by Edward Driscoll, Jr.
For most of us, electronics is a hobby — a diversion from work and
“real life.” For 80-year-old Roy A. Norman, electronics has been his life.
It served him well with the US Navy; by 1948, he had
already served for seven years. He was stationed in Guam,
working his way up to the rank of petty officer first class,
“getting rid of electronics equipment by throwing it over a
cliff,” when he got his orders to report to Sandia Base in
During World War II, Sandia Base had chiefly been the
province of the Army Air Corps, which built Kirtland Air
Force Base there at the beginning of World War II. In the
late 1940s, the Navy began to use the area’s wide open
spaces to develop its nuclear program. It didn’t hurt that it
was in the same state as Los Alamos, the site of World War
II’s Manhattan Project.
“When we first got to the base, we had to fill out a long
form for clearances so that we could work on the nuclear
weapons. There was one time when the FBI was checking
up on us and my mom wrote me to ask, ‘What kind of
trouble are you in now?!’”
Norman felt he couldn’t tell her, “because I had some idea
of what I was going to do.” In May of ’ 48 — when his security