My wartime commission as Captain in the United States Army Air Force was converted to a captaincy in the United States Air Force Reserve.
I accepted the commission in the US Army Air Force Reserve on
discharge. This was converted to the US Air Force Reserve on creation of the USAF.
I joined a Reserve Unit in Washington DC when I was at the George Washington University. I would go out to Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County in Maryland. We flew AT-6's when we could get one. We didn't get a lot of flying time.
We had one memorable day at least. It was decided that we would mount a 36 ship flyover of Philadelphia on Memorial Day. Everything was going great and we were having a lot of fun until we got about halfway over the city and then the National Guard stepped all over our act! They came by in a formation in their P-51's, probably twice as fast as we were going. It did put a bit of a pin in our balloon. And I do not thank them for it.
As time went on and the chair jockeys got in charge of the program and they started putting in stupid requirements. Most of us had been fighter pilots. They put in requirements for a certain amount of instrument time and of night flying. It was so hard to get any flying time that one had to do instrument and night flying all the time. I don't mind "keeping my hand in" so to speak but not all the time.
This is not what fighter pilots do.
About this time, they decided to start paying us. This brought out all the money flyers out of the woodwork and what had been difficult became impossible. I lost interest in this paper pseudo program and quit flying with them. It was counterproductive to spend more than an hour on the bus getting there and another hour plus getting back, sitting there for several hours and then not getting any flying. I was very busy at college and didn't have the time to fritter away this much time with little or no constructive result.
I tried to get the yearly points for the AF Reserve but it was difficult to impossible while working at Harvard. I took a Maxwell Field correspondence course in photography. I tried to do an elementary one in mathematics. But I just did not have the motivation to do these trivial things nor the time to waste. I never got any credit for getting a Masters Degree nor for a Ph. D. But I could have gotten points for silly correspondence courses!
Sometime after I got to Harvard, the Korean War appeared. I was
nominally attached to Selfridge Field Michigan. That's where my papers were. I called them to find
out what my status was. I was subject to recall as was Ted Williams. They asked me what I was doing.
I told them I was working on my Ph. D. in Chemistry at Harvard. I only remember two words, "Stay
When I was finished at Harvard I was going to Columbia University for a Post-Doctoral. I didn't have any money so I wangled a two week tour of duty at Hanscom Field, near Lincoln Massachusetts. This was in the early days of interest in germanium and perfect crystals. I talked with the civilian I was going to work for. I was an organic chemist and not used to thinking about odd elements like germanium. I suggested that we might be able to plate out crystals of germaium using a variation of the Hall process for aluminum. He thought it was worth a two week attempt. So I looked up some data and suggested a procedure which he endorsed, I was going to melt a germaniun salt, sodium germanate, dissolve germanium dioxide in it and then put in some electrodes and pass a direct current through it. I was hoping the germanium metal would go to one electrode and deposit as small "perfect" crystals.
I got a high temperature oven, cut a hole in the top to allow an entrance for the electrodes. It had to be heated to a high temperature, around 800 degrees C. It took several hours for this to take place so I set everything up the day before and set a timer for 5 AM to turn it on. That way it would be ready when I arrived at 8AM. I ran the electrolysis for a number of hours and shut it off. I took out the electrode hoping for a fuzzy display of crystals. And there was none. This all took a good bit of time to do. I ran it several times and was a bit nonplussed by the absence of product. Something has to be happening!
Back to the books. Lo and behold I figured it out. Unlike aluminum, germanium has two valence states, plus two and plus four, like the element directly above it, carbon. Carbon forms two oxides, both gases. Germanium also forms two oxides The solid dioxide dissolves in its molten salt, sodium germanate at these high temeratures. But when it is reduced it forms the monoxide which is a gas. So I concluded that most probably the reason I did not get any metallic germanium was because when it got halfway to the metal it escaped from the reaction mixture as the gas, germanium monoxide.
An interesting corollary to this story concerns the report the civilian in charge wrote for my file. It was a rather glowing report. A Captain that probably saw me for 5 minutes at the most and probably not too swift with chemistry, wrote something to the effect, "This guy can't be that good," and he marked me down. I saw it at the time but unfortunately I don't have a copy. I would like to frame it!
Much later, after I came to San Luis Obispo, I associated myself
with the local Reserve unit that met at Camp San Luis Obispo. I attended thirty meetings a year and
ran the projector for the films we had.
Later I got myself assigned to the Reserve unit at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton Ohio. I was going as a chemist to work in the Materiels Lab. I used to say I wanted to pile a bunch of papers that said I was a chemist on top of the ones that said I was a pilot. I could see in 1945 that the pilot profession was going to change drastically. Defenses against aircraft were going to become very sophisticated. Planes were going to become so fast and unstable that humans would no longer be able to fly like a bird as we did in WWII. I'm 84. I know if I had stayed on active duty after the war, I would not be here now!
I went on a number of tours at Wright-Pat mostly two weeks, one or two times for a month. I worked for a chemist named Dr. Christ Tamborski. Back at Cal Poly I had learned how to disassemble, refinish the sodium chloride (salt) windows and reassemble the cells for the Infrared Spectrophometer. So when I arrived at Wright-Pat the first thing I would do would be to recondition their IR cells. They looked forward to my visits for this purpose. But I did a number of projects for them. They were working way out in front of most chemists. They were working with many fluorocarbons at a time when they were hard for "ordinary" people to obtain. They were overseeing many out of house projects and had to do their thing so they could properly evaluate these out of house reports.
I remember two projects I was on in particular. They needed to know the rate of diffusion of tetrafluoroethylene gas through its polymer, Teflon. So I built a vacuum system. The only source of tetrafluoroethylene was the de-polymerization of Teflon by heat. So I placed a membrane of Teflon in the middle of a vacuum line. I evacuated the apparaus and trapped it with stopcocks. On one side of the membrane I had a little glass tube finger hanging down with granulated Teflon. I heated the granulated Teflon with a small torch. I had to be very careful because the depolymerization temperature was very close to the softening temperature of Pyrex glass, 550-600 degrees C. I was able to generate the gas and measure its pressure. Then I measured the growth of pressure against time on the other side of the membrane. I think I produced the data they needed.
The other project I remember concerned their studies of the
reaction of pentafluorobenzene with butyllithium followed by reaction with carbon dioxide to
form a mixture of several carboxylic acids. He wanted to see how much replacement there was of
the fluorine and how much replacement there was of the hydrogen. And then again there might be more
than one replacement. Then they separated this by a long procedure of fractional crystallizations.
It took a long time to accomplish this and frankly after that many treatments I wondered if they
were getting the original product ratios.
Dr. Tamborski wanted me to do a parallel experiment with pentachlorobenzene. I did not have buckets of time to do fractional crystallizations. Besides, I wanted a procedure that was more likely to give a picture of the original reaction mixture composition.
So I did the reaction in the same way they did, but with pentachlorobenzene and carbonated the product with carbon dioxide. I worked it up and cleaned and dried the organic product mixture. I then subjected this mixture to diazomethane which would convert all the acids to their methyl esters. These could be separated by gas chromatography which would give an almost instant quantitative analysis of the mixture. I had to make the individual esters separately so I could identify which peak was which in the spectrum. Dr. Tamborski was very pleased to the point where he published it in a professional journal. Have you any idea how rare it is to get a professional chemical publication on two weeks work?
Later, for some strange reason I was tapped to attend an
astrophysical seminar in Cloudcroft NM. I think this was in the summer of 1961 when my wife Sauny
was home in Maryville MO lowering the boom on her mother and informing her that she was going to
marry me and she better get used to the idea. I was 39 and she was 19. But she has always been more
grownup than I.
I enjoyed the week and learned quite a bit. It was't easy to be active and breathe at 9000 feet, above Alamagorda. I even played nine holes of golf one day. The ball would go almost further than I could walk. At the end of the two weeks I hitched a ride back to Washington in some General's plane!
One of the lecturers was not too far from his Ph. D. program in Planetary Astrophysics. He spoke about his good fortune to be one of six graduates in that field at the beginning ot the Space Program. How lucky was that. His name was Dr. Carl Sagan.
One time after we were married, Sauny accompanied me on a two
week tour to Dayton. We got a motel off base. We brought our little dog Mike with us. The motel had
a rather odd bathtub. When Sauny took a bath she experienced a weak electrical tingle. We had a car
but she almost never left the motel!
One day she went to the Officer's Club for a swim. She showed up in her practical midwestern bathing suit and swam. She felt very uncomfortable among all the much more matronly women around the pool in chaise longues in fine coutourier bathing suits that looked like they had never seen water. She never went back.
We had driven out there to stop at relatives on the way. We stopped at a St. Bernard Kennel on the way back through Indiana. They had a cute little St. Bernard about two months old, too young for us to take. They said they would ship him in a couple months. We were at Deep Springs at the time so that would probably make it the summer of 1962. When we were leaving Dayton. I made a turn to get on the freeway. I saw a little dog running along the entrance road and I said to Sauny,"That looks a lot like Mike. IT IS MIKE!" I pulled over and we picked him up. Apparently he was leaning out the back window and the turn took him by surprise and he went out. If I had not seen him, we would have lost him for sure!
They promoted me to Major in the middle sixties I believe. This picture was taken at Wright-Patterson AFB.
And then someone decided they didn't want a Reserve Unit! This was decided by the military people that saw me for five minutes when I checked in and for five minutes when I checked out, They had no idea what I did while I was there and probably assumed I wasn't doing anything. So-o-o-o, they decided to decommission the unit. They closed it up without giving us a chance to transfer to other units. They threw us out of the Air Force! Retired involuntarily, short of the retirement age! I am not welcome in the PX's. They're for the latecomers and peacetimers. Am I bitter? Of course.