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Dahlgren Heritage Museum  P. O. Box 816, Dahlgren, Virginia 22448  www.dahlgrenmuseum.org

From left to right, Capt. Peter Nette, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity South Potomac, Ruby Brabo, Dahlgren Distr ict representative on the King George County Board of Supervisors, Ed Jones, president of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, Robert G ates, the foundation’s vice president, John LoBuglio, vice chairman of the King George County Board of Supervisors, and Dale Sisson , chairman of the King George County Board of Supervisors, cut the ribbon opening the Dahlgren Heritage Museum on Oct. 19. U.S. Navy photo by Andrew Revelos

Ribbon Cutting Celebrates Opening of Dahlgren Museum ByAndrew Revelos


ommunity and military leaders joined members of the Dahlgren Heritage Board on Oct. 16, 2013 to cut the ribbon and open the long-awaited Dahlgren Heritage Museum. The ribbon-cutting marked the end of a three-year effort organized by the board—supported by King George County and Naval Support Facility Dahlgren—to establish a museum to tell the story of

Dahlgren. The museum is located on the site formerly occupied by the Virginia Welcome Center and features exhibits detailing the accomplishments of Dahlgren’s scientists, engineers and Sailors in the installation’s more than nine decades of service. Dale Sisson, chairman of the King George County Board of Supervisors and an employee at Dahlgren, praised the effort. “This is a great day and a great facility,” he said. “It’s come a long way since it was a visitor cen-

ter.” Sisson added that he hoped the museum would bring more visibility to Dahlgren’s historic role supporting the national defense. “One of the things I think is so important about this facility is that it reminds us of the contributions that go on just across [Route] 301,” he said. “Those 95 years of history are just outstanding. In my day job, I get to lead one of our technical departments for the Naval Surface Warfare

Dahlgren Heritage Foundation Digest - Winter 2014

See OPENING on page 4


DAHLGREN HERITAGE FOUNDATION Board of Directors President Edward W. Jones


2014 Will Be a Year to Remember By Ed Jones


Vice President Robert V. Gates Treasurer Anita Churchill

t’s easy to get carried away at the beginning of a new year – making resolutions you can’t keep, setting goals you can’t reach. After all, it’s a time to think ambitiously and to dream big.

But for the Dahlgren Heritage Museum, it is surely no overstatement to say that 2014 will be our most important year so far.

Secretary Lori Deem

With the help of you, our members, and others in the community, we find ourselves in a place where we truly can, with confidence, think big!

Board of Directors Charles Armstrong John B. Ashton Ruby Brabo Tim Carsola Gregory Chambers James Eaton Joseph McGettigan Debbie McInnis Stan Palivoda Lisa A. Rossbacher Ed Watson

In October of 2013, after three years of brainstorming, planning and fundraising, we opened the doors of the Dahlgren Heritage Museum in the former Gateway Welcome Center on Route 301 near the Nice Bridge. That milestone gives us the opportunity to set two key goals for 2014:  Build the museum into a vital resource for the community, with regular hours of operation and a growing array of programs. We will continue to host Community Forums at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren campus. But having our “own place” gives us the chance to host small forums, special exhibits and member events amid the growing number of artifacts that tell the story of the U.S. Navy at Dahlgren.

Our Mission The Dahlgren Heritage Foundation preserves and promotes the history, traditions, heritage and culture of the United States Navy at Dahlgren, Va., and the surrounding community. The Foundation will purposefully and aggressively seek financial support to establish the Dahlgren Heritage Museum and to provide the longterm preservation efforts and educational activities associated with sharing the stories and interpreting the U.S. Navy’s physical, technical, intellectual and social contributions to King George County, the Commonwealth of Virginia, and the nation.

Our Vision To generate a public understanding of the impact the community and U.S. Navy base at Dahlgren, Virginia, have had in using science and technology to strengthen national defense, particularly through support for warfighters.

 Use the museum as our platform to raise the money we’ll need to move our operation up to the next level – with new exhibits, artifacts on the museum grounds, scholarships for STEM students in area schools, a speaker series and an enriched website that ultimately will become a virtual museum. That sounds like a lot to get done in one year. But we now have the opportunity to move aggressively in both these areas. This is an exciting time to be part of the Dahlgren Heritage Museum. You can help us grow through your continued support. Keep checking our website www.dahlgrenmuseum.org for the latest on programming and opportunities to volunteer. We’ll soon be offering training for those willing to serve as docents at the museum. This is not just another New Year. As the economy improves and the countdown continues toward Naval Support Facility Dahlgren’s 100 th anniversary in 2018, this will be a vital year for the decades-long goal of creating a museum to tell the story of the Navy and the community at a place called Dahlgren. It’s the story of a remote, marshy shore on the Potomac that became a “crown jewel of the United States Navy.”

Thanks to Our Sponsor

The Dahlgren Heritage Foundation is a member of the American Association for State and Local History.

Production costs for the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation Digest are sponsored by the NSWC Federal Credit Union. Federally chartered in 1961, NSWC Federal Credit Union is a memberowned financial institution dedicated to meeting members' needs by providing quality products and convenient services in a professional manner, while ensuring financial integrity. Learn more at www.nswcfcu.org.

Dahlgren Heritage Foundation Digest - Winter 2014


Why Is There a Norden Bombsight in Our Museum? By Dr. Robert V. Gates


he Norden Bombsight and the Army Air Force (USAAF) are forever linked in public memory. Most people probably assume that it was developed by or for them. So why is it the centerpiece of a museum about the Navy in Dahlgren? The U.S. Navy considered ships to be the primary targets of its bombardment missions. In its search for an effective means of accomplishing this mission, it considered level bombing, dive bombing, glide bombing, and aerial torpedo attack. A series of tests in 1921 was not encouraging. In fact, a subsequent report for the Secretary of the Navy concluded that “it is absurd to think that either the aerial bomb or the submarine torpedo have furnished the effectual answer to the capital ship.” The Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) had the responsibility for developing bombsights for the Navy and, in January 1920, contracted with Carl L. Norden to improve the Navy Mark III bombsight. Norden delivered three experimental Mark XI bombsights – all handmade – to the Navy in the winter of 1923 and spring of 1924. Bench and flight testing was conducted at the U.S. Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren in 1924. Many changes were identified during testing and BuOrd contracted with Norden for modifications to two of the bombsights. The modified bombsights were delivered to Dahlgren for flight testing in 1925. Bureau of Ordnance testing of the Mark XI bombsight at Dahlgren began in 1922. In the 5½ year period leading up to the production contract, Norden visited Dahlgren 51 times. The testing at Dahlgren is credited with uncovering numerous design and performance issues. Dahlgren was also the site of the first school to teach me-

Carl Norden (top photo) with one of his bombsights shown installed in an aircraft. The Norden bombsight, which was flight tested at the Navy airfield at Dahlgren during World War II (bottom photo), is featured in a new exhibit commissioned for the opening of the Dahlgren Museum at the former Gateway Visitor Center on Hwy. 301 in King George County, Va.

chanics how to maintain the Mark XI bombsight. In addition, all production bombsights came to Dahlgren for acceptance testing. Norden made improvements to the bombsight and continued to come to Dahlgren for testing. The result, in 1931, was a prototype of the Mark XV bombsight that the USAAF made famous. Dahlgren testing of all production bombsights continued through World War II although the process was made more efficient after 1943. The bombsight on display in the museum is on loan from Mr. Carlton Middlebrook. His father, Charles Candy Middlebrook, came to Dahlgren with Carl Norden in 1919. Chief Middlebrook was Norden’s primary technician at Dahlgren and personally inspected, maintained, and See NORDEN on page 4

Dahlgren Heritage Foundation Digest - Winter 2014


Carlton Middlebrook stands by a display in the Dahlgren Museum that features the propeller that powered America’s first radio-controlled, pilotless flight at Dahlgren in 1924. Middlebrook’s father, right, was part of the test and later worked on the development of Norden bombsights. U.S. Navy photo by Andrew Revelos

OPENING Continued from page 1

Center [Dahlgren Division]. I look forward to seeing the great work that our scientists and engineers are doing today, not just for us here locally, but as a reminder nationally of the contributions of Dahlgren.” Ruby Brabo, the Dahlgren District representative on the King George County Board of Supervisors for Dahlgren, seconded Sisson’s praise. “I’ve been so impressed with all the work everybody has done to put this together, to make this vision a reality,” she said. An avowed history buff, Brabo hoped the museum would help bring more tourism to the area. “Tourism is a $21 billion industry here in Virginia, so I look forward to King George County finally capitalizing on [this],” she said. Ed Jones, president of the privately-funded Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, thanked a long list of people for their contributions to the project. Jones called the museum “a dream come true” when the site was unveiled to Dahlgren School alumni before the ribbon-cutting.

Sadly, one person who was part of the effort to establish the museum was not present. Ruth Herrink, publisher of the King George Journal and a supporter of the museum, passed away a week before it opened. “She has been with us since day one,” said Jones. “We’re very sorry she couldn’t be here for this. It was something she worked on for so long.” Jones offered special recognition for a Dahlgren School alumnus whose family treasures are on display at the museum. “One of our alums deserves special thanks and that is my friend from Dahlgren School, Carlton Middlebrook, who has loaned us two very important artifacts,” he said. Those two historic items on display at the museum—a Norden bombsight and N-9 seaplane propeller—were graciously loaned by Middlebrook, son of legendary Dahlgren avionics mechanic Charles Middlebrook. The elder Middlebrook was trained by Carl Norden and inspected the bombsights bearing his name as they were delivered to the Navy from the 1930s through World War II.

The seaplane propeller was part of a lesser known aspect of Dahlgren history. On Sept. 15, 1924, the Naval Research Laboratory conducted the first radio-controlled, pilotless flight from the installation, the first in the United States. The N9 seaplane was fitted with gyro-actuated automatic controls adjusted by Charles Middlebrook. Though that first pilotless flight lasted less than 15 minutes, the experiment marked the first milestone on a technological path that eventually led to today’s unmanned aerial vehicles. Jones said the museum has more exhibits in store for the public in the future. “We’re going to be building this museum in the months and years ahead,” he said. “It’s going to be a great space to have [science and technology] programs. We also want to tell the story of the community at Dahlgren—the school and the residential areas.” Author Andrew Revelos is a member of the public affairs staff for Naval Support Activity South Potomac.

NORDEN Continued from page 3

installed each bombsight. He later became the first Navy instructor for bombsight maintenance and repair. The Navy’s role in the development of the Norden bombsight is less well known than is its use by the Army Air Force in World War II. Even less known is the role that the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren played in the development, testing, and acceptance of the Norden bombsights, beginning soon after World War I. It’s clear that both deserve credit for their significant contributions to the breakthrough capability represented by the Norden bombsight. Author Dr. Robert Gates is vice president for the board of directors of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation.

Dahlgren Heritage Foundation Digest - Winter 2014


Virginia Delegate Margaret Ransone (l.) and state Senator Richard Stuart (r.) present a proclamation by Governor Bob McDonnell to Capt. Peter Nette, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity South Potomac, designating Oct. 16, 2013 as “Dahlgren Day” in honor of the installation’s 95th anniversary last year. U.S. Navy photo by Andrew Revelos

Dahlgren Day Celebrating 95 Years of Innovation By Andrew Revelos


embers of the Dahlgren community gathered Oct. 16, 2013 at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren Campus to celebrate Naval Support Facility Dahlgren’s 95th anniversary. The festive occasion, sponsored by the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, brought together service members, community leaders and employees past and present. “Thank you so much for being here for this very special occasion, the commemorative celebration of the 95th anniversary of the Navy base now known as Naval Support Facility Dahlgren,” said Ed Jones, president of the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, welcoming attendees. Jones updated the audience about the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation’s progress in establishing a museum, which opened Oct. 19. “It’s an exciting time to talk about the story of Dahlgren,” he said. “I like to tell people that the only thing that’s more exciting than Dahlgren’s history is Dahlgren’s future, because with the development of multiple commands

on the base, it seems that more than ever, this center of research, innovation, testing, training and support for the warfighter is more and more essential for this nation.” Dahlgren was a remote piece of marshland in rural King George County before the Navy fired its first test shot at the new base in the fall of 1918. Though the nature of the work at Dahlgren has evolved during its more than nine decades of existence, the base continues to be called “a crown jewel of national defense,” said Jones. Marines supervised by Navy Lt. Cmdr. H. K. Lewis fired that first shot from a tractor-mounted, 7-inch, 45-caliber naval gun, hurling a 153pound projectile 24,000 yards down the Potomac. Jones mused about the effect of that thunderous first shot on local wildlife, which has since grown used to the noise. “That must have been pretty jarring. But you know, in the next nine and a half decades, there were a lot of booms. I grew up on base in the 1950s and that was major boom time, let me tell you.”

“By any measure, 95 years is a long time,” said Capt. Peter Nette, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity South Potomac. “It’s a milestone worthy of celebrating in itself… an exceptional achievement.” Nette said the work of the Dahlgren History Project, an initiative of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), together with the privately-funded Dahlgren Heritage Foundation, have done a great job telling Dahlgren’s story. “As a result of these efforts, we have a new realm of opportunity to highlight the important legacy represented by Dahlgren,” he said. “It’s remarkable that all these developments have coincided with the base’s 95th anniversary, just shy of its centennial five years from now.” The success of the base through the decades would not have been possible without the support of the communities that surround it, added Nette. “The deep connections between the Dahlgren base and this community represent an invaluable asset that we in the military should never take for granted.” The leader of Dahlgren’s largest tenant command shared some behindthe scenes insight about the effort to name the base. “It’s the policy of the Department of Defense to name a proving ground after the geographic location it goes in, not to name it after a person,” said Capt. Michael Smith, commanding officer of NSWCDD. A post office called “Dido” existed in the area prior to the establishment of the base, said Smith, but the Navy wanted to name the installation in honor of Adm. John Adolphus Dahlgren, the father of modern naval

Dahlgren Heritage Foundation Digest - Winter 2014

See ANNIVERSARY on page 6


“I will tell you that Dahlgren always stands at the top of the list of things we have to preserve.” - Retired Rear Adm. Brad Hicks

ANNIVERSARY Continued from page 5

ordnance. “So they convinced the state of Virginia to rename the post office Dahlgren, which then allowed the Navy to name the proving ground after Dahlgren.” Smith seconded Nette’s praise for the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation. “Through your efforts, you honor the men and women who throughout the years have been pioneers in research and development that has resulted in many and great solutions that have proved so vital to the surface and subsurface Navy,” he said. “Because of the Dahlgren Museum, we have added assurance that our story will be told as we move forward in developing systems that are increasingly flexible and more effective.” Two leaders from the community, Virginia Delegate Margaret Ransone and state Senator Richard Stuart, discussed the installation’s history and future. “Let me tell you, as a little boy growing up in the Northern Neck, listening to those booms… we heard those booms and we didn’t pay a bit of attention,” said Stuart. “But I’ll tell you what we did pay attention to was the fact that we had this base here in the Northern Neck and we appreciated it. We wanted it here and we all worked together to make sure the base felt welcomed and would stay here. I think that’s a critical issue.” Ransone also grew up along the Potomac River and is well acquainted with the noise. “I’m humbled to stand before so many decorated officers and military personnel and civilians and defense contractors this evening, honoring 95

years of Navy heritage based right here at Dahlgren in King George County,” she said. “Because of your hard work, we’ve been blessed with 95 years of dedicated service to our great nation.” Ransone read a proclamation from Governor Bob McDonnell declaring Oct. 16, 2013 Dahlgren Day, in recognition of the installation’s contributions to both the national defense and the commonwealth of Virginia. Ransone and Stuart together presented the proclamation to Capt. Nette, and additional copies to representatives from each of the tenant commands on the installation. The keynote speaker at the anniversary ceremony was retired Rear Adm. Brad Hicks, who was the program director for Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense at Dahlgren prior to his retirement from the Navy in 2009. During his tenure at Dahlgren, he led the mission that successfully shot down a damaged satellite threatening an uncontrolled reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Currently a vice president at Lockheed Martin, Hicks said it was an “honor” to speak at the ceremony and pondered the challenges of Dahlgren’s past, present and future. The base’s establishment in 1918, he said, coincided with America’s post-World War I disarmament. “The Navy got real small. It was only through the perseverance of families [like the] Roosevelts and some others that we maintained a Navy, per our Constitution.” When Dahlgren increased its output for World War II, anti-aircraft proximity fuses helped win the war. “Those algorithms, those mathematical models were envisioned here… at Dahlgren,” said Hicks. American consumers have also benefitted from research and devel-

Retired Rear Adm. Brad Hicks addresses the audience at the Oct. 16 ceremony to commemorate Dahlgren’s 95th anniversary. U.S. Navy photo by Andrew Revelos

opment on the base. “Your car’s navigation system… its GPS system and the science behind it, came from [Dahlgren],” Hicks continued. Hicks said the colocation of many Navy commands at Dahlgren is a major factor in the installation’s continued success, a situation set in motion by the late Rear Adm. Wayne Meyers, “father” of the Aegis Combat System. Colocation allowed engineers to work closely with the officers and Sailors that would maintain and use Aegis. “We had learned painfully that as weapons systems got more complex, if you didn’t do that, you might not get it right,” said Hicks. Meyers’ decision to base all things Aegis at Dahlgren has paid dividends to both the Navy and the base, said Hicks, but efforts to improve warfighting capability must be ongoing. That kind of foresight and perseverance is Dahlgren’s way forward. “When you look at the innovation that’s come out this lab, it has survived good times and bad times,” said Hicks. Though the nation’s budgetary troubles and their affect on the military remains to be solved, Hicks thinks Dahlgren has a bright future. “I will tell you that Dahlgren always stands at the top of the list of things we have to preserve.” Author Andrew Revelos is a member of the public affairs staff for Naval Support Activity South Potomac.

Dahlgren Heritage Foundation Digest - Winter 2014


Down Range

Dahlgren Heritage Foundation News & Upcoming Events

Dahlgren Museum Set to Open Doors to the Public Training Scheduled for Volunteers to Serve as Museum Docents


he Dahlgren Heritage Museum is set to open its doors to the public for the first time on a regular operating schedule. Beginning on Saturday, Feb. 15, the museum will be open from 12 noon to 4 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month. “This is our initial attempt to establish regular hours at the museum,” comments Susan Prien, administrative officer for the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation. “Our hope is to be able to expand our hours as we are able to bring on additional volunteers to help staff the museum,” she explains. A one-hour training seminar for volunteers to serve as docents at the museum is currently being offered on Thursday, Jan. 30, at 5-6 p.m. and on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 12 noon-1 p.m. Any persons interested in volunteering to serve as a docent (a person

who leads tours especially through a museum or art gallery) is invited to attend the training, which will be conducted at the Dahlgren Museum. The Dahlgren Heritage Museum is located in the former Virginia Gateway Visitor Center on Hwy. 301 in King George, Va., adjacent to Wayside Park on the Potomac River. The street address for the museum is 3540 James Madison Hwy., King George, Va. 22485. Foundation to Exhibit at STEM16 Summit The Dahlgren Heritage Foundation will sponsor an informational display at the 3rd annual STEM 16 Summit on March 29 at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg. The annual summit, sponsored by UMW, the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce and FredTech,

Join Us in Preserving and Celebrating the Past, Present and Future of the Dahlgren Military Community

Membership Matters You are invited to join the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation as we build the support required to open and operate the Dahlgren Heritage Museum. To date, membership dues and donations have supported:

Dahlgren History Forums at the University of Mary Washington (UMW) Dahlgren Campus

Development of the first Dahlgren Heritage Museum displays at the UMW Dahlgren Campus

Renovation of the former Visitor’s Center in King George, Va. as the museum’s opening location As membership in the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation continues to grow, we look forward to reaching our future goals to include:

    

Educational programs Expanded interactive website Continuation of History Forums and other special events Installation of historical exhibits at the Visitor’s Center site

Student robotics competition at the 2013 STEM 16 Summit in Fredericksburg.

highlights the achievements and offerings of our region’s students, educators and businesses in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) arena. This year’s summit, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at UMW’s Anderson Center on College Ave., will highlight student and educator STEM effort from over 25 local secondary schools, UMW, Germanna Community College and Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. The summit is open to the public and free of charge. To register, call (540) 373-9400 or visit the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce website at www.fredericksburgchamber.org. FredTech, an affiliate of the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, supports, enhances, educates and attracts technology businesses to the region. This affiliation affords chamber members another member benefit by giving them an opportunity to become involved with the Technology and Innovation Council. STEM 16 has been established under FredTech to promote, enable and extend STEM resources, activities and opportunities within Virginia’s Planning District 16, which includes the counties of Stafford, Spot-

Public opening of the Dahlgren Heritage Museum Become a member on line at www.dahlgrenmuseum.org

Dahlgren Heritage Foundation Digest - Winter 2014

See DOWN RANGE on page 8


DOWN RANGE Continued from page 7

sylvania, King George, Caroline and the City of Fredericksburg. STEM 16 will engage with regional STEM leaders to build upon the existing STEM initiatives. Whenever appropriate, STEM 16 activities will directly involve Region 16 students. STEM 16 will work with local primary and secondary schools and related educational programs, businesses, military facilities and government leaders to build and execute a strategic regional STEM program of activities. Foundation Providing Student Transportation to Science & Engineering Festival The Dahlgren Heritage Foundation will sponsor transportation for area students to attend the 3rd annual Sci-

A young attendee to the 2013 Science & Engineering Festival is awestruck at one of the demonstrations. ence & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. The largest STEM education event of its kind in the United States, the festival will be held April 26-27 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Over 750 leading STEM organizations will present hands-on science and engineering activities for

people of all ages. The event is free of charge. Sneak Peek Friday will take place on April 25, 2014. Registration information for schools will be provided soon. Detailed on the Science & Engineering Festival and all events is available on line at www.usasciencefestival.org/2014festival.html.

Dahlgren Heritage Foundation P. O. Box 816 Dahlgren, VA 22448

Dahlgren Heritage Foundation Digest - Winter 2014


Profile for Gary Wagner

Dahlgren Foundation Digest Winter 2014  

News and information on the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation and the Dahlgren Heritage Museum.

Dahlgren Foundation Digest Winter 2014  

News and information on the Dahlgren Heritage Foundation and the Dahlgren Heritage Museum.

Profile for grwagner