MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

Harbor View: Radar Training at MIT, 1941-1945

Cover of the staff booklet

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A specialized radar training program, part of a broader Engineering Defense Training (EDT) program sponsored by the U.S. government, was organized at MIT by the Department of Electrical Engineering in June 1941. The focus at MIT was to educate a core group of army and navy personnel about the theory and operation of microwave radar so that they could be ready to use nascent radar technology that was expected to be essential to forthcoming military efforts.

Cartoon from bookletAt the same time the EDT program was in operation at MIT, a second radar-related government wartime project was housed on the MIT campus, although it was unknown to the army and navy students training in radar systems. (Both programs were classified and had separate and distinct organizations.) The second project was the Radiation Laboratory ("Rad Lab"), which was engaged in an intense research project focused on the technical development and production of radar systems.

The army and navy radar training classes (a three-month program) were first taught on the MIT campus in old buildings 18 and 32. Since radar systems were classified as "secret," classrooms and participants were under guard. In May 1942 the school moved to a more easily contained, larger, industrial building several miles from the Cambridge campus at 470 Atlantic Avenue in Boston overlooking Boston Harbor. Radar systems (as seen in the illustration of this navy booklet) were installed on the roof of the "Harbor Building" for instructional purposes, and the Harbor Islands and their structures provided convenient testing opportunities.

Cartoon from bookletInstruction was coordinated by faculty on loan from the Department of Electrical Engineering at MIT, augmented by additional civilian and military instructors. A textbook, Principles of Radar, edited by J. F. Reintjes, was compiled by members of the instructional staff and published in 1946 to make microwave information available to industry and university engineering departments.

Cartoon from bookletBy the end of the war almost 8,800 students (primarily army and navy officers) had gone through the training. Some of the Army Signal Corps students, among them future Technology Review editor John Mattill, met several times through the years, including one reunion at MIT in 1997.

More detailed information about the radar training school can be found by searching the MIT Libraries catalog; and in the papers of J. Francis Reintjes (MC 489), Henry Zimmerman (MC 508), and Marcy Eager (MC 406) and the Radar Training School collection (MC 633), all available for research in the MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections, Building 14N-118.

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