The History of InfoAge Science & History Museums

Oral Histories - Oral History ALBERT BENOIR

Interviewee: FELIX LAVICA

Interviewee: ALBERT BENOIR 

Interviewer: Michael Ruane
Date: 1998?
Place: Camp Evans – 9039
Media: NTSC Video
Summary: Mr. Irv Bauman


Albert was born and raised in the Evans surrounding area. His father was a musician and so he traveled extensively. Albert spent 2 yrs. in grammar school in Paris, France and speaks French fluently. Back in the U.S. he attended and graduated from Long Branch High School. He attended Columbia College but found difficulty with Math, and so he changed his major from engineering to architecture at which he became head of his class, though small but competitive. He got his B.A. degree in 1941. During that summer he applied for a job in the Sandy Hook Watson Radar Labs, starting as an apprentice studying Radar from British teachers. Then he became an inker/draftsman preparing drawings, schematics to enable repairing equipment. He worked with people like Mr. Pritchard, Armstrong and Harold Larto, who worked with Receivers like the 270. They wanted a private draftsman to work with them in, what used to be an airport hangar, known as Arrowsmith. He worked on improvements for the 270, then he transferred to Ft.Monmouth, and, in turn, to Evans where he again worked on 270’s and 268’s. The 270 had a dipole without a dish, powered to 25 KW, an antique today, state of art then. As for range, his group aimed and reached the moon with one of these.

At that time, Evans Laboratory was experimental, a relatively “loose” operation. It consisted of just a couple of buildings. There was lots of tension since the U.S. was already halfway involved in World War II. Asked for a humorous occurrence, his group sent a Ms. Fish to Dr. Zahl for a Fallopian Tube. Dr. Zahl understood her “mission” and went along with the comedy by modifying a tube with a circuit appendage, to satisfy her assignment. Albert believes that the modified tube still remains on display at Ft. Monmouth. His group erected a Quonset but working closely together. They reworked what was wired, relating to the 268/270 Radars. They used K & E lettering sets with pens and ink and a fiberglass eraser. All that tedious handwork is now done in an hour with present-day computers.

Albert worked in the drafting room for a while when he was drafted into the Army. As a result of an interview at Ft.Dix, he was assigned to the 100th Infantry, Ft. Jackson and placed in a Signal Company assigned to a Direction Finding effort. He was sent to Howard University to study Civil Engineering. A Mr. Silverman and he then returned to Monmouth to Radar School, then O.C.S. Army corporals were sent to Point Loma, Calif to study Navy Radar, then to Edison in Sea Girt. Air Force Cadets were sent to Edison to be trained by Albert.

Albert traveled in a Merchant Marine ship bringing Navy Radars to Marseille. While at sea, Albert tuned the Radars. He took steam engines back for repair. He remained with the ship, working its Radar and then back in the states to return to his Architecture School. After graduation, he opened an office and remained in business for 30 yrs, practicing architecture which he continues to do today.

Today one man can do the work of 5 with the aid of the computer. From 1938 -1989, there were giant advances in technology. Development of the microchip, memory, and similar findings advanced the technology such that many functions could now be performed in real-time. The airplane hangar Arrowsmith at Sandy Hook was destroyed. He indicated that Armstrong was a strange and private person, dedicated to making receivers better, with Wm. Pritchard, a research physicist.
Tuning involved the use of a trombone like a device (sliding pipes) to provide a sine wave on a Signal Generator. With the use of filters and amplifiers, the waveform was modified. On the Oscilloscope, the wave was modified before being sent to the Radar. A gaussmeter was used to measure output. Albert then discussed distance measurement by Radar. One can measure the distance between a baseline and return, to arrive at distance data.

The 268 was mounted on a truck bed with a transmitter, receiver, power supply & oscilloscope screen, and a rotatable antenna to provide narrowband coverage. The 270 was a long-range system. Albert then indicated that training started with Radio School, then Radar School, where you learned how to operate, repair, and read schematics. He spoke of a private firm using Radar to track aliens in 1953. In the drafting room referred to earlier, he worked with men like Bill Hutson, Frank Goetz, Chief of Drafting, at Watson Lab. Albert has photos of some of his work, which he offered when and if he can find it. 40 min.

Page created August 2, 2002 

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