As it turns out the photo I selected for the cover art of The Polaris Redaction was a little more perfect than I thought. I chose this picture, because it worked well for the composition I had in mind, but as it turns out the building of the launch tower to the left of the missile was a project that may dad was in charge of overseeing.
There is an age old playground tradition for boys that basically goes like this.
"My dad can beat up your dad!"
There are many variations on the "My dad can..." premise, he can be; richer, smarter, stronger, etc. Well I happen to have the trump card on all boys, past and present on all of the playgrounds out there—My dad's name is engraved on a gold plaque on a space capsule on the moon.
The truth is that it might be there, and it might not, he never got conformation, but the story goes something like this. In the early days of the space program—before it was called NASA—my dad worked down the hall for the Navy on the Polaris missile project. This was 1958 Cape Canaveral Florida—the epicenter of America’s New Frontier.
My dad was one of the many young military men—Naval engineers—working on Americas expanding technological defense program as Sputnik ominously beeped in orbit above. The cold war was under way, and my dad had his role in it. As a young civil engineer he helped oversee and develop the program for missiles that would inevitably be launched from submarines, should the need arise.
The Navy shared offices, and launch pads with what eventually would become NASA, and my dad would frequently chat and hang out with his fellow engineers down the hall. One day one of them asked "Hey Chuck, do you want your name on the moon?"
The people who worked on the Agena project (the capsule part of the moon launch) were sending several crafts to smash into the moon to work out the science of how to eventually land a ship there. One aspect of these missions involved figuring out how to stabilize the craft as it went into zero gravity space. The solution involved small rectangles of solid gold that would be placed around the craft. My dad described it as “being the size of those little plaques on trophies”. The engineers, applying engineer humor, decided to engrave their names on those plaques and ensure themselves a kind of immortality.
So after being asked, my dad said "yes". Whether or not they got around to doing it—my dad never saw the engraving in question—we don't know for sure, but I choose to believe that the name Charles R. Orr is on piece of gold sitting in the wreckage of an early spaceship with moon dust slightly obscuring it.
So in that sense my dad can beat up your dad.
My dad loves spy novels, and has read just about every one out there, from authors like Helen MacInnes to Vince Flynn and everyone in between. So for Father’s day I thought I would honor him with his very own espionage thriller, with a character based on him and his time at Cape Canaveral. So if you see my dad be sure and thank him for hypothetically saving America, and the space program from an insidious Nazi plot. Thanks dad!
The Polaris Redaction: A Chuck Orr Novel—The hypothetical flap copy
"Cape Canaveral Florida, 1958: as the cold war heats up, the need for new defensive technology grows and for Lieutenant junior grade, Charles "Chuck" Orr of the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps, that means the Polaris missile project. Chuck’s job is to pore over thousands of blueprints at the naval offices of Launch Complex 29A—the crucible of America's future Naval Defense Strategy.
When a yellowed Nazi war document accidentally crosses his desk, it changes Chuck’s life and the course of the Cold War forever. What is "The Polaris Redaction" and how is it that the codename of the project he is working on appears on a Nazi document from 13 years ago? What was “Der Polarisverein” (The Polaris club), and why does it’s official seal keep showing up on corpses all around the Cape?
Under the sweltering 1950s Florida sun the search for answers becomes a breakneck race against time as Chuck Orr uncovers the unsettling truth behind "The Polaris Redaction". With each question he asks, the size of the conspiracy he’s stumbled upon reveals more of itself: it’s a threat that will bring Chuck Orr face to face with swaggering test pilots, former Nazis, leggy brunettes, and a secret that threatens to shake the very foundations of America's fledgling space program.
Robert Charles brings to life the American “New Frontier” at its height with an unerring historical precision and a superb eye for detail. The Polaris Redaction is a gripping page-turner, a thrill ride from first page to last!"
More about my dad
Of course my dad had a life beyond Cape Canaveral in the 50’s. He met my mom there, and my brother was born in Florida in the mid 60‘s. Soon after they moved back to Ohio, where I was born. They eventually settled in my home town, in a housing development that he had coincidentally surveyed as a civil engineering student in college. He worked at DuPont for 31 years, never taking a single sick day. Not once. He also designed a golf course along the way.
My dad is an even-tempered, and conservative man—a personality trait that I challenged as frequently as possible when I was growing up (and still do today, to some extent). Once when I was sixteen, I brought home a copy of Das Capital by Karl Marx to illustrate to my intention of becoming a Communist. When I showed my dad the copy, he just said “You enjoying reading that, are you?” My bullshit exposed (I found it completely impenetrable), dad had ended my career as a budding Commie with one question.
One of the reasons I became so in love with books was because my dad took me to the library a lot, either to get his own books while I hunted down my own favorites, or to just drop me off for a couple of hours. His ability to identify and gently encourage his children’s interest is one of his greatest skills. He would certainly emphasize the things he thought my brother and I should do, but more importantly never discouraged anything we actually wanted to do. And for that I will be grateful all my life.
Thank you Dad, I love you.
Some parting words of wisdom from Chuck Orr:
- Whenever faced with a daunting task remember this: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
- The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
- No good deed goes unpunished.
- When swinging a golf club, always keep your head down, and eyes on the ball.
Next week: Jennifer L. Knox