I Slept with a Nuke… and Other Most Lickly Stories

I Slept with a Nuke… and Other Most Lickly Stories

Here are a few just random stories that I am not clever enough to weave into a coherent blog post.

  • As the Lunar Module was coming down to the moon Buzz Aldrin accidentally turned on the rendezvous radar (which wasn’t needed and is a computer cycle pig) when they got closer to the surface and more programs turned on the computer overloaded which sent off a stream of alarms but Jack Garman of NASA famously said “go, go, go” and the landing proceeded with a lot of nervous people watching
  • As kids we spent time playing at Draper lab.  Let’s just say we had access to some pretty cool stuff.  I can remember playing on flight simulators and such. My sister once got her fingers stuck in a mechanical calculator and they had to take the machine half apart to get it out. Given the cost of equipment in the day I shudder to think how much that thing was worth
  • One of the things my fathers remembers in awe is witnessing a Saturn rocket launch up close, with 7.5 million pounds of thrust.
    Saturn rocket with 5 engines providing 1.5 million pounds of thrust each

    “The sheer power was overwhelming and you could feel the compression, the ground shake, Walter Cronkite thought the windows were going to blow out”

  • In a previous post, I mentioned how my father spent 2 months sleeping within 15 feet of a nuclear war head while submerged on a submarine. Turns out it was armed, good news is they didn’t arm it till they left port.
  • When he went to get his drivers license the motor vehicle license tester asked him if he knew how to drive, he responded with “How do you think I got here?”

    1947 Ford
  • My father’s first car he won in a raffle at the age of 14 a 1947 Ford
  • I used to tear through the halls of Draper lab dodging a guard we fondly referred to as “Fat Frank” and I was known to have 2 speeds, all out or asleep…. Um, not sure things have changed much
  • There really is a place called Lickly Corners. It’s in southern Michigan. I’ll spare you the numerous grave stone photos.

    Lickly Corners
  • My best friends from college and I climbed Kilimanjaro, afterwards we went on a safari, well, a self driven one in Bill Cherry’s land rover. We might have misbehaved a little bit and in the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania we were fined $10 for scaring the lions. Why is this seemingly random item here, could be related to my trip to Lickly Corners…..
  • Dan was asked to leave the M.I.T campus during reunion weekend a few years ago because he was protesting the changes to the M.I.T curriculum… well, actually he was handing out fliers comparing the M.I.T. curriculum to that of Cal Tech and was asked to stop, he was pissed that you could graduate from MIT without taking a math class. He didn’t really get kicked out but he did get a letter from the president

  • If you read my earlier post on punch cards, you might recall that it was standard operating procedure to get a printout of the cards on continuous feed printer paper, usually green and white… Well, for those of you that know my father, you wimain-qimg-478c443fe81f317cc6780e56e7c58ab8ll understand that these stacks of printouts were a dream come true for him, he had stacks and stacks of these all over the place in his office, car, home.. everywhere! For me, I just know they made great coloring paper!


Polaris (Not the Snowmobile)

Polaris (Not the Snowmobile)

The Polaris missile was a two-stage solid-fueled nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) built during the Cold War by Lockheed Corporation for the United States Navy or referred to as an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM).

Polaris Missile

In layman’s terms, it was a missile designed to be launched from a submerged submarine. My father was involved with this program working with the guidance systems, specifically working with Joe Sabo, who showed him the ropes on how to debug the Polaris guidance computer. Basically, it was a computer guided missile that would launch with a determined target and would have a vX, vY & vZ, basically left/right guidance, required thrust and for lack of a better explanation, height.  The computer would adjust during flight based on initial target calculations.

One of my fathers biggest thrills was being in Cape Canaveral when they tested the Polaris, and out of nowhere a missile came out of the water….  he couldn’t believe that the math on paper actually worked.

Later, he would travel on a top secret (well classified) mission accompanying the Polaris missile on a submarine across the Atlantic. Leaving from Connecticut and arriving in Scotland 2 months later all the while submerged. His job was to babysit the Polaris guidance system, oh… did I mention they had nukes attached?  In fact, he slept in the missile compartment 15 feet from one of the warheads.  I guess that’s one way to keep warm.  He was lucky, he had a pull down bunk all to himself, not one of the stacked variety subs are know for.  The down side, was there was a metal beam overhead they used to move heavy objects so if they need to move something in the night, he had to get up, fold up his bunk and wait till they were through.

This is where the Lickly lore kicks in.  You see, he basically entered Scotland in Cold War times through military channels.  Then after 2 months on a sub,

Letter from the sub commander courtesy of my Aunt Mary

was let loose to travel Europe.  When he went to catch a flight to England, the immigration people got confused as his passport was never stamped for entry. The details here get fuzzy but it sounds like he finally wore them down as he couldn’t admit to being on a confidential mission.  He met up with Steve Copps (Ed Copps brother), Alex Cosmala and did what most 20 somethings do in Europe.


The majority of the Polaris team ended up moving over to the Apollo program working on the guidance systems.