McMorrow Labs Celebrates Five Decades Of Contributions
March 19, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- An America's Army action hero. Historical command coins. An old Blackberry cell phone. A Pershing II technical manual. Command patches. A bracelet made from the metal of a Patriot missile fired in Operation Desert Storm. A model of a rocket motor launcher. And a Redstone Rocket dated March 12, 2014.
Those items, plus photos, strategic documents and floor plans, were placed in ammunition boxes for inclusion in a time capsule that will be buried at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. They were presented, some humorously, during a ceremony March 12 at AMRDEC that marked the anniversary of the March 12, 1964, opening of the Maj. Gen. Francis J. McMorrow Missile Laboratories.
Some of the surprises that will be dug up on March 12, 2064:
• A CD with photos of all the commanders of the Aviation and Missile Command"just to see if 50 years from now they'll be able to figure out how to read a disc," Maj. Gen. Lynn Collyar of the Aviation and Missile Command said.
• Pictures and documents on a computer thumb drive because "we are hoping we have security in 2064 to use the thumb drive," Jeffrey Langhout of AMRDEC's Aviation Engineering Directorate said.
• And a description of what life will be like in 50 years -- no cash accepted, no gasoline used to motorize vehicles, the Chicago Cubs will not win the World Series, the University of Alabama football team will claim 40 national championships and Auburn University will win the 2064 national championship"and keep alive their streak of a championship every 50 years," Stan Sherrod of AMRDEC's Engineering Directorate said.
But the most touching moment during the time capsule presentations came when Gen. Dennis Via, commander of the Army Materiel Command, invited children of the McMorrow family -- great-grandsons 12-year-old John, 11-year-old Dean, 9-year-old Tom and 8-year-old Steve Hunt -- to the stage to look through the AMC ammo box and then to unveil the specially designed AMRDEC time capsule.
In his comments at the ceremony, Via said the event "celebrates a great legacy" of an Army officer and family man who commanded the Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal, and whose work in leading missile procurement, research and development efforts continued after his sudden death in 1963 with the opening of McMorrow Labs, which eventually became the centerpiece of the AMRDEC of today.
Even though the nation faces new threats and challenges, "what hasn't changed is the quality of men and women who work at AMRDEC," he said, adding that McMorrow Labs has been "critical to many of the successes we've had over the last five decades."
Via said the future will hold even more successes for the Army as scientists and engineers at AMRDEC continue to push technology to the war fighter.
"With the development and proliferation of more advanced military technologies by other nations, American dominance can no longer be taken for granted. … To stay ahead, we must always move forward to develop the next generation of weapons," he said.
"I have hope and confidence that our Army and our nation will remain strong and free thanks to the great work of the men and women of McMorrow Labs."
James Lackey, acting director of AMRDEC, said that in the early years of missile development, "these laboratories, which were teamed with the Missile Command's physical science laboratory, propulsion laboratory, and test and reliability evaluation laboratory, had a mission to provide the major element of the U.S. Army?'s in-house capability for missile system research and development."
Those first employees who worked at McMorrow Labs developed or were part of the team that developed a series of firsts in the field of guided missiles, including the Nike-Ajax, the first guided missile to intercept and kill an aircraft; the Corporal, the first ballistic guided missile to be employed with Army combat troops; the Jupiter, the first successful intermediate range ballistic missile; the Redstone, which, with minor modifications, placed Explorer I, the free world's first satellite, into orbit, and later boosted astronauts in sub-orbital space; the Juno 11, which placed a satellite into an orbit around the sun; and the Hawk, the first guided missile to intercept and destroy a rocket in flight. They were also involved in the first successful composite solid propellant, which made possible large solid propellant missiles, including Sergeant, Pershing and Polaris; and the development of the laser for both medical applications and missile system guidance.
"Over the past 50 years, the labs have remained the U.S. Army's in-house capability for missile system research and development, and have since incorporated aviation systems and engineering services into their impressive capabilities," Lackey said.
A milestone in the history of McMorrow Labs came in 1997 when the Aviation and Missile Command was established, resulting in the need for two research, development and engineering centers at Redstone -- one for missiles and one for aviation. Then, on Oct. 1, 2000, these two centers merged to create AMRDEC, which is a subordinate laboratory to the Army Research Development and Engineering Command, which is a subordinate command to AMC.
"Similar to the achievements in missile system development, AMRDEC and its predecessor organizations have made significant contributions to U.S. Army aviation, including enhancements to iconic platforms, such as the Apache, Black Hawk and Kiowa as well as advances in unmanned aircraft systems," Lackey said.
The program for the 1964 dedication ceremony stated that ?"day-to-day work with the facilities provided by these laboratories keep the Missile Command?'s skilled scientific and engineering personnel sharp and current in their respective fields. Furthermore, these facilities provide the tools with which our young scientists and engineers can put theory into practice and thus fully develop and utilize their talents."
"This could not be more true today," Lackey said. "Now, as in the past, it is the dedicated workforce that allows us to develop innovative aviation and missile technology every day, and maintain the dominance of the American military.
"The purpose of this ceremony is not only to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of McMorrow Labs, but also to recognize a resilient, world-class workforce that succeeds at delivering state-of-the-art war fighter support every day; and to recognize 50 years of excellence in aviation and missile research and development at Redstone Arsenal. This ceremony highlights the achievements and successes of the dedicated professionals who have supported aviation and missile research and development, and acknowledge the ongoing and future efforts that support our nation?'s war fighters."
Dr. Richard Rhoades, who worked at McMorrow Labs when it opened and who went on to serve as the associate director of the Missile Research Development and Engineering Center at McMorrow Labs, told the audience that "the early '60s were a time of rebuilding of the Army's missile research and development capabilities" because so much of that capability was lost when most of the scientists and engineers at Redstone Arsenal chose to move to NASA?'s Marshall Space Flight Center when it opened in 1960.
Rhoades came to Redstone as a first lieutenant, a young Army ordnance officer, right as McMorrow Labs was opened. The building had two three-story wings and a high bay area, which was painted dark green and soon became known as the "Jolly Green Giant." The high bay area was designed to erect a Redstone missile in the space, but it wasn't long before some of that space was dedicated to hardware-in-the-loop simulation, which "played a critical role in missile guidance development," Rhoades said, with its use in the development of Hawk, Patriot and Hellfire.
Rhoades also worked with Dr. John McDaniel, known as "Dr. Mac" and who served as the center's director from 1970-77.
"He is credited with successfully leading the regeneration of the Army's missile technology," said Rhoades, who also worked side-by-side with Dr. Bill McCorkle, who was the center director from 1980 to 2009.
Though he represented the city of Madison at the ceremony, mayor Troy Trulock told the audience that he was one of the Soldiers whose life was saved by the missile technology of the Patriot missile system, saying "many ideas started here and protected us on the battlefield … I am alive today because of the ideas that started here at the AMRDEC."
Among the speakers were also Dale Ormond, director of the Army?'s Research Development and Engineering Command, and Dr. Grace Bochenek, AMC's chief technology officer.
In the audience were McMorrow's three children -- retired Lt. Col. Tom McMorrow, Peg McMorrow Anglin and Mary McMorrow Swanson -- and several other relatives.
"Our family has been really pleased to have a chance to celebrate this 50th anniversary," retired Lt. Col. McMorrow said. "The only thing, though, is that my dad probably would have been upset about all the fuss made over himself. He would want the fuss to be over you, the people who do the work that provides support for all the warriors in the field."
Those comments were also expressed by his sisters.
"He was for the Soldiers. He was a Soldier's Soldier," Swanson said.
"He was more for Redstone Arsenal and the troops, than for himself," added Anglin.