Town Can Be Proud of Part Played in Victory


Taken from:Southbridge Evening News – Wednesday, August 22, 1945

Southbridge people can be justifiably proud of the part they and the industries of the town played in the war effort.Although the American Optical Co. turned out the largest volume of goods, many other plants came through with tremendous efforts.


Harvey-Wells Electronics, Inc., founded in March, 1940, quickly became a leader in radio and radar, showing the way for larger manufacturers.Many other plants here did valuable work, according to a survey of six representative industries.

Harvey-Wells was a pioneer in radar development and manufacture all during the war.According to Richard Mahler, vice-president and general manager, the company was one of the first to develop and produce radar equipment for the radiation laboratories at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.


Harvey-Wells made the first 50 radar units sent to combat zones for testing and its methods and designs were later used for mass production of this equipment.The Philco Co. also used Harvey-Wells designs for long range navigation equipment.


“Our LRN was the first used in the invasion of North Africa,” Mr. Mahler said.“It enables ships to plot their position and course plus or minus a few feet.A ship in a convoy could tell just where it was and where the other ships were on the darkest night.”

He added that the celestial navigation which has been in use since men started to sail out of sight of land had a much larger margin of error and was useless on foggy nights.

“We also made the original airborne radar equipment for the United States and England which started the pin-point bombing of Germany,” he said.

Harvey-Wells was one of the first to initiate the mass production of quartz crystals, which were vitally needed to set the frequency of sending and receiving radio sets.The government needed 24 million crystals and the highest previous production was 50,000 a year.

“They thought it was ridiculous when we planned to produce a thousand a day,” Mr. Mahler said.“Within a month, we were turning out more than that.

“When the manufacturers first started mass production of crystals, there was a very high rejection rate.Wright field out in Dayton asked each manufacturer to send 25,000 crystals for testing.The average rejection at the other plants was 40 to 50 percent.At Harvey-Wells, it was less than three percent.

“We used an acid etching process which later became mandatory for all the manufacturers, who took over our methods.After a while, we stopped production of crystals when the process was so developed that a handful of companies could supply the need.”

Harvey-Wells also produced several thousand high-power transmitters for Great Britain and America for use in landing barges and large trucks, and several thousand radar units for PT boats.The equipment was used in all war theaters.


The company made complete units which were part of the SO radar equipment used in cruisers and destroyers.

“It gave the range of the target, told whether it was friend or foe, and gave the azimuth hearing.Azimuth is the degrees off the bow of a ship.This was used in the Battle of the Coral Sea, where the Japs were beaten although it was the middle of the night and the targets weren’t visible.”

Explaining the functioning of the radar to tell whether a ship or plane was friend or foe, Mr. Mahler said that the radar equipment in a ship or plane “acted as a trigger” for radar equipment in the target.The company has been and still is making this equipment for B-29 and B-32 bombers.

“We made so many different kinds of equipment that it’s hard offhand to think of them all,” Mr. Mahler said.“For instance, we had a radio direction finder that was used in both Europe and the Pacific and an anti-jamming device which could practically shut out enemy interference.

“It could also locate the stations which were jamming, making it possible to put them out of business.”

Harvey-Wells built the radar system which replaced the tail gunners in B-29s and B-32s, who had had a high mortality rate.

Mr. Mahler said that the radar equipment used in the big planes cost from $35,000 to $40,000 and that most of it wouldn’t be useful in peacetime.

“Some of it will be good to prevent collisions by ships and planes,” he said.“Airports will have radar screens and be able to tell where any plane is.They can keep them out of each other’s way and land them when the ceiling is right on the ground.”


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