Month: November 2013

DCA Blue Notes entertain members and guests — December 18, 2013

Founded over 60 years ago, the Blue Notes are a group of women who use their voices for a good cause. Singing 4-part harmony, covering music from Big Band to Broadway, the group performs at senior centers and assisted living venues throughout Southern Fairfield County, as well as at the DCA. Their director – Dr. Craig Scott Symons – is also the director of the First Congregational Church of Greenwich choir. The DCA is proud to have the Blue Notes as a key part of our philanthropic mission.

The Blue Notes Group take pride in providing high quality entertainment and enjoyment to audiences and the DMA takes pride in asking them back year after year to sing for us.

Concert starts at 11 am.

DMA doing the annual refurbishing of the lamppost holiday wreaths — November 14, 2013

DMA men with wreaths

l to r: Marc Thorne, Alex Garnett, Bob Baker Jack Fitzgibbons, Taylor Strubinger, Pete Kenyon, Steve Graveraux, Tom Gildersleeve, Kevin Monahan, and Tom TaylorDarien Mens thumbs up_1080


Speaker — December 11, 2013
Heidi Hadsell, Ph.D., President and Professor of Social Ethics at Hartford Seminary

Heidi Hadsell, Ph.D., will speak on the interplay between the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Dr. Hadsell is President and Professor of Social Ethics at Hartford Seminary in Hartford, CT.

Founded in 1833, Hartford Seminary prepares leaders, students, scholars and religious institutions to understand and live faithfully in today’s multi-faith and pluralistic world.

Dr. Hadsell came to the Seminary from the Ecumenical Institute of the World Council of Churches, Bossey, Switzerland, where she served as Director. She also served as Dean of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, and has taught at the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Florianopolis Brazil, and at the University of Southern California.

Dr. Hadsell is widely published on a number of subjects including ecumenism, environmental ethics, inter-religious relations and the public role of religion in society. She sits on several national and international boards, including; the Ethics Education for Children board for Arigatou International; the Association of Theological Schools, and the Advisory Board of the Muslim Council of Singapore.

She will discuss the interplay between the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Arranged by Bob Smith.

Speaker — December 4, 2013
Martin Yellin on Project Hexagon: How it built huge mechanical spy satellites, and remained Top Secret for 45 years

Martin Yellin will talk about Project Hexagon; how it built huge mechanical spy satellites, and how it was top secret for 45 years.

Starting in 1965, he helped design key elements of Hexagon — a reconnaissance spacecraft that, one NASA official says, “helped prevent World War III.” For over 4 1/2 decades, he was forbidden to talk about any aspect of his work. That’s when — 25 years after the top-secret, Cold War-era mission ended — Hexagon, and 2 other satellite programs were finally declassified. Many of the real heroes of the program had died. He recalled the very first briefing on Hexagon after Perkin-Elmer was awarded the top-secret contract in 1966. Looking around the room at his 30 or so colleagues, he thought, “How on Earth is this going to be possible?” Marty thought they were crazy. “They envisaged a satellite that was 60-foot long and 30,000 pounds and supplying film at speeds of 200 inches per second. The precision and complexity blew his mind.”

It was dubbed “Big Bird” and it was considered the most successful space spy satellite program of the Cold War era. From 1971 to 1986 a total of 20 satellites were launched, each containing 60 miles of film, and sophisticated cameras that orbited the earth snapping vast, panoramic photographs of the Soviet Union, China, and other potential foes.

“Each 6-inch-wide frame of Hexagon film captured a wide swath of terrain covering 370 nautical miles — the distance from Cincinnati to Washington — on each pass over the former Soviet Union and China. The satellites had a resolution of about 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to nearly 1 meter).” Hexagon, took close-range pictures of Soviet missiles, submarine pens and air bases, even entire battalions on war exercises. At the height of the Cold War, the ability to receive this kind of technical intelligence was incredible. We needed to know what they were doing and where they were doing it, and in particular if they were preparing to invade Western Europe. Hexagon created a tremendous amount of stability because it meant American decision makers were not operating in the dark.

Among other successes, Hexagon is credited with providing crucial information for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks between the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

Hexagon averaged 124 days in space, but as the satellites became more sophisticated, later missions lasted twice as long. The 60-foot long, 30,000-pound Hexagon carried 4 spools — a phenomenal 60 miles’ worth — of high-resolution photographic film on its space surveillance missions. The spools weighed 3,000 pounds. The film was shot back through the earth’s atmosphere every few months in buckets that parachuted over the Pacific Ocean, where C-130 Air Force planes snagged them with grappling hooks. From there, the film was sent to an ultra-secret Kodak lab. The developed film was sent to NPIC for analysis. It was in color and in stereo and used star data to know the exact location on earth. The scale, ambition and sheer ingenuity of Hexagon KH-9 was breathtaking. The fact that 19 out of 20 launches were successful (the final mission blew up because the booster rockets failed) is astonishing.

During the design phase, engineers and scientists used hand-drawings and worked on endless technical problems using “slide-rules and notebooks”. There were no computers. The intensity would increase as launch deadlines loomed and on the days when “the customer” — the CIA and later the Air Force — came for briefings. On at least one occasion, former President George H.W. Bush, who was then CIA director, flew into Danbury for a tour of the plant. During the fabrication and test phase they wore protective white jumpsuits, and had to walk through air-shower chambers before entering the sanitized “cleanroom” where the equipment was stored.

From the outset, secrecy was a huge concern, especially in Danbury, where the intense activity of a relatively small company that had just been awarded a massive contract (the amount was not declassified) made it obvious that something big was going on. Few knew the true identity of “the customer”. They met in a smoke-filled, wood-paneled conference room where the phone lines were scrambled. When they traveled, they sometimes used false company names.

At one point in the 1970s there were more than 1,000 people in the Danbury area working on The Secret. And though they worked long hours under intense deadlines, sometimes missing family holidays and anniversaries, they could tell no one — not even their wives and children — what they did. Inside the plant, it was impossible to disguise the gigantic vacuum thermal chamber where cameras were tested in extreme conditions that simulated space. There was also a “shake, rattle and roll room” to simulate conditions during launch.

“The question became, how do you hide an elephant?” a National Reconnaissance Office report stated at the time. It decided on a simple response: “What elephant?” Employees were told to ignore any questions from the media, and never confirm the slightest detail about what they worked on.

But it was impossible to conceal the launches at Vandenberg Air Force base in California, and aviation magazines made several references to “Big Bird.” In 1975, a “60 Minutes” television piece on space reconnaissance described an “Alice in Wonderland” world, where American and Soviet intelligence officials knew of each other’s “eyes in the sky” — and other nations did, too — but no one confirmed the programs or spoke about them publicly.

“They were like the guys who worked on the first atom bomb,” “It was more than a sworn oath. They had been entrusted with the security of the country. What greater trust is there?”

Even wives — who couldn’t contact their husbands or know of their whereabouts when they were traveling — for the most part accepted the secrecy. They knew the jobs were highly classified. They knew not to ask questions.

Arranged by Bob Smith

No Meeting — November 27, 2013

As a reminder, there will not be a Wednesday Members’ Meeting on November 27, 2013, the day before Thanksgiving.

DMA Newsletters for Program Year 2012-2013

2012-09-10 DMA Newsletter

2012-11-12 DMA Newsletter

2013-01-02 DMA Newsletter

2013-03-04 DMA Newsletter

2013-05-06 DMA Newsletter

Eight Bells – An Appreciation of Henry “Hank” Strauss
Prepared by Bruce Kirby October 21, 2013

He was born on New York’s upper west side nearly 99 years ago; he was not a big man but he filled a huge space with his enormous intellect and heart to match.

Racing and cruising sailor, adventurer, musician, artist, World War Two superhero, Academy Award nominated film maker, husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather -Hank Strauss had it all and did it all in his 98.75 years, and when he died of lymphoma Saturday evening he left a host of friends and disciples who will find a gap in their lives that no one else can fill.
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Message from the President — November, 2013

BillBallCaricature2We are completing our second month of the 2013 – 2014 year. We have had several new members and hopefully this will continue. Our speakers have been outstanding. However, attendance at the Wednesday meetings remains constant. I would like to see more members at our weekly meetings and would appreciate hearing from each of you as to how we can accomplish this (my email address and phone number are in the directory).
We have several activities which are well-attended and have added a new one – Hiking. Scott Hutchason has organized this group, and I look forward to both attending and seeing you there. Our activities are where new friends are made and one becomes better acquainted with members. I encourage each of you to participate in all activities that interest you and to form a new group if you have an interest that is not addressed.
Thank you for all your support and I look forward to hearing from you with your suggestions on how we can make the DMA even more rewarding.

Bill Ball,


A BIG “Thank you!” to Tom Thompson on his retirement as DMA video historian

Tommy-ThompsonHoward Thompson (better known to all of us as “Tom”)is retiring as our video historian.

Tom has been doing the videos of our speakers for the last nine years, and has decided to take a rest.

He is looking for a volunteer to take his place in this important job. We usually give the speaker a copy of the DVD, and also keep a file so that, even if you are absent, you can see and hear a special speaker. Tom will train you. Won’t someone volunteer?

Hiking Mianus River Gorge


The newly organized Hiking Group led by Scott Hutchason had their initial outing on Oct.25 with a hike on the Mianus River Gorge Trail.

Sixteen people came for the first outing in ideal weather. The group hiked the entire trail to the final point with a view of the Mianus Reservoir. Side trips to see the old Hobby Hill quarry site, the gorge overlook, and the Havemeyer Falls (without water) amounted to a total distance traveled of about five miles. No laggards and no injuries from tripping over rocks and tree roots in the trail.

Before parting, the group went to lunch together at the Lakeside Diner.

Another hike is planned for November. Watch for time and place to be announced.

Happy Wanderers with graffiti