The Problem Solvers: A Portrait of the Corps (ca. 1979)

Mar 9, 2021 17:00 · 2230 words · 11 minute read


00:28 - Portraits… Reflections of the past…

00:32 - Glimpses of moments frozen in time… A time of challenges met, of problems solved, by the Army Corps of Engineers. You know, the Corps has been around too long, done far too much, to be seen in just one picture.

00:52 - But after our walk through this gallery, I think you’re going to have a better idea of the accomplishments and activities of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps works in both the military and civil work areas, either directly or through contracts supervised by the Corps and performed for the Army and nation by the Corps laboratories, industry, state agencies, and universities.

01:17 - Let’s look at some of their work. We’ll start with the military effort.

01:21 - [ENERGETIC MUSIC] In the battlefield of today, victory depends on mobility–the movement of troops, containment of enemy vehicles, analysis of terrain.

01:38 - These are only a few of the problems facing a battlefield commander– problems the Army Corps of Engineers are helping to solve.

01:49 - Corps civil and mechanical engineers produced the Army Mobility Model, which contributed to the design of the suspension system for the X-M1 tank.

02:00 - The Army Mobility Model is also being used to evaluate the performance of vehicles to travel cross-country, and to design counter mobility measures.

02:12 - Knowledge of the terrain gives our troops a decided advantage.

02:16 - New methods are being developed by Corps computer scientists to rapidly provide our ground forces with updated map information, so troop movement can respond quickly and with ease.

02:29 - By using new computer techniques, we can pinpoint areas where our troops can move with minimum detection as they advance.

02:37 - The computer can also analyze terrain that is not visible to the eye due to clouds or other factors limiting visibility.

02:44 - [FUTURISTIC MUSIC] Photo enhancements enable better identification of equipment, weapons, and ground facilities.

02:55 - [FUTURISTIC MUSIC] By simply changing programs, digital data and microprocessors can be used to rapidly provide commanders with three-dimensional views and line-of-sight overlays, which can assist them in positioning weapons, in planning troop movements, and in locating landing zones for helicopters. [FUTURISTIC MUSIC] But computers, well they only form one part of the tools the Corps uses. Models like this and the recreation of environmental conditions form the basis of the Corps’ research efforts.

03:50 - Well… what do you think this is supposed to be? Here’s a hint.

03:55 - [MUSIC] [HELICOPTER ROTORS] [MUSIC] That’s right! A helicopter blade.

04:00 - Cold weather military operations pose problems which the Corps’ R&D program is solving.

04:07 - One of the most difficult is the icing up of helicopter rotor blades.

04:13 - The Army’s Aviation R&D Command and the Corps’ Cold Regions Laboratory are working together to limit the icing of helicopter blades.

04:25 - Through research, they determine the physical properties that cause ice to form on, and adhere to, metal surfaces in extreme cold weather The outcome of this research will be coatings and materials that will keep ice from forming on structures and equipment.

04:44 - [COMBAT SOUNDS] Protection of our troops is a major area of research. Soldiers in the open field need protection from artillery and gunfire. This recent development is a shelter in a box.

05:08 - It’s a polyurethane foam which is mixed where and when it’s needed poured into a canvas envelope and sets up in 15 minutes.

05:18 - The foam doesn’t stop bullets, but it does provide the support for up to two feet of earth cover, and that will stop lots of bullets.

05:29 - [MUSIC] [EXPLOSION] [MUSIC] [MUSIC] Remember the snow forts you built as a kid? Well, recent R&D studies on ice and snow reveal that snow, packed at certain thicknesses, [ARTILLERY NOISE] can serve as an effective protection from small arms and artillery fragments.

06:00 - [MUSIC] In addition to developing protective covers, the Corps is also conducting research into improvement of a base plate for 81mm mortars.

06:18 - They develop methods and technology that allow the firing of mortars in snow without changing position.

06:25 - [MORTARS FIRING] [MUSIC] Countermobility is also a major area of research. Using bridges already scheduled for demolition, the Corps experiments with effective ways to destroy them and slow enemy movement.

06:44 - [EXPLOSION] In tests like this, we find better ways of setting explosives, such as at or under the water line, to take maximum advantage of the force generated in the explosion.

07:00 - Of course, not everything the Corps does is aimed at solving problems related to combat operations.

07:06 - As a nation, we always seek the peaceful solution so our military spends most of its time training and maintaining equipment.

07:15 - Just keeping our guard, preparing for what we hope will never happen.

07:20 - So many new techniques and procedures the Corps has developed are aimed at keeping our peacetime army in step with the rest of the nation, with respect to energy, the environment, and the lifestyle of our soldiers.

07:33 - Many of the Corps’ projects are designed to improve Army garrisons and installations, each almost like a city.

07:41 - And like any large city, military bases have their share of problems.

07:46 - Now, we’ve seen one kind of model, but this… this is another kind the Corps uses–a computer model. And these numbers and symbols, they represent the design and construction of buildings, parks, airstrips–all the facilities of an existing installation or a new one under construction.

08:06 - [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] Innovative applications of computer technology have helped the Corps develop improved architectural standards. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] This system, when completed, will incorporate nine separate modules into one program, allowing Corps engineers to do their designing and engineering faster, better, and cheaper.

08:36 - [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] A major concern in all construction is quality control. A new Corps development which is being tested in this area is the Well Quality Monitor.

08:48 - [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] The Well Quality Monitor was developed to ensure integrity and uniformity of wells.

08:57 - [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] This research will help set standards which will assure structural stability. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] Corps mechanical engineers are also studying heating, air conditioning, and ventilation. This test facility allows the comparison and efficiency rating of temperature control systems and insulation materials.

09:28 - [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] Recent natural catastrophes continue to teach us that we have to always be prepared to combat the forces of nature, such as earthquakes.

09:41 - Extensive seismic research underway by the Corps will help the Army design and construct critical facilities that can better survive the traumatic and destructive effects of an earthquake. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] Acoustical studies are done, which require the construction of scale model houses on shake tables. [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] The test is conducted with volunteers in the facilities to learn how much noise buildings and people can tolerate without discomfort or undue stress.

10:26 - [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] This is one of the largest shake tables in the United States.

10:38 - A computer controls the table and is able to simulate a multitude of vibrations, from an aircraft passing overhead to an earthquake.

10:50 - It allows three-dimensional vibration testing for earthquake stability.

10:55 - [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] MAN #1: Are you ready in the test room? [FAINT VOICE ON RADIO] [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] [SHARP NOISE] [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] [SHARP NOISE] [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] [SHARP NOISE] GUIDE: The Corps is also working for you, the civilian. The research and development mission of the Corps includes helping to improve your life, and the environment of the country, through the development and use of new technology, techniques, and materials.

11:43 - For example, along the nation’s coastal regions the Corps is continually working on ways to stabilize beach sand with vegetation, dune construction, or structural means when necessary.

11:56 - [OPTIMISTIC MUSIC] Many of the models sprawl over acres of countryside.

12:17 - Others, like this one, build giant buildings.

12:22 - They are used to study water resources, the navigability of our rivers, ways to improve flood control capabilities in every area of our country, and ways to protect harbors.

12:37 - This is a scale model of Oceanside, California.

12:41 - Here, researchers collect data under controlled conditions which is then used to make recommendations on seawall construction, docks, piers, and shoreline erosion, so that harbors will be more usable.

12:57 - [OPTIMISTIC MUSIC] The continuous movement of sand along our coastal area presents problems of erosion, including heavy sand deposits in our channels and marinas.

13:19 - [OPTIMISTIC MUSIC] The Corps researched and designed a sand pump, permitting the unwanted sand deposits to be moved.

13:30 - [OPTIMISTIC MUSIC] Models are used to study hydraulic factors critical to the proper location of reservoirs, dams, and their associated navigation structures. [OPTIMISTIC MUSIC] Other models of barges and boats are used to study channel alignment and placement of lock chambers.

13:54 - [OPTIMISTIC MUSIC] But lock chambers can become frozen in the winter months.

14:05 - [OPTIMISTIC MUSIC] To prevent this, the Corps has developed a bubbler system.

14:19 - [OPTIMISTIC MUSIC] The Corps’ new ice engineering facility is being used to simulate frozen conditions on our waterways.

14:38 - Research is focused on cold weather phenomenon, such as the destructive forces of ice.

14:46 - Some engineers study the formation of ice jams to find solutions for winter navigation problems. Other engineers in the Corps study the effects of ice on structures and related facilities. In this test a large sheet of ice is being dragged against a calibrated device, representing a structure, to develop improved design criteria.

15:11 - [ENERGETIC MUSIC] The corrosive action of rust is a serious problem to structures.

15:21 - [ENERGETIC MUSIC] Considerable work is being done by the Corps to understand this problem [ENERGETIC MUSIC] A new ceramic-coated protective device about the size of a pencil has replaced the old standard device weighing over 40 pounds.

15:56 - [ENERGETIC MUSIC] Developed by the Corps, it is easier to install in service  and reduces corrosion on waterway structures.

16:06 - [ENERGETIC MUSIC] Road icing–it interferes with transportation.

16:15 - [ENERGETIC MUSIC] Here, pavement de-icing agents are studied in test facilities to see how traction can be improved.

16:28 - [MOTOR NOISE] [ENERGETIC MUSIC] [ENERGETIC MUSIC] But answers aren’t always found with technology.

16:59 - Sometimes the right answer is right under your nose Like with this fish. This is a White Amur.

17:11 - The Corps is using it to solve the problem of overgrown aquatic plants in our rivers and recreational areas.

17:18 - [MUSIC] The growth and expansion of aquatic plants have been so rapid in the last few years that the problem is of unmanageable proportions, making many areas totally unusable to the recreational public.

17:38 - To find a solution to this problem, a demonstration project was initiated.

17:44 - One solution was to design special-purpose boats to maneuver, cut, and store the plants. The cost of operation is expensive.

17:56 - Another solution is the White Amur. This fish finds our aquatic plants a delicacy and consumes huge quantities daily.

18:08 - The preliminary results of the demonstration project with the White Amur have shown a definite decrease in the aquatic plant growth in Lake Conway, and no adverse ecological or environmental effects.

18:24 - A real success for Corps botanists and biologists.

18:27 - [MUSIC] Corps civil engineers have taken on the perennial problem of potholes. [MUSIC] They are continually researching better ways of preventing them, by improved design and construction, as well as quick and inexpensive methods of repairing them when they do occur [MUSIC] MAN #1: Okay, start sending.

19:06 - [MUSIC] GUIDE: Often the problems they face have no apparent solutions.

19:13 - [MUSIC] Yet, through painstaking evaluation and study, most of the problems are solved, or at least partially solved.

19:23 - [MUSIC] When the optimum solution is still beyond the current state of technology, we work to advance the technology to provide improved solutions.

19:39 - [ELECTRONIC MUSIC] Well, that’s been a picture of the Corps.

20:15 - I hope that you now have a better idea of the multi-faceted research and development programs undertaken by the Corps.

20:23 - Programs dedicated to seeing that our soldiers can fight effectively and successfully on any battlefield.

20:30 - Another part of the Corps’ effort is in designing and upgrading present and future Army installations, helping the peacetime Army meet the demands required of them.

20:40 - The Corps’ work has given our military personnel the best facilities to accomplish their missions economically and effectively.

20:48 - Then of course there’s the vital role the Corps plays in helping the nation better utilize the present and future civilian water resources, making them more cost effective, providing maximum benefits to people everywhere.

21:00 - Remember, the United States Army Corps of Engineers finds no problem too big, none too small, for it to tackle.

21:08 - [OPTIMISTIC MUSIC] They are the problem solvers.

21:22 - [OPTIMISTIC MUSIC] People working on a variety of research and development projects in a variety of places.

21:29 - [OPTIMISTIC MUSIC] Finding answers.