Saturday, September 11, 2010

Army-Navy "E" Award

I am a bit of an oddity. Strange to admit, but not in the way you might be thinking. I work in two research groups, that is, I have two major professors. Both of the groups work in the area of physical chemistry yet one is experimental and the other theoretical. Most people are one or the other, but I get to be both. I think it will end up being a benefit to me, but the jury is still out on that one.


One of my offices is located in the DOE Ames Laboratory. I spend a lot of time working in the area of electronic structure theory in this office. Day in and day out I pass by this flag in the hall way outside my office.


I got to wondering about it as I hadn't seen a flag quite like it before. So I looked it up. It seems there isn't much about this type of thing on the web. The best sites regarding it are wikipedia, the National Park Service's Rosie the Riveter site, and this Military Navy history page. As you may have guessed, it relates back to World War II.

 ameslab.gov

Ames lab had an important role during the war. It was this role that led to the flag that is framed outside my office. Turns out that the Ames lab began an interesting venture led by Dr. Frank Spedding (side note: my office is in Spedding hall). Dr. Spedding was an expert in rare earth chemistry which is still a large part of the research that goes on in the Ames lab.


To have a nuclear bomb it is necessary to have high purity uranium. Dr. Spedding turned his attention to producing this uranium. The history of the Ames Lab web page recounts it like this:
"The Ames Project developed new methods for both melting and casting uranium metal, making it possible to cast large ingots of the metal and reduce production costs by as much as twenty-fold. This uranium production process is still used today. Ames produced more than 2 million pounds (1,000 tons) of uranium for the Manhattan Project, advancing wartime efforts to uncover the secrets of atomic power and protect national security.
      The Ames Project received the Army/Navy E Flag for Excellence in Production on Oct. 12, 1945, signifying two-and-a-half years of excellence in industrial production of metallic uranium as a vital war material. Iowa State is unique among educational institutions to have received this award for outstanding service, an honor normally given to industry."
To read more about this history and the history of the Ames Laboratory see their 60th anniversary page.

They were awarded the Army-Navy "E" award for excellence in production on October 12th, 1945. It is this very flag that I nonchalantly pass by every day that they received on that day.


October 12th, 1945 Army-Navy "E" award given to Iowa State University
You may not have noticed, but this flag is a 4 star "E" flag. Of the 4283 flags given out 8 were six star flags, 206 were five star flags, and 820 were four star flags. That makes this flag a pretty rare one.
The more I think about this flag and its connection
with chemistry and research the more I wonder how many other items I pass by every day with such history. There are many displays throughout the lab buildings that have old artifacts with such stories. Strange chemical apparatuses on display that had some important part in the development of some reaction or theory. Old displays like

this one on the right which hangs on the first floor of Spedding hall by the main entry way. It's an old "Periodic Chart of the Elements" which has some of each element on display. Here is a close up image. 

What sort of things do you pass that have special meaning to you, things that have such a rich history that may have shaped the nation? 

Today is September 11th and we all know what happened back in 2001 here in the U.S. but I encourage you, stop and think. Stop and thank. Stop and thank God for what you have and those who came before you.

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