William E. Howard, III, interviewed by Kenneth I. Kellermann on 20 September 2011

Creator

Papers of Kenneth I. Kellermann

Type

Oral History

Interviewer

Kellermann, Kenneth I.

Interviewee

Howard, William E., III

Location

Charlottesville, VA

Original Format of Digital Item

Digital audio file (.mp3)

Duration

1 hour, 57 minutes

Start Date

2011-09-20

Notes

Transcribed by Sierra Smith in 2012-2013
In addition to Kellermann and Howard, Ellen Bouton was present during the interview. In 2014, the transcription was read and edited for clarity by Howard, Kellermann, and Bouton, and prepared for the web by Ellen Bouton. Minor notes added for clarity in the 2014 review process are in brackets without attribution; more extensive bracketed notes include the name of the person adding the note.

Please bear in mind that: 1) this material is a transcript of the spoken word rather than a literary product; 2) an interview must be read with the awareness that different people's memories about an event will often differ, and that memories can change with time for many reasons including subsequent experiences, interactions with others, and one's feelings about an

Series

Oral Histories Series

Transcription

Kellermann:

This is Ken Kellermann here with Ellen Bouton and Bill Howard, who was a long term member of the NRAO scientific staff and was involved for a long time in the NRAO administration. So Bill, just to set the background, when did you come to NRAO?

Howard:

The summer of 1964 from the University of Michigan.

Kellermann:

And did you come with an administrative position? Was that the intention or did that happen later?

Howard:

No, I had a joint appointment. One was as an Assistant Scientist and one was Assistant to the Director. So, no, it was a joint appointment. I was expected to do research and to do administration, sometimes it was a little difficult.

Kellermann:

Right. So you were at Michigan before that?

Howard:

I was.

Kellermann:

For several years, I think.

Howard:

I went to Michigan and started teaching in the summer of ’59 and I entered there as an Instructor. Again with a joint appointment, an Instructor in the Department and also as part of Fred Haddock’s radio astronomy group.

Kellermann:

So what prompted you to give up academia and come to a place like NRAO?

Howard:

Well, that was tough choice because, in the early days we had just had two kids at Michigan. And I had been courted a couple times to go to Berkeley and each time Michigan countered. The second time they countered, they gave me tenure, and it was a little difficult to decide whether to come or not. On the other hand, I knew from lots of discussions that had gone on at both Harvard and at Michigan, because Bart Bok and Leo Goldberg were instrumental in the early stages of the national centers concept, that this was a new, growing national center, and it could be quite exciting. And I think I came partly because I knew some people here, partly because I had interacted with Dave Heeschen before. Actually I wrote my first paper with him, and it just seemed like an exciting opportunity to get in on the ground floor of a growing observatory.

Kellermann:

Were you recruited, or did you apply, or how did that work?

Howard:

I did not apply. Dave Heeschen approached me and said, "Would you be interested in it?" And then that got me to thinking and one thing led to another, and I came. We’d had a good relationship there. At that time, I think he was at Wesleyan and he would come back to Harvard every once in a while and, of course, he was the early Bok student with Ed Lilley. These were the first astronomy-trained U.S. people who went into radio astronomy. I can’t say that exactly, because Cornell was active then but they were into a specialized area -- solar and ionospheric, I think, in the early days.

Kellermann:

So you did or did not overlap with Heeschen at Harvard?

Howard:

I did not overlap with him at Harvard, no. He was already teaching, I believe, at Wesleyan and then he would come back. And Bart Bok, bless his heart, he knew Dave’s interests and he knew my interests and he says, "Why don’t you two get together on this paper?" So we did. It was not a full-blown paper.

Kellermann:

What paper was that?

Howard:

Well, it was on 21 centimeter of the Sagittarius area. It was not a full-blown paper, but we did a talk at, you know, one of these 10 minute sessions at the AAS.

Kellermann:

OK, so you came as Assistant to the Director and that was until...?

Howard:

Until ’67. And I was appointed Scientist in ’67, still being Assistant to the Director. And during that time, I would go with Dave to the AUI meetings, and I got tenure in ’69. And then in ’74 I was asked to go to Green Bank as the Site Director. So I was there for two or three years. So we spent time at Green Bank twice, once as a junior astronomer -- that was when you came, Ken -- and then later on as the Site Director.

Kellermann:

And as I remember, you left with everybody else in the summer of ’65 to come here.

Howard:

Left where?

Kellermann:

Green Bank.

Howard:

Oh, no. We did not come right away [to Charlottesville]. I think we came in ’67. So we were some of the last to come.

Kellermann:

You stayed?

Howard:

Yes, and I’m not quite sure, it may have had something to do with school, with our kids. I’m not quite sure what did it, but there were other people that preceded us to come to Charlottesville.

Kellermann:

Yeah, most of the people came in the summer of ’65.

Howard:

Yes, yes, yes.

Kellermann:

You stayed, Menon stayed...

Howard:

Are you sure the summer of ’65?

Kellermann:

I am because that’s when I came. The people left at the end of the summer. Even though the building here wasn’t ready until December, they moved here because of schools and commuted for three or four months, came over on Monday and came home on Friday.

Howard:

I see. Yeah, right.

Kellermann:

Who was in charge in Green Bank at that time?

Howard:

When I first arrived?

Kellermann:

No, it was Heeschen. After the move to Charlottesville.

Howard:

After the move to Charlottesville, wasn’t it John Findlay? I think it was John Findlay. There is a mug board.

Bouton:

Yeah, Findlay was, I sent you an email but you haven’t had the chance to look at it. Findlay was ’66 to ’69, I believe.

Howard:

Well then we have a gap between ’69 and ’74.

Kellermann:

Was Ted Riffe?

Bouton:

Never Ted Riffe.

Kellermann:

Heeschen was right.

Bouton:

I’ll find that list in here. [Bouton 2014 note: List in But It Was Fun: the first forty years of radio astronomy at Green Bank, NRAO, 2007, page 465, listing of Green Bank Site Directors.] There is a photo.

Kellermann:

I thought Ted was in charge for a while.

Howard:

Heeschen was always insistent that the Site Director be an astronomer.

Kellermann:

Yes. He was here yesterday and we had lunch. And I raised this and he raised his voice and said, "I would never have appointed an accountant." And I challenged him and I was wrong. I will have to apologize tonight.

Bouton:

’66 to ’69 was John Findlay, ’69 to ’70 Mort Roberts, ’70 to ’74 Dave Hogg.

Kellermann:

OK.

Howard:

Yes, I took over Dave Hogg’s place, that’s right. And then Dave came back [to Charlottesville] and he had a lot of the responsibilities that I had here plus a few more.

Kellermann:

OK, well, going back before you came because you were around at Harvard and you knew all the discussion that was going on with, like you said, Kitt Peak and NRAO sort of being organized around the same time. What’s your reflection on Kitt Peak and NRAO and how they interacted and the differences between the two?

Howard:

Well, first of all, the motivation of the optical astronomers mainly came from the Midwesterners who did not have good sites to do observing. And they wanted a clear sky site. And they were the ones that pushed the National Science Foundation to have a group of instruments in a clear skies area and that’s how Kitt Peak originally started. Kitt Peak was under AURA. When they were originally set up, I’ve forgotten exactly what the constitution of the Board was, but the AURA Board was fairly small and then it began to branch out so that there were West Coasters.

Kellermann:

That was later.

Howard:

And more East Coasters on it. Yes.

Kellermann:

That was later.

Howard:

Yes.

Kellermann:

How would you compare that with NRAO? NRAO’s motivation was different.

Howard:

NRAO was in sort of a "me too" situation because they saw Kitt Peak being set up and that was for optical astronomy in those days. Nobody was doing infrared. Nobody was doing anything else [at other wavelengths]. They weren’t even into space; this was much before that. And the radio astronomy community said, "We’d like something like that too." So they approached the National Science Foundation. And one of the centers advocates at the [National] Science Foundation was a chap by the name of Randal Robertson. And Randy Robertson was probably an Associate Director of NSF at the time and he was extremely supportive of the concept that the have-nots, and by that I mean the observing have-nots, have a place to go. And since a lot of the universities in the United States were in areas where you could not do radio astronomy because of the need for quiet radio spectrum, they banded together. And, I think, they first of all put the seed and the idea of that with AUI and then AUI went to NSF and said, "Can we also help you set up a radio astronomy observatory?"

Kellermann:

But wasn’t the motivation for NRAO and AUI more to build a large facility which was too large for anybody else to build, a university to build?

Howard:

Yes.

Kellermann:

It’s different from Kitt Peak.

Howard:

Not so different with Kitt Peak because don’t forget the 4 meter, there were twin 4 meters at Kitt Peak, which at the time they were built, they were large.

Kellermann:

Well, there was one at Kitt Peak. The second one was in...

Howard:

In Tololo. [Cerro Tololo, Chile]

Kellermann:

Yeah. And they were smaller than the 5 meter.

Howard:

They were smaller than the 5 meter and that’s always been a problem with the optical...

Kellermann:

And the 8 meter is smaller than the 10 meter.

Howard:

That’s quite right.

Kellermann:

Whereas NRAO operates unique facilities in the world.

Howard:

Yes, yes, that’s right.

Kellermann:

It seems to me that’s been the big difference.

Howard:

Well, there has been a growing part in the motivation of keeping Kitt Peak and NRAO alive and viable. I have always thought that the two of them should band together in a semi-political way to show the funding agencies as well as Congress, too, that we have a set of unique facilities. It turned out that it was a little harder to sell that because of the different motivations of the optical and the radio astronomers. The optical astronomers had a number of people, like Keck, who were rich and were able to fund big, optical telescopes.

Kellermann:

Keck wasn’t an optical astronomer.

Howard:

He was not an optical astronomer.

Kellermann:

Why did he fund optical telescopes and not radio telescopes?

Howard:

For the same reason the 200 inch was funded by people who were not astronomers. They were big, industrial magnates.

Kellermann:

Why haven’t we been able to attract...

Howard:

My own private opinion is that we were not at the point where we could show the public pretty pictures. And with regard to that, I think the first batch of pretty [radio] pictures actually came from the VLA. And unfortunately the resolution was not quite what the public would expect because they were used to seeing optical photos, OK? But from the standpoint of state-of-the-art, it was a magnificent accomplishment to have radio photographs. And if you look at those early [radio] pictures of Cygnus A, for example, those were really spectacular.

Kellermann:

Some of those early images are still the poster child for NRAO.

Howard:

Absolutely. And I think it’s to the great credit of Dave Heeschen pushing the VLA to the point where it became such a predominate instrument throughout the world.

Kellermann:

OK. But that wasn’t true, as we know, in the early years, particularly when the 140 foot was being built. You were here during those years. How did NRAO try to get into the astronomy club, so to speak?

Howard:

Well, at the time I came, the 140 foot was slowly coming out of trouble and it was finally put in the hands of the Observatory rather than in the hands of AUI and that straightened things out quite a bit. So it became a viable instrument shortly after I came. The 300 foot was up and running. It was good. It had had improvements along the way, new surfaces, the ability to track at the focal point; it was kept quite at the state-of-the-art. And then 85-1 was there and Dave, in his foresight, wanted to get into interferometry and turned the 85-1 with the addition of 85-2 and 3 as a test bed. And put 85-2 and 3 on rails in much the same way that the VLA was designed to go with rails later on. [2014 Kellermann note: 85-2 and 3 were not on rails, but were mounted on rubber tires.]

Kellermann:

We can come back to that. I was referring more to the sociological impact.

Howard:

Well, I realized for one that NRAO needed to break into the astronomical world and show that we had a viable observatory. And to me the way to do that was not to convince the radio astronomers who were already pretty gung ho but to convince the optical astronomers. And so we set about consciously to invite well-known optical astronomers to give colloquia. And at the time we moved, I guess even at Green Bank and here, I took it on myself to have dinners for them. And we had AUI money, which, you know, paid for the meat that we served.

Kellermann:

You mean at home?

Howard:

At home. We would invite them to our home along with a number of staff. And I tried to rotate the staff around.

Kellermann:

I remember that.

Howard:

And sometimes it wasn’t Dave Heeschen’s turn to rotate but he indicated that he would like to come and, of course, he always came and that was great. So we had a number of people here that were very, very good and slowly the word began to get around to the optical community that we were a viable organization and they ought to pay a little bit more attention to us. And that’s basically what happened. We started the Jansky Lecture.

Kellermann:

Who do you mean by we?

Howard:

I’ve forgotten. I take a little credit for that.

Kellermann:

Try to be objective, but that’s what we want to know.

Howard:

Well, OK. Let’s just say it was a team effort between Dave and me. And, of course, we had to have AUI blessing and we used, I think, NRAO funds.

Kellermann:

No, it was AUI then.

Howard:

AUI in the beginning?

Kellermann:

It’s now NRAO. It was AUI then.

Howard:

It’s now NRAO. But AUI went along with that. Then we began to develop a scholarship program and the scholarship program was patterned on the Brookhaven National Laboratory program. And so we had, what, one or two per year of people [NRAO children] that went to four year colleges. We also instituted a work study program where people from local universities would come in, undergraduates.

Kellermann:

Co-ops?

Howard:

Co-op program. And it turned out that later on about 50% of our Electronics Division started out as co-op students, and Jay Lockman was one of the very early co-op students. So a lot of these people went on then to become quite successful. I must admit that when I was at Michigan that I was gung ho for a four year program and I just felt that a co-op student was wasting a bit of time. But because I could see what went on at Green Bank where people would come back after another term or two and get back into the environment again, they knew a lot more than when they left before. And, in particular, those that came with the Electronics Division afterwards recognized that the Electronics Division was right at the state-of-the-art and so that meant that their early career could be enhanced by that kind of association. It also helped that some of them were hunters, and hunting was a big thing at Green Bank. But that was the co-op program.

Kellermann:

The Visiting Committee was presumably set up by AUI and followed a procedure which they had used at Brookhaven. But what about the User’s Committee; who initiated that and when?

Howard:

Well, I think Dave deserves the credit for the User’s Committee and I don’t know whether that was patterned on User’s Committees at Kitt Peak or not. But they grew sort of together at the same time. Kitt Peak had a viable Visiting Committee and a viable User’s Committee. There was always a pull and tug, particularly at Kitt Peak between who’s in charge. The [KPNO] Director always felt that the User’s Committee would give him advice, and very often the User’s Committee would take it on themselves not to give advice but to tell the Director what to do. And there has been a tension of that sort. I didn’t detect for our User’s Committee when they were here that that was it at all. The User’s Committee, well, I’ll give you a story. At Green Bank one time, Alan Barrett had come and he was on the User’s Committee but he was also an observer. And he had been observing and the following morning he said, "I have a complaint." I said, "What’s that?" "Well, if you go up into our room and you go into the bathroom, there is no ledge for our shaving equipment." And somebody there must have been taking notes because that night that ledge had been installed. So I think the ability of the NRAO staff to respond, not only to this kind of trivial criticism, but also to more major criticism, began to endear us to the users here.

Kellermann:

Well, the purpose of the User’s Committee, I mean, it wasn’t so much criticism but suggestions about directions to go with receivers, frequencies, that sort of thing?

Howard:

That’s right. And they were good at doing that and our staff, when we gave the summaries of what each division was doing, gave them the wherewithal and the timing in order to make those suggestions. And they were good. Visiting Committees, of course, are looking at something different. They are reporting to AUI in this case, and it really is informing the Board of Directors as to how the Observatory was handling its visitors.

Kellermann:

Let’s stick with the User’s Committee, with hindsight were they constructive and in good relations with the Director? They were appointed by the Director.

Howard:

They were appointed by the Director.

Kellermann:

And served at the pleasure of the Director.

Howard:

Yes, but they were rotated two or three years for one, and then somebody else would come up and be a major user, they would be invited to come. So all of these people were very active users by that point, and I think it was very worthwhile.

Kellermann:

You think they were appreciated by the Director?

Howard:

Yes, yes.

Kellermann:

I remember one instance where the Director walked out. Remember that?

Howard:

I don’t remember that but you could probably tickle my fancy.

Kellermann:

I don’t remember what the incident was but Westerhout [Gart Westerhout] said something, he was here, and the Director said, "If you don’t like the way I’m running the Observatory, you can find somebody else." And he got up and told Hein [Hein Hvatum]...

Howard:

To run the meeting. I remember that.

Kellermann:

And then he walked out.

Howard:

I remember that. There was always a little undercurrent between Westerhout and Heeschen.

Kellermann:

Why? He was, by far in those early years, one of the biggest, if not the biggest, user.

Howard:

Yes, he was, particularly 21 cm, 300 foot. Yes. I don’t know. I don’t know what Gart’s aspirations were. It might have been to be an NRAO Director downstream, that may have been part of it. But on the other hand, if you look at the personality of Gart, he’s a very outspoken guy and if it had not been for that particularly incident, I’m sure that other things would have come out to raise the ire of people he was talking to. But you got to know Gart. I mean, Gart and I are very good friends and we’ve been warm friends for many, many years. We met when we were both graduate students. So I respect him and I think you have to calibrate your colleagues in order to know how to handle it. And I think Dave Heeschen was a very, very good study of human nature and he was able to calibrate situations like this. So I don’t know how much his walking out was playing to the gallery.

Kellermann:

Oh, I’m sure it was.

Howard:

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if that weren’t the case.

Kellermann:

You mentioned earlier about when you were here, you would often go with Dave and Ted Riffe to the NSF?

Howard:

Yes.

Kellermann:

Can you tell us a bit about how things worked in those days? Did you walk in and say, "This is what we need?" and they give you a check and you walk out? Or was it a little more.... That’s the way people like to look at it now as the way it was back then. In fact, it was a little more complicated than that.

Howard:

It was almost that way. We would go up, Dave and I would go up, and we would go into Randy Robertson’s office. He was responsible for the centers in those days. And there was an Astronomy Division but it mainly dealt with grants and since we were Centers that was outside of our camp. [2014 Howard note: The Centers were in another part of NSF. The two parts, Centers and Grants, were combined in a separate Division in AAEO (Astronomical, Atmospheric, Earth, and Ocean Sciences) when I joined the NSF in 1979.] So we would get around Randy Robertson’s table and we would almost literally put our feet on his table and he would do the same thing.

Kellermann:

He was the only one there from the NSF?

Howard:

There may have been one or two other people who were in the room at the time.

Kellermann:

From the Centers or from Astronomy?

Howard:

No, no, no. It was one on one with Centers. It was Robertson and NRAO. And then it would be Robertson and Kitt Peak.

Kellermann:

But there is nobody there from Astronomy Grants?

Howard:

Not that I can recall. This was really a one on one between the Director of the Observatory and Randy, with me as sort of a fly on the wall.

Kellermann:

And Ted?

Howard:

No, I’m not sure that Ted was there all the time. He may have been there some of the time. But as I remember it, Randy would say, "How are you all doing? How much do you want next year?" It was almost that casual, because we were riding high. The Centers were underway and we were doing big things and the NSF was very proud of the Centers in those days. That sort of position eroded over a period of, my guess is, maybe 5, 10 years. And what was happening -- see when I went there, I was the first Division Director that had Grants and Centers under me and that caused some tension because of the backgrounds of the people I was dealing with. But when I would go up there with Dave, it was very informal until NASA [Howard's 2014 correction: NSF] took on 75 people who were in a sense bounced from their Boston office and they [NSF] accepted them...

Kellermann:

NASA took over?

Howard:

No, NSF took over [75 people] from NASA [in Boston].

Kellermann:

Ok, that’s a correction. You said NASA.

Howard:

Sorry. I said NASA.

Kellermann:

NSF took on previous NASA employees.

Howard:

NSF took on around 75 NASA employees and then the next time we went up to discuss budgets and needs, we went into the board room. In front of all of us there was a name tag. We were told that the whole transaction was being recorded. And so we, of course, had to go along with that, and many, many more of the NSF staff were there listening to all this. And we were strutting our stuff. We were giving, you know, what we’d done lately and so on, including some budgetary items. And then about a week afterwards, there was a tape that arrived down on Dave Heeschen’s desk and the tape was accompanied by a note from the NSF, "Would you please...." No, it wasn’t a tape, it was transcription. And there were two or three copies of the transcription. "Would you please review this and make any corrections that you feel necessary?" Well, when you look at transcriptions of what people said, there were ums and oohs and ahhs and all that. And we did our best and went in to give our assessment to Dave, and he was very nonplused and he did not really want to do this. And he said at the time that he felt that this material would be just put on a shelf and would never be read. So he wrote back and sent the tape [i.e. transcript] back saying, "If that’s what we said, that’s what we said."

[laughter]

Kellermann:

That sounds like Dave.

Howard:

And we never heard about it again.

Kellermann:

It’s too bad we don’t have some of those transcriptions.

Howard:

Yeah, well, I don’t know whether NSF might still have it. They had an historian. It might be interesting to look into that to see whether those transcriptions are still around.

Kellermann:

That was a lot of things...

Howard:

Yeah, yeah.

Kellermann:

Did they issue notes or minutes or anything?

Howard:

Not that I can recall. The notes were really the transcription.

Kellermann:

Yeah. So what’s your best memory of what year that was that this transition occurred?

Howard:

Well, it was probably... ’69 or ’70 probably, but I’m not sure. The record would probably show when the people came in. One of the people that came into what was later my Division was Claude Kellet. He was in that NASA group that came down, so I inherited Claude from that group.

Kellermann:

We’ll come back to that later, after you went over to the dark side.

Howard:

Ok, whatever that is.

Kellermann:

Was AUI present during any of these meetings at the NSF?

Howard:

I don’t think they were. [2014 Howard note: Not in the informal years.]

Kellermann:

That’s interesting.

Howard:

I don’t think they were. But I would defer to Dave Heeschen on that one. I really don’t think they were. It was very informal. Well, at the time we were in the board room, at that point, probably yes. Now whether the President of AUI came or one of the other people in his office, I’m not real sure.

Kellermann:

That’s a somewhat important detail but...

Howard:

Yeah. And, of course, if AUI sniffed out the fact that we were saying something that wasn’t according to policy, they would have been there and then I would have remembered. But that never happened. Dave had a great trust of AUI in those days.

Kellermann:

Of AUI as an institution. What about individuals? You came after Berkner was gone.

Howard:

And Emberson.

Kellermann:

And Emberson.

Howard:

Yeah, I never knew them.

Kellermann:

Right. So who was President when you came?

Howard:

Jerry Tape.

Kellermann:

Jerry Tape. He was president twice, wasn’t he?

Howard:

No, I would have go back and review...

Kellermann:

That was Keith Glennan. One of them was...

Howard:

No, Keith was after Jerry.

Kellermann:

Ok. Well, Tape was there for a long time.

Howard:

Tape was also at Brookhaven. Well, he was at Brookhaven. He had Brookhaven experience, he had AEC experience.

Kellermann:

I know he was President...

Bouton:

Yes, twice.

Kellermann:

Who? Tape?

Bouton:

Tape. October 19, 1962 to July ’63 and then again May ’69 to October ’80. That was the long stretch.

Kellermann:

I know he was President when Dave retired.

Howard:

Who was President before, well, I remember Dave Heeschen talking about Ted Reynolds, and I remember Lee Haworth had been President, too, before that. But that was before I came.

Kellermann:

Now Hayworth had previously been Director of the NSF, isn’t that right? Or is that after? Well, first of all, he was at Brookhaven, wasn’t he?

Howard:

He was at Brookhaven, that’s right.

Kellermann:

He was Director of Brookhaven.

Howard:

That’s right.

Kellermann:

Then he became -- wasn’t he the first Director of the NSF?

Bouton:

I don’t think so.

Kellermann:

Who was first Director of the NSF?

Howard:

I don’t recall. [2014 Bouton note: The first Director of NSF was Alan T. Waterman, appointed in 1950.]

Kellermann:

Well, we don’t have to... So Hayworth became President for a short time and then Reynolds for a very short time. It looks like what we would call acting. And then Rabi, I remember that, but that was relatively short. And then Tape. And the Reynolds again.

Howard:

Reynolds again.

Kellermann:

And then Glennan.

Howard:

Right.

Kellermann:

That’s my best memory of that period.

Howard:

Yes, that was the period that I can recall, ’69 to ’80.

[2014 Bouton note: The sequence of AUI Presidents after Berkner, according to AUI records, was: Haworth 12/1/1960-4/1/1961, Reynolds 4/1/1961-4/21/1961, Rabi 4/21/1961-10/19/1962, Tape 10/19/1962-7/10/1963, Reynolds 7/10/1963-12/1/1964, Wright 12/1/1964-10/1/1965, Glennan 10/1/1965-6/30/1968, Long - Acting President 7/1/1968-5/1/1969, Tape 5/1/1969-10/10/1980. Reynolds had also served as the first AUI President, 7/30/1946-11/19/1948, before Fackenthal 11/19/1948-2/16/1951 and then Berkner 2/16/1951-11/30/1960.]

Kellermann:

So what do you think NRAO and particularly Dave’s relationship was with any of these people?

Howard:

Dave got along well with them all. I never detected any friction. On the other hand, you’re talking to an underling who is looking up the chain of command so that’s sort of hard to assess. But Dave got along very well, I think, with them and also with the AUI Board. There were complications on occasion because Cornell ran Arecibo and Cornell was on the Board of AUI. And there were times when the NSF would make noises to NRAO about, "Wouldn’t you be interested in taking over Arecibo?"

Kellermann:

That was a bit later...

Howard:

That was a bit later.

Kellermann:

Because during those early years, it [Arecibo] was [funded by the] Air Force. It wasn’t until the Mansfield Amendment, I think, that NSF took over.

Howard:

That would have been in ’70? The Mansfield Amendment was ’70. Yes. And when Dave was approached about Arecibo, he felt a) he didn’t want to complicate [NRAO's growth] by having another site, and b) he didn’t want the complication of having a board member who was Cornell, who was managing Arecibo at the time that all of this was going on. So I think he made the right decision there and backed off of it. He didn’t pursue it.

Kellermann:

It came up several times after that too.

Howard:

Yes.

Kellermann:

And always with the same result, wisely I think.

Howard:

Yes, Now Arecibo is a unique institution and I’m sorry to see that it is in trouble right now. But, you know, it has a very active radar program, which unfortunately they were good at ionospheric [research] but they let that lapse for a bit. But I think right now, they’ve gotten some funding to reinstitute that.

Kellermann:

Well, I think that’s where their emphasis is going to be right now.

Howard:

Is going to be, yeah.

Kellermann:

It’s radio astronomy that’s in trouble there.

Howard:

That’s right.

Kellermann:

When you came to NRAO the decision to move to Charlottesville had already been made, I guess?

Howard:

If it had not been made... well, no, it was made. Because one of situations I was looking at was where we would ultimately be, and I would say that was one of the criteria that got me to come.

Kellermann:

But you stayed in Green Bank?

Howard:

Yes, but if you know you’re going to move, it’s a lot different than just going there just looking at the scenery.

Kellermann:

But what kept you in Green Bank? You weren’t a heavy user of the telescopes.

Howard:

I think it probably had to do with the kids, where they were in school and so on.

Kellermann:

OK, personal. What about the interaction with the users and visitors? That was all in Green Bank, of course.

Howard:

Oh yeah. Well, I think Dave was a little surprised that I paid so much attention. I would meet them at the door. I would come in very early before the meeting and I was there...

Kellermann:

Sorry, which meeting?

Howard:

User’s and Visiting Committee. Both.

Kellermann:

Right.

Howard:

And so I realized that a certain amount of mother-henning had to be done, and there weren’t other people to do it. Dave didn’t particularly show any interest in doing it personally, but I felt that, you know, the Observatory would benefit if I did, and so I did. And I think that gave them a good impression of us, I think, at that point.

Kellermann:

So did you go with Dave and Ted, I guess, to AUI Board meetings?

Howard:

Yes, in the early days, I can remember going up with Ted and Dave. Sometimes it was just Dave and me. I think, it’s rare that Dave and Ted went when I was not along. And then I remember a couple of occasions Dave said, "I can’t go. Would you go?" And so I went alone.

Kellermann:

Do you think that was really because he couldn’t go, or sometimes he didn’t want to go?

Howard:

You’d have to ask Dave that. I don't know.

Kellermann:

Well, what was your impression?

Howard:

No, no. I think he had other fish to fry at that point and don’t forget, my comment earlier was that he was getting along very well with the Board and the Board trusted him. And if it trusted him, I was basking in their trust when I would go up and do the reporting myself.

Kellermann:

I mean I can’t imagine anything more important. But maybe he just felt that things were going so well that it wasn’t necessary.

Howard:

No, I don’t think that was the case. Dave was very conscientious about his interactions with the Board. I think what happened was that something else was coming up where he felt that that was more important, and that there were no crises with regard to the Board of Directors, so he didn’t go.

Kellermann:

So how did those meetings go? Not just when you were there alone but in general as far as the Board and the President outside of Board meetings, oversight of NRAO? How detailed was it, or was it like when you described when you went to the NSF, they’d listened and say, "Nice job, guys," or did they micromanage?

Howard:

The Board certainly did not micromanage. The Board was made up of physicists and administrators from those nine major northeast universities, and the physicists, in particular, were concerned with Brookhaven. They came in with Brookhaven mostly in mind. NRAO, I wouldn’t call it an afterthought but NRAO was down on their target list [of concerns]. And, as I recall those meetings, we probably did the NRAO reporting and the discussions that went on that lasted anywhere up to half an hour to an hour, maybe a little bit more. The most interesting interactions I felt were not only around the Board at the time the Board met but also at lunch. Because here was this very junior NRAO guy that was meeting these guys like I. I. Rabi and Hayworth and Tape. I mean this was awesome. I was very impressed in those days, because these were the shakers and movers. And if you go back just maybe 20 or 30 years on each of them, you got people that were involved in the building of the atomic bomb and all of the Atomic Energy Comission material that was developing within the U.S. government. And I had nothing but great respect for all of the Board members.

Kellermann:

Of course when they did all that work, they were as young as you were at that time.

Howard:

Yes, that’s somewhat embarrassing, but yes.

Kellermann:

If you had to compare the various AUI Presidents as far as their impact at NRAO...

Howard:

Well, my major interactions were only with two of them. One was Jerry Tape and one was Keith Glennan. The two are very different individuals. Jerry had background and experience in the technical areas, in the atomic energy areas. He was dealing with nuclear issues beyond those that were in the non-classified world, let’s put it that way. And Keith Glennan was a different kind of individual. He was an entrepreneur. His background, he made propaganda movies for the United States during World War II. And then he went on to become President of Case Western Reserve. He then was tapped to be the first administrator of NASA under Eisenhower. He left because he did not feel that his interaction with Kennedy was up to the point where he would have liked it to have been. And so he left NASA at that point, at the change of administration. To me, Glennan was a much warmer individual. He was sort of a mentor in many ways. There were times when I would be really questioning where I was going in my career and he says, 'Why don’t you come up and spend a weekend with us? ' And we did. And when I went to Green Bank and was there after two years and it wasn’t really apparent to me what would be in store for NRAO if I were to come back...

Kellermann:

Back?

Howard:

Back to Charlottesville.

Kellermann:

You’re talking about your second time in Green Bank?

Howard:

The second time I was in Green Bank and young Bill [Howard's son] was headed to high school. And we knew that the high schools over here were giving courses that he could not take there for a year or two. And I began to get into, I would say it was almost personal panic. And one of the times when I was talking to Glennan, he said, "Well, have you had a sabbatical?" And I said, "I have never had a sabbatical, either at Michigan or at NRAO." He says, "Well, I am advising the State Department. Would you be interested in becoming a Scientific Attaché?" And I said I would be happy to look into it. So it turned out that he had lined me up to be the Scientific Attaché in the U.S. Embassy in London. And during the time of the ’76 IAU, we were spending some time with Francois Biraud [and his family] in Brest [France], and I hopped an airplane and went to London and interviewed the current Attaché, who was having a ball. He said, "Nobody is listening to me here." He said, "Attachés in these embassies are there to provide a mechanism for industry at home to interact with industry in the country." But he said, "Everybody speaks English here. They don’t need me." He said, "I only recognized this after a year, and so therefore for my last two years, I would go to meetings all over Britain that interested me." And he said, "I’m tolerated. The Ambassador is nice to me and I had a ball." So that’s how I came out of that interview.

Well, it turned out that I was tapped as the guy to go. The fellow who I was dealing with at the State Department all of a sudden jumps ship. He now is heading the International Programs at the National Science Foundation. And at that point, I had indicated also an interest in the Division Director job at NSF to Bob Hughes. And I hadn’t heard anything for a long while. And the AUI Board met in Green Bank and one evening after dinner, I brought it to Hughes’ attention that I had applied. And he said, "Oh yeah, I remember that." So within a week he invited me up to NSF and offered me the Division Directorship there. So now I had two offers. What was I going to do? Should I have fun for a couple years or should I keep in astronomy? I decided to keep in astronomy. A couple of reasons: not only the challenge of the new Division but also because our mothers were getting old and disruption of the kids going to England, and all that kind of thing. So that got me into NSF as Division Director [for Astronomy].

Kellermann:

I will come back to that later but we want to concentrate for now on NRAO.

Howard:

Sure.

Kellermann:

So you said you did all of the scheduling except for the interferometer. How’d you get into that?

Howard:

Well, when I was in Green Bank in the early days and you had just come at about that time...

Kellermann:

No, it was a year later.

Howard:

Was it a year later?

Kellermann:

I came in the middle of ’65, July.

Howard:

Yeah. Dave was doing all the scheduling and I could tell it was getting... [more and more complicated]. He was doing a good job but I said, "I can help you with that." And he was reluctant to do that. So then what I began to do, there was a white board out in the hallway and as soon as Dave would put up the schedule, I would parrot that schedule on the blackboard outside in the hallway so that people could see what was going on. And after a while, he began to slip me little responsibilities for doing the scheduling and after a while I was doing the 140 foot, I was doing the 300 foot, and I started out doing the 36 foot until Mark Gordon came along and he wanted to do it. But as I recall, I think Barry Clark was doing the interferometer at that time.

Kellermann:

Dave Hogg.

Howard:

Was it Dave?

Kellermann:

It was Dave.

Howard:

OK.

Kellermann:

Anyway, it was done by them.

Howard:

So at any rate, that was the scheduling. The scheduling was done by me and I was also responsible for getting the referee reports [on proposals]. And when the referee reports would come in, we had three or four people who were anonymous referees and we would send...

Kellermann:

When did NRAO start to have outside referees?

Howard:

I don’t recall. It was certainly well underway by the time we were in Charlottesville. It may have started earlier than that.

Kellermann:

Do you think it was with the 140 foot?

Howard:

I think it was with the 140 foot because, you know, there was at least a 3 to 1 overload with regard to the proposals [for telescope time]. So I used to send these things out by mail to the referees. And I would give them an empty sheet, which was filled in, "Please tell us what you think of this." And that would come back and down at the bottom were the critical comments of "You should accept or not," and why. And it wasn’t very large; it was about like so. [Gestures with hands - a portion of a sheet of paper.] So rather than to keep the whole sheet, I cut that out [the portion of the sheet with the referee comments] and I scotch-taped it to the proposal.

Kellermann:

From each referee?

Howard:

From each referee. And I put it on the shelf. Well, for some reason we had an audit -- one of these periodic audits that NSF or somebody would do for the national observatories. And somehow or other the auditing was mostly directed towards the scheduling and the referee system.

Kellermann:

Not financial?

Howard:

Whether there was a financial component to it, I’m not sure. Ted [Riffe] could probably tell you that. But what happened was, I said to them, "There are the books. Go into the books. Read it and see what..." And they lit onto this business that you didn’t keep [the entire sheet] they had sent back. And I said, "Look, it’s scotched-taped. It’s in their handwriting right down there at the bottom." "Oh no, we don’t like that." So that was their major finding and we never changed.

Kellermann:

Now what year was this?

Howard:

Oh, it was probably ’68, ’69, ’70, somewhere around in there. That was the audit part. I had another audit when I was at NSF which was rather interesting. We can go into that later.

Kellermann:

And these were all accountants essentially? There were no astronomers or scientists or...

Howard:

No, they were procedural guys...

Kellermann:

Did this happen every year or..?

Howard:

No, no, no. Just once. Just once. Now, there may have been other periodic audits.

Kellermann:

Financial...

Howard:

Financial and things of that sort but this is the only time that it touched on me.

Kellermann:

Whatever that company is that did it; here was some, there still is.

Howard:

Well, no, there is an AUI audit. Ok, this was not an AUI audit. This was a government audit. [2014 Howard note: It was a GSA audit.]

Kellermann:

So, reading history, NRAO was founded largely in reaction to the radio astronomy that was being done in Australia and the UK mostly and the U.S. was falling behind. And the idea was to provide facilities for U.S. astronomers to catch up with Australia and the UK and some other countries. This was at least partly motivated by the Cold War and the perception that radio astronomy obviously had some technological spin-offs.

Howard:

We never really thought about that.

Kellermann:

Well, that’s what I was going to ask you. Considering that this was the motivation for NRAO, at what point were the observing facilities made available independent of national origin, purely on scientific merit?

Howard:

Oh, I would say very early in Dave Heeschen’s tenure as Director. He was very, very strong that NRAO telescopes should be open to everybody if they had a good idea. And he would hope, he had faith that other telescopes would be open also to good ideas, so that there would be what I would call detailed balancing between observers abroad and observers here. So that people could get on whatever telescope they needed to get on to solve their problem [pursue their observations]. And if you look at the history of radio astronomy, it starts out with the engineers who were skimming the cream off of discoveries that were basically engineering discoveries. And then it got passed to the hands of astronomers who were basically optical astronomers trained in radio. And then, as I see the field developing, people are not calling themselves radio astronomers anymore. They are calling themselves astronomers. And one of the first instances of this...

Kellermann:

Wait, you are using the present tense. Do you mean now or do you see that happening ten, twenty, thirty years ago?

Howard:

I saw it happening ten, twenty, thirty years ago and becoming more and more apparent with time. One of the early guys that did this was Dennis Walsh, who did optical observing on the double quasar. He was a radio astronomer. And the most prevalent one, I think, was Ben Zuckerman, who told me one time he early on had observed with every telescope at the peak at Mauna Kea. And so what I really mean here is that astronomers were not just milking radio astronomy. Astronomers were solving problems that dealt with the objects that they were observing and if you wanted to observe the Crab Nebula, for example, you observed it in radio and in optical and IR and gamma ray. That’s what is happening right now, so that you are getting a complete profile of some interesting object in as many different wave lengths as possible. And radio astronomy is playing its niche with regard to the frequencies that are available here.

Kellermann:

But NRAO is not a university, and NRAO’s job was to provide facilities for observing at radio wavelengths, so why do you think to start with -- and that was the mandate from the beginning -- why do you think at that time, whatever it was, 1959 or so, that they took on an optical astronomer as Director, and he went and recruited some other optical astronomers on the staff?

Howard:

Partly because he had a reputation. Struve, he had a reputation as an optical astronomer. He had been through the works at Berkeley and I guess, at Wisconsin.

Kellermann:

Yerkes. Chicago.

Howard:

Chicago. And so he was the obvious candidate. Dave Heeschen at that point was less than probably 35 years old and he was looked upon early on as a staff member who knew radio astronomy. I mean at the time that...

Kellermann:

But there were many prominent radio astronomers around the country.

Howard:

Yes but they all had a university-based specialty which probably, at that point in the evolution of NRAO would not have enticed them to give up a tenured position to come. Struve probably did that because a) there was another field to conquer and it intrigued him. I don’t think he lasted very long and I think he was very frustrated. So when Dave...

Kellermann:

Why was he frustrated?

Howard:

Well, he was an optical observer and he loved to go out walking in the dark night at NRAO at Green Bank.

Kellermann:

Well, the skies are wonderful in Green Bank.

Howard:

And he found out that we were leaving lights on. And so he was very upset with that. He really wanted the lights off. And so, you know, I think he was old school, and he probably brought along some people that he knew well. For example, B.T. Lynds had authored a book with him, right? And Roger [Lynds]?

Kellermann:

Well, that’s my question. Did he hire B.T. and Roger came along or did he hire Roger and B.T. came along?

Howard:

If Struve were still alive, I’d say you’d better ask Otto. But my guess is at that stage you offer one and the other comes. And, whether he offered to both, I don’t know what appointments they each had. My guess is that they were both staff members.

Kellermann:

Roger became a quasi-radio astronomer for a while. He did some observing. He wrote some papers. I’m not aware of B.T. doing anything that I was aware of as a radio astronomer. Because I was aware of [Roger] Lynds.

Howard:

Yes. Lynds was into planetary nebulae detection using the old 85-1.

Kellermann:

Yes. He also wrote a paper with Allan Sandage on M82. He did the radio observations and Sandage did the optical.

Howard:

Roger and I interacted only indirectly in the sense that when he was doing planetary nebulae, I was doing planetary nebulae with Alan Barrett at Michigan, and Fred Haddock was very upset that Roger was doing this. And the word got out to Roger, "Cease and desist." And I don’t think he ever did. But Fred did not like the competition. I only learned about this many, many years later.

Kellermann:

Fred was always concerned about NRAO.

Howard:

Yes, yes, yes. Fred was a very complicated individual.

Kellermann:

That’s getting off the track, but were you Michigan when the 85 foot was built?

Howard:

Alan Barrett was on the staff when I arrived and he was in charge of building it. And he and I were doing the pointing when the first sets of observations were made. Yeah.

Kellermann:

So you weren’t involved? You weren’t there yet?

Howard:

I was not involved with the construction.

Kellermann:

Or the solicitation? He [Haddock] told me once that he had ordered the dish from Blaw-Knox and then NRAO came along and pulled some strings and got the first one and there were some problems that he fixed up. So he [Haddock at Michigan] got the second one and he always said that he had the last laugh because his dish is better than 85-1, and they use it at 2 centimeters.

Howard:

Sure. Oh, yes. Well, ours was 3 centimeters.

Kellermann:

Well, the surface is better there.

Howard:

Sure, yes.

Kellermann:

It’s still being used?

Howard:

Yes, yes, yes. That’s right.

Kellermann:

We were talking about scheduling and I guess [for] the 140 foot, there was a lot of competition, it was fairly straight forward but there were some issues at the 36 foot that were perhaps not so straight forward. And the competition?

Howard:

The competition at the 36 foot was fierce because just before that at the 140 foot they were beginning to discover molecules. And before you knew it, people would go into the National Bureau of Standards tables and they would look up the frequency at which some undiscovered molecule was probably radiating and they would copy that and paste it into proposals and send it to me. And I recognized early on that there were two groups of people that were proposing. One that would do that and the other one that really knew what they were doing, knew the molecule sort of as a personal friend and realized that on the basis of what [molecules] had been discovered already, what the next batch [of molecules] were liable to be. And those were the guys ultimately who were probably were the most successful.

Kellermann:

Do you want to give some names?

Howard:

No, no, no, but I have forgotten some of the names. One of the guys was at the National Bureau of Standards. I’ve forgotten his name now but he was shaker and mover and he had a little group there which was pretty good. And this was not using his tables; this was using his brains.

Kellermann:

Well, he was doing laboratory experiments, I think.

Howard:

Doing laboratory experiments and let’s see, Lew Snyder was very, very important in the early days and so was Arno Penzias.

Kellermann:

Pat Thaddeus?

Howard:

Pat Thaddeus, yes, yes. And in my office I had a hook which was right near my ear and when Arno Penzias would call, he would go on and on and on about how important this molecule was and I would take the earphone and hang it up so I could listen to him. But the modern thing is doing two things at once. But at any rate, he [Penzias] was very effective at observing. There was some skullduggery that would occur [prompted by fierce competition]. There were cases of people who when they left after their time on the telescope would put bogus frequencies on the blackboard so that the next people [group of observers] would come in and see those frequencies and associate it with the right molecule and try to divert the attention to areas that were perhaps not as productive as their proposal had indicated it might be. At that point, there was always the danger of claim jumping, where somebody would propose molecule A and go after B, not knowing that B was in somebody else’s proposal. And there were a couple of cases of that and we came down on them pretty hard. We really threatened that if they were to do this again, their observing time might be a little bit less in the future. So they became pretty well behaved after that. It worked very well. But I kept an enormous file of 3x5 cards of molecules and frequencies that had been proposed by various people. And at the time when Mark Gordon wanted to do the scheduling, I turned that all over to time. I don’t think he ever used it but I used it quite a bit in trying to keep people out of each other's hair in their observing. No, that was an exciting time. I would say that the advent of the 36 foot, now 12 meter, was probably a little bit more exciting than the early days of the 140 foot. But in the 140 foot early days, of course, there were the discoveries by Mezger [Peter Mezger] and so on, almost off the bat, the first night or two they were observing.

Kellermann:

Which discovery are you referring to?

Howard:

Refresh my memory, Ken. It’s...

Kellermann:

Recombination lines?

Howard:

It was the recombination lines. Yes, that’s what it was. Yes. And then, of course, formaldehyde.

Kellermann:

Let’s stick with the recombination lines for a minute. Are you aware of or familiar with earlier work that they did with 85-1 looking for recombination lines?

Howard:

I probably was at one point but I’ve forgotten now. Same guys? Mezger and company?

Kellermann:

Yes.

Howard:

Yes, I see. Yes. And there was some tension, I think, between you and Mezger from time to time?

Kellermann:

Well, that was just over observing time. But that’s easy.... I think you can outlive those things. It’s competition over intellectual things that bring about long term animosity.

Howard:

That's quite right. Well, there was another instance, and you may never have known about that, but we were somewhat in conflict with one of your earlier proposals to look at Mercury.

Kellermann:

You and me?

Howard:

Yes, because I was in charge of scheduling at that point. And you had put in... I had had a track record with Barrett about Mercury and here was a nice, bigger telescope and so on and so forth. And I’ve forgotten whether we had ever put in a formal proposal, but you did, and since I was in charge of scheduling, the tie had to go to you. So I don’t know what you ever did with it.

Kellermann:

Oh yeah. I want to talk about that actually. I mean, I had already observed Mercury in Australia. This was together with May Kassim, at 2 centimeters. It was published. But that brings me back to the early staff. Aside from yourself and maybe Lynds, everybody else came from Harvard. Well, there were all the foreigners, but they were there temporarily.

Howard:

Wade. Cam Wade.

Kellermann:

Wade, Menon [T.K. Menon]

Howard:

Frank Drake.

Kellermann:

Drake, Kassim...

Howard:

Was Kassim that early?

Kellermann:

Well, she was there when I came.

Howard:

Oh, she was? But temporary [a temporary appointment].

Kellermann:

Yeah.

Howard:

OK, yeah.

Bouton:

Jack Campbell?

Kellermann:

Jack Campbell. No, he came later.

Howard:

Jack wasn’t an observer. He was an electronics engineer.

Kellermann:

He came to work on the VLA. I don’t think he was at NRAO before that.

Howard:

I don’t remember him before that. Because he had gone from Harvard elsewhere and then had come back.

Kellermann:

I think Dave hired him to the VLA. Do you think this was unfair, bringing in all these old buddies from Harvard?

Howard:

No, no, I don’t think so. The question is: where would others have come from? They would have come from...

Kellermann:

Caltech.

Howard:

Caltech. They would have come from Cornell.

Kellermann:

And the Caltech people...

Howard:

Probably from NRL. But you have to look at the motivation...

Kellermann:

Well, no, NRL people were senior and like you say, they had government jobs and what not. But like Harvard, Caltech was producing a lot of students whom, with all due respect, had more technical expertise than the Harvard people, just because of the way they were... I mean at Harvard they were astronomers, and at Caltech they were physicists. And yet it wasn’t until Barry and I came and we came... well, Barry was recruited. I asked [to come]. But that was five years later. People like Moffet, Bob Wilson, Dick Reed, any one of them would have been really valuable at NRAO. I’m not aware that any approach was ever made. So what were the relations? Were there bad relations with Caltech?

Howard:

Well, let’s get to that in a minute. I have a feeling that the kind of people that came were the kind of people that were already here. See Struve was an astronomer. He would have not looked at the Owens Valley group as a bunch of astronomers.

Kellermann:

But Dave was head of the Astronomy Department or something like that.

Howard:

Dave Heeschen was, but then he knew that bunch at Harvard. And he knew the good guys and the bad guys. Caltech at that point...

Kellermann:

Who were the bad guys? Because he hired everybody from...

Howard:

They weren’t here. They never came.

Kellermann:

Yeah but there were none left. Everybody came.

Howard:

No, there were a lot of other people at Harvard that did not come. That’s not true. But I think that most of the view of Caltech in those years was that they were very excellent engineers, hands-on experience, roll up your sleeves, and get in there with the tweezers. And I think the early vision that Dave had was, "Let the electronics engineers do that. I want people that know their astronomy." And if you look at the early days of, well, this goes counter to my argument but, you know, Reber had some problems with astronomers who didn’t understand what he was doing. But I think the way that Caltech was looked at was: it's an excellent group, but they’re more what the Electronics Division at NRAO would be shaped into. Now, they were different. I mean, Jodrell Bank was the same way, ok? Those were guys that went out into their little huts and they built something and they skimmed the cream off the top. They were not astronomers though.

Kellermann:

Well, it was the non-astronomers at Caltech that discovered the multiple component radio galaxies, polarization, planetary studies, the Sun. And what did Harvard discover?

Howard:

Wait a minute. They were doing the same sort of thing that the Australians and the British were doing, OK? So they were in that same sort of pigeon hole. I will admit that Oort had a problem with the radio astronomy group under Bok, and that is, "What have you guys been doing?" OK? And there was a lot of criticism of the early Harvard days that they had not taken advantage of Ewen’s discovery and that they were a bunch of astronomers... Well, who was there? Jack Campbell. Period. He was the only guy that was doing electronics at Harvard. Whereas if you look at the Australians and Oort and Caltech and everybody else, they were peppered with very, very good engineers. And my general impression looking backward would be that if there had been that mixture at Harvard, they would have done better. But I think the formative years at NRAO was to bring in the astronomers and to develop a group of Australian, Jodrell, Owens Valley types to do the electronics. That may be selling them short because you guys knew your astronomy too, alright, but when you were in that era, you were about 5 or 6 to 10 years later in doing that. And so the powers that be at Owens Valley could probably see that their hands-on experienced guys also had to know their astronomy too. And to give Dave his credit, he hired you. Right? And you’ve done astronomy.

Kellermann:

Well, I approached him.

Howard:

Yes, but that doesn’t matter.

Kellermann:

True. It didn’t take long for him...

Howard:

But the point is that you never rolled up your sleeves and became part of the Electronics Division, OK? You interacted well with them but you were on the Scientific Staff.

Kellermann:

The one time I tried to fix a chart recorder at the 140 foot, in fact, I was observing all night and I took it back to the lab. Howard Brown called up Dave and had a fit. And Dave called me up. I think he appreciated what I was doing but told me I shouldn’t really do that.

Howard:

Oh, I see. Well, it was unionism before you had a union.

Kellermann:

I wasn’t part of Howard’s group.

Bouton:

Turf wars.

Howard:

Turf wars, yes, that’s right.

Kellermann:

Do you want to say something about the NOAO, Kitt Peak visits, NRAO-Kitt Peak visits?

Howard:

Oh yeah. Well, this was during the times of plenty when we were in Green Bank. Green Bank was isolated. We saw that Kitt Peak had a very good staff. They were doing astronomy. We had a lot of people at Green Bank who wanted to do astronomy and who were doing astronomy. And they were a National Center, we were a National Center. Why not get the staffs together and have each side strut its stuff with regard to the other? And so, usually six to ten people from one [Center] would fly out to the other and there was a time when we did it every year. And Art Hoag was the shaker and mover at Kitt Peak and Dave, I think, was the shaker and mover at Green Bank. And we would give a little colloquia to each other based upon what we were doing. My guess is that the selections were made of the people that had recently produced what the observatory felt were good results. And so we were strutting our stuff.

Kellermann:

Yeah. I went on the last one.

Howard:

Did you?

Kellermann:

Yeah. I think it was the last one. I only remember one.

Howard:

There is one amusing story. [Wilhelm] Altenhoff when he was on the staff went out to Kitt Peak one time. He’d never been out there and he was intrigued with the desert. So at night he wandered out into the desert and why he never got lost, I never will know. [2014 Howard note: This was during a desert picnic one evening.] But he was interested in observing the cactuses at sundown.

Kellermann:

So the other people, I mean the key people who were at NRAO in those early years were, aside from yourself, of course, Dave [Heeschen], Ted [Riffe], John Findlay, Hein [Hvatum]. Do you want to say something about each of them and their impact on the observatory, their styles of operation?

Howard:

Well, let me start with Ted. Ted was picked as head of admin when Frank Callendar left. And Dave and Frank never really got along very well.

Kellermann:

Why?

Howard:

I’m not sure. I’m not sure. One was perhaps zigging when he should have been zagging. [2014 Howard note: I hardly knew Callendar, but their styles were quite different.]

Kellermann:

Dave inherited Frank Callendar.

Howard:

Dave probably inherited Frank Callendar. So at any rate, what happened was...

Kellermann:

He came from the NSF?

Howard:

I think he did, yes. I met Frank. I have discussed it a little bit with Frank but I really didn’t know him. He was gone pretty much by the time I came aboard. Ted fit in very well. He went along with the very uniquely NRAO way of doing business that If you wanted something done in the shops, you went down and asked them. And you didn’t have to get work permits and all of that. You didn’t have to do charges against, you know, some account whatnot. That may have changed now.

Kellermann:

Oh boy!

Howard:

However in those days it was very freewheeling. And Kitt Peak was doing that and NRAO was not.

Kellermann:

Kitt Peak was doing what?

Howard:

This cost accounting and [detailed] charging. Because at the time we interacted with them with the 36 foot, we were still operating in this freewheeling mode and they weren’t. And that caused some initial tension. But at any rate, Ted very, I won’t say very rapidly, found Dave’s modus operandi but he certainly fit in extremely well from the very beginning. And he realized the impetus that science comes first, and that the administrative side really served the scientific side. And I think he had a very, very nice, marvelous touch with the administrative side of the business. That put Ted in charge initially of the budgeting, and I think that Dave was a little apprehensive about that. And Dave came around and asked me whether I would take it on. And with some fear and trepidation, because I’d never done budgeting before, I said, "Sure." And I think that may have initially gotten Ted’s nose out of joint but whatever animosity was there was not apparent.

Kellermann:

What level did you do budgeting?

Howard:

The whole thing.

Kellermann:

I can understand how much for science and how much for engineering, but did you get down to the nitty-gritty?

Howard:

I got down right to the nitty-gritty including personnel salaries and everything else.

Kellermann:

So what did Ted do?

Howard:

No, what Ted was doing was setting up the mechanisms to spend that budget in the wisest way possible throughout all the admin part of the Observatory. Everybody [every Division Head] would give me their druthers with regard to what next year’s budget should be. And we knew how much budget we would have. And so I would do a first cut, run it past Dave. Dave would then discuss, and we would come to a finality on the budget. And then that would be the constraints under which people [the Divisions] would operate. But how one operates is where Ted came in because he had a very nice touch with regard to the administrative side of the fence. And he was not a grower of admin. There are some people that will get in and want to build an empire. So Ted was very good at that, and I never heard him particularly argue that he wasn’t getting enough money. Now, he may have. I may have forgotten. He can tell you a little more about that than I.

Kellermann:

Now, this is pretty remarkable because he, as I understand it from the things he said, he came out of the coal mines of West Virginia.

Howard:

Oh, yes.

Kellermann:

Heeschen and Callendar, I think he said, interviewed him. As far as I know, he had no background whatsoever in any federal financial activities or anything. So it’s pretty remarkable that, like you say, he fell right in and was so effective. Like you said, putting science first.

Howard:

Yes, yes, yes. Well, I think he fit in exceptionally well. Another person that had some startup problems was Monroe Petty when he came. See Monroe came as Director of PR at Brookhaven and he came down to be the Director of PR here. So he went from a cast of thousands to a cast of hundreds and, of course, he brought all of his procedures with him. And he and I...

Kellermann:

You said PR. You mean HR?

Howard:

Yeah, sorry, HR. Yeah. Human Resources they call it now. Personnel. And he was a very hands-on kind of personnel guy. And when I was [Site Director] in Green Bank, he was making the rounds at Green Bank and trying to solve personnel problems that I didn’t know anything about. And I called him on it, and we had some discussions in the Jansky Lounge at one point. And after that he and I became very good friends. But it was a matter of just saying, "I don’t mind you’re coming up. I just want to know what you’re doing and what your assessment is. You know, it’s up to me to take care of problems like that." We had a Personnel guy at Green Bank in the very early stages, Jack Plunkett. I don’t know whether you knew Jack.

Kellermann:

Yeah, I think so.

Howard:

Jack was in the Rabbit Patch [staff housing area] and he, I felt, was a very good Personnel person also. He would spend an awful lot of time talking to people and I think Dave felt he was spending too much time talking to people. But I think he settled down any early problems before they ever became acute. And he left [NRAO] to become involved in some business areas. And I don’t know what ever happened to him, but I think he was relatively underrated at the time. HR is an important function, a very important function, and I think one of the best things that an administrator can do is to involve themselves into the hiring process to be sure that the people you hire meet certain criteria, which maybe the normal HR person doesn’t recognize. So if you hire in very good people, problems occur at a far smaller rate than if you don’t... Anyway, that’s always been my criteria. I’ve inherited some people who weren’t very good, and to some extent I was successful in getting rid of them and in some cases I wasn’t.

Kellermann:

What about John Findlay? I always sensed some, shall we say, tension between John and the Director?

Howard:

There was tension between John and the Director. I think John always aspired to either be Director or to be much more recognized than he was, than he considered himself to be, let’s put it that way. There are a lot of people I think that understood his accomplishments, but the problem is, I think, that it got him down personally. And he had, I think, a drinking problem and he would become quite mean, to the point of insulting the wives of some of the senior staff at times. And that was not good. But my cap is off to him for the work that he did on the 300 foot, to some extent the 36 foot, and the 12 meter. There were some problems there that I think Hein had to step in and solve afterwards. I can’t tell you what the details were.

Kellermann:

I think John left and went to, that was the year he went to Puerto Rico.

Howard:

He went to Puerto Rico, yes.

Kellermann:

He was Deputy Director, I think.

Howard:

He was Deputy Director until he went to Puerto Rico and then when he came back, he did not slip into the same position. Dave was running the Observatory and could have run it quite well without a Deputy Director. He was working through other people to do that, and because he was doing that, I think maybe John sort of felt that he was, I don’t know, a third wheel or something.

Kellermann:

Did Dave appoint him as Deputy Director, or did he inherit?

Howard:

I don’t recall. I think, no, I don’t know that. John was here when I came. And whether he was passed over when Dave got the nod [as Director], I’m not really sure.

Kellermann:

I think we know that was the case, yes.

Howard:

We do? OK.

Kellermann:

I think that was part of his resentment.

Howard:

That would have been part of the resentment, yes.

Kellermann:

Well, what was his position... you don’t think he was Deputy Director after he came back from Puerto Rico?

Howard:

I’m pretty sure he wasn’t. He was pretty much a minister without portfolio at that point.

Kellermann:

Well, was he even a minister? What position did he have other than a member of the Scientific Staff? He had no administrative [duty]?

Howard:

Dave Heeschen would be in a better position to tell you that, or other people who were around at that time.

Kellermann:

We were just looking before. He wasn’t Site Director in Green Bank for a while, right?

Bouton:

He was...

Howard:

Yeah, he was.

Bouton:

From ’66 to ’69, is that what I said? ’66 to ’69, he was Site Director in Green Bank.

Howard:

You see that’s the time when the Scientific Staff had largely moved to Charlottesville and Dave wanted to put it in the hands of people that knew the business. And certainly John knew the business there and he had been there long enough to understand the interactions between the locals and the staff and the scientists and so on.

Kellermann:

Who do you show before Findlay, anybody from Green Bank?

Bouton:

No because there wasn’t a Site Director until we moved to Charlottesville.

Kellermann:

Right, because they were visiting and staying there all week. That’s right. So there wasn’t a need for anybody. So my memory is completely wrong about Ted.

Bouton:

No, he was the first one of the list of Green Bank Site Directors. [2014 Bouton note: Green Bank Site Directors through Howard were John Findlay 1966-1969, Mort Roberts 1969-1970, Dave Hogg 1970-1974, Bill Howard 1974-1976]

Howard:

There was a time during some of these interims when I said to Dave Heeschen that, "You ought consider Fred Crews." I mean, Fred was an excellent manager.

Kellermann:

Fred was the effective man behind the scenes for a whole string of Directors.

Howard:

The man behind the man.

Kellermann:

Only people who were in that position know that.

Howard:

Knew that, that’s right. Again, we are back to that posture that Dave had, that he wanted to put it [the position as Site Director] in the hands of a scientist. And I think Fred always knew that.

Kellermann:

And I think there were probably good relations between Fred and all of us.

Howard:

Oh, absolutely.

Kellermann:

Assistant Directors in Green Bank, everybody appreciated...

Howard:

Oh, he was their right hand man. Absolutely yes.

Kellermann:

I mean for the few months I was doing it, certainly. What about Frank Drake?

Howard:

Frank and I were graduate students together at Harvard. He did a marvelous thesis on, I think, it was the Pleiades. I’m not sure.

Kellermann:

HI?

Howard:

Yeah, HI. And, of course, the Pleiades is not replete with HI, but it was a fair stab. He then came to Green Bank. From what I have read, when he got into the SETI business Struve was at first very apprehensive about that. But then turned around and recognized that this was probably very good for the publicity of the Observatory and so on and so forth. And Frank was into that big time. Also at about that time, Frank Low came, and I’ve forgotten the situation which caused him to come.

Kellermann:

Frank Drake hired him.

Howard:

Did Frank hire him?

Kellermann:

He recruited him, yes.

Howard:

And, of course, what he wanted to do was to do bolometric work and, you know, far IR and things of that sort. And although I think he was moderately successful, operating in the Green Bank environment where your overhead [sky] is not very good for doing that sort of work. And there came a point at which Dave had to make a decision as to whether the observatory really wanted to pull out the stops and go into that [higher frequencies] or not. And he decided not to. There have been other places, particularly Kitt Peak, that wanted to get into space and they were probably into it more than we were ever into the IR. But these were adventures that ultimately would not pay off because it went a little counter to what the observatory felt its role should be. And so Low then went to, I guess, it was Texas from there and he was very successful. I mean, he flew [instruments] on the Kuiper [Airborne] Observatory and did great things. And, of course, he became a Jansky Lecturer here.

Kellermann:

Arizona, not Texas.

Howard:

Arizona, that’s right. And unfortunately, he was not able to deliver his Jansky Lecture because he was ill. And Frank left; I think he went to work on Table Mountain.

Kellermann:

JPL.

Howard:

JPL, it was that. But I think he aspired to greater things than NRAO at that point could offer him. Let me put it that way.

Kellermann:

I was going to rephrase the question differently, whether there was room for both him and Dave Heeschen here?

Howard:

With caution on both sides, yes.

Kellermann:

No, from Frank’s perspective.

Howard:

From Frank’s perspective probably not.

Kellermann:

I think that you answered. He had higher ambitions.

Howard:

I think that’s right. And Dave at that point was really rolling up his sleeves. That was the big formative portion of getting started at NRAO. In 1964 almost every decision he made set up a procedure for the future which would be carried on for a very long time.

Kellermann:

What about computing at NRAO?

Howard:

At the early days Dave asked me to take on the Computer Division, which I did. And that point, I guess, the nearest would be Scientific Services, which the computer, the library, all of that were under me. And, you know, I put people [scientific staff and visitors] in their offices and that kind of thing. And we grew a nice computer group. It was Joe Greenhagh who was an expert, and he had a sidekick whose name I’ve forgotten. [2014 Howard note: We had an embryonic set of computer staff members who were very good.] Bob Burns was always involved. Peter Stumpf was involved in the early days. So we had a pretty good staff. And at that point we were with the IBM 360 and, of course, it was taking up monstrous amounts of space. It was a central computer, which is not the way the field went. And I can remember... well, first of all, I was not Computer Division Head for very long because, I guess, the Visiting Committee put me in the report saying, "Howard is doing too much and he shouldn’t be doing all this stuff." And when Dave came to me, he says, "Look, I’ll give you a choice. Do you want to do A, B, or C?" And I was not a computer expert so I said, "Well, let’s give up the Computer Division." So it went to Bob Burns. And when Bob became Division Head, I think he did a good job. And, of course, I was, was I the budget guy then? I guess I still was, but Hein was in charge of cutting the budget pie. And under Hein was Bob Burns.

Kellermann:

The budget pie within Technical Services.

Howard:

So we had Computer under there and we had Electronics Division under there. [2014 Howard note: Computer Division under Burns, Electronics Division under Weinreb, and both under Hvatum.] And Other Observing Equipment, OOE, as it called in those days, and they had a big pot of $700,000 or on that order, which would be enormous now, and Hein was in charge of that. And it seemed to me that a lot more of this was going to Electronics and that Computer was deserving this [2014 Howard note: deserved a larger percentage of the budget]. And so Hein and I had some tensions at one point about that. And at about that time we had to upgrade the computer and the candidates were the next big IBM 360 or the CDC 6600 [7600]. And the Observatory was split. It turned out that the IBM was the tried and true blue and the CDC were guys that were under Seymour Cray. Twenty-seven guys were responsible for all that stuff under CDC but they were doing neat stuff and they had big computers and everything else. So the Observatory spilt. Half the scientific staff wanted CDC; half wanted IBM. And I watched that. There were arguments that would take place back and forth. Memos probably exist still about that. And I went in to Hein one day and said, "Hein, you know, you've got to make a decision." And he looks at me and he says, "Hey, if half the staff wants one and half the staff wants the other, what am I to do, just flip a coin?" And I’ve forgotten how that was ultimately resolved, but it was resolved in favor of IBM because they had a guy in Charlottesville. They’d hired an IBM guy who was here full-time, and he may have done work with Sperry and other places, but he was here. So we went with IBM, and after I left, of course, the field evolved into the personal computers, which are probably more capable now than the mainframe was in those days.

Kellermann:

In hindsight, IBM versus, I guess, the CDC 7600; was it the right decision?

Howard:

Yes, because I think within two years CDC had gone out of business.

Kellermann:

That [the CDC 7600] was more popular among the scientific community at the time.

Howard:

Yes. And I was reading up on this the other day and it was very interesting because I couldn’t remember the name of the CDC, alright. So I was googling it. I've got to be prepared for this discussion. And there was a story in there that somebody had gone to Watson, who was the head of IBM, and remarked about, "Why was the reason that CDC with 27 people had the reputation that IBM had with hundreds and thousands?" And Watson turns to him and says, "You’ve just given the answer."

Kellermann:

After you went to the NSF, I think it was after you went to the NSF, NRAO had the 25 meter telescope project. I think you may have confused that with the 65 meter.

Howard:

Was it really 25 meter?

Kellermann:

It was the millimeter telescope.

Bouton:

It was 25 meter millimeter array telescope.

Kellermann:

No, millimeter telescope not millimeter array.

Howard:

Was that the one that was cocked and ready to go when I went to NSF?

Kellermann:

Yeah.

Howard:

Alright.

Kellermann:

So let’s talk about that.

Howard:

Well, when I got to NSF I realized that our Division had gotten enormous, I would say enormous looking back, amount of money for construction of the VLA, and that at the time the VLA was built, it would revert to operations where the money to the Division would be less. And I wanted to keep the momentum going so I first asked the people in the Division, "Let’s do a study and see what major project in ground based astronomy is ready to go?" And it turned out that the optical astronomers were still pulling themselves apart. They were not at all organized with regard to the next evolution of optical telescopes. And the only one that seemed to me to be ready was the millimeter telescope here at NRAO. So I called a staff meeting and we were all in agreement that that’s what we ought to push. So we began pushing it and we began to get successful at it. We could see that in the long range plan of the NSF that was going to be included.

Kellermann:

Now this would have been ’78. Well, you went there in the beginning of ’78, I think.

Howard:

That’s right.

Kellermann:

No, ’77.

Howard:

’77, yes. And I left in the beginning of ’82. And so with the whole support of the Division, we picked that as the next thing that we began to sell within the NSF. And we recognized that there was a Decade Review that ought to be coming along in 1980 but the NSF was not geared up for that. And as a matter of fact in talking the senior management at NSF, they didn’t want to have any part of the Decade Review.

Kellermann:

This is senior management above astronomy..?

Howard:

The AD and up the line in NSF. And, of course, NASA had always said, "We do our own reviews. We don’t need the Decade Review either." And so the question was: would the Decade Review's momentum keep going? Well, now I have to go back. When I first arrived, the VLA was under an investigation and somebody [2014 Howard note: from the OMB] had gone out there to review normal procedures, went into Barry Clark's office, which was all cluttered and they said, "If this is an example of how the VLA is being run, we’re in trouble." So they called the Review.

Kellermann:

But why did they think that Barry had anything to do with the running of the VLA?

Howard:

Oh, he had a tremendous reputation as being a shaker and a mover.

Kellermann:

Yeah, you’re right there but he had no official line responsibility.

Howard:

These were people from OMB.

Kellermann:

But that’s my point. How did they know that Barry was such a key element? Because he didn’t appear in any org chart or anything.

Howard:

No, wait, wait, wait. They went out there on a routine visit, unofficial visit and they came back and said, "Maybe we ought to look into this further." OK? So then they called this review and the review came out. And the skirts were clean; the NRAO skirts were clean. At that time, however, I was in a position where I met these OMB people, OK?

Kellermann:

When do you think this was?

Howard:

Shortly after I arrived. It must have been ’78.

Kellermann:

Arrived at the NSF?

Howard:

Yeah, it must have been around ’78, OK, because Hughes [2014 Howard note: My AD, Bob Hughes] dumped this on me. That was one of my early jobs. That and Sac Peak were one of the early decisions. So at any rate, as a result of all that interaction I knew these people at OMB. And so when I saw that there was intransigence on the part of the NSF to have the next Decade Review, I went to the OMB. You can’t do that these days; you just cannot do that. They’d fire you if you did that these days. So I went to the OMB and I said, "You guys need a Decade Review because otherwise we and NASA are going to come up with proposals. You’re not going to know what to do. Let the astronomers decide." So they called for a Review. NASA went into it kicking and screaming. NSF went along reluctantly and the Review started. Well, the 25 meter...

Kellermann:

That was the Bahcall Committee?

Howard:

The Field Committee.

Kellermann:

Sorry, you’re right.

Howard:

That was the Field Committee, yes. And at that point our staff could sit in on those meetings of the Decade Review. As each draft of the Decade Review came across, we could read it and we could comment on it. We could see what was going on. And sometime between the fourth and fifth Review, all of the good things that were said about the 25 meter had disappeared. So I called George [Field] and I said, "George, what happened?" He said, "We’d rather not say. You’d better talk to NRAO." So I called the Director and the Director said basically...

Kellermann:

That was Mort Roberts.

Howard:

Yes. He said basically, "We want the ELVA, (whatever it was called at that point)."

Kellermann:

The VLBA?

Bouton:

It must have been.

Howard:

The VLBA. It was the VLBA. Well, the way Mort put it was, "We’re going to back them both."

Kellermann:

Yeah, I think that’s more accurate.

Howard:

So he threw it back into my lap and I realized at that point I can’t ride two horses within the Foundation. And very frankly, I was very unhappy that I had not been warned about this by either the Observatory or by AUI. And that basically led to my downfall at NSF, because they were unhappy. I left. They formed a committee to look into this and they killed the 25 meter. Now, if I look back on this...

Kellermann:

Wait a minute. Let’s take this one at a time. They formed a committee. Who is they?

Howard:

NSF. NSF called for a committee. [2014 Howard note: After I left NSF]

Kellermann:

Right.

Howard:

And the committee... I left in January. [1982]

Kellermann:

But NSF, what level?

Howard:

Probably the AD level.

Kellermann:

Not you.

Howard:

Not me. Oh no, I’d gone. I had gone. I had shot my wad. I was then over at OTA. [2014 Howard note: My credibility suffered within NSF because I knew I could not recommend two big projects. It was difficult enough to try to promote one big initiative coming from NRAO, an Observatory I had left to join NSF.]

Kellermann:

So what year do you think this was?

Howard:

This was 1982, January. And then they convened this committee and by March or April they had decided to kill...

Kellermann:

What was the charge of this committee?

Howard:

Should we do the 25 meter as opposed to the whatever? [VLBA] I don’t know whether it was an either/or, or what.

Kellermann:

That’s my recollection; which of these we should do.

Howard:

I think that’s probably right.

Kellermann:

And this committee was chaired by? Do you remember who the members were, or the chair? You probably weren’t there.

Howard:

No, I don’t. I was not there. I know Barry Turner was a proposer [2014 Howard note: the single dish spokesman]. I mean there were two factions here; one presented one, one presented [the other].

Kellermann:

I was the other. I can tell you this off line because we don’t need to go through it. But I want to try to understand it from the NSF perspective because I was trying to formulate in my own mind... See I was in Germany for two years, so I didn’t come back until 1980. But I thought that you had appointed this committee.

Howard:

No, I had not appointed that committee.

Kellermann:

I’ll agree that it was the very early 1980s.

Howard:

Yes.

Kellermann:

And we can talk later about what actually happened there.

Howard:

Yes. Well, I think that -- I guess at that Hughes was the AUI President but Jerry Tape was still around. And I remember talking to them and they were a little upset that this had happened. And so, well, that’s the luck of the game.

Kellermann:

Well I hadn’t appreciated this before, Bill, but I'm beginning to understand that maybe I was responsible for you leaving the NSF.

Howard:

No, no, no, you weren’t, but unfortunately it caused a rift between Mort and me because, you know, I could blame NRAO because of their posture. They can blame me for what happened to Mort afterwards. And after ten years goes by, I went to Mort and I said, "Let’s bury the hatchet." And I don’t think we ever have, which is too bad. But you know, these things happen. You do the best you can.

Kellermann:

Well, I think we’ve covered a lot of territory. A few things I want to talk to you about, Sugar Grove. Maybe we should take a short break.

Howard:

OK.

Break

Bouton:

We’re back recording again after a short break.

Kellermann:

So we want to talk about the Sugar Grove 600 foot. Before NRAO was formed, NSF and AUI had various advisory committees, and one of the facilities that was being considered for NRAO was a 600 foot radio telescope, which, coincidently, NRL was building a 600 foot facility not too far away from Green Bank for other purposes. John Hagen was a member of these advisory committees from NRL and obviously was very involved in the Sugar Grove facility. And as we know, there were financial and technical problems with Sugar Grove and the cost escalated to the point where it was realized that it wasn’t realistic, and the project was cancelled. But it was never clear to me, at least, Bill, and I think to others as well what the purpose of the Sugar Grove 600 foot was. The stories were to monitor Russian telemetry. Of course you can only do that when the Moon was up; reflections off the Moon, you can only do that when the Moon is up in both Russia and the United States, which isn’t very often. So if they launched their missiles when the Moon wasn’t up, it wouldn’t help, and other kind of weak excuses. And then when the project failed it became a radio telescope and everything got blamed on the radio astronomers. I think there was a lot of confusion between that and the 140 foot. And I think radio astronomy perhaps suffered from all that. Do you know, or if you know, can you tell us from your other employment activities after the NSF anything more about Sugar Grove and its purpose?

Howard:

Well, I think it was in order to get bounces [of radio transmissions] off the Moon, and you get that bounce because you have point to point communications, which are microwave, say within the Soviet Union, and there is a little bit of spray that goes on that doesn’t hit the receiver at the next tower. And some of that can leak onto the Moon and that can be reflected and you can pick that up from the ground, from here.

Kellermann:

Had anybody gone through this calculation in modern times?

Howard:

No, but I would go up and ask Dick Thompson because my guess is...

Kellermann:

Funny. I just thought of that as I asked the question.

Howard:

No, I think Dick...

Kellermann:

Because Dick just did this for CORF or something. It was for automobile radar.

Howard:

Something's very different. He would have to know the levels that Soviets would have done, but that’s probably easily done at those stages. Well, at any rate I think that was to be it, and you’re right that this works only when the Moon is up and it probably would work better when the geometry of the point to point and the Moon lined up too, so that you had to worry about that. But I think that when satellites became more capable, that was the way to have done it. And satellites were becoming more capable. In commercial activities throughout the world. Satellites commercial activities were the first things that were ever done in space so it was natural to do the communications intercepts as well. And that’s what was done. So I think that was an example of a technology that became obsolete by another technology which could do the job probably as well if not better. And so the first time I went to Sugar Grove, which was when I was at NRAO, we had a small group that went up. I think maybe summer students had gone with us.

Kellermann:

I went once with summer students in ’65.

Howard:

Yes. We arranged to do that. Probably we went together and we saw all these [antenna] components lying all over the ground and there were bunkers that had been built, which I don’t think we went into during that stage, during that visit. I went into those bunkers later on another visit.

Kellermann:

Can you tell me what you found there?

Howard:

It looked like a bunker that had not been outfitted. It was obviously well protected from nuclear blasts and things of that sort; probably like the underground at the [base of the] 140 foot, which is supposed to be...

Kellermann:

And what kind of equipment was there?

Howard:

Nothing. I don’t remember anything being there. I don’t think it ever got to that point.

Kellermann:

And what were you doing there? Why did you go there? What were you doing then? What of your many jobs were you...?

Howard:

Oh, I think I was with Space Systems at the CIA at that point.

Kellermann:

Do you remember why you went there? Can you tell us that?

Howard:

No.

Kellermann:

You can’t tell us or you don’t remember?

Howard:

I can remember a little bit about it, but I think I better not say.

Kellermann:

Ok. Well that leads me to ask another question...

Howard:

It was an historical visit. It wasn’t an issue of let’s fire this up and do something with it, OK. It was a forgone conclusion. I mean it was an historical visit, and I knew a lot more about the history and what was going on at that point. But it was purely historical.

Kellermann:

Let me just ask you a factual thing. If we want to find out more about this... I mean, this is all in the past. I appreciate that you’re not allowed. But is some of this stuff declassified now? Can you get it under the Freedom of Information Act? There is no reason for it to be classified.

Howard:

You could, probably.

Kellermann:

It was an open secret. Everybody knew about it.

Howard:

That’s right.

Kellermann:

But we didn’t know everything about it and I want to find out more.

Howard:

You could get it under the Freedom of Information Act. I’ll give you an example. My father went to the [Naval] War College at Newport in 1952. I went up to Newport when I was working with the Navy doing space war games. And I went by the library and said, "My father did a thesis here. Can I have it?" And the answer was, "It’s classified." And I said, "Well that’s a long time ago." And they said, "Come back in two days." Well, by that time it had been declassified. So I got a copy of my father’s thesis. So you can declassify and sometimes you can do that locally, as I presume they did here. Sometimes it could be a little more touchy and you have to involve other organizations in the declassifications. But FYI the Freedom of Information Act is probably the best way you could...

Kellermann:

Because the project was terminated in the early ‘60s, more than 50 years ago.

Howard:

Oh yes. No, you could probably do that, particularly in view of what has happened historically. The guys that were doing this were all doing it in those days quite hush-hush. The National Reconnaissance Office, which the term itself was classified. It's not any more. And although everything they do is not known, "the fact of" is known. And so my guess is that there is a reasonable chance that you could get information about it, yes. And NRL was involved because it’s Navy; it was a Navy facility.

Kellermann:

So was the "bunker" ever instrumented?

Howard:

Not to the best of my knowledge. The information that you get, if you are successful, would probably show that. But I don’t think it was ever instrumented, no. Well, let’s put it this way. If you cancel the project with all of the antenna parts on the ground, you know that the stuff that would have gone inside is either not there anymore or it has gone under the hammer because it would be obsolete.

Kellermann:

That’s why I asked you if it was ever instrumented.

Howard:

No. Well you know that the technology at that point would have been similar to the technology that was on Apollo and the Moon shots. [2014 Howard note: Very primitive by today's standards.]

End of Interview

Citation

Papers of Kenneth I. Kellermann, “William E. Howard, III, interviewed by Kenneth I. Kellermann on 20 September 2011,” NRAO Archives, accessed April 11, 2021, https://www.nrao.edu/archives/items/show/13896.