Monday, May 13, 2013

A Young Man at the Edge of War and Adventure

I was age 20, with college degree in hand
by George P.

It was July 27, 1938. At age 20, I had just earned my associate degree in mechanical technology from Pasadena Junior College. I was just hired by Lockheed Aircraft Company, Burbank, California, making form blocks and dies. Through the early years, the XP-38 “Fork-Tailed Devil” fighter, the XP-58 “light bomber” and the first Constellation transport projects drew upon our multiple skills and responsibilities in the exciting environment of Burbank’s Factory B1 experimental hangar and airfield. In fact, during 1939 and 1940, two of us were “hands-on” trained for several months at Antioch College, Ohio, in the “Antioch pattern-making and precision aluminum casting process.” Later, an equivalent foundry was established in Los Angeles for Lockheed's benefit.

Some of us observed a vertical climbing “contest” between our “YIPPEE” (YP-38) and the British “Spit Fire” fighter. The Spit Fire, hanging on its propeller, fell back. Many of us attended the wonderful Lockheed Employees picnic at the Santa Anita Park in the Pasadena area, when a P-38 was taking-off from Burbank. The pilot's radio (probably Tony LeVier’s voice) was transmitting to the racetrack’s loud speaker system, describing his every action. The P-38 arrived in minutes, almost before we expected it, and at tree-top level, executing a “multiple G” vertical climb, disappearing from sight overhead, as he continued speaking to us!
The YIPPEE was remarkable in flight!
Accelerated production requirements for the War, caused us to extend our working hours. We began working 10 to 12 hours per day, and eight hours on Saturdays and Sundays. Great income, with no time to spend it, proved useful for investments in our future. The revised World War II draft law discarded my deferments (earned for six years employment in the defense industry, with a wife and two children). Suddenly, too young for any deferment, Lockheed gave me a two-year leave of absence, and promised to continue my employment upon return and to add my military service time to my company seniority. 

June 14, 1944, found me enlisted with the United States Marine Corps. I hoped to help my father and uncle in the Philippine Islands. But February 19, 1945, placed me at Iwo Jima. It was March 1, 1945, and seriously wounded, it was reported that my dad (a United States Army leader of the Philippine Resistance Movement against the Japanese) had been captured and beheaded by Samurai tradition. My uncle had starved to death in a Japanese concentration camp. My Honorable Discharge occurred on February 26, 1946. I was 80 percent disabled, with a Military Merit Award (Purple Heart). 

Lockheed, welcomed my return, rehired me (on crutches) and added my military time to my seniority on May 20, 1946. The company made full use of my past Lockheed manufacturing experience and training and the benefit of my Marine Corps leadership. Lockheed continued my training in such courses as Optical Tooling, Developing Your People, Sketching Familiarization, Elements of Supervision, Plastic Tooling, Lockheed Economics, Planet Earth and Supersonic Vehicle Manufacturing Techniques, over a period of ten years.

During 1965, Robert Reeks, an internationally known balloonist, my family and several others, working with the Lockheed Employees Recreational Club, established the Wind Drifters Hot Air Balloon Club. It grew to be the world's largest balloon club at the time. Then, it “passed on” (about 1975) as members left Lockheed and took their balloons with them, possibly popularizing the exciting sport elsewhere.

Emergency repairs to the entire turbo-prop Electra transport fleet, demanded a continuous 24 hour per day flow, receiving airplanes, repairing ·and returning them to the airlines. Being the assigned as manufacturing engineering link between emergency structural redesign engineers, the emergency production of newly designed parts and the emergency “repair-line managers” for weeks, was challenging and gratifying.

With Lockheed's aggressive training programs, my retirement in 1974 was as “Industrial Engineer, Procedures.” My U.S. Patent #2.693.637, dated November 9, 1954, a method for forming metal parts, had been awarded and shared with Lockheed. 

Lockheed Martin, with its heritage of great teams of devoted men and women, excited by what they see they have produced, has much to look forward to in its next adventure!