Ted Goranson - Personal Blog

The blog of Ted Goranson. This is both a personal blog and an ongoing update on his projects.

My Dad

Published: 30 Aug 2011
Revised: 14 Jan 2012

Edited on 3 Mar 2012: to add an image and a link to a note about his father.

I am starting this on Father’s day 2011. I seem to be missing some memories and this may recapture a few.

I will soon be launching the blog; as it will have some personal posts, I would like it to have one on my Dad because he is in my thoughts. I suppose everyone’s parents are.

He was born in September 1916, in St. Paul to immigrant Swedes, the second son. His father had finished his apprenticeship as a master glasscutter and had come to the US to practice his craft. His mother was selected as the one of several sisters to be sent to a single aunt in the US to essentially be a slave. We suspect she would have been eager to marry.

His father Adolph soon settled — for his entire life — in a factory in Toledo that made handcrafted tableware. Older brother Hank became a lawyer: Midwest Republican, brand loyalist, passing his practice on to his two sons. Younger brother Ruben was lost in the war in the Pacific, a naval aviator on one of his early missions.

Harold Theodore Goranson was my dad’s name, though through college at Bowling Green State he was known as Hood. During and after time at the Naval Academy (class of 1940), he was known as Swede to everyone (including his wife). His attitude was one respectful of authority, both of his over those ‘under’ him and of his superiors. He seems to have been an extraordinary engineer in the abstract sense, but is remembered for his easy humor. I recall him rarely losing his temper, but otherwise being much like the fathers of my friends.

When I was 12, the oldest of what would become (three months later) 5 kids, a plane crash took his life while on the way home to Norfolk from DC. Therefore, none of us knew much about what he actually did in the Navy. The best I can piece together is the following...

As an Academy Midshipman, he met my mother at a dance in Norfolk. Apparently both were engaged to others. He was only a year in service when attacked at Pearl Harbor. He started his career as a gunnery officer on the battleship USS Pennsylvania, which survived the attack because it was in drydock. He was aboard, directing fire. (The ship was the first to returnfire in the attack.)

In 42, the ship’s hull now repaired, it went through a refit of its guns. It kept the massive 14 inch guns (mostly used for intimidation), but replaced the more commonly used 5 inch guns. Previously there were separate sets of guns for defense against aircraft and ships. The new guns were dual purpose, using different ammunition but the same firecontrol systems. Based on his subsequent career, I believe he managed this project.

Using the 5 inch guns (large by anti-aircraft standards) for effective anti-aircraft protection turned out to be a decisive factor in winning control of the Pacific because it neutralized the inherent advantage Japan had with airfields. Integrating still-new radar into an automated control system for these big guys (factoring in movements of ship and aircraft) gave us the first ‘computerized’ weapon systems. These dual purpose guns quickly became the standard armament on all ships in the US Navy until the modern era of missiles.

In 43, he transferred to the brand new heavy cruiser USS Baltimore, the first ship to have these dual purpose 5 inch guns designed into the craft from the start. The ship saw significant action. Apparently, he developed a reputation for working out new systems, because he was subsequently posted to two more ships in those three years: the brand new destroyer USS Shannon in 44 and the retrofitted destroyer USS Ellyson in 45 that used the now mature radar-controlled fire control system throughout.

After the War

After the war, he got married to my Mom, then followed a series of post-graduate periods, first at the Naval Academy (where they had me), then at Newport War College followed by a masters at MIT (where my first sister was born). I still have some of his material from this period, so I know it was a computation-heavy mix of radar and servos (what we would associate with robotics today). This work was based on MIT’s unique position during the war as the developer of radar, including those for ship-board fire control systems. And it leveraged Whirlwind, the MIT device that has a strong claim as the first modern computer.

By 1950, he was in London (where the second son appeared) as a technical aid to Averell Harriman, then managing the Marshall Plan and establishing what would become NATO. The initial group was the Temporary Council Committee.

Harriman's Memorial Cup

(Image) The cup presented to my dad.

The cup presented to my dad
In those days, special service tours were designated with engraved silver. This is the small bowl given at the end of the tour. In the upper left you can see TCC and 1951, and on the right my Dad's initials. Below is a rotated view with Harriman's initials.

In 1952, he took over the USS Richard E. Kraus, a destroyer refitted to test the new concepts. In 1953, at age 6, I was allowed to accompany him on a test deployment. For a week, we sailed around shooting drones out of the sky with the brand new 5 inch guns, which I tested every morning. Around this time, he lost an infant to SIDS; later my second sister was born. Following that, he was given command of the Applied Physics Lab, administered for the Pentagon by Johns Hopkins University. The lab was managing technology that would be used in controlling the next generation of weapons, then called guided missiles. It was in transition to a new type oforganization.

The missiles involved were Tartar, with Terrier that used the same basic control system. Also Regulus, the earliest of the nuclear cruise missiles. He had what I thought were the coolest plastic models of these. Ever. I recall suggesting that he use ionically-stimulatedvortex controllers and remember him beaming and inviting colleagues over. Completely impractical (until now), but from then, all birthdays and Christmases were about science instead of toys.

This began a dual billet which would continue to and result in his death: an assignment managing research in Washington and one managing practical tests on ships based in Norfolk. His test billet at this time was managed from the Fleet Command Ship USS Canberra, involving a couple cruises to the Mediterranean.

Moving the family back to Norfolk from the Washington Area, he changed his home base to focus on the test component of his work. He established the first OPDEVFOR (operational development force) in the Navy, consisting of Destroyer Division 262 (USS Cecil, USS Corry, USS O'Hare, USS Stickell) and others which were old WWII destroyers at his disposal for system tests. (That role in the military after the 1986 ‘Goldwater reforms‘ was renamed OPTEVFOR, test force.) Whatever he was working on at this time required that he travel from Washington to a fleet commander meeting in Norfolk, the trip which killed him.

(The Stickell would win the antiaircraft accuracy trophy the next year.)

His immediate junior at APL since has let me know that he was considered the Rickover of the missile world, and that he was being groomed to be Chief of Naval Operations. On his death, he was the advancing in rank well ahead of his cohort, being designated ‘commodore’ (now called rear admiral).

I wish I had known him.

The Lessons I Would Pass on to My Sons

You can do things that matter.

You can do things that matter.

There are problems that if you address them earnestly, and with vision, you can affect those you touch even slightly — even if all fails.

There are parts of the universe that only become real by entering them without fear.

If you trust your vision explicitly — especially when it seems wrong — most especially when it seems wrong, you will be rewarded.

There is no life separate from what you do as a creative person; you are in or you are out.

In this;

  • Dogma is broken.
  • Red-orange works better than the turquoises and greens.
  • Nothing is deeper than entering the world of another via their art.
  • Logic is skewed; numbers and life do not happily co-exist.
  • Skin matters in the things you do.

The Japanese attack was originally planned to have three waves of aircraft, with the third attacking fuel and ammunition depots. Admiral Nimitz claimed that had they effected this third wave, the war would have been extended two years.

The reason the third wave was not launched was because of the effectiveness of the defensive ground fire during the second wave.

Following the war, there was quite a bit of sorting out in the laboratory system. Some labs were actual government labs, like those associated with the Manhattan Project. Others were internal to conventional companies. And there was a large grey zone, mostly consisting of university groups that had contributed expertise to the war effort. There were Think Tanks in this category as well.

Though they were all originally intended to go away after the war; they all stayed. Over time, these have become joined with the Manhattan Project labs in a class that exists somewhere between corporations competing in the marketplace and internal government agencies. Most are operated for profit, but work — often classified — can be directed to them easily. Depending on how you define these, hundreds of thousands of people work in these organizations. This constitutes a smaller percentage of the nation’s intellectual wealth than during the cold war, but it is still significant. These organizations have a great deal of influence in many ways unique to the American system, and that influence extends to core of what science is.

Typically, they have a single agency as sponsor (like the Navy) and a single primary mission.

APL was one such organization. My Dad was the guy in 54-55 that set it up as what it is today: the ‘missile guys,’ sponsored by the Navy. They moved from down Colesville Road from our house in Silver Spring to their current location. The beltway sits squarely on where our old house was on Brunette Ave.; my Parkside Elementary School down the road is now a parks administration building.

The idea is simple. a solid object moves through a fluid medium, its path determined by how that medium acts on it. There are a variety of ways to affect that medium, usually by physical change of the object. But it is possible to alter the medium as well. And it is also possible to alter the apparent perceived form of the object without directly changing its physical shape.

My seven year old mind did not grok the timing; I had planned two steps, one in which the medium was (continuously) ionized and second where that was exploited by charged surfaces on the missile. As it happens now, control of hypersonic missiles (Mach 5 to 10) is a real issue. Fortunately the physics helps in two ways:

  • Because of the shock boundary, the missile now has an apparent shape relatively unrelated to its physical shape.
  • The boundary consists of a vortex foam formed from cells constructed of differentiated proto-ions.
  • Though each cell is transient, the flow can be affected by high frequency emissions from devices on the shell of the missile.
  • These can strongly steer the device.
  • Such frequencies can be generated by resonating the fuel as it heats on its way to the nozzle.
© copyright Ted Goranson, 2011