The Sandoval Signpost

An Independent Monthly Newspaper Serving the Community since 1988

Community Bits

Al Garblik, at home, in Placitas

Al Garblik, at home, in Placitas

Al Garblik—a pioneer in communications technology

—JO ANNE FREDRIKSON
The engaging twinkle in Al Garblik’s ninety-two-year-old eyes reflects his “thirty-year-old mind.” He loves to meet and greet people, and often can be found sampling wines at a Friday night wine tasting at the Merc in Placitas. He outlived his wife, who succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease late in life and lives in Placitas with his daughter Judy. She keeps him involved with activities of Placitas Jardineros, such as parties, game nights, and other activities. He has a son in California, two granddaughters, and two great-grandchildren. He’s had to give up his beloved cigars, but still enjoys a martini now and then. He’s extremely well-read and intensely interested in politics and the world economy. Al Garblik is a testament to the human spirit and his passion for learning is an inspiration.

His credentials in electrical engineering and his interest in ham radio led him to be a part of history—some great, some regrettable, but always exciting. He was working as a high-speed radio operator handling overseas traffic on the “Polish circuit” in 1936 when he overheard that Warsaw was being bombed before the sound went dead. He clearly recalls the day he was told that “The Japanese are bombing Pearl Harbor.”

These events in history changed the focus of his career with Bell Labs. He shared that then-President Harry Truman wanted AT&T (the telephone company) through Bell Labs to become engaged in the war effort by operating Sandia Corporation. AT&T declined and Truman threatened to have the Justice Department investigate them as a monopoly. AT&T agreed to operate Sandia for one dollar a year. Al’s early work resulted in the creation of a radio device for the Navy to direct pilots back to aircraft carriers using Morse Code signals emitted from a circular antenna aboard aircraft carriers. He built the first ten himself. Subsequently, thousands of such devices were built for both the Navy and Air Force. He received many letters from pilots acknowledging that this technology kept them from being lost at sea and saved their lives.

This application of high-speed Morse Code technology led to the creation of 450 different communication channels for use by the military in Japan, and was the subject of his Master’s thesis. In 1949, his pioneering work, coupled with family health concerns, led him to Albuquerque and Sandia Corporation. His work at Sandia on the engineering aspects of Pershing missiles and with ‘Honest John’ was his introduction to nuclear weapons and to the famed scientists at Los Alamos that had been involved with the Manhattan Project. He helped to create a safety device that would disarm a nuclear weapon if the missile veered from its intended target.

He shared that although this work was exciting and challenging, he knew that the scientists involved sincerely regretted the outcome of their work on the first hydrogen bomb. “Those thinkers saw hell, were privy to Dante’s inferno,” he said. They were aghast at the damage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At the time, Japanese kamikaze pilots were flying themselves into ships on suicide missions much like the suicide bombers inflicting misery in the war in Iraq. It was a difficult time in history.

His experience in the nuclear arena resulted in an invitation to work with the Air Force on a Manhattan-like project being started in California. The best technical people in the country were pulled together—including Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb; two Nobel Prize-winning physicists; expert aerothermodynamacists, and Al Garblik. They were charged with solving the problems of how missiles could re-enter the atmosphere without burning up, and the issue of sloshing fuel in the boosters. Al said he couldn’t wait to go to work each day. He would again work with these famed scientists on weapons re-entry issues in the late 1960s. His final contribution to the U.S. missile program before his retirement in 1977 was the development of an Advanced Maneuvering Re-Entry Vehicle to direct the trajectory of missile re-entry.

Midway through his career, Al became interested in exploring the world. He has traveled to almost every major country on earth. He and Judy leave soon for a trip to Europe. Laughingly, he shared that the first Mercedes he purchased in Germany for export to the U.S. cost a mere $2,500. He is now busy editing and transferring his collection of three- to four-thousand photographic slides onto CDs. Al now uses his computer rather than a ham radio to maintain frequent conversations with people from around the world. He is currently reading three books (on Einstein, Oppenheimer and Teller), and trying to get a handle on global economics.

You really should meet Al. Ask him about his latest gadget.

If you have a recommendation for a person to highlight in “Real people, real stories,” please email a paragraph about the individual and your contact information to: editor@sandovalsignpost.com or mail it to: Signpost, P. O. Box 889, Placitas, NM 87043.

 

TOP OF PAGE

 

 

Ad Rates  Back Issues  Contact Us  Front Page  Up Front  Animal News   Around Town  Classifieds Calendar  Community Bits  Community Center   Eco-Beat  Featured Artist  The Gauntlet Health Community Links  Night Skies  My Wife and Times  Public Safety Real People Signpost Arts  Schoolbag  Time Off Uncle Duffy Word Heard Around Town