1373rd Mapping & Charting Squadron

Ron Hardgrove

I was part of the 1373rd when I was stationed at West Palm Beach AFB from July 1955 thru Feb 1956. This was originally the 1st Computational Technical Squadron stationed at Forbes AFB in 1952. This outfit used converted B-50 Bombers to survey distances on the surface of the earth through the use of SHORAN.

I finished my technical training at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia in August 1952. This was learning the methods of reducing data from ground surveying. There were five (5) Airmen who were sent to Forbes AFB in Topeka, KN. They were Jack Wencil, Joe Moriello, Ron Stanwick, Ray Wilson and myself, Ron Hardgrove. Joe, Ron and myself were sent on a TDY to Ramey AFB in Puerto Rico in Feb 1954. We were there to help in the laying out the Missile Test Range. This was Phase II and included the measurment of the islands from Grand Turk to Trinidad. We were there for 10 months and then returned to Orlando AFB before being transferred to West Palm Beach AFB.

The use of SHORAN was the metod of using ground stations placed to the ends of an imaginary line (island ot island). The B-50 flew a figure 8 somewhere near the middle of this line and at an altitude to give an unobstructed line of sight for the radio waves. A signal was sent from the plane to one ground station and received back in the plane. Another signal was sent to the other ground station and received back. The elapsed time was converted into a distance and a picture on 35mm B&W film was taken of the instruments. This film was developed and read on Recordaks. The information was then reduced using desk type calculators like Marchant and Fridens. The distance could be up to 650 miles and the accuracy was +/-6".

I was an A/1C while in Puerto Rico and part of my job was to reduce the raw data by using Least Square Adjustment. When we did the final adjustment there were some 4 or 5 lines which had to be reflown as their probablilty was not good enough. It meant resetting up the ground stations and flying these lines again. We finished this project and returned to the States on December 10, 1954. One of the islands that was surveyed was found to be some 8 miles from where it had been shown on the charts and Trinidad was tilted some 3 degrees from what it had been shown.

When we were finished with the project the Major called a meeting and said "We will leave Ramey AFB on December 10 aboard a C-54 Troop Carrier. You and your baggage shall not exceed 250 lbs." I started to laugh and he asked, "What's matter Sgt?" I told him I weighed 290 lbs. without my baggage. He got the last laugh as I was sent bak to the States on a C-124 sitting on the packing crates.

I would have stayed in the Air Force, but wanted to finish my Electrical Engineering Degree and felt this type of work was soon to be done by satelites. I did get my BSEE at Carnegie Institute of Technology after 8 years of Night School.

Ron Hardgrove