Archive for the ‘General History’ Category

Old School Engineering

Wednesday, June 10th, 2015

I just viewed Dave Jone’s latest video blog about the Sony Walkman. For some reason, I decided to download the service manual and have a look. One thing that I immediately noticed, was the lettering on the schematic appears to be another example of Leroy Lettering.

This caused me to reflect a little bit about my first year or two of college and my first job in industry. Before discovering computer science, I started out in a mechanical engineering program. The first engineering oriented courses you took, were drafting courses. I had no trouble with perspective and different technical aspects of drawing. However, I really had trouble creating drawings that looked nice, clean and sharp. There was no mention of Leroy or any other mechanical lettering system, so we had to hand letter our work. To this day, I don’t have the hand of an artist, and I think that lack of natural artistic ability held me back in that program. The skill of an artist, developed or natural is something that is apparent in a well done engineering drawing or schematic.

In years gone by, many engineers would spend their workday at a drafting board. I started my first co-op engineering job, in the late 70’s. That first company that I worked for, still had a drafting department for creating PCB layouts, as well as an art department that did the artwork for manuals as well as marketing material. The “uniform” of many of the experienced engineers was a white shirt, dark pants, a dark tie and a pocket protector. Second level managers omitted the pocket protector and added a sport coat. It’s basically the look of the NASA mission control team for the Apollo program.

A few years later, in the early 80s, I remember going for a job interview at IBM’s small system division. That was the first home of the IBM PC which was located in Boca Raton, Florida. Almost all the engineers there still wore that “uniform”. I did see one guy wearing a colorful shirt and jeans. He stuck out like a sore thumb. The IBM employee that was with me at that moment, pointed him out, and said he didn’t really fit in to the culture.

How times have changed.

Familiar Sight

Friday, March 6th, 2015

B-32 Bombers under construction at Air Force Plant #4

B-32 Bombers under construction at Air Force Plant #4

I was killing some time the other day, browsing the web, finding out about the great warplanes of World War II, when I ran across this photo.

The photo was found on this blog page which contains much information about it: http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/b-32-bomber-factory-fort-worth-texas1944/

After looking at it, and reading the caption, I wondered if this was the same war plane factory that I had visited in the mid 80’s. At the time, I worked for the Computer Systems Division of Gould, Inc. This company produced super-mini computers and sold a large percentage of the computers used to power commercial and military flight simulators. When introducing a new version of the computer, some of the engineering team attended a show in Fort Worth, Texas. Before the show, a local sales representative invited us to visit the General Dynamics factory outside town. At the time, General Dynamics made F-16 fighter planes at the plant. We got to walk out on the factory floor. We could see workmen constructing F-16s, one rivet at a time. No automation or moving assembly line there, those planes were practically hand-crafted. Our guide told us that it was the longest factory in the world. He said that they rolled raw material in one end and complete airplanes out the other end. It was a very cool experience. Later on, at the show, I got to “fly” a General Dynamics F-16 cockpit proceedures trainer. What a memorable trip that was.

Follow this link to see F-16s under construction in this factory.

Well it turns out that this factory was indeed the same factory as produced 3000 B-24s during World War II and over a hundred B-32s towards the end of the war. It’s official name was Air Force Factory #4. There are a number of photos of this place while B-24s Liberators were being constructed on the Library of Congress website.

B-24s Under Construction

B-24s Under Construction

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/oem2002005697/PP/

Today the F-35 lighting II is produced at the facility.

Well Known Game Designer, John Hill, has Died

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

It’s sad to see another icon of the wargaming world, has died. I found out today that well known game designer John Hill has died on January 12th, at age 71.

I was deeply involved in wargaming in the mid to late 70’s and spent many hours playing his most well known game, “Squad Leader”. He also designed a popular Civil War Miniature’s rule’s set called “Johnny Reb”.

The World War 1 Meuse Argonne Campaign compared to the World War II Battle for Normandy

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014

This is a follow up to a previous post about my grandfathers involvement in World War 1.

World War 1 seems almost forgotten these days. Compare the little remembered Meuse-Argonne Offensive with the Battle for Normandy. Each of these campaigns is considered a major contributor towards ending a tragic war.

  • The Meuse-Argonne Offensive lasted 47 days from September 26,1918 till the end of the war, November 11, 1918.
  • The Battle for Normandy lasted 86 days, from June 6,1944 to August 30, 1944.
  • The Meuse-Argonne Offensive involved 1.2 million American and French troops and about 450,000 German troops.
  • The Battle for Normandy involved 1.45 million Allied troops and about a million German troops
  • During the the Meuse-Argonne offensive, the French and Americans suffered about 187,000 casualties and the Germans about 100,000 casualties.
  • During the battle for Normandy, the Allies suffered about 225,000 casualties and the Germans around 425,000 casualties.
  • It seems a bit of a shame that the loss, pain and suffering of hundreds of thousands of people in World War 1, has nearly been forgotten.

    More on the Sightseeing Sixth Division in World War I

    Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

    In a previous post, I noted how my Grandfather was a member of the Sightseeing Sixth Infantry Division in World War 1. I found a history of the Sixth Infantry in World War 1, written at the end of the war. The history can be downloaded from this site

    Using this history and Google Maps, I created a rough map of where my Grandfather might have travelled. The routes from place to place are not exact, but the general areas where the Sixth travelled up to the end of the war are taken from the history. Travel from the LeHarve to the training facilities around Chateau Villain would have been by the famous 40 men or 8 horse box cars.

    The Sightseeing Sixth Division in France in the Fall of 1918

    The Sightseeing Sixth Division in France in the Fall of 1918

    The other interesting thing that I learned was the extreme lack of transportation that troubled the Sixth Infantry’s movements. Horses were poor cast offs from the French army. Often the men hauled their equipment themselves, instead of relying upon horses or trucks. Once at the front, most travel was on foot. It is interesting that my Grandfather was a truck driver for a unit that apparently had very few trucks. The only mention of type of truck, was a brief mention of usage of some “liberty trucks”.

    Grandfather Willegal’s Experience in World War 1

    Friday, June 20th, 2014

    My Grandfather was a World War 1 veteran. I only talked to him once about his war experiences. He was a truck driver and told me how he used to get those old trucks up to a speed of 60 miles an hour. I also remember him saying that the army in World War 1 was the last good army or something to that effect. I’m not exactly sure why he held that opinion, but he wasn’t bashful about making the claim. My Grandfather also showed me some trench art that he had made out of some cartridge cases. I wish I knew where that trench art was. Hopefully someone in the family got a hold of it, after he passed away.

    Grandpa Willegal - circa 1960

    Grandpa Willegal – circa 1960

    I learned a little bit about my grandfather from my dad. He once told me that Grandfather mentioned that when they were being shelled by the German artillery, that they would take cover in the ditches by the side of the road. I was once visiting Circus World Museum with my dad, and he mentioned that the trucks in the circus train display would be similar to those trucks my Grandfather drove in World War 1. I think the Circus World trucks are Mack AC’s, which were indeed, used in World War 1 by the British and Americans. I don’t know for sure that this is the type of truck he drove, but it’s possible. The Mack AC’s have a rated speed of 18 miles per hour. Another army truck of the time, the famous Liberty Truck, was only supposed to reach 15 miles per hour. I wonder what my Grandfather was doing to get up to 60 miles per hour.

    My sister did some online searches and found a few records, including this certificate of service which she found at the Wisconsin’s Veteran’s Office.

    grandpa Willegal's Certificate of Service

    grandpa Willegal’s Certificate of Service

    It turns out that he was a member of the Sixth Infantry Division. The medal depicted at the top of the certificate is the World War 1 victory medal. He is given credit for participating in Vosges Sector (Aug 31, 1918 – Oct 18, 1918) and the Meuse-Argonne Defensive Sector (November 2-6, 1918). The other interesting thing is how quickly he was moved into the combat zone. He joined the army on May 4th, 1918 and was overseas by July 14, 1918. By August 31st, the 6th Division was on the front lines.

    There is some information on the Sixth Infantry Division in World War 1 at this site. The Sixth Infantry Division site focuses on the World War II, but there are a few tidbits about the Division’s activities in World War 1. The interesting thing is that this brief history mentions how the division was involved in marches that were subject to German artillery fire, just like my grandfather told my father.

    My research on the Sixth Infantry shows that they did a lot of marching, during which time, they picked up the nickname, “The Sightseeing Sixth”. Like most new American divisions, after training they were moved to the relatively quiet Vosges Sector in order to become adapted to actual combat conditions. Here is website with some information about the Vosges Sector. They were in reserve at the end of the war. Apparently they were about to be committed to the Meuse-Argonne offensive, when, rather unexpectedly, the war ended.

    The Meuse-Argonne offensive was a very bloody affair. Who knows, I may not be here, if the war had lasted much longer and the Sixth Infantry ended up being committed to that fight. I plan upon putting together a blog entry comparing the Meuse-Argonne offensive of World War 1, with the biggest American battle of World War II.