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In footnotes or endnotes please cite AIP interviews like this:
Interview of David Caldwell by Finn Aaserud on 1987 April 29 and 30,
Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,
College Park, MD USA,
For multiple citations, "AIP" is the preferred abbreviation for the location.
Overview of JASON; background to JASON involvement; reasons for joining; relationship to Los Alamos effort. Primary interest in anti-ballistic missile (ABM) issues; work on optical processes; relationship to his own work in physics. Assesses JASON contribution; its critical function view as central. Work on electronic "barrier" for Vietnam, ballistic missile defense, and anti-submarine warfare.
You sent me a publication list, and a vitae-or your secretary did.
Is the publication list complete, as far as you can say?
Well, there are more things that could be added at the end.
At the end, yes. But I'm mostly historically interested anyway.
Are there other kinds of publications, like non-technical, talks, reports?
Well, yes, I guess there are some, but I don't know if there is anything of particular interest to you.
Well, I'm particularly interested in Jason, as you know.
Yes, right. I guess there are one or two which were classified. Some of those are not on there.
That is not on there. The list seems to be pretty restricted to physics as such, although there is one here-we can get back to that-in the Journal of Missile Defense Research for 1964, which may or may not have been Jason.
Yes. I'm sure it would have been Jason, yes.
OK. Would you have any papers or correspondence, membership lists, you know, things like that, for the very early period during which you were a member?
I might have. I could take a look. There's one possible place that it might be.
I'll turn it back on again. The DCPG-that was the Barrier study.
Yes, that's right.
I'm interested in anything you might have.
You probably won't give your whole pile away.
Well, I can see whether there's anything that would be of use to you.
Is there any archival program at the campus here?
There may well be, although I'm not personally familiar with it, because there are people who deal with history of science. I haven't been involved in it.
You haven't provided papers.
Well, I'm meeting with one of the historians here tonight.
Yes, well, he would certainly know everything that's gone on in that regard.
Right. Because that's one of the things that the Center that I work in tries to keep in order; you know, documentation for the history of physics.
We don't have room to have material ourselves, but we try to help people who want to deposit, to encourage deposits, and to help in the establishment of archival programs and things of that sort.
Yes. OK. I can both listen and do this and talk too, because very little thought is needed here.
So you don't have any plans for your papers yourself? Or will they be automatically deposited here?
Do you have a substantial amount of papers pertaining to your career? This would be for the documentation of the history of physics, generally speaking. I'm not talking about my project now.
Well, I haven't even considered that. I don't know.
Well, if you ever think of it, the Center is interested in that kind of thing.
I see. OK.
I don't know if you got my card.
You did. Good. OK, let me say that we're in David Caldwell's office at the University of Santa Barbara, on the 29th of April, 1987, and because of the limited time, we should try to limit ourselves to Jason-my project-as much as possible.
And of course I start with the origins of it. Is there any particular pre-history in your career that is relevant in this respect? I mean, that kind of interest; where did it come from?
Oh, it simply came about because I was then teaching at MIT, and there was a person there, Francis Low, who was in the Jason group, and was a theorist. He wanted some experimentalist to be involved, and he persuaded me that this would be an interesting thing to do, and up to that time, although I had spent three years in the Army Air Force, I really had no particular background in this kind of material.
The Army Air Force experience-what was that?
Well, that was simply during World War II. I went through electronics and radar training and so on, so I had some of that background, but it was at a relatively low level.
Yes, but it might have provided some motivation for entering that kind of work later on.
Yes, to some extent.
But it was Low who approached you, essentially.
Which was when?
It was soon after Jason was formed.
But not immediately. You were not one of the founding members?
You were one of the very next...
...one of the very next group. Yes.
Were there others from MIT at the time, or was it you and Low?
I believe that was all, just the two of us. Although Sidney Drell had been at MIT, and I guess by then he'd moved to Stanford.
Had you been involved in any summer studies?
Not prior to that, no.
I had been involved as a consultant to American Science and Engineering, which I guess did do some classified work. They were in the Boston area.
OK, but was that a wholly different kind of work?
It was actually different from the things that I did do in Jason, yes.
So you wouldn't connect those experiences.
Not very much, no.
Did you participate in any way in the discussions of the origins of Jason, in the establishment of Jason?
No. It was certainly an established thing by the time I got into it.
So it was Low who introduced you both to the membership and to the knowledge of Jason.
Yes. Well, I knew a lot of the people who were members. Here, incidentally, is a 1965 list of Jason people.
Which might be of use.
That's the kind of thing. I haven't kept track of which lists I do have and don't have, but I have very scattered lists for that very early period. I've been to Charles Townes, and he has papers, but his membership lists cover only the period from 1968 essentially, so that I'm a little lost in that early period. So that's very useful.
I see. OK, that might be useful. All right. Incidentally, maybe eventually if you'd send it back to me, because I probably will have this kind of question arise again.
Yes, of course. Maybe I even could have it...
... yes, we could have it xeroxed.
...xeroxed here. What was your response to Low's inquiry?
Well, I must confess that my main interest was the fact that there were a lot of very good physicists in my particular area of specialization-elementary particle physics-who were involved in Jason, and so I rather looked forward to it as a means of interacting with these people from the physics standpoint. It was that which really made me interested in joining.
More than any particular concern with national security matters, you would even say.
Yes. I was not very convinced that I had much that was useful to contribute, because I didn't have the kind of background that many of the people did. There were a lot of people in Jason who'd done a great deal of consulting in these areas, and had an expertise. I did not, and I said, "OK, I'll join and see if I can do something worthwhile." But I wasn't very encouraged that that would indeed be the case.
You were born in 1925.
So you were 35 at the time.
Yes, I guess that's right.
That makes you a little younger than the average Jason member.
That's right, yes.
That's certainly a consideration too. You don't remember exactly when you were approached by Low, but when was it approximately?
No, I really don't, I must say. I could look up when I joined Jason.
I'm sure I can find that.
Yes, that would be useful. You certainly have a list here, the 1965 list. But it was probably long before that anyway.
Were there other newcomers simultaneously?
Yes, I think there were several that joined just about that same time, and they sort of dribbled in meeting by meeting. The group was relatively small when I first came in, and then it got somewhat bigger. Oh, here's an even earlier list, 1963.
Yes, OK, this must have been just about the time I joined, although as I say, I can look that up.
Yes, this is a list of reports, is it?
No, no, it gives members. It tells where they are and what they do and that sort of thing.
Yes, just a different format from the later one. I guess when you started, the number was less than what it turned out to be.
I guess it stabilized at about 35, 40.
I think that is probably right.
I would think that it was about 20 or so when you came in, while it was still expanding.
Yes, that's right. And here also are biographies of some of the early people.
Wonderful. That's from April 1961; that's even earlier. We're going back in time here.
To what extent did you consider yourself a new generation of science advisor?
Well, that was something which, very early in the game, was impressed on me. I suspect this may be when I first joined, because this is my first contract with Jason, I guess, 1961. Nope, I'm wrong. Here's one from 1960. Daniel Gould, yes.
Maybe you had to renew this.
Yes, you had to renew it every year or something like that. In fact, this is the 1960 one; this was even earlier, so I was there ...
That may have been the first one, then.
Yes, that probably was the first one.
Well, one never knows, of course. The first day of June, 1960.
Yes. When did Jason start? I don't remember.
It was established formally the first of January that very year.
I see. So that's the answer to the question.
You didn't have much of a chance to participate any earlier than that, even if you weren't among the founding members.
Yes, right. So that's the first one.
So you were a really early member. That's signed by Katcher and Gould, yes. You said that was something that was stressed for you, about the younger generation?
Yes, and because I was fairly much an innocent at that stage, you know, I wasn't even aware of who was doing this kind of thing, and it made me more interested in trying to participate, because clearly there was a need.
Who impressed it on you-the chairman, or Low himself?
Yes, I think particularly Murph Goldberger and the other more senior members.
He was young too, but he was a senior member.
Did you have any contact with an older generation in connection with Jason?
Well, to some extent. There was a little contact with people like Townes and Bethe and a little bit Edward Teller. And you know, some of these other people who'd been doing this kind of thing for a long time. Now, it is true that I worked one summer at Oak Ridge, and two or three summers-I've forgotten which-at Los Alamos when I was a graduate student.
That wouldn't be here on your vitae.
And so I did have an involvement with classified information at those times, although the work I did was more in the pure physics area. Nevertheless, as it turned out, it had application to nuclear weapons, and in particular, when I was at Los Alamos-I think it was 1950, I don't know. No, wait a minute, yes it was three summers, 1947, 1950 and 1951, I think.
1947 was the year you got your BS from Caltech.
It was the summer after that?
The summer after that, and in fact it was the first group of summer participants that they had. We started that which they then I guess continued for some time. And so, the involvement there was particularly with one of the Van de Graaff groups, doing experimental physics, but it had direct application to the then early effort on the hydrogen bomb.
Was that supported by the Atomic Energy Commission?
Yes, it was a Los Alamos effort.
It was part of the Los Alamos effort as such.
Yes, that's right.
So Los Alamos started establishing the summer study activity of young physicists. Was that a group that you would later collaborate with in Jason? Was there some overlap there?
No. They just started this program of employing graduate students during the summer.
I think a lot of the Jasons came out of Los Alamos.
But usually more during wartime Los Alamos. This was after the war.
Yes, but actually the establishment of Jason, or the discussions towards the establishment of Jason, took place at Los Alamos with people who were working there then. You know, it was Goldberger and Watson and Brueckner, essentially.
I see. OK.
And Longmire and some others too. But that wasn't the group that you were involved with at Los Alamos?
But that exposed you to that kind of work anyway.
More so than any other previous experience.
How long were you in Jason? We'll come back to your departure and all that, but just to have your tenure there.
What was it, about 1967 or something? I don't remember exactly. In fact, I came across that in this pile. Did I put that back? What did I do with it? Oh, here it is. I can find that pretty soon here, I think. I was involved through Jason in this DCPG, and that extended after I left Jason.
I'd like to get back to that. We'll talk a little bit on generalities and then perhaps get a little bit into the projects that you were involved in.
Right. And here was the letter from Gordon McDonald. So I must have resigned at the end of 1967.
What is the letter about? Is it possible to get a copy of that too?
Yes. But I continued in the DCPG after that time.
Because that was partly independent of the Jason effort.
Yes, that's right.
And it consisted of other people too.
So we have your starting point and your end point pretty well defined. That's good. How much time did you spend in Jason, at summer studies, spring briefings, fall studies?
Generally I think I went to most of the briefings during the year. Because an awful lot of my research had to be done in the summer, I rarely spent the full time at a summer study. I would go for a couple of weeks or something like that, but I tended not to spend the whole time there. I did do some work during the year that I could do at home, but that was about the extent of it. I think there was a general tendency in that direction-that the people who were experimentalists didn't have the time, nor sort of the appropriate facilities, to be as completely involved as the theoretical physicists.
What was the distribution of theorists and experimentalists at that early time?
I could look at the list and tell you, but my guess is, that there were about one-third experimentalists and two-thirds theorists.
Well, that's a significant number anyway. But most were particle physicists, either experimental or theoretical.
Were you involved in the steering committee at any time?
So you were a "blue collar."
That's right, yes. Definitely.
Francis Low made that distinction to me. He distinguished between blue collar and white collar Jasons. To what extent was there an overlap between the people you discussed physics with in the academic sphere, and the people that you discussed national security matters with within Jason?
A great deal of overlap.
Right, because you said that was maybe the-
-the initial attraction. Yes.
And it worked out the way you expected it to in that sense.
When you were there, the membership was rather constant, was it not?
We'll get back to projects in particular, as I said, but were you involved in selecting projects?
I picked some of my own to work on. And in fact, I generally did. I occasionally worked with other people, on some pre-selected projects. But I think most often, I just simply found things that I felt I could make some contribution to, or had some ideas on, that other people hadn't had.
Yes. Was that out of a pool of already defined projects, or did you invent your projects yourself?
We would get briefings, and learn what problems there were.
But when you proposed a project, it was generally accepted as a good one?
But you yourself did not have contact with the agencies in that respect? You participated in the briefings, of course, but it was the steering committee that had the personal contact with the briefers.
That's true, although on several occasions, for the things that I got started working on, some of the various agency people came to me to interact about these things.
So there was a feedback there in that sense.
Did your work result in publications of some sort, reports?
Yes, I think several of those, I guess one of which got declassified and you found on that list. But the other things were all classified, as far as I know.
Well, I think the list was unclassified; the titles were usually unclassified.
No, what I meant was, in my bibliography, you found one from the Journal of Missile Defense. That was one of the reports that happened to get unclassified. That's what I mean. Otherwise, I think everything else I wrote remained classified.
But that was a classified journal.
Oh, was it?
It was a top secret journal, actually. I think on your publication list there's a "U" after the title of the paper. So that paper was probably unclassified.
The paper was unclassified but the journal wasn't, OK. All right. I'd forgotten that.
To what extent did you concern yourself with discussions of general science policy questions in Jason, and to what extent was it purely technical?
By general science policy, you mean of classified matters or unclassified matters?
Both. Well, by science policy, I mean policy decisions rather than technical work leading to a basis for policy decisions in national security.
Well, there certainly were discussions of that kind. You know, particularly the thing that comes to mind is the Barrier business-discussions of the fact that this would be perhaps a way to wind down the Vietnam War. And so, you know, those policy discussions were certainly carried on. In fact, I remember very vividly some of us going to McNamara's office at one point, and discussing some of these issues.
So, that had high connections, that particular study.
That may have been the only one that went all the way up to the ...
... the Secretary level. I also spoke to Gell-Mann about that. He of course was instrumental or at least important in that study.
And he said that it was motivated by that desire to find an alternative for the bombing of the North.
Yes. Exactly, yes.
But we could get back to the Vietnam involvement. That was not the first involvement you had in terms of projects, of course.
I'd like to ask you about your early projects.
Yes. Well, I got interested in-it seems strange at this time, with my present attitude towards SDI-but anyway I got interested in questions of ballistic missile defense. That was probably the first thing. That was a hot issue at the time I joined Jason, and, amusingly enough, I see that some of the things I was suggesting at that time are now part of what they're also talking about with SDI. Anyway, I did a fair amount of work on optical processes and so on.
Yes. And those were problems that you picked yourself.
Yes. And also, some other more exotic means of missile detection-early missile detection, but I don't know what's become of those at this point. But anyway, that was probably the main emphasis of my early efforts.
Was that part of a broader effort on ballistic missile defense within Jason?
Well, as I said there was general interest in that topic, and people were working on various aspects of it. I tended to work on my own, in this particular region.
So there were several people, and you fit into that, but you preferred to work on your own, on a specific project.
That may be the kind of work that's reflected in the one publication here.
I don't even remember what it was.
It's "Image Intensifiers for Missile Observation."
That sounds correct.
But that was not the only thing that came out of it.
How long did you involve yourself in that? And how actively? How much time did you devote to that kind of work?
I would find it very hard to reconstruct that, after this length of time.
To what extent was it related to your physics work if at all?
It was, because I was interested in using image intensifiers for, actually, particle detection. And so I had a fair amount of expertise in that area, which was then very much a developing one. In fact, as a result of this, I also got involved with the people at Fort Belvoir who wanted to develop similar things for night sights and things of this kind. Although a lot of that was not Jason-related, it was that we were cooperating with the military in our efforts to try to develop suitable instrumentation, which could be used in physics as well as for military use.
That was simultaneous work?
That's not on your vitae, I think.
Well, neither is Jason.
No. That's right.
So all in all, you put a significant effort into this work, but it was also connected up with what you did in physics as such.
Was that a common thing for an experimentalist to have his work in Jason connect up with his academic work that clearly?
I would say it didn't happen terribly often. There would be some cross-connections, but it would be infrequent that there would be a connection of that kind.
So you were lucky in a sense, perhaps.
Yes, that something I was doing had a military application as well.
You did not do this in collaboration with other experimentalists in Jason; you did it yourself.
No. That's right.
Was that because the experimentalists were interested in other things, or was it because you preferred to work that way?
I think it's mainly because the experimentalists, unlike the theorists, were very much part time participants. And so they tended to go off in different directions. For that reason, there wasn't that much overlap.
Would you even say that there was a ranking order there, that it was the theorists who made the experimentalists work with them, and the theorists that were the leaders in the choice of projects and being on the steering committee and that kind of thing?
I think generally that's the case-that they tended to be the leaders and the more full-time participants. And I think that a lot of the experimentalists would join in some ongoing effort during the time that they were, say, at a summer study, and that they might take a piece of that home with them and work on it occasionally by themselves. But except for the Barrier issue, when there was more clumping together of the experimentalists, I think that they generally tended to go rather separate ways.
Did you have any similar kind of relationship between theorists and experimentalists within Jason as you had without Jason? Is that comparable?
Well, I would say, not in particle physics, because that's very much a group-oriented activity, and so you tend to work with numbers of other experimentalists, and you may consult with theorists. You may get ideas for experiments from theorists, but I don't think the relation within Jason was a very similar one.
Did you discuss your ABM project closely with colleagues in Jason? Was there a good relationship in terms of what you knew of each other's projects?
I think, generally so, although again, because experimentalists were sort of sporadically involved, there was less of that than there would be among the theorists.
But did you have meetings of the whole group?
Yes, in which you'd present something, and there'd be some discussion of it, yes.
And that happened continuously, through the summer studies, say.
Yes, and also some of the briefing times were set aside for that too.
That ABM work, does that exhaust your non-Vietnam work in Jason?
No. I also did some things on, oh, small recording devices for CIA. There were a few other small things.
Yes, but they were more scattered.
The ABM or BMD effort-or whatever it was-was the more continuous long-term involvement ...
... and the thing you spent the most time on.
As for myself, I'm trying to define this study. I think it would be a good thing to choose a project, or a set of projects, and follow them in some detail, to get a sense of what Jason did during those early years. I'm essentially interested in the first fifteen years, although you should talk about your own period.
Let me put it this way. I think the best things Jason did were to stop a lot of projects.
Even that early?
Yes. And one that was fairly early was actually the supersonic transport. There were lots of others, though of a classified nature, in which what was being proposed could be shown to be nonsense, or to be unfavorable in some important ways. I think that that's how Jason really earned its keep, not so much in the things that it produced, but the things that it prevented from happening. There were some things-for example, Christofilos's communication with submerged submarines by having very low frequency; I guess that's finally being implemented, more or less, after an incredible number of years. But that was one of the first things that was going on when I was at Jason.
Yes, Bassoon or Sanguine or whatever.
Yes. And there were very big efforts to try to see whether that made any sense or not, because Christofilos would keep coming up with marvelous new ideas every week or two, and then all sorts of people would have to put tremendous effort into finding out whether this one made any sense or not. And an awful lot of Jason was this negative kind of thing.
Even killing projects coming from the inside.
From the inside even, yes.
But mostly more broadly; mostly it was killing projects from the outside.
Projects from the outside especially. Of course, Jason was used, or members of Jason were used, as sort of review committees for things. So they played an important critical function.
Which may have been the least interesting part, of course.
Yes, but I think it paid the cost of Jason much better than anything else.
Did you contribute in that negative sense?
Yes, in some things.
Is there something you can talk about? Or remember, even?
Well, it's probably more a problem of remembering enough details to be worthwhile. I know even in this area of the optical BMD business, that there was again a lot of nonsense, from some of the potential contractors, that I served some useful purposes in killing. But it wasn't limited to that. There were other things as well. It's just that I don't remember them that clearly at this time.
It was detection of missiles, but also shooting them down. That was part of the effort too.
Yes, that's right. In fact, some of the very things that we're hearing a lot about now were discussed very very extensively, back in the early sixties.
I guess SEESAW also can be seen as part of that-the particle beam.
Yes, the particle beam was certainly part of it. The use of lasers. Those were much investigated at that time.
That was a huge enterprise all in all then.
The whole BMD together.
Sanguine or Bassoon, or the Christofilos effort, is separate from that, of course.
That's correct, yes.
Would those two sets of projects be the main things at Jason while you were there, do you think? Or are there others?
Oh, one of the things about Jason was that it covered such a broad spectrum of things. No, I would hate to say that those were even the main efforts. It was sort of impressive the number of topics that we would get into at briefings. Certainly the anti-submarine warfare business was a very big one through that period.
That was broader than Christofilos, then?
Oh, much more so.
But Christofilos's work fit into that.
And there's BMD and ASW.
All right. What would your suggestion be to a historian? What would you find most interesting as a case, as an example, of what Jason did during the period you were there?
Well, certainly the ones that come most to mind are the BMD, ASW, and Barrier. I think those are the three that stick out most clearly. But there are all sorts of aspects of each one of them.
Well, we should turn to the Barrier study then. Since you've spoken about the other things. So let's turn to that. When did that originate and how-for you?
Actually, I think it was the summer that Jason spent here in Santa Barbara. Because it was in Santa Barbara, I spent a bit more time at the summer study than I normally would.
Oh, you were here already, then?
Yes. And that was when we really got launched in a serious effort, although there had been discussions of it before that, but there were enough people in one place and we had enough briefings and so on that we could really begin to formulate real things.
Was this your first year here? Which year was this, do you remember?
I don't remember now, I must confess, as to which summer that was.
Well, you became a lecturer here in 1964.
No, that was at Berkeley in 1964. I came to Santa Barbara in 1965.
Oh, I'm sorry. You came here as a professor, that's right, in 1965, so it was after that.
Yes. Whether it was 1965 or 1966 or even 1967, I'm not sure.
But not 1968, you think.
Not 1968, because I had left Jason by that year.
That's right. The DCPG effort became really strong in 1968, I think. Didn't it?
Yes, it certainly was. But there was certainly some overlap between the time I was in Jason and when I was with DCPG. So it had to be at the latest the summer of 1967. I just don't remember which it was.
You said that there had been some work on that kind of problem before.
Were you involved in that?
Just a little bit. It was more in kind of the vague discussion stage, and I was involved in some of those discussions. But I would say the serious work began that particular summer.
You'll have to correct me on this, but there was the counter-insurgency problem?
That was discussed generally. I mean, that was part of ARPA's AGILE project, and then of course there was the Barrier study that was more specific and technical.
Yes, that's right.
Of course, the latter can be seen as part of the former, I suppose.
Were you involved in those early discussions on counter-insurgency?
Did any recommendations come out of that?
I really couldn't tell you, you know, in what order things happened. I'm afraid it's too long ago.
Then we should have some years to stick it onto or some publication or something.
Yes. I'm afraid so. I couldn't tell you.
Of course, Nierenberg has written a very short history of the DCPG.
And McDonald also, more recently.
Oh, I didn't realize that.
I should have brought that.
Yes, it would be interesting.
Well, if you're interested, I can send you copies of them.
Yes, I would be interested. Some of that would refresh my memory too.
So it might be to our mutual benefit. OK, so let's start with that summer study that you do remember then. Maybe you could say what happened there, what was your involvement in it, what was your motivation for joining it, etc.
Well, I think the motivation was the general unhappiness with the situation in the Vietnam War, and the feeling that one ought to try to bring it to an end. Francis Low of course had the solution, which turned out to be practically the one that was used in the end, namely, declare we've won and walk out. But failing that, this was the period of bombing of the North. That was a particularly distasteful situation, and people began to think very hard about what could be done to counter that. One effort was of course to try to see how effective the bombing was in doing anything, and the other effort was to provide an alternative. I fell into the latter group, along with a lot of the experimentalists. It was always fun to sit and invent things. And so we began dreaming up different ways that you might be able to provide some sort of effective barrier, particularly to the flow of trucks. It's the people thing that got more attention, but I think in our minds, stopping the supply from the North was a more important issue.
And so, you know, various things were invented, and then we went to see McNamara about trying to implement this. And he set up the DCPG, and said he would try to pull the most able technical people out of the various services, which indeed he did. I mean, they were very impressive people, unlike many of the military ones that we had otherwise encountered. These people were really good, and so you know, it became a very serious high level project, the trouble being of course that in the end, it didn't get deployed in the way it was designed. And the commanders in the field took it over and said, "Gee, this is a good way to protect our troops when they're camped out somewhere, and we'll use things a different way than it was intended to be used."
The approach to McNamara, that didn't come from you, did it? That came from the Cambridge group, or how was that? How were you invited to go see McNamara?
I don't remember how that came about. I don't remember the mechanism. I really only remember the fact that we showed up in his office and had an extremely worthwhile discussion. I was very impressed with the way he grasped things quickly and the way he made decisions very quickly.
Who was present at the meeting and why?
I suppose that the steering committee must have picked a representative group who'd had a lot of involvement during that summer study, and who could speak to the different aspects of the Barrier.
Do you remember who were there in addition to yourself?
I must say, I am not that sure.
The whole steering committee?
I don't think necessarily so. I think it had more representation of different groups that were involved in particular technical aspects of the program. I guess I'm going to have to depart, unfortunately. It's going to take a while to get over there.
We're going to continue our discussion of your involvement in the Vietnam barrier within Jason. We talked about a meeting yesterday, in 1966 or 1967, wasn't it?
And where your involvement really started.
So maybe we should recapitulate what happened at that meeting in particular.
This is the summer session at Santa Barbara of Jason?
We had had little meetings before that at some of the briefing sessions during the year, and decided that this was an activity that we wanted to pursue. In fact, some of the ideas had been developed at those earlier short meetings, so that by the time people came in the summer they had pretty much decided what they wanted to work on. Also we had some very good briefings from people who came back from Vietnam. So we had some pretty good input, and broke up into groups to develop particular technical approaches. In general, it was one of the most cohesive efforts in the whole Jason experience. There seemed to be a very strong general feeling of wanting to find particularly an alternative to the bombing of the north. It also was the kind of project that a lot of experimentalists could really get involved with and do what is usually a fun thing of inventing. So this went quite well. I remember particularly the participation of Val Fitch and Leon Lederman, Courteney Wright, Bob Gomer. Anyway, there were a number of experimentally inclined people who were involved with that.
Were they all in your group or were they in different groups?
Well, it was one of these things where we sort of met together a lot of the time and then sometimes would go off in groups of one or two or three to do some specific thing.
So the groups varied?
Yes, that's right.
The membership and the work of the group varied?
Right, right. And I think it seemed to us that we were producing something that was relatively worthwhile, and that feeling continued through a large part of the DCPG project. I went to Washington about once a month for meetings of that, and there was a sort of a very high morale in the group. They felt they were doing worthwhile things and doing them in a rather efficient way. It was a very good sort of scientific advisory board and chaired I guess first by Kistiakowski if I remember correctly. He was a delight to work with in any case. One of the things I remember particularly is that after the first day's session, he would take us all to the Cosmos Club for a drink before we went out for dinner and then he would proceed to tell us all the latest gossip of what was going on in Washington. It was a very interesting experience in itself. But, at any rate, it was a good group of service people there, and the general in charge, Starbird, was excellent, and things really moved forward very well. Unfortunately, at a later stage, it moved into a deployment phase which was very different in nature. And there wasn't anywhere near the strong leadership and the whole thing sort of slipped out of control.
Was that after McNamara, the deployment?
Yes. And so it then got sort of totally service-connected, and for that reason, the theater commander and the various local commanders were sort of given total control of the thing, and they used everything in a very different way from what it had been designed for. That's the big disappointment.
Did you and other Jasons-other DCPG's-follow the deployment phase in any way?
Some did, in fact there was a group that went to Vietnam. Another one of the experimentalists I remember at this point was Henry Kendall. He was one of those who particularly wanted to follow it and went to Vietnam. And so there was some attempt at that, but somehow the authority was lacking that had existed earlier. One just didn't have very much to say about what was going on, and I think people got very discouraged at that stage. It was a very different feeling of the whole thing than earlier.
What would you consider your particular contribution to the effort?
Well, I worked on a number of different things. To some extent I did some work on the seismological detection system. [Interruption]
Well, anyway, there were a number of different things that I worked on. Again, also there were some of the night vision things that I had involvement with. And there was sort of just that kind of general advisory role that we all played of listening to what they'd done and making suggestions as to how they could do things differently.
How different was this experience from earlier experience of Jason work for you?
It was very different in the sense that my earlier Jason experience had, I felt, wasn't sufficiently plugged into the system to be particularly effective. And that was one of the things that was very good about at least the early stages of this. You felt what you were doing made some difference.
Was that special for the Vietnam effort that you felt that plugged in, was that peculiar for that effort, or were there other efforts that were similarly plugged in?
Well, I think that there were other Jason efforts that were similarly plugged in but I don't think that most of the things I was involved with that that was the case.
Well, you can only speak about your own experience. In terms of cooperation, it was also different.
Very different. I always had the impression that some of the people were rather in awe of Jason but that they wanted to avoid involvement with Jason more than make use of it in any real sense.
Are you talking about people in particular, institutions in particular?
No, I was thinking in particular of the government departments, particularly the military, that Jason was sort of a thorn in people's sides and they kind of tolerated Jason when they had to, although it was true that many people came to Jason with problems that they needed help with-that was certainly the case. And in those situations I think Jason did get fairly well plugged in. But all too often it was cast into the critic's role and so, you know, it was writing negative reports about something. Sometimes people paid attention to these and sometimes they didn't. Whereas in this case you sort of had a direct line to people in authority. As in the DCPG meetings, one meeting suggest that they do something differently and the next meeting you would hear that they had done it that way, and checked it out. You had real feedback and you felt you were doing something worthwhile.
I guess the larger group of it, I mean the involvement of the Cambridge people helped played a role in plugging it in.
Perhaps McNamara's role also.
Yes, particularly, yes, I think that's true.
Did you have any other experience with the government side of it except for that McNamara meeting that we talked about yesterday?
Well, certainly there were other things. Although I guess thinking about it, for the optical detection of missiles, for example, that aroused the interest I think particularly of, oh what is the name of the company in the Boston area-something like Avco but I can't remember now, one of the large contractors. Anyway, Hans Bethe was one of their main consultants and he got very involved with it. However, the interest was more by this contractor and there were other areas of that same kind. And another thing in which an idea for a sort of a radio acoustic detection method which is like the so-called whistlers that you get in atmospherics, that too got a fair amount of attention from some government agencies. They would send people to come and ask questions and you know, that sort of thing, but you sort of weren't really part of the system by any means.
You didn't have control over what became of it so to speak.
Yes, that's right.
Okay, this involvement was very close to your quitting Jason.
I'm not sure of the time of the meeting. Was it 1967?
I'm not sure which year it was. Yeah, I quit soon after that. But I remained with DCPG.
What was the circumstances for your quitting?
There was just sort of a general housecleaning at that time. In fact a large number of the experimentalists left at that point.
Are there others you can point to?
Val Fitch, for example, left at the same time I did.
Yes, he received a similar letter?
And new members appeared on the scene probably as a result of that.
That's right. In fact, for me at least, Jason's really golden period was when Goldberger was in charge of it.
How soon or how long before this letter had Hal Lewis taken over?
Somewhat before but I don't remember how much.
So this might be a reflection of the new policies of Hal Lewis?
Yes. I remember Luis Alvarez, when he joined Jason which was during the time that Goldberger was still head of it, I remember his saying to me, "this is really a class organization." And one had that feeling, and Murph I think did a very good job of keeping it that way.
I guess they're very different as managers, period, those two people.
So there were no feelings about Vietnam or the use of the effort involved in your decision to quit?
This letter from McDonald reflects the situation accurately.
Yes, that's right.
Did you encounter any problems, like a campus protest or things of that sort?
There certainly were some of those things but it was not as strong on this campus as some other places. There were some reporters and articles written and that sort of thing, but I at least had very strongly the feeling at that time that what we were doing was, you know, what most of these people really wanted done only they didn't know it. I didn't have bad feelings about our participation at all.
No, and you continued in DCPG anyway?
And you continued there with a good conscience also?
There wasn't a change. You would even say it today?
That's correct. I would even say it today.
Well, we could go on. Of course you want to go to leave at 2:00, so I guess we should start wrapping this up anyway. So the next very general question-I don't know if you, how you would respond to it-just a general evaluation of your experience in Jason. What did you get out of it? Did it benefit your career in any way? Your outlook on life or physics or science advising?
I think sort of two areas were very positive. One is that I did get some fairly broad knowledge of a different kind of problem, and things that are certainly worth knowing about. I think it is helpful even in these times when you get into discussions about Star Wars or something of this sort that I have had a background in this kind of thing, and so I feel much more informed. So from that general standpoint I think it was beneficial. Secondly, from the physics standpoint, I think it was very beneficial indeed because there were a lot of extremely good people in my area of specialization. There was a very, very good interaction with them at the time. They've remained friends, and it's been a very helpful thing in quite a different context from the Jason one.
So it's expanded your contacts?
Which was your original motivation in the first place.
Yes, that's right.
Any specific problems that you took up that had any affect on your career? I mean, problems stemming in some way from Jason that affected your physics work later on.
I wouldn't say that there was a great deal of carryover although at that earlier stage, as we talked about before, I had this involvement with image intensifiers both in the physics work and in Jason, and that coupling was certainly useful at that point.
But that was more coupling the other way perhaps than from Jason to physics.
Well, it was both ways. You know, I learned about more people in classified areas who were working on the same sorts of things and what they were doing, and so the feedback was useful.
Have you continued your contact with Jason in any way?
Are there other similar activities that you have taken up after leaving Jason?
No. Well, after leaving DCPG I have not done any more classified work at all.
Is that by choice or by circumstance?
Well, I think pretty much by choice. I've just gotten too involved in physics to spend the time doing other things, I'm afraid.
How would you evaluate, to the extent that you can judge it from your position of course, the impact of your and other's Jason work during your period? You said that you felt that you'd plugged in during the Vietnam thing.
Yeah, although what it finally came to was relatively little, unfortunately.
At the very end, yes.
Yes. But I think generally, as I mentioned before, that the critic's role was very important for Jason and that the contributions were quite substantial in a negative sense of turning off things that shouldn't have been going on, and I think that was really positive.
Generally, the connection between the academic physics community and national security, was that a positive thing?
I think that was a positive thing. And one of the other things which was happening at the time that I was leaving Jason is that the contact was tremendously diminished between the Jason people and those in some authority in government. I remember Kistiakowski saying, "When Nixon came in, the doors were just shut and there was no way to get input into the system at all." And that, I think, was something which continued for some time, and so I think that, you know, Jason had a much less effective role than at an earlier stage.
But it has continued, though, but the effect might have been different, may be different even today.
Yes, I think it probably is.
Okay, good. I won't hold you.