September Volunteer Profile – Larry Moran

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Volunteer Larry Moran in front of a Talos missile.

Volunteer Larry Moran in front of a Talos missile.

I first met volunteer Larry Moran in the fall of 1996 as he manned the information desk on the hangar deck of Yorktown. Larry was among the second wave of volunteers put together by Don Ziglar and is one of our longest serving volunteers just behind the likes of Rudy Toldrain and Lloyd Conard. He is very involved with the maintenance and development of data bases involving visitors at Patriots Point and has done a marvelous job with them over the years. He has a fascinating story…

Larry grew up in Livingston, New Jersey, and attended the University of Notre Dame receiving a B. S. in aeronautical engineering in 1954. Upon graduation, Larry entered the United States Air Force and worked as a maintenance officer at McCord AFB in Washington state. Larry maintained C-118 and C-124 aircraft for MATS (Military Air Transportation Service). He also worked on the FJ Fury aircraft.

USAF FJ Fury jet fighter aircraft.

USAF FJ Fury jet fighter aircraft.

C-124 of the Military Air Transportation Service.

C-124 of the Military Air Transportation Service.

After leaving the USAF, Larry entered into the demanding business of missile development in the exciting times of the late 1950’s. He worked for Convair at Edwards AFB and was involved in the development of the first implosion trigger device for nuclear weapons packaged for missile delivery.  Larry’s next job was working for Rocketdyne Corporation. He was offered a job at the new rocket development site at Cape Canaveral, Florida, but turned it down as he really wanted to go to a Rocketdyne contract in England. Soon Larry was on his way to England as part of a contract with the British government maintaining and training personnel involved with the Thor missile system.

Larry had a wonderful time in England, and the work was exciting… sometimes too exciting. One day a Thor missile had a malfunction and engine shut down, but the vent valve for the liquid oxygen (LOX) tank had failed.  As the missile heated up in the sunshine, it risked over-pressurization and imminent explosion, similar to the photo below. After sweating it out in the blockhouse and studying the missile schematics, the engineers finally figured out a way to open a few valves and vent the pressurized LOX through the engine exhaust nozzle…A little too much excitement…how much do they pay us?

Thor launch.Thor launch.
Thor explodes on launch pad.

Thor explodes on launch pad.

Larry’s work station at the base was in the blockhouse, which was a huge concrete building with thick walls and massive steel blast doors. One day they noticed that the dirt top of the blockhouse had a sign on it that said, “No walking on roof.” Despite the thick concrete walls and steel blast doors, it was discovered that the roof only had a layer of dirt over a plywood top!!!

When the contract with the Brits was almost up, Larry decided his days as a mad rocket scientist were over. He returned to the United States and took a regular engineering job at Pratt and Whitney in Hartford, Connecticut. He worked for P&W from 1960 to 1995. Upon retirement he moved south to Mount Pleasant and as they say, “The rest is history!”

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