Scientific Research

Scientific Research (HMWM9)

Location: New London, CT 06320 New London County
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Country: United States of America
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N 41° 20.625', W 72° 5.593'

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World War II

Before the United States entered World War II, German U-boats again inflicted death and destruction on the seas by sinking Allied ships as they had in World War I. In January 1942, the month after the United States entered the war, the Germans began an effective and ruthless U-boat assault on American shipping along our own Atlantic coast. In this campaign, called Operation Drumbeat (Paukenschlag), the U-boats sometimes sank as many as three ships in a day off the eastern seaboard. Some of the attacks were so close that they could be seen from the shore. "Thick oil from blasted tankers and debris from wrecked ships covered the Atlantic beaches." wrote historian Nathan Miller. Finding ways to combat the U-boat threat was of the utmost importance.

For this task, the navy turned to three universities: Columbia, Harvard, and the University of California. While Harvard and the University of California set up separate facilities elsewhere, Columbia set up a research laboratory here at Fort Trumbull in 1941 in a hastily erected building near the dock.

Fort Trumbull's location provided easy access to Long Island Sound for testing newly invented devices. The fort was also conveniently close to the navy submarine base and the Electric Boat Company (a submarine builder), both across the river in Groton. Columbia recruited engineers and scientists from universities and industry, all prepared to work on an emergency basis.

The expendable radio sono-buoy, one of the major scientific developments of the war, was developed here. It was "well adapted to U-boat hunts," wrote the historian James Phinney Baxter. "Lauched from an airplane, it floated in the water free of all effects of ship's motion, and transmitted by radio to the plane whatever underwater sounds it heard."

By May of 1943, sinkings by U-boats declined sharply and would continue to decrease due in part to the work done here. In August, the lab would turn some of its attention to enhancing the capability of American submarines, and by June of 1944, 85 percent of the lab's activity focused on that effort. Near the end of the war the navy merged some wartime programs of the Harvard underwater research lab with the Columbia lab to form a permanent peacetime facility at Fort Trumbull. The facility was directed by the navy and was called the U.S. Navy Underwater Sound Laboratory.
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HM NumberHMWM9
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Placed ByFort Trumbull State Park
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, September 8th, 2014 at 2:25am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18T E 743203 N 4580994
Decimal Degrees41.34375000, -72.09321667
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 41° 20.625', W 72° 5.593'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds41° 20' 37.50" N, 72° 5' 35.58" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)860
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 1-99 East St, New London CT 06320, US
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