue. It seemed that the Order of Daedalians, a group of Air Force officers, all retired and many of General rank, who had been Army Air Corps pilots in the 1920’s, wanted to give a gift to the recently established Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs. The intended gift was to be a statue of Daedalus, the mythical Greek who fashioned wings of wax for himself and his son, Icarus, to enable them to escape their island imprisonment.
General Doolittle was concerned that high winds (up to 70 mph) sweeping down from the Rocky Mountains toward the Academy might damage the sculpture or tear it off its pedestal.
I visited the sculptor at his studio in Pasadena, where I was shown a one-tenth scale model of the sculpture: a man with arms wide-spread, a wing attached to each arm, and mounted horizontally on a vertical pedestal. When completed at full scale, the pedestal would be 10 feet tall, the wing span about 16 feet, and the man, 6 feet.
Back at STL, I approximated the wing shape, selected a NACA airfoil that nearly matched the wing camber, and estimated the lift and drag coefficients. I then calculated total forces, moments, and load distribution, assuming a 70 mph wind encountering the winged man at a high angle of attack.
From these I determined the bending moments at the wing root, the force tending to lift the man off the pedestal, and the force tending to topple the pedestal.
I communicated these results to the sculptor, with some suggestions as to what portions of the sculpture needed to be strong enough to sustain the loads. I reported the same to Dr. Duke and gave him my analysis and calculations. I had hoped to be allowed to present the same information to Dr. Doolittle, but Duke reserved that privilege for himself.
About a week later I received a phone call from Dr. Doolittle’s secretary. She conveyed his thanks to me for my work and then told me that Gen. Doolittle and Gen. K.B. Wolfe met with the sculptor, viewed the model, and decided it was an inappropriate gift.
In 2013, while spending a gleeful Sunday afternoon searching through old patent applications (don't judge me), I stumbled upon an intriguing design for a piloted spacecraft using "staged reentry." I wrote about it on my old Beyond Apollo blog on the WIRED website.
In 2017, I expanded that post with more context details on the history of lifting body research and better illustrations and posted it on this blog (see the link at the end of this post). At the time, the patent application, filed in January 1964 by TRW engineers C. Cohen, J. Schetzer, and J. Sellars and granted in December 1966, remained my only source of information on the staged reentry concept.
No longer. One benefit of working at a university is that journal articles formerly locked up behind paywalls, out of reach of independent scholars on a budget, are now readily accessible. Last month, while spending a gleeful Sunday afternoon searching through the 1965 volume of The Journal of Spacecraft & Rockets, I stumbled upon a staged reentry design named for Janus, the two-faced Roman god of endings and beginnings. Closer examination confirmed that the Janus spacecraft was indeed the unnamed spacecraft of the 1966 patent.
Janus is an apt name for the proposed spacecraft design, because its most unique features are related to launch and (especially) landing - that is, the beginning and ending of its mission. The name was first used in a confidential May 1962 TRW Space Technology Labs report by I. Spielberg and C. Cohen.
Spielberg, whose name does not appear on the patent application, presented the staged reentry concept at the first conference of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Washington, DC (29 June-2 July 1964) along with Cohen, whose name was the only one to appear on the 1962 report, the 1964 presentation, the 1965 Journal of Spacecraft & Rockets paper based on the presentation, and the 1966 patent. It seems likely, given his continuous involvement, that Cohen originated and championed the Janus staged reentry concept.
Patent applications are not engineering papers; or, perhaps, one may say that lousy is the engineering paper that reads like a patent application. In addition to being more readable, the 1965 Spielberg and Cohen paper provides considerably more detail than the patent application.
The TRW engineers explained the rationale behind the staged reentry concept:
A manned system should provide precision and flexibility in its landing characteristics. It should be capable of routine launch and routine return without a large recovery task force. Moreover, these criteria must be satisfied without curtailing payload volume or weight or reducing the reliability of reentry protection. In general, these requirements conflict, since efficient entry vehicles (e.g., blunt lifting bodies) have poor landing characteristics, whereas vehicles that land well (winged configurations) tend to have low volumetric efficiency and serious reentry design problems. The staged reentry concept. . . circumvents the difficult design compromises that otherwise must be made to ensure good landing qualities, high volumetric efficiency, and desirable reentry characteristics.
The Janus spacecraft comprised two parts that would separate in flight. The largest part was a 26.8-foot-long, 16-foot-wide, 10-foot-deep "pod." Designed to carry three astronauts, it was an 11,660-pound half-cone lifting body with flat aft and top surfaces and a curved, blunt nose.
The TRW engineers described the pod's double-walled structure. Its inner hull, the pressure vessel, would be manufactured from aluminum sheet. The outer hull would be made of aluminum honeycomb with aluminum alloy plates for added strength. Aluminum frames with "I" and "Z" cross-sections would link the two hulls. An ablative heat shield (that is, one that chars and erodes to carry away heat) would cover the aluminum honeycomb, and low-density insulation would fill the space between the inner and outer hulls.
The other part of the Janus spacecraft was a 4000-pound delta-wing jet aircraft measuring 21 feet long, 13.3 feet across its wings, and 5.33 feet tall. It would include twin downward facing rudder fins and a belly-mounted air intake feeding a Continental 356-23 turbojet engine. The engine could be started at 18,000 feet of altitude using ambient air or at up to 45,000 feet with supplemental oxygen. Cruise speed at 30,000 feet was about Mach 0.6 (370 knots) and range with a full load of 77 gallons (500 pounds) of jet fuel was 200 nautical miles.
The flat top of the small jet would form the largest part of the top of the lifting body. The jet's underside would form the "ceiling" of the lifting body's 860-cubic-foot pressurized internal volume; that is, the plane's belly, including its air intake, would protrude into the main crew living and working space. Ceiling height, though variable, would measure no less than seven feet.
The jet would ride on three rod-like "pneumatic/explosive actuators" attached to the pod. Latches would link the actuators to holes in the plane's nose and on the underside of its wings. Other latches would anchor the jet's wing leading edges.
Spielberg and Cohen recognized that creating an air-tight seal between jet and pod would pose significant design challenges. They proposed an inflatable or "fluted" (grooved) gasket, presumably made of a rubberized fabric. They admitted that their seal system, though "feasible," was not yet "optimized."
Atop a booster on the launch pad, jet and lifting body would point their noses at the sky. Spielberg and Cohen envisioned that the flat aft surface of the pod would sit atop a launch vehicle adapter that would measure 10 feet in diameter where it linked to the pod. The bottom of the adapter would match the larger diameter of the launch vehicle upper stage.
Just before launch, the astronauts would pass through a hatch in the side of the adapter. Overhead they would see the flat aft surface of the pod, which would include a round hatchway. The hatchway would lead into a cylindrical airlock just large enough to hold one space-suited astronaut. A round hatch in the airlock would in turn lead into the pod. In the near-vacuum of low-Earth orbit, the airlock would permit astronauts to spacewalk without depressurizing the pod.
Forward-facing crew couches would be arranged single-file, one behind the other, in a line beneath the jet fuselage. This would place the astronauts one above the other on the launch pad.
The pod would contain the Janus spacecraft main control console. Intended for use in orbit, it would be mounted on the pod's aft interior wall next to the inner airlock hatch. This would place it out of reach of the reclining astronauts. Critically important controls would be mounted on couch arms.
The patent application said nothing about possible launch vehicles, but in their paper Spielberg and Cohen specified two candidates: Titan III (probably the Titan IIIC variant) and Saturn C-1 (otherwise known as Saturn I). The former could boost 28,000 pounds into the 140-nautical-mile orbit required to forestall orbital decay long enough to carry out a two-week Janus mission; the latter, 20,000 pounds. The total weight of the Janus spacecraft (crew, pod, and jet) was 15,660 pounds, so in theory it could transport 12,340 pounds of unspecified payload if launched on a Titan III and 4340 pounds if launched on a Saturn C-1.
It is worth noting that Janus included no docking mechanism, and that was it not designed to perform significant maneuvers in space (apart from a deorbit burn). This ran against the grain of NASA requirements in the first half of the 1960s, when both Gemini and Apollo were under development. Though it could carry a hefty payload, it could not deliver it anywhere. Presumably, this meant that its payload would always take the form of equipment that would remain inside the pod. It is conceivable, however, that small payloads could be tossed out its airlock and larger ones assembled outside by spacewalkers — Spielberg and Cohen did not, however, suggest these possibilities.
A successful mission would begin with launch from Cape Kennedy on Florida's east coast. The launch vehicle would ascend vertically, then roll toward the southeast on a course that would avoid Caribbean islands and South America. About 10 minutes after liftoff, Janus would reach its operational orbit and separate from the upper stage of its launch vehicle. The crew would then unstrap from their couches and begin work in the pod's large pressurized volume.
They would also work in the jet cockpit. The jet's glass canopy, which would stand higher than the rest of the Janus spacecraft's mostly flat top, would make the cockpit the prime spot for conducting Earth and astronomy observations.
Spielberg and Cohen proposed a novel method for entering and leaving the cockpit. The crew couches would each be mounted on a pair of rails, and the underside of the jet's fuselage would include automatic doors. Operating controls on the couch arms would cause the doors to open and the couch to ride the rails from pod to cockpit and vice versa. The TRW engineers explained that a single set of couches shared between the pod and the jet would save weight, though with the large Janus payload capability this would probably have been a minor concern.
The crew would breathe a 47% oxygen/53% nitrogen air mix at a pressure of 7.5 pounds per square inch. Water for crew needs would come from fuel cells, the primary task of which would be to generate 2.5 kilowatts of continuous electricity by combining liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Fluid circulating in pipes in the pod walls would gather and carry waste heat from the pressurized volume and the fuel cells to a radiator mounted on the pod's aft surface.
For return to Earth, the astronauts would sit in their couches in the pod, turn the Janus spacecraft using small thrusters so that its aft end pointed in its direction of motion, and ignite its 1100-pound solid-propellant retrorocket. After burnout, the retrorocket casing would be cast off and Janus reoriented with its nose aimed forward. Descent toward 400,000-foot reentry altitude would last 14 minutes. At start of reentry, the Janus spacecraft would be moving at about 250 feet per second (fps).
Reentry would be a balancing act. The lifting-body pod would need trim flaps for stability and steering; however, four trim flaps attached in pairs to the bottom edge of its flat aft surface would tend to tip its nose down (that is, give it a negative angle of attack). This would permit hot reentry plasma to course over the pod's top surface, destroying the jet canopy. At the same time, the pod would be tail-heavy, raising its nose and making it aerodynamically unstable.
Spielberg and Cohen proposed a two-part solution: cautiously reshaping the pod's nose and packing its triangular nose volume with heavy subsystems (for example, the fuel cells and their reactants). The former would tend to level its angle of attack and the latter, they calculated, would shift its center of gravity forward to a point 54% of its length (about 11 feet) aft of the pod's nose, yielding a slightly "nose up" angle of attack. The pod's nose would thus bear the brunt of reentry heating, and no reentry plasma would reach the jet canopy
The Janus spacecraft would reenter at a very shallow angle (just 2°). It would thus shed speed gradually in a low-density atmosphere, preventing maximum deceleration from exceeding 1.9 gravities. An automated attitude control system would operate the trim flaps and small thrusters to maintain stability as the pod descended.
During reentry, the outer hull, safe behind its heat shield, would maintain a temperature below 600° Fahrenheit (F). The inner hull would remain at 70° F throughout the mission. The hot outer hull would tend to expand. If the aluminum frames linking the inner and outer hulls were rigidly attached at both ends, differential expansion would tear them apart. To avoid this, Spielberg and Cohen proposed that the frames be attached to the outer hull by flexible connections and to the inner hull by rigid ones.
A little less than 12 minutes after reentry start, at an altitude of about 120,000 feet, the Janus spacecraft would slow to a velocity of about 50 fps. Deprived of lift, its angle of descent would increase in a little over a minute to about 55°.
At 50,000 feet of altitude, the Janus spacecraft would slow to subsonic speed and begin to lose stability. The mission commander would activate the motors that would raise the three couches into the jet cockpit. Beneath the astronauts' feet, the fuselage doors would close and seal. At 45,000 feet, the spacecraft would slow to Mach 0.9, and jet separation from the pod could occur.
Separation would begin with a command to fire explosive bolts. This would release the latches linking the jet to the pod so that the three rod-like pneumatic actuators could extend, pushing the jet away from the pod with a jolt. The pressure seal would be breached, exposing the pod's interior to the outside environment.
The commander would ignite the jet's engine and fly at a cruise altitude of 30,000 feet to a waiting airfield up to 200 nautical miles away. The jet would land on a nose wheel and skids attached to the ends of its rudder fins. The pod, meanwhile, would deploy parachutes from its aft surface and descend to a landing on its nose.
In the event of an abort on the launch pad or during first-stage operation, a pair of solid-propellant abort rocket motors mounted on the pod's aft surface outside the adapter linking it to the launch vehicle would ignite to boost the Janus spacecraft up and away. The motors would propel it to an altitude of 6600 feet in 19 seconds. If no first-stage abort took place, the abort motors would eject after second-stage ignition so that the launch vehicle would not need to carry their weight to orbit.
The deorbit rocket motor would play two possible abort roles: in an abort off the launch pad, it could be ignited after the twin abort rocket motors burned out to boost the Janus spacecraft higher and farther downrange, providing more time for successful jet separation; it would also become the primary abort rocket motor after the twin abort motors ejected.
An abort within 200 nautical miles of Cape Kennedy would see the commander separate the jet from the pod as during a normal descent, then fly back to the launch site. The jet could also remain attached to the pod throughout the abort, in which case the entire Janus spacecraft would descend nose down on parachutes to a landing or splashdown at 25 feet per second. Spielberg and Cohen included 1030 pounds of recovery gear in the Janus spacecraft mass budget.
Down-range aborts — for example, during second stage flight — would occur over open ocean, placing land — never mind suitable airports — outside the jet's 200-nautical-mile range. Spielberg and Cohen noted that the lifting body would during second-stage flight be high enough to use its trim flaps and steering thrusters to maneuver closer to land. This would, they judged, permit jet separation within 200 miles of airfields on Caribbean islands or in northeastern South America.
Here is the link to my staged reentry post based only on the Cohen, Schetzer, and Sellars patent of December 1966. In addition to a summary history of lifting body development in the United States, the post contains detailed labeled drawings from the patent application.
"Janus: A Manned Orbital Spacecraft with Staged Re-Entry," I. N. Spielberg and C. B. Cohen, The Journal of Spacecraft & Rockets, Volume 2, Number 4, July-August 1965, pp. 531-536.
Patent No. 3,289,974, "Manned Spacecraft With Staged Re-Entry," C. Cohen, J. Schetzer, and J. Sellars, TRW, 6 December 1966.
1970 - daughter joins american field service international
1982 - was he producubg some movies?
2015 (March 1) - Obituary
Irvin Nathaniel Spielberg
December 18, 1918 - February 19, 2015 Irvin Nathaniel "Buddy" Spielberg died February 19th at his home in Pacific Palisades. Born in Cincinnati, OH, he attended Walnut Hills High School and the University of Cincinnati. He served in the Army Air Corps as a flight engineer on a B-29 in the South Pacific in WWII before going to Harvard University for his Masters in Aeronautics. After working at Wright Field in Dayton, OH, he took a job in the aerospace industry in Los Angeles in 1956, where he worked until 1986. After retiring, he volunteered for many years at Recording for the Blind. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Frances Fabe "Peachy" Spielberg and his children Ginny Gibbs (Michael), Jack Spielberg (Sarah Seaver), and Fred Spielberg (Guadalupe Verdejo) and grandchildren Jonathan, Lydia, Lindsay, Nathaniel, and Victor. He is also survived by his brother, Arnold Spielberg of Pacific Palisades, and predeceased by his sister, Natalie Spielberg Guttman of Cincinnati. Buddy was a gentle and generous man, concerned with civil rights, inequality, the environment and the Vietnam War during the 1960s. Donations in his memory can be made to Recording for the Blind (Learning Ally) c/o Financial Development, 20 Roszel, Princeton, NJ 08540.
Irvin Nathaniel (“Buddy”) Spielberg, died Thursday night, 19 February 2015, at his home in Pacific Palisades, CA, at the age of 96, following a short illness. Born on December 18, 1918, and raised in Cincinnati, OH, he was the middle son of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who arrived in the early 20th Century. Growing up in a liberal New Deal family during the Great Depression, he dreamt of studying medicine as a child, however, his family’s financial situation and the onset of WW II pushed him into a work-study program in engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Upon graduation, he served the US military as an aeronautical engineer at Wright Field in Dayton during the early years of the war. Called to active duty in 1944, he was posted to the Pacific theater in the 313th Bomb Wing, 504th Bomb Group, 421st Bomb Squadron of the Army Air Corps. As the flight engineer of an eight-person B-29, Buddy flew dozens of long-haul missions between Tinian, Saipan, Iwo Jima, the Philippines and Japan, during the final months of the war. He returned to civilian life in 1946, but was called back to active duty in Korea in the early 1950s, reaching the rank of Lieutenant.
Buddy attended Harvard University on the GI Bill and earned a Master’s of Science degree in aeronautical engineering. He married Frances (Peachy) Fabe in Cincinnati in 1950, and left the Midwest in 1956 to accept a post with Ramo Wooldridge, later Space Technology Laboratories, later Thompson Ramo Wooldridge or TRW. A specialist in aircraft flutter and rocket trajectory, Buddy gradually moved from flight engineering into aerospace projects, working on some of the emblematic space exploration initiatives of the 1960s and 1970s, including the Pioneer, Gemini and Beyond Jupiter projects. He also worked on anti-ballistic missile weapons systems, but vastly preferred aerospace technology.
Buddy was a gentle and generous man, concerned with civil rights, inequality, the environment and the Vietnam War during the 1960s. He and Peachy enjoyed hiking, traveling, theatre, and entertaining. After he retired, he volunteered at Recording for the Blind, reading and explaining mathematics, physics, and engineering text books. He loved Mozart operas, Zane Grey novels, the Cincinnati Reds and his family above all else.
He is survived by his wife of 64 years (Frances); his three children (Virginia, John and Frederick); his five grandchildren (Jonathan, Lydia, Lindsay, Nathaniel and Victor); and his elder brother, Arnold. He was predeceased by his younger sister, Natalie. By his own wishes,
Wright Field map.jpg
Beginning in the 1910s, with World War I's outbreak, the United States government began investigating the use of airplanes in war. In 1913, President Woodrow Wilson created the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA). This committee suggested establishing a center to research the use of airplanes in the military and also to seek improvements in airplane technology. Due to the presence of several automobile and aircraft plants in Ohio, the NACA established this center at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio.
By 1924, the United States Air Corps had outgrown the facilities at McCook Field. Hoping to keep the Air Corps in Dayton, the city officials and residents donated 5,250 acres of land on the city's outskirts. The Air Corps accepted the land and built Wright Field on the site. The base was named Wright Field to honor Orville and Wilbur Wright's contributions to flight. The Wrights had tested many of their early airplanes in the vicinity of Wright Field. Wright Field formally opened in 1927.
In 1926, the United States government created the Army Air Corps, replacing the earlier Air Corps. The Army Air Corps stationed its Materiel Division at Wright Field. Here, scientists continued to improve aircraft. The scientists also realized that they had to work together to create the best possible plane. Before creation of the Army Air Corps, researchers studied individual parts of the plane, like engines, armor, wings, and propellers. Now scientists continued to specialize in individual components of planes, but they realized that changes in a plane's armor would affect all other parts of the plane. The same held true for changes in engines, wings, and the other parts of a plane. Under the Army Air Corps, the researchers now kept a dialog open between the various experts.
Despite Wright Field's existence, the United States Army Air Corps entered World War II at a severe disadvantage numerically and technologically when compared to the Air Forces of other nations. To help overcome these weaknesses, the federal government, in 1940, designated 300 million dollars to improve Wright Field and to create an Air Corps with at least 5,500 planes. In 1941, only forty buildings existed at Wright Field, but by 1944, the airfield consisted of more than three hundred buildings. During World War II, research continued on airplanes, with much attention focused upon improving the horsepower of plane engines, airplanes' ranges and maneuverability, safety features for crews, and weapons. Workers at Wright Field helped to design and to construct numerous airplanes, such as the C-47 Skytrain, the C-54 Skymaster, the Curtiss C-46 Commando, the Sikorsky XR-4, the Curtiss-Wright P-40 Warhawk, the B-24 Liberator, and the B-29 Superfortress, among many others, during World War II.
Upon World War II's conclusion, Wright Field continued to play a major role in aircraft research and construction. In 1947, the United States government created the United States Air Force, eliminating the Army Air Forces and establishing a new branch to the United States military. That same year, the Air Force combined Wright Field with nearby Patterson Field, creating Wright-Patterson A
Leon Alfred TOlve
Family-Placed Death Notice
Leon Alfred Tolve
Leon Alfred Tolve, 88, of Memphis and Marietta, Georgia, retired Division Engineer in charge of the Aeromechanics Division of Lockheed Aircraft, now Lockheed Marietta, died at Baptist Hospital on May 29, 2004. Graveside Services will be conducted at Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, TN at 3:00 PM on June 1, 2004. He graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1938. During World War II, he served as a Design Engineer at the Army Air Corps Aeronautical Research Center at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, where all U.S. World War II aircraft were developed. At Lockheed, he was in charge of over 100 engineers involved in the development of the C-130, C-141 and the C5A, the world's largest aircraft. After retirement, he served as a consultant in aeroelasticity (vibration and flutter), and served as a consultant on the design of HondaJet which will go into production in September 2004. He is survived by a niece, Nancy T. Gibson of Memphis and two great-nephews and a great-niece. The family request that memorials be sent to Georgia Tech Foundation, Inc. 760 Spring Street, N.W., 4th Floor, Atlanta, Georgia 30308. Canale Funeral Directors.
Does Hangar 18, Legendary Alien Warehouse, Exist?
Crashed UFOs, alien autopsies and government cover-ups—untangling the legend surrounding Ohio’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
As home to Project Blue Book, ground zero for government investigation of UFOs from 1951 to 1969, Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) outside Dayton, Ohio, ranks up there alongside Area 51 as a subject of enduring speculation.
Many of the rumors surrounding Wright-Patt, as it’s known for short, involve what might have gone on inside a particular building, known as Hangar 18. UFO enthusiasts believe the government hid physical evidence from their investigations—including flying saucer debris, extraterrestrial remains and even captured aliens—in this mysterious warehouse, specifically inside a sealed, highly guarded location dubbed “the Blue Room.”
The legend of Hangar 18 goes back to the supposed crash of a UFO in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico, in July 1947. According to a press release issued by the Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) at the time, their personnel inspected the “flying disc” and sent it on to “higher headquarters.” A subsequent press release from an Air Force base in Fort Worth, Texas (assumed to be the aforementioned headquarters) claimed the disc was a weather balloon—a claim the Air Force acknowledged was untrue in 1994, admitting it had been testing a surveillance device designed to fly over nuclear research sites in the Soviet Union.
Jesse Marcel, head intelligence officer, who initially investigated and recovered some of the debris from the Roswell UFO site, pictured in an article run by the Corsicana Dialy Sun on July 9, 1947.
Universal History Archive/Getty Images
READ MORE: What Really Happened at Roswell?
But in addition to Fort Worth, many UFO researchers believe some of the materials from Roswell were also transported to Wright Field after the crash and stored in Hangar 18, based on unsubstantiated reports from former military pilots. One, Oliver Henderson, reportedly told his wife that he flew a plane loaded with debris, along with several small alien bodies, from Roswell to Wright Field. According to the children of another pilot, WWII ace Marion “Black Mac” Magruder, their father claimed to have seen a living alien at Wright Field in 1947 and told them “it was a shameful thing that the military destroyed this creature by conducting tests on it.”
Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the Republican nominee for president in 1964, was notoriously fascinated by UFOs and Hangar 18. Goldwater said publicly that he tried to gain access to the Blue Room in the early ‘60s, but had been denied access by a furious General Curtis LeMay.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Hangar 18
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, circa 2000.
United States Geological Survey
Even after Project Blue Book wrapped up in 1969, rumors continued to swirl around Wright-Patt. In 1974, a Florida UFOlogist named Robert Spencer Carr publicly claimed that the Air Force was hiding “two flying saucers of unknown origin” inside Wright-Patterson’s Hangar 18, according to a report in the Tampa Tribune. Carr claimed to have a high-ranking military source, who saw the bodies of 12 alien beings while autopsies were being performed on them. Though Carr’s claims were dubious, widespread media coverage of them, as well as the release of the 1980 movie Hangar 18, helped cement the legend of Wright-Patt as a hotbed of the government’s UFO-related activities.
READ MORE: Project Blue Book
For its part, the Air Force has categorically denied the rumors, and maintains there has never actually been a Hangar 18 anywhere on Wright-Patt, though there is a Building 18.
“Periodically, it is erroneously stated that the remains of extraterrestrial visitors are or have been stored at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” the Air Force said in an official statement issued in January 1985. “There are not now, nor have there ever been, any extraterrestrial visitors or equipment on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.”
WATCH: Full episodes of Project Blue Book online now.
BY SARAH PRUITT
paperclips brought to Wright ...
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Papers of Rudi Berndt, WPAFB Engineer via Operation Paperclip, Now Open for Research
Posted on December 5, 2018 by Lisa Rickey
We are pleased to announce that MS-632: Rudi Berndt Papers is now open for research.
Rudi Julius Berndt (1921-2004) was a German engineer who came to the United States as part of Operation Paperclip (or Project Paperclip), a secret program of the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency to recruit leading German scientists, engineers, and technicians at the close of World War II (before the Russians did).
Berndt’s particular area of expertise was parachute development. From 1941 to 1946, he was a member of the parachute research and development team at the Graf Zeppelin Research Institute Stuttgart-Ruit, working alongside such leaders in the field as Helmut Heinrich and Theodor Knacke.
At age 25, Berndt was one of the youngest recruits for Operation Paperclip. He began his employment with the U.S. Army Air Services in the autumn of 1946, coming to Dayton to start his work at Wright Field in November. Berndt dedicated over 40 years of his life to civilian service at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, retiring in 1990.
The manuscript collection primarily documents Berndt’s work in parachute development, in both Germany and the United States, from the WWII era through the Cold War. Educational records, as well as a significant amount of material pertaining to Berndt’s arrival in the United States as part of Operation Paperclip, are also included. Of particular note are Berndt’s memoirs, which describe his early life in Germany through his retirement.
Admiral Nimitz Historic Site
National Museum of the Pacific War
Center for Pacific War Studies
Mr. Irvin N. Spielberg
(WW II - B-29 Flight Engineer - Tinian & Philippine Islands)
Date of Interview: November 6, 2003
Admiral Nimitz Historic Site
National Museum of the Pacific War
Interview with Mr. Irvin N. Spielberg
(WW II – B-29 Flight Engineer - Tinian & Philippine Islands)
My name is Richard Misenhimer. Today is November 6, 2003. I am interviewing Mr. Irvin Spielberg by telephone. His phone number is 310-454-4750. This interview is in support of the National Museum of the Pacific War’s Center for Pacific War Studies for the preservation of historical information related to World War II.
Mr. Misenhimer: Mr. Spielberg I want to thank you for taking the time today to do this interview.
Mr. Spielberg: You are welcome.
Mr. Misenhimer: Let me ask you – do you have a middle initial?
Mr. Spielberg: Yes. The initial is “N”. It stands for Nathaniel.
Mr. Misenhimer: What is your mailing address?
Mr. Spielberg: 234 Notteargenta Road, Pacific Palisades, California 90272.
Mr. Misenhimer: Thank you, I appreciate that. I have the agreement with the Nimitz Museum, which normally when I do these interviews in person, I give to the person to read and sign, but since we are doing it by the telephone, let me read this and you can tell me if this is satisfactory. Admiral Nimitz State Historic Site, the National Museum fo the Pacific War, Center for Pacific War Studies, Fredericksburg, Texas, Oral History Project. The purpose of the Admiral Nimitz State Historical Site, National Museum of the Pacific War, Oral History Project, is to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of World War II and the role of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz by means of the tape recorded and/or video taped interview. Taped or video recordings of such interviews become part of the Center for Pacific War Studies Archives of the National Museum of the Pacific War, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. These tape recordings will be made available for historical and other academic research by scholars and members of the family of the interviewee. Any transcription subsequently produced from the tape recordings will be conducted with the knowledge of the interviewee by the National Museum of the Pacific War. We, the undersigned, have read the above and voluntary offer the National Museum of the Pacific War full use of the information contained on taped or video recording these oral history research interviews. In view of the scholarly value of the research material, we hereby sign rights, title and interest pertaining to it to the National Museum of the Pacific War, Texas Parks and Wildlife. Is that OK with you?
Mr. Spielberg: Yes, I completely agree.
Mr. Misenhimer: Here is another question, yes or no. I give permission for excerpts from my Oral History to be used in the Nimitz Foundation Publication, the Nimitz News.
Mr. Spielberg: Yes, I authorize that also.
Mr. Misenhimer: Fine, thanks very much. Now, let me start off by asking you when were you born?
Mr. Spielberg: In December of 1918. In a month and a half I will be 85 years old.
Mr. Misenhimer: Great. December, what day?
Mr. Spielberg: December 18th.
Mr. Misenhimer: 12-18-18, right?
Mr. Spielberg: Yes.
Mr. Misenhimer: Where were you born?
Mr. Spielberg: Cincinnati, Ohio.
Mr. Misenhimer: Did you have brothers and sisters?
Mr. Spielberg: I have an older brother. His name is Arnold, who is still alive. He is approaching 87. I had a younger sister who died about ten years ago.
Mr. Misenhimer: Was your older brother in the service also?
Mr. Spielberg: Yes he was in the Army/Air Corps. He served in the CBI Theater – China, Burma, India. He was in the 490th Bomb Squadron, the so-called “Burma Bridge Busters.”
Mr. Misenhimer: Where did you go to school?
Mr. Spielberg: Elementary and high school in Cincinnati, and I attended the University of Cincinnati and graduated in June of 1941 with a degree in aeronautical engineering.
Mr. Misenhimer: What year did you finish high school?
Mr. Spielberg: 1936.
Mr. Misenhimer: Did you go straight from high school to college?
Mr. Spielberg: Yes I did.
Mr. Misenhimer: When did you enter the service?
Mr. Spielberg: I entered the service the first week of January of 1943.
Mr. Misenhimer: Do you have an exact day?
Mr. Spielberg: Yes, I can look it up. I kept a log. Here it is, 11th of January 1943.
Mr. Misenhimer: Which branch did you go into?
Mr. Spielberg: I was assigned to the Army/Air Corps.
Mr. Misenhimer: Did you volunteer or were you drafted?
Mr. Spielberg: I was drafted.
Mr. Misenhimer: Did you have any choice of which branch you went into?
Mr. Spielberg: Yes, I wanted to enter the Army/Air Corps. If you will let me speak a little without questions.
Mr. Misenhimer: Certainly, go ahead.
Mr. Spielberg: I think I can give you some necessary background to what will follow as you draw out my Army experience.
Mr. Misenhimer: Sure, go right ahead.
Mr. Spielberg: As I mentioned, I was graduated in aeronautical engineering in June of 1941. As with most of the members of the senior class in aeronautical engineering, all of those who passed the physical applied for a Navy commission, including me. I never heard from the Navy up until graduation day. Not wanting to be without a job, without the volunteer commission in the Navy, I took a position at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, as an aeronautical engineer. I was assigned as a civil service employee to the Aircraft Laboratory.
I worked there until I was drafted. What happened is that the officer in charge of the laboratory to which I was assigned assured me that I would never be drafted, I was too important to the war effort and was classified as a “key employee” in a war industry. In any event, I got a draft notice in the middle of December 1942, abut one year after Pearl Harbor. I brought it to my supervisor, a Captain, who immediately took it up to the head personnel officer for all military personnel at Wright Field. He assured me via the Major, who was head of the Aircraft Laboratory, that I wouldn’t be drafted and they would get that draft order changed. They tried their best but failed.
So in January of ‘43 I reported, as directed, to Fort Thomas, Kentucky. After 3-4 days of indoctrination and issuance of all GI clothing, I was transferred down to Miami Beach, Florida, for basic training in the Army/Air Corps. While there we went through the usual tests that are given to newly inducted or volunteer servicemen, and I applied for and was rated to become an Aviation Cadet to go to Pilot Training. About 1½ months into basic training I was called off of the training grounds, told to get out of my fatigues, put on a dress uniform, and go report to the Captain who was the head of the training company. I did so and he told me he had orders to relieve me from active duty, put me in the enlisted reserve corps, and send me back to Wright Field to resume my civilian job. I said, “Do I have to go?” He said, “Well, according to the way I read the orders, you are supposed to go.” In addition, I had received a letter from the Personnel Officer, a Colonel, at Wright Field urging me to return and saying I would do far more good for the war effort as an engineer working on research and development of the new Air Corps combat airplanes than I would as a soldier.
I agreed and I returned to Dayton, Ohio, to my civilian job and resumed receiving my regular civil service pay. But the notice that took me off of active duty put me on “reserve” status and said that I would be recalled in six months. Of course I called that to the attention of the personnel people at Wright Field. They once again reassured me that they would this time get me a deferment. What happened is six months later I got a notice from Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio, telling me I have to report there on such-and-such a date. This was roughly six months after, March of ‘43, when I transferred out of active duty. It would put it at about September. Sure enough, I had to report back to Fort Hayes. I was assigned to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, and I took basic training the second time. I repeated it from the beginning. I had not finished the first basic training at Miami Beach.
Late in that second period, in about late November of 1943, I again was notified to report to the company commander and I was again being transferred to the enlisted reserve corps. Once again, there was a letter accompanying it from the personnel officer at Wright Field, urging me to return, saying that they missed me extremely because they had not been able to find a replacement. By this time I had about two years of direct experience in airplane dynamics. The officer said I would do wonders for the morale of the other civilian employees there who were also faced with possible drafting. Well, I did return. Sure enough, I spent six more months as a civilian engineer doing the same kind of work that I had been doing before, even at a higher level. At the end of that six months, once more the Army/Air Corps called me up. This time I was sent to Sheppard Field, Texas, and I took a third basic training, starting again at the beginning. It sounds impossible, but that is the way it happened. Anyway, for the third time I was called in and told that they had orders to transfer me to the enlisted reserve corps. This time I refused to go, and the Company Commander agreed. He said, “OK, stay in.” When I applied again for pilot training I was told they weren’t accepting candidates, that they had a pipeline full of candidates for aviation cadet. I inquired about bombardier, navigator, weather officer, and all of them were filled.
I was assigned to the Command Gunnery School at Lowry Field, which is just outside of Denver, Colorado. So I attended the Command Gunnery School and I found out that was the training ground for the enlisted men to be in charge of the central fire control system, which was an entirely new defensive system for the B-29 heavy bomber. I hadn’t heard about it before, but it sounded interesting. I was about one-half or two-thirds of the way through the training; I think the training program was eight weeks and this must have been in the fifth or sixth week. I found out that at Lowry Field there was also the school for Flight Engineers on B-29's. I thought, “Heck, Flight Engineer is probably closer to my background and training as an aeronautical engineer than gunnery was.” So I looked up the commander of the training group for flight engineers, introduced myself, told him my credentials - namely a degree in aeronautical engineering with over two years’ of experience, and he agreed that I would be a good candidate for flight engineer. He arranged to transfer me out of Command Gunnery School to the Flight Engineers Training School.
I completed that training at Lowry Field. It was an interesting program for me. At Wright Field my work was primarily analytical to predict the vibration, flutter, and dynamic load characteristics of Air Corps aircraft, with occasional participation in ground and flight tests. Here, I was faced with the challenging task of being able to understand and know how to troubleshoot all of the electrical, mechanical, pneumatic, oxygen, hydraulic and fuel systems on an airplane that I had never been in before. Normally the flight engineer trainer spends about 3-4 months at the Boeing Company, where the airplane was manufactured, learning to be essentially an aircraft mechanic on a B-29. I had to skip all of that and I started right in where you train to become a flight engineer. Well, the one advantage that I had over the other men, where they had it all over me in terms of “how do you maintain all of the various systems of the airplane,” was in cruise control. “How do you manage the fuel usage so as to achieve maximum flight range of the airplane, to be able to fly those 3,000 mile round trips from the Marianas Islands to Japan and back.” That involved knowledge of aerodynamics, power plants, propulsion and fuel consumption, things like that. I breezed through that area. In fact I helped the instructor explain it.
I successfully completed the flight engineer school. That also involved flying in B-24's, which had been set up with flight engineer stations so you had the complete B-29 instrument panel, throttle controls, the mixture controls, at a station in the body of the B-24. In fact there were six such stations and six different trainees could go aboard on the flight and each would read the instruments and monitor the fuel consumption, plotting the cruise control data.
When we finished all of that training at Lowry Field, I was transferred to Maxwell Field in Montgomery, Alabama. This occurred in about October-November of 1944. There I was assigned to a skeleton crew, consisting of the airplane commander, which was the designation for the position that would normally be called pilot, and a pilot, who would normally be called a co-pilot. In the B-29 the pilot was the airplane commander, the co-pilot was the pilot. So the three of us, the airplane commander, the pilot and flight engineer, trained as a trio at Maxwell Field. This involved flying as an observer with, in my case, a trained flight engineer. In the airplane commander’s-pilot’s case it was a trained airplane commander. Each one learned his own position until we were allowed to fly solo. The three of us were always together on training flights.
Once we completed that transitional training at Maxwell Field, we were assigned, the three of us, to MacDill Field in Tampa, Florida; and there the rest of the crew was assembled, for a total of 11 men. There were five officers and six enlisted men. Incidentally, all of this time I was a Private. The officers were: the airplane commander, pilot, navigator, bombardier, and radar officer. The enlisted men were: flight engineer, radio operator, command gunner, right gunner, left gunner and tail gunner. So the entire crew was assembled and we began the overseas flight training, which involved not just short flights. By this time we were no longer flying with a check-out officer, but we were going solo as a crew. A simulated long range flight, like a typical combat mission, might go from Tampa, up to Minneapolis, down to Albuquerque, across to Memphis, Tennessee, and back down to Tampa. This would be done just to show what it feels like to be airborne for 8-10-12 or more hours. In those flights, my responsibility was, not only to monitor all the controls and the flight instruments, but to keep a log of the fuel consumption, to do the transfer of fuel so that we had sufficient fuel for each engine.
I guess I have to point out at this time – each engine of the four engines on the B-29 had its own separate fuel tank, and it drew fuel from that tank. Each tank held about twelve hundred gallons, and once that was exhausted, that engine would quit. But in addition, in the center section of the wing where the wing went through the fuselage, there was an additional large tank of about 1200 or more gallons. The total fuel capacity was about 5,500 gallons. It was the flight engineer’s responsibility, as you burned fuel from each of the four wing tanks, to transfer fuel out of the center tank to each of them in turn, alternating so that you never unbalanced the airplane by putting too much in one wing tank in preference to the others. So we had practice doing that. We had practice keeping the flight engineer’s log, which is where you record how much fuel you are consuming, for what length of time, and what speed, etc. The B-29's had no fuel flow gauges to tell us at any particular power setting , altitude, etc., that we were burning so many gallons per minute, or so many gallons per hour. What the flight engineer had to do was reset the manifold pressure, the RPM, airspeed, the altitude, the outside air temperature, and go into a series of charts that the Boeing Company prepared. In those charts you put in all of those readings and came out with a number that represented that each engine should be drawing so many gallons per minute. Using that calculated number and then the number of minutes that you were flying at that power setting, you would calculate the amount of fuel burned by all four engines.
We also had fuel gauges which weren’t very accurate, but you could roughly check your calculations against that, but not very accurately. In that way you could keep track of fuel consumption during the whole flight. It kept you busy, particularly in the dark, during night missions writing down all of these numbers, and at the same time keeping watch on the instrument panel and transferring fuel. The whole idea was that when you finished your missions and were on your way home, you had to have enough gas to get home.
We finished the overseas flight training at MacDill Field and were transferred to Mather Field, outside of Sacramento, by way of Topeka. Then we flew overseas. Our crew was split. We were not assigned to a B-29 of our own, so half of us dead-headed with one crew and the rest with another crew. We flew from to Mather Field, to Hickam Field, Honolulu, to Kwajalein by way of a refuel at Johnson Island, then on to Guam. We spent one night in Honolulu and again at Kwajalein. We arrived at Guam in the afternoon. Our airplane commander went in and got our orders. We found out then that we were going to be based on Tinian and we were assigned to the 313th Bomb Wing, 504th Bomb Group, 421st Bomb Squadron. So we flew to Tinian and there we were.
Mr. Misenhimer: What day did you arrive on Tinian?
Mr. Spielberg: I think it was 25th of June, 1945, so you see there was only two months more of the war before the Japanese surrendered. It was after the war in Europe had ended. We started flying missions almost immediately. I flew with our crew a total of eight missions, plus two more missions after hostilities ceased to drop supplies at prisoner of war camps in Japan. The first three missions were night fire bombing missions. We fire-bombed chosen cities in Japan. Our fourth mission was a daylight mission to bomb an aircraft plant in Nagoya.
Then the whole 504th Bomb Group was taken off of fire-bombing and assigned to drop mines by parachute to mine harbors, not only in Japan, but also in Korea. That was an extremely interesting adventure. I can look back at it with amusement and pride. The difficulty was that the distance was so great to Korea that you flew with half a load of gas from Tinian to Iwo Jima. Iwo Jima was in American hands by this time. At Iwo you filled up your airplane with as much gas as you could stuff into the tanks. Then you flew non-stop from Iwo Jima, across Japan, across the Inland Sea to Korea. Then once you laid your mines across the harbor, you flew all the way back to Tinian. The total flight time, not counting the ground time on Iwo Jima, from Tinian to Iwo Jima, Iwo to the target area in Korea, back to Tinian, was something like 18 hours. Time on the ground at Iwo was about an hour, maybe an hour and 15 minutes. In any event, we mined three harbors in Korea, and one in Japan. One of them was Fusan, which I think today is called Pusan. That is in South Korea. The second one, in what today is North Korea, was called Seishin. I think it has a different name today. It is way up in North Korea, almost close to Vladivostok in Siberia. They were hazardous missions I can assure you. Particularly, since all over Japan, across the Inland Sea, and over Korea we were picked up by search lights and we encountered anti-aircraft fire.
In all of the missions that we flew, though, we never once saw an enemy aircraft. We understood, although I don’t know how accurate it is, that the Japanese were husbanding their aircraft in anticipation of an invasion. In any event, we were never attacked by enemy aircraft, but we did have lots of flak and were always picked up by search lights.
Mr. Misenhimer: What altitude were you flying across there?
Mr. Spielberg: These mining missions we were at six to eight thousand feet; very low and therefore very vulnerable. Also, once you have approached the harbor, you had to slow down so that you laid the mines in a string across the harbor. You didn’t want to drop them all in a cluster. If you flew too fast you wouldn’t drop the last one by the time you ran out of harbor. In any event it turned out to be very hazardous flying, and for which our Bomb Group, the 504th, received a Presidential Unit Citation.
Mr. Misenhimer: Back to the altitude now, did you fly at this 6,000 feet all the way from Iwo Jima?
Mr. Spielberg: No, no, when you left Tinian on a normal flight to Japan, you would try to fly at the altitude where you would get maximum range. You had to husband your fuel. That could be anywhere from 12,000-18,000 feet. On the daylight missions, you climbed up to a higher bombing altitude, such as 22,000-24,000 feet. If you went too much higher than that, the winds up high were very, very severe and the bombing accuracy was decreased. On a day mission after the bombs were dropped you sort of let the airplane gently settle down so that you could throttle back until you reached an altitude of about 12,000-14,000 feet, and then you sort of held that all the way back to Tinian. For a low altitude mission, if you tried to climb back up to a higher altitude, you used more fuel than you really wanted to, so you generally tried to hold between 6,000 and maximum 10,000 feet on the way home. That meant, on re-crossing Japan on the way back, you once again were picked up by radar-directed search lights and then encountered flak.
Let me pause for just a minute. I have given you a rush of events to just about the end of the war, or the end of hostilities. Now, jumping ahead another month, our crew was broken up in September or early-October 1945. The airplane commander and a couple of the enlisted men had enough points to be sent home immediately. Several of the others, since the crew was split up, were assigned to different crews or to different duties on Tinian. By that time I had been promoted, and on September 1, 1945 I was a Tech Sergeant. October 1st I was promoted to Master Sergeant. The T.O. for flight engineer, if you were enlisted, called for a Master Sergeant rank. In the 3rd week of October I was called in by our Bomb Group Commander. He said that many of the group’s flight engineers were going home in a short time, and I was one of the few experienced flight engineers, that is with combat experience, that was left in the Bomb Group. He asked me would I like to become an officer. I said, “Well, I wouldn’t mind that.” He said, “What you have to do is to appear before a board at Wing Headquarters and they will ask you some questions. Since you already have experience and having an engineering degree, I don’t think you will have any trouble, but please put on a clean uniform and sew your stripes on.” I did all of that and appeared before the board. They asked me a few of what I think now were perfunctory questions and were very happy to approve me as an officer. I was not made a commissioned officer, a 2nd Lieutenant, rather I was given a Warrant as a Flight Officer. In any event, I was then transferred out of the Bomb Squadron, the 421st, to 504th Bomb Group Headquarters. I was designated the Group Flight Engineer and I was also appointed to the Wing Flight Engineer Board. So I was engaged in training the flight engineers of the new crews. I actually prepared a questionnaire in which I recorded as questions, “What would you do in this type of situation,” basing them on actual events either that happened to our crew or to other crews that I had heard about. I also asked about emergency procedures in other situations they might get into. That I thought was quite successful.
Just to finally round out the experience, in December, or perhaps early-January of 1946, our bomb group got orders to transfer to Clark Field in the Philippine Islands. I was sent in a party of advance people to Clark Field to assess the state of readiness to receive all of the B-29's – what were the hangars like, do they have the equipment, stands to hoist engines out to change engines, etc. As part of the team we did a three-week survey and came back and reported to our Bomb Group Commander. In about a month everything was packed up on Tinian and moved Clark Field. Things were pretty disorganized there, but we gradually began to get things in shape. The runways were repaired. The Army Engineers came in and laid down steel mats. They even had concrete brought in. We gradually were bringing the airplanes up to flying status, one by one. Of course there was a lot of down time when the airplanes were sitting on the ground while we were still getting organized and repairing. Particularly the hangars had been bombed out. I guess when the American Army was capturing Clark Field from the Japanese they bombed the runways and everything.
Sometime in March of 1946, well after the war had ended, while we were trying to get the 29's back in service, we received a report in the middle of the afternoon that a B-29 carrying a Lt General was lost somewhere between Clark Field and Okinawa. His airplane had not been heard from in several hours and it was figured that it went down somewhere between the two places. We were ordered to get every possible B-29 into flying condition, and the next morning take off to search for any signs of crew, life raft, etc. My job that afternoon was to run up the engines, check them out, check out other systems on the airplane and say, “OK, this one is flight ready for takeoff tomorrow.” Toward the end of that afternoon, it must have been about 5:30 p.m., a pilot approached me. He introduced himself as Captain Bailey, and said, “I have an airplane that is ready and I want to take it up and check it out myself. I don’t have a flight engineer.” He wanted to know if I would be his flight engineer, and I said that I could. So I got my parachute, checked it out, and then I went to preflight that aircraft. This means that you make a preflight check of certain things, which is standard procedure for the flight engineer. Captain Bailey assured me, “Hey, I have done that already. I’m not only a pilot, an airplane commander, but I’m a flight engineer and I’ve checked it out already.” I took his word for it.
We started to take off, all of a sudden the aircraft was filled with gasoline fumes. It was so thick that when we were about 1,000, maybe 1,500 feet, off the ground, I noticed that the pilot had passed out, slumped forward on the control wheel, his chest was pressing against the wheel, and we were heading down. As soon as I smelled gasoline, I got on the intercom, put it on “command” so it would override any other conversation on the intercom, and said that everybody should pull out his oxygen hose, put it in his mouth and pinch his nose, set the oxygen control to demand so that rather than breathing a mixture of oxygen and air, the setting lets you breath 100% oxygen. I don’t know how many people obeyed me, but I did that. That is when I saw that the pilot had slumped over against the wheel. So I left my seat, left the oxygen, moved the pilot off the wheel, even shook him, but he was unconscious and I pushed him onto the bombardier’s seat. I grabbed hold of the pilot, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat, I shook him. He appeared to be wide awake; his eyes were open, but he wasn’t aware of what was going on. I shook him and said, “Can you take control of the airplane?” I got no response, so I went back to my station and by that time I was beginning to feel “woozy”. Are you interested in this?
Mr. Misenhimer: Oh yes, very much.
Mr. Spielberg: Well, I had straightened the wheel out, the control wheel, and put us in a steady climb. I went back to my station, put the mixture control in “rich”, pushed the throttles forward until we had full climbing power and advanced the rpm of the engines, all four of them, so that we were in a steady climb. I happened to notice at that time the altimeter was at something like 1,800 or 2,000 feet. Then I thought this situation was so bad that I had better warn the guys in back. The pilot had agreed to take a number of enlisted men up as passengers. I put on the warning bell, telling them to bail out. We had made sure that everyone had a parachute. By this time I had been away from the oxygen tube long enough that I thought that I might pass out, so I opened the bomb bay doors, dropped the landing gear and prepared the airplane for bail out. It turned out that one of the passengers in the front compartment was a Captain or a Major, a fighter pilot who had never had a ride in a four-engine airplane and had asked if he could come along. Well I asked him if he could take control of the airplane? He didn’t answer me. What happened next is, after I saw the airplane was steadied and climbing, I bailed out. As soon as my parachute opened I said, “My God, why did I do that?” I didn’t know how many people in back had bailed out. I landed OK and made my way back to my base late that night. By the way, I landed somewhere north of Clark Field in the hills in northern Luzon.
In any event, I subsequently learned that the fighter pilot, Joe Howell was his name, had got into the pilot’s seat, got on the radio and contacted the tower. It turned out that when I opened the bomb bay doors the gasoline fumes ceased. There were no longer any fumes. The fighter pilot, under the guidance of the tower, brought it in for a safe landing. I talked to him afterward. He said that he had to close the bomb bay doors in order to land, and when he did the fumes came back so terrible that he almost passed out during the landing. In any event, the airplane got down with just minimum damage; nobody was injured in the landing, but the pilot and co-pilot were both hospitalized. I don’t know whether the pilot had lung damage or not, but he inhaled a lot of gasoline fumes. Major Howell told me the next morning that after they landed and came to a stop and opened the bomb bay doors, somebody had left the filler cap on the center wing tank off and it was still siphoning out gas. That is what filled the airplane with gas fumes. I told that story to my children. I said, “The one lesson that I learned from it is that if you have a job to do and somebody says he will do it for you, no matter how much you trust him, do it yourself because it is your responsibility.” I trusted Captain Bailey to check the airplane and apparently he did not check whether that cap on the center wing tank had been loose or not. So much for my big adventure.
Mr. Misenhimer: How many others had bailed out?
Mr. Spielberg: It turned out that seven people in the back had bailed out. Of course the airplane commander, the pilot, and Major Howell, the fighter pilot had not bailed out and I think there was one other passenger. I’m not certain about that.
Mr. Misenhimer: Did those others who bailed out get back safely?
Mr. Spielberg: Yes, one boy sprained his ankle, but otherwise no one was injured. They got back safely. I came back about six hours after they did. I didn’t leave the airplane until about five minutes after they did and traveled further away than their landing. In any event, that ended that episode.
I was able to leave service in June ‘46 and finally reached my home in July of ‘46. As a parenthetical note, once I was at Camp Attebury in Indiana being discharged, they asked me if I wanted to stay in the Officers Reserve Corps. I said, “Sure,” and I was recalled to active duty during the Korean war. I had returned to my job at Wright Field as an aeronautical engineer, and when I was recalled to active duty I was not sent to B-29 or B-50 school. I was considered too valuable and was assigned to my regular desk duty – same work with a nice cut in pay. Eventually I got promoted to be a 1st Lieutenant, and when the Korean War ended my military career ended. Is there anything else I can fill in.
Mr. Misenhimer: I have several questions that I would like to ask you. On Tinian, which field were you stationed at? North Field or West Field?
Mr. Spielberg: North Field on Tinian.
Mr. Misenhimer: Did you ever have any contact with the 509th?
Mr. Spielberg: Yes and no. Yes because from where our B-29's were parked, you could see theirs. You couldn’t come close to them because they were guarded by the biggest Marines carrying sub-machine guns that I ever saw. We could see that their airplanes did not have top and bottom forward and rear gun turrets. The four turrets were missing. We speculated that they were used for high speed reconnaissance flights so they could dash in, take photographs and dash out again. They probably gained extra speed by eliminating the additional weight and aerodynamic drag from those turrets. That was all that we knew about them. We had no idea of what the real mission of the 509th was.
I can add, that the morning that we heard that an “A” bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima – my feeling was “Why did they have to do that? We are winning the war because we are running out of targets.” Every week General LeMay would announce over the radio to Japan that we are going to bomb targets from this list of cities, so be prepared. And then we would go and pick them off one-by-one. So we were running out of targets. I thought we were going to win the war by air power alone. I didn’t think at that time of the humanitarian aspect of the bomb, but perhaps I rationalized it by the fact that I participated in killing many, many people in firebombing whole towns. I sort of wrestled with my conscience whether it was the right thing for the United States to have dropped the bomb. Through the years... Do you mind my editorializing?
Mr. Misenhimer: No, no, go right ahead.
Mr. Spielberg: Over these years since then I’ve come to believe that it was absolutely the right thing to do. I realize now, having learned from reading various sources, that the Japanese were prepared to defend their homeland the way they had a last-ditch defense of Okinawa. That was one of the bloodiest battles of all of World War II. I figure if the U.S. Army and Marines invaded Japan, the number of deaths would have far exceeded the toll of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Over the years I’ve come to believe that we did the right thing.
My airplane commander was Captain John Combs. I would like to say a few words about him. He was from Indiana. By the time he entered the service as a pilot, he already had a Masters Degree in either Chemistry or Agronomy. He was well educated. I thought he was a wonderful pilot and a wonderful commander of men. When the war ended he became a pilot for Eastern Airlines. He stayed in the Reserves. He was also called to duty during the Korean War. He was assigned to become the personal pilot for General Mark Clark in Japan. We have had several reunions with some of our crew members and he has told us stories about some of his adventures and some of the people that he ferried all over the orient, to Europe, to the United States. You should contact him and get his oral history.
Mr. Misenhimer: I would be glad to. I will get his name and phone number, but before we do that let me ask you a few more questions. As I understand, when LeMay took over 20th Air Force that he started running low level bombing missions. This was probably in March or April.
Mr. Spielberg: Yes.
Mr. Misenhimer: So your bombing missions across Japan were at the low level. Is that correct?
Mr. Spielberg: Yes. Well, low level being like nine to twelve thousand feet. The aerial mining missions were even lower, six to eight thousand.
Mr. Misenhimer: OK. Was your aircraft ever hit by anti-aircraft fire?
Mr. Spielberg: On one mission we had a hit in the rear, but it did no damage. We found a hole in the fuselage in front of the horizontal stabilizer. It was just a small tear.
Mr. Misenhimer: Now the other planes in your flight – were any of those ever damaged or lost?
Mr. Spielberg: A number of them were shot down. As I told you earlier, we came over late in the war. We were flying missions up until the end of the war, August 14th on Tinian, August 15th in the States. By that time, there were very few fighter...
Mr. Misenhimer: This is Side 2 of Tape #1.
Mr. Spielberg: In the missions that we flew, we never saw a single enemy aircraft. I mentioned earlier that they were being held in readiness for the invasion. The major losses that our Bomb Squadron sustained in those last two months of the war were primarily due to occasional anti-aircraft fire, but more likely either malfunction, such as an engine failure, or running out of fuel and having to ditch or having to land at Iwo Jima. Fortunately for us, Iwo was in American hands, and the airplanes could be repaired before they flew on back to Tinian.
Mr. Misenhimer: Did you ever have to make an emergency landing at Iwo?
Mr. Spielberg: On one mission. We were coming back after a night incendiary raid and I noticed that we could hardly hold up speed. I had to keep inching the throttles forward to give it a little more power, which was using more gas than I predicted we should have. I finally said to the pilot, “I think we ought to make the landing at Iwo because at the rate we are having to use fuel we won’t make it to Tinian.” So we landed there, and the ground crew there checked the engine. It turned out that they had to remove and replace three engines. Three of them had bad cylinders, the pistons in the cylinders were so loose that the engine couldn’t hold compression. We couldn’t draw the power that the engine is normally expected to give. That was the one case where we had to make a landing at Iwo. It was not an emergency landing because the runway at Iwo was long enough to handle the B-29's. It was a conventional landing.
There was one other flight where we lost an engine right over the target. This was another nighttime incendiary raid. About five minutes before we started our bomb run the gunners reported flames and sparks coming out of the left inboard engine. Capt Johnny Combs asked me if I could see anything wrong on the instruments. I looked and it took 15 seconds or so before I noticed that we were losing oil pressure on the #2 engine. That is the left inboard engine. He said, “What do you think we should do?” I said, “Well, I think that we should feather the propeller and shut down the engine. If you lose all of your hydraulic pressure there is nothing to govern the propeller, the blades would go to flat pitch and the propeller will spin up and run away. That could tear the propeller away from the engine and off its mount. Captain Combs said, “Look, let’s follow it. We are just a minute or so away from dropping the bombs, let’s see if we can keep four propellers running until we drop the bombs and get out of here.” So we tried that. We went through the bombing run, dropped the bombs. You know, when you lose 10,000-11,000 pounds the airplane rises up. That change in the altitude of the airplane due to the sudden rising caused the propeller to run away. I could see the RPM, normally at about 2200, zipping up to 2500-3000-3500, approaching 4,000, and the noise was deafening. The pilot reached to feather the engine and the co-pilot reached to feather the engine, and between them they feathered two engines, the bad one and the #1, the outboard. So there we are, leaving the target, dropping precipitously with only power on two engines. Well, we got out of it OK. I was very busy. I had to shut down the bad engine, so it would stop windmilling and stop using fuel. Then I wanted to start the other engine. Well, we successfully air started it, and pretty soon we had three engines up and running and we were pulling away. By the way, once the ground search light observers see that an airplane has lost one engine, with the propeller not turning, they concentrate all the flak and all the search lights on that one plane. We got through it OK.
Then my real job came – transferring all of the fuel that was left in that #2 engine’s fuel tank to the other three engines so that we could utilize all the fuel in the #2 tank. Then, getting the right power settings for maximum range to get back to Tinian. As we approached Iwo Jima, the aircraft commander asked me, “Can we make it, or should we land?” I said, “Sir, I believe we can make it.” He said, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yes.” So we continued on and we come to what the navigator says is the “point of no return.” Either you return to Iwo or you continue on to Tinian. Once again, Johnny Combs asked me, “Can me make it?” I said, “Yes”. Well, we made it! When we got down I measured the fuel remaining for those three engines and we had about 20-25 minutes of flying time. So, it was close, but we got back OK. That I guess was one of the most severe experiences we had in all of our flights.
Mr. Misenhimer: About how many flying hours from Iwo to Tinian.
Mr. Spielberg: That is about 3 ½ hours.
Mr. Misenhimer: Of course three engines were going slower than normal.
Mr. Spielberg: Yes, that’s right. A typical round-trip to Japan and back was 14-14 ½ hours. A typical flight from Tinian to Iwo, Iwo to Korea, and then back to Tinian was 18-19 hours.
Mr. Misenhimer: There on Tinian what did you live in?
Mr. Spielberg: As an enlisted man we lived, two enlisted crews, to a large hut. It was more like a shed. It had wooden sides, and I think it had a wood roof, I’m not sure. There were 12 Army cots in there and two 6-man enlisted crews occupied it. Officers lived in Quonset Huts. There would be 20-25 beds to a Quonset Hut.
Mr. Misenhimer: How was the food there on Tinian?
Mr. Spielberg: I remember it as being OK. The Enlisted Men’s Club didn’t have a refrigerator, so you had your choice of drinking warm Coke or warm beer. Of the two, warm beer tasted better. Subsequently we got more of the amenities. We didn’t have anylaundry service. Some of us tried to build the windmill type washing machine where you use wind power to turn a vane and chug a paddle up and down in a huge, washed out oil drum, filled with soapy water. Mostly you just took an old bomb crate, mounted it on wooden legs and then used a scrub brush, bucket and soap. You soaked your clothes and washed them out that way. We had a theater, which showed movies about four times a week, I believe.
Mr. Misenhimer: Did you ever have a USO Show on Tinian?
Mr. Spielberg: Not that I saw. I only saw movies at our theater.
Mr. Misenhimer: On August 6th, when they dropped the first Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima, how did you hear about that?
Mr. Spielberg: I think that on August 5th we had run a mission. It was the day before the A-bomb. Typically you ran a mission and then you had two days off, and then you ran another mission. The first day off you are supposed to rest, but the second day you go down to the flightline and make sure your airplane is ready for your next mission. Then on the third day, on about August 8th, you were ready for the next mission. Well, that morning of August 6th, we heard about it. As I said earlier, I was thinking, “Why did we have to do that when we were already winning?”
Mr. Misenhimer: Did you know what an Atomic Bombs was?
Mr. Spielberg: No, I had never heard of it, but I had a vague idea. I had studied physics in college and I had a vague idea about the atomic principle and uranium. I didn’t know anything about fissioning uranium. I had never heard of the word Plutonium.
Mr. Misenhimer: When Japan surrendered, did you have much of a celebration?
Mr. Spielberg: Well, let me tell you about our last mission of the war. It was on the night of August 14th. It was another aerial mining mission to Maizures Harbor, Japan. We were told that the Japanese were expected to surrender any minute. After we took off and were airborne to Japan, we might receive a signal, either from a ship at sea or from Iwo Jima. That signal, whatever the code was, would tell us to dump our load of mines in the ocean, turn around and come home. If we had not heard it by the time we approached the target, continue with the mission. We never heard the signal, we continued with the mission, laid our mines across Maizures Harbor. There is a little story connected with that, but that is secondary. We came all the way back to Tinian. When we got back we were greeted by the Chaplain and the Group Commander. We all went to have breakfast and went to bed; we had been up all night. We were awakened about 10 o’clock that morning by shooting, shouting; everybody was firing their 45's. We had been issued 45's. Pretty soon the MP’s came through and collected everybody’s sidearms. We learned then that the war was over, and that the Japanese had accepted the terms of surrender.
The story I was going to tell you about is this. We were approaching the harbor, and it was totally cloud covered, so the bombardier couldn’t use his bomb sight. So the radar officer had taken over the bomb run using his radar. As we entered the target the line across the harbor, he said, “Drop one.” I think we were carrying six 2,000 pound mines. In any event, what normally happens is that the radio man in the front compartment or the command gunner in the rear compartment looks through the window in the door to the bomb bay compartment and says, “Number one is dropped sir,” or something like that. Well, no word came from either radio or command gunner. Meanwhile, our radar officer said, “Drop number two.” The aircraft commander gets on the intercom and says, “Radar, radio, gunner, is anything going out?” They said that nothing was coming out of the rear bomb bay, nothing was falling out of the front bomb bay. Meanwhile we are half way across the harbor and all of a sudden somebody, I think it may have been out Radar Officer, yelled, “Salvo these SOB’s.” Someone, I guess it was the Bombardier, hit the salvo switch and the mines landed in a cluster in one part of the harbor, and we got out of there. So much for our pinpoint mining. At least we dropped them on the target area.
Mr. Misenhimer: What would you have considered your most frightening time over there?
Mr. Spielberg: I think that my most frightening time was when we accidentally feathered two engines.
Mr. Misenhimer: Yes. How come the co-pilot, or the pilot, feathered the wrong engine?
Mr. Spielberg: You see, the four feathering buttons, one for each engine, are on the central panel between the airplane commander and the pilot. I don’t know exactly what happened when they were reaching for the buttons. Both buttons on the left were pushed and two engines were feathered. It was fortunate that the bad engine was feathered before it really wound up to the point of throwing the propeller blade. Why is that important for me personally? Because the flight engineer’s seat is right in the plane of the propellers.
Mr. Misenhimer: OK.
Mr. Spielberg: So if they would go through the fuselage they would go right by my head.
Mr. Misenhimer: What medals or ribbons did you receive?
Mr. Spielberg: We got an Air Medal after completing five missions. Our Bomb Group was given two separate Presidential Unit Citations with Oak Leaf Clusters for various campaigns we participated in. Only those other than a Good Conduct Medal, and Theater Ribbons.
Mr. Misenhimer: Did you come home with any souvenirs?
Mr. Spielberg: One souvenir that I saved is the emblem of our Bomb Squadron, the 421st Bomb Squadron. It is a picture of a huge gorilla holding a bomb, poised to hurl it on Japan. That was on a leather patch that you were supposed to sew on your flight jacket. I never sewed it on, and I believe that I still have it. I have one other souvenir that I prize very highly. When we were flying mining missions to Korea, there was always the possibility that if you were disabled, you might have to land in China, or some place in Southeast Asia. I believe the airplane commander was furnished with $100 in gold pieces to buy our way to safety, if necessary. Every crew member was furnished with a nylon banner, about 9" x 12", which was written in five or six different languages, and the message was essentially as follows: I am an American aviator. My airplane has been disabled. My government is an enemy of the Japanese. If you will help me my Government will reward you. Or words to that effect. It was in French, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai Language, and in the language that was spoken in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia (French Indochina). It has a big American flag at the top of it. So I have it framed on the wall in my home.
Mr. Misenhimer: How long were you overseas total?
Mr. Spielberg: About 13 months.
Mr. Misenhimer: When you got home, did you have any trouble adjusting to civilian life?
Mr. Spielberg: Not really. I took about two weeks of vacation, and then went back to work at Wright Field. It turns out that my Father had died while I was overseas. My Mother was all alone. My older brother, Arnold, who you may have met, was already enrolled in college. He was married and had a child. My younger sister was still in college and I was the only support for my Mother, so I had to go back to work immediately.
Mr. Misenhimer: Anything else you recall?
Mr. Spielberg: On our one daylight bombing mission, this was to, I believe, the Aichi Aircraft Company in Nagoya. Our bomb squadron, all squadrons of the 504th Bomb Group, were to rendezvous at some point about 50-75 miles off the shore of Japan. Our navigator had the coordinates, and he was supposed to get us to that point. We were supposed to rendezvous, then get in formation, and go in formation over the target. Well, as we approached that point, we saw hundreds of airplanes, with all different designations. These were not only groups from our Bomb Wing, but different wings, one from Saipan, another one from Tinian, one from Guam, planes with every designation, all flying around trying to locate their own groups. We would see a group rendezvousing up ahead so Johnny Combs, our commander, put the throttles forward to try to speed up and get close to them. In the meantime, I’m busy writing down that we were at such and such a manifold pressure, such and such rpm. I was trying to log our usage of fuel, and in the meantime we can’t find our group. So when I say, “Capt we are going to use too much fuel trying to find our own group .” We joined the nearest formation since we were all going to the same target. We dropped our bombs with them. We trusted the leader of that formation to have found the right target. By the time that we dropped our bombs we saw smoke rising up from the ground.
Mr. Misenhimer: On September 2nd, when they had the ceremony on the Missouri. Were you part of that fly-over?
Mr. Spielberg: The only one of our crew who was asked to fly there was Johnny Combs, our aircraft commander. I wish I had gone.
Mr. Misenhimer: Did you fly the same plane every day, or a different plane?
Mr. Spielberg: No, we flew one plane about three or four missions, and then we had different planes. When we came over to Tinian we brought a new airplane. Once we arrived on Tinian it was assigned to one of the older, more experienced crews, and we had a different airplane of a crew that wasn’t going to fly then. We never did have our own plane. This is a problem for the flight engineer. If you do all your flying in the same airplane, you get to have a better feel for how accurate those cruise control charts are. You can depend on them much more carefully.
Mr. Misenhimer: What were some of the names of the planes that you flew?
Mr. Spielberg: One was called “Omaha Two More Times.” I can’t remember too many of them. I have some photographs somewhere where I can see some of the names. There was one called “Nip Finale.”
Mr. Misenhimer: Did you ever get a chance to meet LeMay?
Mr. Spielberg: No. In fact, I never met the Wing Commander. I got to know the Group Commander. He was with us when we moved to the Phillippines. As I was assigned to the group staff, when he called the staff together I was included.
Mr. Misenhimer: What did you think of LeMay?
Mr. Spielberg: He was an extremely bold man. He quickly realized that high altitude precision bombing was going to do no good in defeating Japan. Going in anywhere from 25,000-30,000 feet in formation, conquering the enormous winds, even with a supposedly accurate bombsight, no way could we do precision bombing effectively. So we suddenly switched tactics to low altitude, saturation fire-bombing. They were quite effective. I remember, when we took those two prisoner of war supply missions after the end of hostilities, after August 14-15, and before September 2nd, we had maybe 10-15 minutes of extra fuel time that I calculated we could go cruising around. We cruised over Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, and we even flew over Hiroshima. To tell the truth, from the air, they all looked the same. Totally burned out. Block after block with nothing maybe except a brick wall or a chimney standing. You couldn’t tell the difference between Hiroshima and Tokyo, except when you realize that one airplane did it to Hiroshima and hundreds of fire bombing raids did it for Tokyo. The damage looked identical.
Mr. Misenhimer: You mentioned the high winds over there. I understand that is when the Jet Stream was first discovered.
Mr. Spielberg: It could be. I am not aware of that.
Mr. Misenhimer: I had read that somewhere; that is when they first encountered those high winds at the high altitudes there.
Mr. Spielberg: In fact we heard estimates that sometimes the winds were up over 150 miles per hour.
Transcribed by: Wanda Cook , Hunt, Texas , January 26, 2004
February 21, 2004