|Powders and Propellants
In 1941 Charles C. Lauritsen, a representative of the NDRC, traveled to the UK to
study British powder manufacturing, where he spent several months examining the British
approach to rocketry. During his stay, he was introduced to the process of "dry extrusion"
in which a propellant is squeezed and dried to form a large grain. This process allowed
the British to create propellants with greater explosive power than that possessed
by their American counterparts. Lauritsen was impressed and, upon his return to the
U.S., convinced the NDRC to expand its program in rocketry, resulting in the creation
of Section L.
In early May 1942, the members of Section 1 of Division B of the NDRC agreed to begin
a program on the study of ballistics. The United States was finding much of its artillery
to be of only minimal use against the heavily armored tanks and ships of the enemy.
It was widely recognized that any improvements made to the U.S.'s high- and hyper-velocity
guns could greatly advance the Allied cause. On August 11, 1942, Pauling was asked
by Bush to serve as Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Internal Ballistics as related
to Hyper-Velocity Guns. Pauling readily accepted and at 10:00 AM on August 28, 1942,
the committee convened in Washington D.C. for its first meeting. Pauling, serving
as chairman, presided over a group of nine scientists, many of whom were close personal
friends as well as professional colleagues.
The committee was initially tasked with the analysis of preexisting propellants, providing
research data that would allow for specific informed studies leading to the creation
of more sophisticated powders. The committee quickly discovered, however, that it
did not have the means to collect the required data. In order to continue with its
original task, it had to reevaluate its intended approach to the study of projectile