Moonport: A History of Apollo Launch Facilities and Operations

New Captains at the Cape

The Gorman recommendations and burgeoning activity on the Cape sparked an increase in the Debus forces in 1961, well before they became the Launch Operations Center. Lewis Melton, reporting for duty in July 1961, initiated a rapid expansion of LOD's Financial Management Office, which entailed a move to "off-Cape" office space in the cities of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach. 15

On the recommendation of Maj. Raymond Clark and Richard P. Dodd, Debus requested the assignment of Capt. A. G. Porcher, of the Army Ordnance Missile Center Test Support Office at AMR, to LOD. Debus appointed Porcher LOD liaison officer with the Corps of Engineers for construction matters. Clark served in a similar liaison capacity between LOD and the Air Force. A 1945 West Point graduate, Clark had been with the Missile Firing Laboratory in the mid-1950s and was reassigned to the NASA Test Support Office in July 1960. He served on the test support team that represented both the Air Force Missile Test Center and NASA. The Debus-Davis study brought his skills to the fore. During the next two years he would represent LOD in a series of complicated negotiations with the Air Force.16

In January 1962, the Launch Operations Directorate established its own procurement office - a task previously handled under the supervision of Marshall. Gerald Michaud, the first procurement officer, handled contracts for $30,000,000 worth of support equipment for launch complex 37. Michaud, like Melton, had to seek off-Cape office space.17

The Materials and Equipment Branch of LOD had worked under the supervision of the Technical Materials Branch at Huntsville until the beginning of 1962, when a joint supply operating agreement went into effect. By June 1962 the LOD branch was operating as an independent NASA supply activity.18

In this same period, Debus set up the Heavy Space Vehicle Systems Office with Maj. Rocco Petrone as director. Petrone's responsibility for the Saturn C-5 included facilities, operations, and site master planning. In the third area, he co-chaired, with an Atlantic Missile Range representative, the Master Planning Review Board that regulated the development of Merritt Island and ensured that site development met NASA requirements.

The direct supervision of facilities on LC-39 fell to Col. Clarence Bidgood, a West Point graduate with a master of science degree in engineering from Cornell, and a survivor of Bataan and four years in a Japanese prison camp. Described as a "no-foolishness hard worker," Bidgood had packed a variety of experience into his postwar years that included flood control work and construction of U.S. airfields in England. He began working for LOD in November 1961 and took charge of the Facilities Office in February 1962. Bidgood turned his attention in his initial year to three major functions: the acquisition of real estate on Merritt Island and the False Cape; organization of the Facilities Office for the criteria design and construction of LC-39; and the establishment of requirements for LC-39 by the various individuals, firms, panels, and centers involved in Apollo.19

The Launch Support Equipment Office under Theodor Poppel and Lester Owens, Deputy Director, retained the design responsibilities for vehicle-associated support equipment. This group remained at Huntsville in order to coordinate the work of designing and launching the vehicles. At von Braun's suggestion, Debus took Poppel's group under his jurisdiction.20

In the enlargement of its staff after 1 July 1962, the Launch Operations Center gave priority to individuals who had performed as administrators in similar areas for LOD; and, for other positions of importance, to Marshall personnel with appropriate skills. Associate Director for Administration and Services C. C. Parker, who had served as Management Office Chief at Anniston Ordnance Depot before joining LOD, interviewed the prospective section chiefs and Debus made his final choice from the candidates recommended by Parker.21

As a result of internal growth and the acquisition of the LVOD personnel in May, LOC's personnel strength rose almost 400% between July 1962 and July 1963. More offices were forced to seek quarters in the cities of Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach. In the case of Procurement and Contracts, the move from military security at the Cape allowed easier access for outside contacts. The location of Public Affairs at Cocoa Beach facilitated relations with Patrick Air Force Base, the contractor offices, and the press.22

Most Launch Operations Center personnel remained on the Cape, where LOD had been a tenant. Some NASA elements continued as tenants in Air Force space for several years. In this period many offices had to get by with inadequate facilities, which impaired morale and reduced productivity. George M. Hawkins, chief of Technical Reports and Publications, pointed out that four technical writers worked in an unheated machinery room below the umbilical tower at LC-34. At one time pneumonia had hospitalized one writer and the others had heavy colds. When it came time to install machinery there, they urgently requested assignment to a trailer. Russell Grammer, head of the Quality Assurance Office, established operations in half a trailer at Cape Canaveral with seven employees. When the staff grew to 13 times that size, his force had to expand into other quarters. The Quality Assurance people worked in such widely scattered places as an old restaurant on the North Cape Road, a former Baptist church on the Titusville Road, a residence on Roberts Road, and numerous trailers.23