Home : Home : Warfare Centers : NSWC Dahlgren : Who We Are : History : Dahlgren Centennial Historical Biographies : Dahlgren Historical Biography - Dr. Ralph Sawyer



Dr. Ralph Sawyer
Officer in Charge of Laboratories, 1941-1945

Dr. Ralph Sawyer, born in Atkinson, New Hampshire, January 5, 1895 attended Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, and graduated first in a class of 240, a Phi Beta Kappa, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1915. Awarded a traveling fellowship to the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, he studied under Doctor Robert A. Millikan, Nobel Prize winner in 1923, receiving the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in physics and mathematics in 1919. During the World War he served as a private in the U.S. Army 814th Depot, Aeronautics Squadron, stationed in Washington, D.C., from June 1 to July 3, 1918, when the Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., requested his discharge. On July 5, 1918, he was commissioned Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve Force and later that month was ordered to duty in the Division of Fire Control at the Bausch Lomb Optical Company, Rochester, New York. Detached from that assignment April 2, 1919, he was relieved of all active duty on May 22, 1919.

On March 25, 1942, Sawyer returned to active duty in the United States Naval Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander and on December 9, 1944, was promoted to the rank of Commander. After his recall to active duty, he reported June 14, 1941, to the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Virginia, and during that duty supervised the construction of new physics equipment in which the United States Navy was interested at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, from July 1941 until February 1942. In December 1944, he was designated Officer in Charge, Laboratories, at the Dahlgren Proving Ground. Assigned additional duty in August 1945 with the United States Naval Mission in Europe, he served at the following cities in Germany: Wiesbaden, Frankfurt, Darmstadt, Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Heideneim, Kempten, and Munich. In December 1945, after his return to the United States, he was ordered detached from that assignment and to be relieved of active duty in February 1946.

As a civilian he served as Technical Director on the staff of Vice Admiral W.H.P. Blandy, U.S.N, Commander, Joint Army-Navy Task Force Number One, the task force formed by direction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and with the approval of the President, to conduct the atomic bomb tests against Naval vessels in order to gain information of value to the national defense.

Dr. Sawyer's awards and decorations include: the Victory Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Area Campaign Medal and the World War II Victory Medal.