William C. Pittman's 50-year government career began with his support of the famed German rocket team led by Dr. Wernher von Braun. His lasting contributions will be recognized with his induction into the AMC Hall of Fame.
Prior to government service as a civilian, Pittman served five-years in the Marine Corps during World War II and used his GI Bill to earn his degree at Mississippi State. He was then recruited by the U.S. Army to work as a civilian on rocket development at the Ordnance Missile Laboratories. He quickly proved his scientific and technical abilities to his supervisor, Hans Heuter, the chief mechanical engineer for von Braun.
Pittman was the group supervisor for the telemetry system of the Redstone missile, and his work focused on studying the effects of atmosphere on rocket tracking systems.
In his reflections to the Redstone Rocket in 2008, Pittman recalled the remarkable leadership of von Braun during the development of the Redstone missile.
"It was an exciting time," he said. "At the time, were in an international competition with the Russians. Von Braun had created such a vision. It was pretty revolutionary for our time."
The Redstone missile engine went on to power the Jupiter C rocket that launched America's first orbiting satellite, Explorer I. The Redstone also launched America's first astronaut into space.
The Redstone missile engine went on to power the Jupiter C rocket that launched America's first orbiting satellite. Another Redstone engine, known as "Old Reliable," launched America's first astronaut into space.
As part of the foundational member's of the country's space program, Pittman was also involved in the research, design and development other of missiles at Redstone Arsenal. Those projects include the Hercules, Pershing, Hellfire and Javelin. His name is connected to 14 U.S. patents taking those technologies to the commercial realm.
He retired as a senior engineer in 1999, but continued to work as a volunteer through 2012, investing more than 60 years of service to the military in the areas of research and science. Bill Crawford, an AMRDEC employee, remembers Pittman's continued dedication and work ethic at the end of his career and volunteer work.
"I was always amazed at the extent of his knowledge and the mental acuity he possessed while in his 80's," Crawford said. "He was current on most technical issues and still a very valuable member of the workforce. I was also very impressed with his dedication to duty and his work ethic."
When asked why he was still volunteering years after his retirement, Pittman told the Redstone Rocket that he still had "unfinished business." Pittman said he felt a commitment to the work at the Aviation and Missile Research Development and Engineering Center where he mentored engineers and scientists.
Former AMRDEC Director Eric Edwards nominated Pittman for the Hall of Fame, saying his "legacy of service is unmatched and his contributions to the Army and to the Soldier are simply incalculable."