When the United States Navy sails into harm's way, our warships and weapons must be as good as we can make them. Since the 19th century, officers like Lieutenant John Dahlgren have worked to bring scientific advancement into the fleet. Through his leadership and that of others like him, much of the Navy's shore establishment has been devoted to making better ships, more powerful and more accurate guns, stronger armor, and in more recent years, improved aircraft, bombs, missiles, and electronics to support the mission of the sailor as both a warfighter and peacekeeper. This book tells the story of one part of the Navy's research and development effort. Rooted in tradition and heritage traced directly back to the first efforts of Lieutenant Dahlgren to improve the scientific study of ordnance and naval weapons technology, our facility on the shores of the Potomac River started life at the end of the First World War, when the Navy needed a longer testing range than the existing facility at Indian Head, Maryland. Every major naval gun and every lot of ammunition had to be tested, not only to guarantee safety, but also to calculate the ballistic data necessary to ensure accuracy in fire control. The Naval Proving Ground at Dahlgren, Virginia, first known as the "Lower Station" of the Indian Head facility, soon expanded its mission area into other technologies such as aerial bombing and formally separated from Indian Head in 1932. Many of the types of research here were far ahead of their time. We see this in the previously little-known story of the attempt to develop automatic and remote-controlled aircraft that could serve as weapons, forerunners of modern missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Often the work at Dahlgren was highly secret, and only in later years could the details be released, as with the development of the Norden bombsight. Other once-classified stories, such as the development and testing of proximity fuzes, the ballistic experiments conducted on early scale models of the "Little Boy" atomic bomb, the ballistic experiments conducted on its later derivative, the "Light-Case" ground penetrator bomb, and Dahlgren's movement into the fields of computing technology and systems engineering, spell out the important role in the nation's defense that the station has played over the years.
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Chapter 1 - Introduction: Proving Ground to Warfare Center * Chapter 2 - Finding the Range, 1841-1932 * Enter Dahlgren * From Annapolis to Machodoc Creek * Constructing the Lower Station * Naming the Lower Station * A Fight in Congress * Testing Ordnance * Experimental Program * The Aviation Detail * Flying Bombs * Radio Control * Pioneer Life * Separation * Chapter 3 - Dahlgren at War, 1932-1945 * A "New Deal" for the Navy * Experimental Research Ascendant * The "Pickle Barrel" Sight * The Eve of War * The Armor & Projectile Laboratory * "Gang" Busters * The War Years * Secret Weapons