Getting the story straight

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Richard Hull
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Joined: Fri Jun 15, 2001 1:44 pm
Real name: Richard Hull

Getting the story straight

Post by Richard Hull » Mon Jul 30, 2018 10:20 pm

The history of the Farnsworth fusion effort in Fort Wayne was a tough nut to crack. Limited data was available and some hype was also floating around, like "they had a runaway fusion reaction as Farnsworth worked the controls". That was total hooey. Quite the opposite. Farnsworth did not have the on-site operational experience and as such he was asked not to run the fusor by Bain, but to be present and take data at scheduled run times. Still, on rare occasions, Farnsworth would sneak in at night after dark, and as Gene Meeks said, left a path of destruction in his wake to be discovered as the team arrived the next morning.

I first got in touch with Robert Hirsch via phone. We talked for about 15 minutes and as he had to go to a meeting we agreed to a more thorough conversation a few days later, via phone. Bob did give me all the names associated with the team. From this list I dug in and looked at phone directories in Fort Wayne and found two more members and so on. The Fort Wayne people told me where others had moved to and I found them through their town directories. It was a different world in the late 90's. The internet was up but very few old folks were on it. Not one human being on the team other than Hirsch had a computer at that time!

It was key to get the story from the "horse's mouth". Telephone conversations were tedious and you were burning up home time for many of them and thus it had to be kept short and concise to avoid irritation. I ultimately arranged to meet three of the group in Fort Wayne and Bain in Bloomington in 1999. I was there for 1 week. Specific dates and times for all meetings were set and all went off perfectly.

Nothing, and I mean nothing can do more for getting at the story than a face-to-face with the people involved. I audio taped and video taped the interviews.

Meeks and Haak spent two days with me as I bought them breakfast lunch and dinner. I also bought Gene a case of beer each day, as agreed and Haak had me buy him cigarettes as he chain smoked. They took me to the now defunct and empty Pontiac street ITT location. It had a for rent sign outside saying to ask for a tour. Fred Haak told the gate guard that he had left his camera inside the empty building from a recent tour and that myself and Gene were his managers who could not attend. He said he would show us around. The guard made a call and we were allowed into the plant alone and un-escorted. Freddie and Gene showed me the first basement lab they were in until 1961 and then showed me Farnsworth's office on the second floor. The best of all was their old large multi-room lab on the first floor, (61-68), and the cave and pit room. Many tales were told over those marvelous two days with the second day being the day they really loosened up and unloaded many of the skeletons long locked in the closet.

George Bain gave me an entire day as well. In Bloomington, I found Bain as sober and clear headed as a judge, he verified much of Meek's and Haak's testimony and was stunned and a bit nonplussed when questioned about the skeletons. He unloaded a few skeletons to me that Meeks did not speak of.

My Hirsch face-to-face occurred in his office in the middle of political DC in early 2000. He headed a high-end energy consulting firm at that time. He gave me four hours and bought me lunch at a rather upscale D.C. restaurant. He was absolutely amazed at how much I knew already and with what detail I elaborated on. Most interesting was his letting me see and fondle the actual AEC demonstration fusor that he purloined as he left ITT. He had it sitting on his desk as I walked in and I immediately blurted out, "the dessert cart fusor!!" While far more restrained and circumspect than the other's, he told me all about not only the Farnsworth effort, but about his time at the AEC as the nation's commander of the AEC fusion systems division. He made a lot of enemies as he came in and canceled numerous, older, money sucking, non-productive fusion programs. He also spilled the story behind his part in starting up HARP when he was the research V.P. at ARCO.

Paul and I met in Fort Wayne a couple of years later and spent a full day with Gene Meeks and Steve Blaising. Both spilled out even more details and Blaising let us each have a turn with his photo album from his time at ITT. We had to keep Meeks in beer, of course. A year later, Steve would send me his original of the thick GBC bound report that ITT funded in 1964 and told me it was now mine to keep.

Much to tell.

The recent spate of documents offered here, (thanks go to Leland Palmer), backs up virtually every claim made by the team and offer a few new insights that I gleaned from familiarity with cross related items I was told about.

The beat goes on....

Richard Hull
Progress may have been a good thing once, but it just went on too long. - Yogi Berra
Fusion is the energy of the future....and it always will be
Retired now...Doing only what I want and not what I should...every day is a saturday.

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