Willow Run Labs Project Michigan article from The Michigan Daily


(I transcribed this article I found on the web https://digital.bentley.umich.edu/midaily/mdp.39015071754019/587)

Willow Run (Continued from Page 1)
Several times a year military brass will fly in on special transports to inspect the entire  Willow Run installation. The atmosphere is described as frequently tense by some insiders. Competition for military research contracts is high. Project Michigan, the mainstay of the operation is down to $2.5 million this year from $3.5 several years ago.
Like any office the facility has its in-group jokes. “One of our favorite jokes is to talk about the non-military uses of the new observatory in Hawaii,” says a Willow Run staffer. “Publicly the officials talk about the peaceful uses of the observatory. But everyone knows its there for tracking IC-BM’s and satellites.” Although WRL officials plead ignorance on the matter; there is informed speculation that the $4.3 million dollar observatory the University is staffing in Maui, Hawaii will play a role in satellite warfare.
The defense department sponsored observatory may be used in the highly secretive spy satellite business. Currently the Air-Force is developing a top secret anti-satellite system to knock enemy satellites out of action undetected. The idea is to use sophisticated electronic devices to “bump” an enemy satellite (equipped with cameras and eavesdropping gear) out of action. The new observatory will “track the mid-course flights of . . . orbiting satellites with advanced infrared sensing, measuring and recording devices,” according to President Hatcher’s 1963-64 Annual Report. Tracking the satellites would be an integral part of the anti-satellite system. And trade publications suggest that the new Hawaiian observatory could well be used, in that manner.

Work at the Willow Run center started in 1946 when the facility was known as the Michigan Aeronautical Research Center. The original work was done on adapting ballistic missiles for defense purposes under Project Wizard. In 1950 WRL worked in cooperation with Boeing aircraft on a new missile system to knock out bomber aircraft called BOM-ARC: Boeing Michigan Aeronautical Research Center.’

In 1953, the giant of all past and present research, Project Michigan was born and is still carried on under their auspices. Willis E. Groves, current head of Project Michigan says the basic purpose of Project Michigan was to “build better spectacles for our military” and that it is primarily concerned with radar and infrared research.

According to Robert L. Hess who was director of Project Michigan from 1962-65 when he became director of the Highway Research Institute, “Project Michigan was the best investment ($70 million over the past 13 years) the army ever made.

The army was similarly impressed with Hess’s work and in 1964 awarded him the Outstanding Civilian Service Medal for his contributions as director of Project Michigan, noting that he had “succeeded in establishing and maintaining the University of Michigan as the leading free world authority in surveillance technology.” Hess says he was shocked when he received the award: “I had no idea they were going to give me this, it was a wonderful surprise.”

The Willow Run center also maintains three national clearing-houses. One is the Ballistic Missiles Radiation Center (BAMI-RAC) which collects, analyzes and disseminates information relative to ballistic missile radiation, a subject important in developing a defense against such missiles. BAMIRAC does significant technical research in this area.

An Infrared Information and Analysis center (IRIA) is now in its 13th year and disseminates information on infrared science and technology. A third center now in its seventh year disseminates information on “seismic detection of underground nuclear explosions.”

Although WRL is a nationwide information center, it proves reticent about disclosing the extent of its own activities.

The University makes a “Quarterly Compilation” of all research contracts on campus. But director Evaldson declines to release the information on WRL in the compilation because “I believe this goes into greater detail on our affairs than I could properly make public.”  He will release his own “compilation of the projects,” contained in the quarterly compilation.

Some of the project names tend to be euphemistic. For example a $48,731 Navy sponsored project described as “Passive Lopair Support Studies” with Donald S. Lowe a physicist in the Infrared and Optical Sensor Lab, is actually concerned with “The detection of chemical warfare agents using passive Lopair techniques.” In this project, which expires in January 1969, Lowe is studying the ability of a certain optical system (LOPAIR) to detect chemical warfare agents.

Scientists at the Willow Run center are actively involved in conducting classified symposiums. The Willow Run center continues to conduct the semi-annual meetings of the Anti-Missle Research Advisory Council (AMRAC) under sponsorship of the Defense Departments’ ARPA.

Willow Run scientists have also taken an active role in the ARPA sponsored “Counterinsurgency Research and Development Symposium (CIRADS). Among those who have attended the symposium are Evaldson, James T. Wilson, head of IST, and Marvin Holter, head of the infrared and optical sensor lab at WRL.

This year the University helped plan and sponsor the second annual CIRADS conference held in Houston in June. George Zissis, head of the infared physics lab at WRL was program chairman.

Zissis says that the conference “was an interdisciplinary effort to find out what causes insurgency. We had political scientists deliver papers on the difficult problem of how you handle indigenous forces in friendly contries.”

“This was an effort to give people who have been doing classified work in this field a chance to get together and share their information.”

Zissis says about 300 to 400 persons attended the conference. “There were people from British Intelligence, Thailand, Australia, Hughes Aircraft, the Rand Corporation, George Washington University, and the Royal Canadian Dragoons.”

I tried to get someone to deliver a paper on how we could end the conflict in Vietnam but no one would do it.”

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