Historical Harbinger Has WTI Connection
Seventy-one years ago, on a day that has lived well beyond infamy, an eventual Williamsport Technical Institute student was an eyewitness to history.
From his position at the Opana Radar Station in Hawaii, Joseph L. Lockard saw the impending attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The Williamsport soldier was teaching a fellow Army private, George Elliott, to operate a new SCR-170 radar aircraft-detection device that had arrived on Thanksgiving.
"We spent the night at the site and turned on the equipment and were on line with the information center at 4 a.m.," Lockard told The (Allentown) Morning Call in 2011. "George was at the plotting table; I was the operator at the scope … After the exercise, we didn't shut down the unit at 7 a.m because we didn't have any transportation back to Kawailoa. The truck hadn't arrived. So, I decided to give George some training.
"I started to put him in front of the scope and there it was – this huge echo on the screen. I had never seen any kind of response on the equipment that was so large. At first I thought there might have been some glitch with the equipment. So I checked everything I could and everything operated OK, so it had to be real. There had to be something out there."
The objects they spotted off Kahuku Point and reported to Lt. Kermit Tyler at the Fort Shafter information center turned out to be Japanese aircraft heading for an attack on Pearl Harbor.
The New York Times, which published Tyler's obituary in 2010, quoted him as saying: "I knew the equipment was pretty new. In fact, the guy who was on the scope, who first detected the planes, it was the first time he'd ever sat at the scope. So I figured they were pretty green and had not had any opportunity to view of a flight of B-17s coming in. Common sense said, 'Well, these are the B-17s.' So I told them, 'Don't worry about it.'"
The B-17s that Tyler referred to were six aircraft due to arrive from the United States that morning. Tyler went on to command fighter units in the Pacific during the war and to serve as a career Air Force officer, retiring in 1961.
Lockard attended WTI after World War II, becoming a draftsman and designer. After employment with the Pennsylvania Railroad and Sylvania, the decorated veteran spent most of his career at AMP Inc. in Harrisburg.
He submitted an "In Touch With Alumni" item that was published in the Spring 2005 issue of One College Avenue, noting his retirement, acknowledging his longtime spouse (who died in 2009) and identifying himself as a 1947 drafting graduate.
He died Nov. 2, 2012, at age 90, in his Harrisburg home.