b'C H A P T E R 2T H E N A V A L P R O V I N G G R O U N DMeanwhile, the Bureau of Ordnance while within the specifications of B-24 Liberator.found many ways to exploit its expanse the safety manual, wereof desert. The proofing of guns com- exceeding the limits of safety.menced on November 20, 1943, with Possibly the safety manualthe shooting of an anti-aircraft gun high needed to be revised or barrierinto the air. Proofing continued after the standards improved.war ended in 1945; the Naval Proving Courtesy of Wright-Patterson Air Force BaseGround eventually fired 1,650 minor To test this premise,and major caliber gun barrels. For 1944 Lieutenant Colonel Clarkalone, the commander ordered over Robinson, who before the war was a15,000 projectiles, to be used for gun professor of chemical engineering attests and target practice. 15 the Massachusetts Institute ofTechnology, came to the Naval ProvingBomb groups and fighter squadrons Ground. He built a concrete safety wall.training at the Pocatello Army Air Base On one side, he stacked 25,000 poundsregularly blasted two areas of theof TNT against the wall to representproving ground as they practiced high- fresh-loaded bombs. On the other side,altitude bombing techniques. Residents he placed 5,000 more pounds of TNT.grew accustomed to the droneday In the first test, setting off the 25,000and nightof B-24 Liberator bombers pounds resulted in the detonation of theand B-17 Flying Fortresses as they small pile as expected, and the barrierdropped hundred-pound sand-filled wall turned to dust and very small rub-practice bombs with black powder spot- ble. The test confirmed that the barrierting charges, trying to hit wooden pyra- wall could not isolate the impact of amid targets. 16 25,000-pound explosion. He built moretests and experimented with air gapsThe Navy permitted the U.S. Army to leaving several feet of air between theuse part of the grounds for detonation pile of TNT and the concrete wallresearch. At ordnance centers else- and different amounts of TNT. It waswhere, the Army managed loading all to find a safer way to store bombs.plants, where charges of T N T a n dother explosives were packed into their Typical of scientific experiments, theshells and cartridges. Freshly loaded test engineers predicted how each testprojectiles were stored within safety would perform and then comparedcells separated by concrete barrier predictions to the actual results. Withwalls. Should the contents of one cell each main test, Robinson used theignite or explode accidentally, the wall opportunity to do side experiments.was supposed to prevent the contents One day, he set out small tokenof the adjacent cell from detonating. charges at varying distances from aThe Army Safety and Security Division large TNT charge, expecting the closest Pat Gibson, daughter of a civilian ordnance worker,had reason to believe in 1944 that the ones to go off by sympathetic detona- and her horse, Ginger. Marine barracks in distancequantities of explosives accumulating tion. On the day of the test, the blast at right.in the safety cells of its loading plants, went off as planned, but some of the1 3'