Updated: May 31
April 3rd - Dr. L. T. E. Thompson
In 1923, civilian physicist and ballistician Dr. L. T. E. Thompson accepted the job as Dahlgren’s new Chief Physicist and started a vigorous experimental program at the station. Thompson’s approach through this program was the cornerstone of what became "The Dahlgren Way."
Want to find out more about a special honor he received and his mark on the base today? Keep an eye out for this month’s “Now You Know!” article, which will be released in three weekly segments beginning this Friday, April 7th.
Caption: Dr. L. T E. Thompson, 1956. (U.S. Navy Photo)
April 10th - Boone T. Guyton and the F4U Corsair
In April of 1941, Boone T. Guyton held two days of F4U Corsair demonstration flights at the Dahlgren Naval Proving Ground to prove basic integrity of the design.
Boone Tarleton Guyton, a naval aviator, experimental test pilot, and author, first became fascinated by aviation at the age of 14, when he followed the reports of Charles Lindbergh’s first solo nonstop transatlantic flight from New York to Paris in the Spirit of St. Louis. After college he attended a new aviation cadet program at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, graduating tenth in the first graduating class in 1936. From there he flew for the Navy out of Naval Air Station North Island San Diego, California, and off the carriers USS Lexington and USS Saratoga.
Guyton was perhaps best known for his test pilot years at Vought-Sikorsky and his participation in the development of the F4UCorsair and other military aircraft. He made frequent trips to Navy bases across the country to train Navy pilots on the F4U-1 Corsair.
In 1943 Guyton met his hero when Charles Lindbergh began consulting to Vought on the Corsair’s engineering and helped brief him on the fighter’s characteristics before Lindbergh took his first flight in one. Guyton and Lindbergh even discussed a mutual acquaintance, French pilot Michel Detroyat, and other topics over dinner. In March of that year, after Guyton had a near-fatal crash landing, Lindbergh was one of the first people to visit him in the hospital.
Guyton continued flying for Vought until 1951. After that he held various management positions at aviation-related companies and even opened his own. He continued to fly recreationally until 1982. During his retirement years, Guyton lectured on the Corsair and continued to write. His third and last book, published in 1990, was Whistling Death: The Test Pilot’s Story of the F4U Corsair.
In February of 1938, the U.S. Navy opened design competition for a high-speed, high-altitude fighter airplane. By May of 1940, Vought’s XF4U-1, the Corsair prototype, was ready for its first flight. It became the first American aircraft to exceed a speed of 400 miles per hour on October 1st of that year.
Although certain design elements initially made it difficult to land on aircraft carriers, the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps shore-based squadrons utilized the Corsair early on, and with further development it was ready for use on carriers in early 1944.
The Corsair became one of the most famous World War II fighters. Despite heavy fuel loads, armament, and protection, it could outfly its opponents.
Caption: A U.S. Navy cameraman shoots footage of an F4U Corsair for a training film in 1945. (Catalog #: 2015.22.126, L. Clark Willey Photo Collection, Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, D.C.)
April 17th - USS Iowa
On April 19, 1989, turret two of the USS Iowa (BB-61) exploded, killing 47 sailors. The initial Navy investigation
concluded that the explosion was set off intentionally by an electronic or
chemical detonator. Sandia National
Laboratories was not satisfied with this conclusion and proposed an alternative cause in its investigation.
NSWC-Dahlgren tested Sandia’s hypothesis and determined
that over-ramming could create pressures that would cause premature detonation. The Dahlgren tests did in fact result in an explosion. However, the Navy’s final official findings were that no certain answer could be found.
Happily, this is not the end of the Iowa’s story. She was decommissioned in 1990 and
became part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet. In July of 2012 the Iowa opened as
a floating museum in Los Angeles, California, which you can visit in person or virtually (https://pacificbattleship.com).
Did you realize that, despite having been in existence since 1775, there was not a museum devoted to the Surface Navy until 2019, when the first one was established aboard the Iowa? With public support, the National Museum of the Surface Navy at the Battleship Iowa hopes to open in 2025 for the 250th birthday of the U.S. Navy. Find out more about this worthwhile endeavor at https://surfacenavymuseum.org
Would you like to see a ram used in the Dahlgren test of Sandia’s hypothesis or a “partial” 16-inch projectile (where the base was cut off so that it could be removed from the gun where the explosion occurred)? Visit us Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Caption: USS Iowa (BB-61) fires a full broadside of nine 16/50 and six 5/38 guns during a target exercise. Note concussion effects on the water surface and 16-inch gun barrels in varying degrees of recoil. (U.S. Navy Photo)
April 24th - Thompson Road
Thompson Road on the Dahlgren base was dedicated in honor of Dr. L. T. E. Thompson
on April 28, 1967. Read more about Dr. Thompson and about the naming of several other roads on base in "Road Names" by Sara Gray, this month's featured "Now You Know" article.