US NAVY PAGES
RANGE KEEPER MARK 10
Mr. Franklyn Kirk e-mail
Mr. Franklyn Kirk was employed by Ford Instrument Company from 1937 to 1945.
I had never heard of this Ford and had no knowledge of what they did but I did suspect they did not build automobiles. This Ford was Hannibal, not Henry. It wasn’t long after becoming a stock clerk that I learned Ford Instrument Co. made complex naval ordnance equipment. A Commander in the U.S.Navy had an office as did a Chief Warrant Officer who served as Ordnance Inspector. The stock room I was assigned to contained parts that had been inspected and accepted by the Navy and were therefore government property.
I had entered City College in January 1935, taking classes in mathematics and history but had not selected a major. I soon realized that studying engineering made more sense if I expected to advance at Ford Instrument Company. It wasn’t until 1938 that I was able to make the change. I applied for admission to The Cooper Union Night School of Engineering, passed the tests and became a freshman again. In 1939, after completing a year at Cooper Union, I appealed to the manager of the Test Department for a transfer. I was sick of being a poor stock clerk and wanted more of an intellectual challenge. It took two tries and a management change but it worked and I was granted a six-month trial. It was now late 1940 and I had become a married man. My first assignment was to the Spare Parts Section where the spare parts kits for the completed equipment were assembled, treated against corrosion, and packed into large metal boxes. It was not much of an intellectual challenge but it was part of the Test Department. Due to an incident involving the man who had rejected my first appeal, and was now General Manager, I gained notice and was reassigned to the Unit Test Section. Here I got hands-on testing experience. It was 1941.
Ford Instrument had received a contract to design and produce anti-aircraft gun drives for the 1.1” and 40mm. They included an electrical control section that operated an electro- magnetic clutch which, in turn controlled a large electric motor that would move the guns. There were two sizes of electric motors, a larger one for moving the gun mount horizontally and a smaller one for moving the guns vertically. The signal that served as the input to the gun drives was provided by a remote sighting director that was manufactured by others. We were told our gun drives were a temporary solution due to their limited operating cycle. The cork disk in the clutch had to be replaced after six hours of operation. We produced many of them; eventually the were replaced by electro-hydraulic drives made by The York Safe & Lock Co. and the single and double guns were frequently replaced by 40mm quads.
With the entry into the war, the expansion of the company was swift. In 1937 I was one of about 650 employees; at the busiest time of the war I was one of about 8500. It had become necessary to employ men and women with limited technical experience or aptitude and train them to perform unit testing. W e had our version of “Rosie the Riveter”. Her counterparts did very well. The work was tedious and the hours long but we heard few complaints. As these folks took over some of the work, others of us were able to move on to the more complex assemblies.
The most significant and important of the Ford developed products was the Mark I computer. This was an almost incredibly complicated electro-mechanical computer made up of assembled units for addition, subtraction, multiplication, vector formation, for derivative and integral development. There were about 26 input variations necessary to produce two continuous outputs to the 5” 38 caliber gun drives. The task of the test engineer was to interconnect the various units that were housed in a large cast aluminum enclosure about the size of an office desk. Static and dynamic tests were run to ensure that the computer was responsive and accurate. These tests were rerun with an attendant U.S.Navy officer serving as final approval inspector. This entire procedure might take weeks. .
In addition to the in-plant testing procedures, some of us were able to perform inspection and testing aboard ship at the many naval shipyards in the world. A few were stationed in combat areas and were transported from ship to ship by whatever means available. My own field service was limited to the Brooklyn Navy Yard when a squadron arrived for maintenance repair and service. This really made one feel as a participant in the war. I have a few special memories of these occasions. One time I worked 23 hours of one day without relief, grabbed a 4 hour nap in the Marine Barracks and then worked another 16 hours on the USS Taylor. Another time I was on the outermost ship docked downwind of the Brooklyn Bridge when it was c-o-l-d. They used to have the ships tied up three across and three in line. [Shore ? ? ? End of Dock]. A special memory is of a couple of visits aboard the USS Texas when it was docked at Pier 51 on the Hudson River (14th St. Manhattan). It was an old ship with a complement of mature CPOs including a good cook. I had one of the best corned beef and cabbage meals of my life during one of those visits. There was a Chief named McCormick in charge of the gun crews who was great to watch. He had his guys work like clockwork on his commands. We were checking a 40mm gun drive and it was very cold on deck. He used a gasoline blowtorch to warm up the cast bronze housing enough to get the drive to operate. He was a very nice guy and you could tell his men admired him. It was good to see.
There were quite a few installation and test engineers from many companies at the Navy Yard most of the time and they were generally pleasant and hard working and respectful of the crews of the ships. You could always tell when a ship had a tough engagement; the crew was subdued but friendly.
I remember being on the USS South Dakota when she returned to Brooklyn after action in the South Pacific. There were the remains of a twin 40 gun mount that had been destroyed by an unexploded enemy shell. The canvas cover was blood-stained; I felt close to the war.
There was a period late in the war when the Test Department work week was 87 hours. I remember asking for time to get a haircut.
THESE IMAGES ARE FURNISHED BY MR. FRANKLYN KIRK.
I WILL ADD THAT THE INTERIOR OF THESE COMPUTERS IS LIKE A FINE WATCH AND JUST AS COMPACT. THE PARTS ARE ONLY A LITTLE LARGER THAN INSIDE A WATCH.
MORE INFORMATION ON THE MARK 1A COMPUTER AND THE MARK 8 RANGEKEEPER.
BASIC FORD INSTRUMENT COMPUTER MECHANISMS AND HOW THEY WORK