Department of the Army Historical Summary: FY 1972


Civil Works and Military Engineering

During fiscal year 1972, the Army continued to execute its congressionally mandated civil role as the primary developer of the nation's water and related land resources. The Corps of Engineers civil works program included projects dealing with navigation, flood control, hydroelectric power production, water supply for municipal, industrial, and agricultural use, shoreline protection, water-based recreation, preservation of fish and wildlife habitat, and emergency disaster relief, as well as the research effort needed to support these activities.

Environmental Activities

Fiscal year 1972 was a period of challenge and accomplishment for the Army in its new assignment to help clean up the nation's waters. The Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in co-operation with other federal, state, and local agencies, completed regional wastewater management feasibility studies covering five areas-Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, San Francisco Bay, and the Merrimack River Basin, including Boston.

The scope of the Chicago feasibility study was enlarged by a special study including cost and performance data and the evaluation of alternative methods and treatment measures. It does not deal with political or social questions, which are considered to be of sufficient importance to merit multidisciplinary studies in the future, in co-operation with other federal, state, and local agencies, and the general public.

Four of the five feasibility studies are now being expanded into detailed studies, as will the Merrimack River Basin study following its revision.

The corps made significant progress during the year in developing an assessment of the nation's environmental resources. Environmental inventories were initiated in Washington, Vermont, North Carolina, and the Charleston district of South Carolina to assist corps districts in mapping valuable environmental resources. The object of this effort is to locate and identify resources and amenities, both natural and manmade, which comprise man's physical, biological, and cultural environment; and to identify further those resources which should be preserved, protected, or approached with careful deliberation in the planning, development, and management of water and related land resources.

Acting under the authority of Section 233, Public Law 91-611, the


Corps of Engineers began a study of the effects of strip mining operations on navigable waters, their tributaries, and water resource projects under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army Chief of Engineers. Corps division engineers initiated investigations to determine the extent of the problem in their areas. Streams where serious problems exist, and the strip mining sources causing the problems, are being identified.

Deepwater Ports

The 16,000 dead-weight ton (dwt) capacity of the T-2 tanker was the yardstick for determining required depths for major U.S. deepwater ports in the 1940s. Since then, shipyards have been turning out even larger commercial cargo vessels. Some of the newer crude oil tankers, for example, have a capacity of more than 300,000 dwt, and even larger vessels will soon ply the world's sea lanes.

Despite a number of improvements made over the years, U.S. port facilities have not kept pace with the requirements posed by the larger, deep-draft vessels now engaged in world trade. Presently, over 700 of these ships cannot enter any U.S. port because of their great size.

As the United States continues to face the prospect of limited and rapidly diminishing raw materials from domestic sources, notably crude petroleum, the inability of U.S. ports to berth many of the vessels on which these products are transported will have serious consequences in the future. To deal with this problem Congress last year approved funds for two Army Corps of Engineer regional studies that will assess the nation's port development needs on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. When the studies are completed, the corps, working with other federal and state agencies, will have accumulated the engineering, physical, biological, and social information required to develop viable programs for correcting the nation's deepwater port deficiencies.

Emergency Disaster Relief

In the final days of fiscal year 1972, record-breaking flood waters induced by Hurricane Agnes left a wake of mud-caked debris across six Northeastern states Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. Factories, shops, homes, and businesses were inundated. More than 100 people lost their lives in the flood waters, which cost upwards of $3.1 billion in estimated damages and required the evacuation of some 387,000 people. A total of 233 counties and cities were declared disaster areas. The Director, Office of Emergency Preparedness, assigned the Corps of Engineers major disaster relief missions to alleviate destruction and human suffering in the six storm-ravaged states.


As early as forty-eight hours before the storm hit the Northeast, the Corps of Engineers North Atlantic Division began preparations. A fully staffed emergency operations center was established, which began issuing policy guidance to corps districts in the hurricane's path and handled outside requests for technical information and assistance.

As the hurricane wreaked its havoc and the flood waters rose, corps districts in New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, and Norfolk rushed in pumps, sandbags, and other items to aid the emergency operations. Corps of Engineers rescue and survey teams were mobilized and rushed to disaster areas to provide on-the-spot assistance and technical advice. Flood control dams and reservoirs were closely regulated to reduce flood crests, which were sweeping down rivers and streams.

Corps technical personnel from all sections' of the continental United States flew into the stricken area to assist the hard-pressed North Atlantic Division in its emergency relief effort. One hundred officers assigned to the Army Engineer School joined the corps work force. The Civil Works Directorate, operating out of a 24-hour-a-day command post established at Headquarters, Office of the Chief of Engineers, assessed field damage reports and issued a stream of orders directing priority work. The restoration of public utilities, i.e., power, water and sanitary systems, was given top priority.

The Baltimore District covering the Susquehanna River Basin, which was in the area hardest hit by the floods, established and staffed fifteen area emergency offices at Wilkes-Barre, Harrisburg, Lock Haven, Sunbury, York, Lewiston, and Towanda, all in Pennsylvania; Annapolis, Ellicott City, Frederick, and Havre de Grace, in Maryland; Alexandria, Richmond, and Covington, in Virginia; and Martinsburg, West Virginia.

A complete report on Corps of Engineers emergency activities, which continued into fiscal year 1973, will be presented in next year's Department of the Army Historical Summary.

Boiling grey clouds began to build up over Rapid City, South Dakota, on June 9, 1972, signaling another of the storms which typically hit the area and then move off across the Dakota plains. But this storm did not move, and while it hovered over the area it dumped 4-14 inches of rainfall, with the heaviest concentration over the Rapid Creek Basin, west of the city. A rushing wall of water moved toward Rapid City and the nearby communities of Sturgis, Box Elder, and Keystone; 234 persons lost their lives in the flood. The four communities were inundated, with 515 mobile homes flooded, 363 destroyed; 1,336 homes flooded, 619 totally destroyed; and 284 businesses flooded, of which 48 were destroyed. Drinking water was polluted, phone and electricity service


knocked out, and thousands of people left hungry, homeless, and without adequate clothing. Total estimated damage amounted to $82.5 million.

The Office of Emergency Preparedness assigned the- Corps of Engineers Omaha District important emergency disaster relief tasks. Corps technical personnel set up an emergency operations center in the South Dakota National Guard Armory just west of Rapid City on the morning of June 10. Preliminary damage surveys were completed on the same day so that emergency assistance under Public Law 91-606 could be initiated without delay. Corps estimating teams surveyed the flood-ravaged area in and around Rapid City, and local contractors were alerted to submit bids for emergency cleanup work. Between June 13 and June 28 the corps awarded 34 contracts for removal of 595,157 cubic yards of debris and silt at a cost of $994,119 under authority of Public Law 91-606.

At Sturgis, South Dakota, local authorities requested assistance, to relieve a critical situation at the Fort Meade dam, a water supply source for a Veterans Administration hospital. A 75-foot section of this concrete structure, commercially constructed in 1909 and remodeled in 1936, was eroded and threatened to break and inundate, the community of 4,600 residents. Corps experts arrived on the scene to direct attempts to bolster the weakened dam. National Guardsmen repaired and rebuilt two miles of flood-damaged roads to permit construction equipment to reach the dam. Pumps, manned by the Guardsmen, lowered the reservoir water level and relieved pressure on the dam. Then a team of demolition experts, flown in from the Corp's Engineer Explosive Excavation Research Office, breached a section of the dam to ease the pressure on the weakened structure.

The heaviest snowpack in the Columbia River Basin since 1894 gave warning, early in 1972, of a serious flooding potential during the coming spring, when the snow would begin to melt. The Chief of Engineers authorized Operation Foresight '72, a program of advance preparation for the expected floods. The Seattle District dispatched a six-man reconnaissance team to investigate conditions from Puget Sound to the Rocky Mountains. A total of 52 projects costing $674,000 were completed in preparation for the anticipated floods.

By May 28, 1972, runoff from the melting snowpack presented a real threat. The Seattle District declared a flood emergency and dispatched ten engineers to the Okanogan and Methow Rivers in central Washington. The Okanogan crested on June 3 at 22.54 feet, 8 feet above zero damage level and 4.5 feet above major damage level. This constituted the severest flooding on the Okanogan in this century. Just as the river was dropping, a weather front accompanied by severe


thunderstorms caused the Okanogan to rise to a second crest of 21.7 feet on June 12. The Methow River also overflowed its banks and caused extensive damage.

The Office of the Chief of Engineers authorized a total of $3.1 million in Public Law 84-99 funds to the North Pacific Division for Operation Foresight '72 and related flood fighting activities in the Portland, Seattle, and Walla Walla districts. Precautionary measures prevented an estimated $8.5 million in damage. In addition, reservoir regulation on the Columbia River Basin prevented an estimated $100 million in damages on the lower Columbia River.

In the early morning hours of March 19, 1972, several barges being towed downstream on the Ohio River broke loose from their tug at a point above the Corps of Engineers' McAlpine Lock and Dam. One of the barges, loaded with four tanks of chlorine, partly blocked Gate Number 2, raising concern that a leak might occur that would endanger the population in sections of nearby Louisville, Kentucky.

After careful assessment of the situation by federal and state agencies, the Corps of Engineers retained a salvage contractor to stabilize the barge and remove the chlorine. The Office, Chief of Engineers Emergency Operations Center, and all Divisional Emergency Operating Centers were placed on an around-the-clock alert on March 24. Also, the Office of Emergency Preparedness authorized predisaster assistance by invoking Section 221 of Public Law 91-606. While preparations were under way for the transfer of the chlorine from the disabled barge to an empty chlorine barge, some 4,000 nearby residents were evacuated for a 24-hour period. Removal of the liquid chlorine commenced on April 3 and was completed without incident on April 15. A potential disaster was averted.

Military Engineering

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers conducted several staff studies and special reviews during the year as part of a continuing program aimed at influencing modernization and improvement of the organizational structure of engineer troop units and the doctrine associated with their employment. These studies gave special attention to the evaluation of combat engineer units in light of recent experience in Vietnam and possible future uses of such units in foreign or domestic missions. Two of the studies were forwarded to the U.S. Army Combat Developments Command for use in the development of more versatile, productive, efficient, and balanced combat engineer units. Specific recommendations included the use of standardized "building block" type combat engineer companies in various configurations in structuring the several different types of combat engineer battalions employed in the Army,


and wider use of airmobile construction equipment to increase unit flexibility in employment and tactical and strategic mobility.

Contracts were awarded late in the fiscal year for the procurement of commercial 20-ton capacity dump trucks and 1,500 gallon asphalt distributors for equipping Army engineer construction battalions and other engineer units. The action met a major objective in implementing the Army's Commercial Construction Equipment System Plan. Approved in concept by the Secretary of the Army earlier in the year, following a two-year test, the plan is designed to equip Army engineer units with modern, commercially available construction equipment. Currently used military design and modified commercial equipment will be progressively replaced with proven "off-the-shelf" equipment in order to take advantage of the construction machinery industry's highly competitive research, development, and testing effort. Since military construction requirements closely approximate those of civilian construction contractors, the use of the civilian equipment manufacturer's test data and contractor's performance data should reduce or eliminate the need for military testing. The plan encompasses virtually all major items of construction equipment, including crawler and wheeled tractors, earthmoving scrapers, motorized graders, compaction equipment, and crane-shovels.

A pilot-item program has been designed to develop and refine administrative procedures for defining commercial construction equipment item requirements and the selection, evaluation, and adoption of the best qualified items. Experience gained in the pilot-item program during fiscal year 1972 resulted in timely action to purge or modify procedural steps that were proving burdensome and that would cause unnecessary delays between the time an item requirement was established and the date of its delivery.

Mapping and Geodesy

The U.S. Army Topographic Command (TOPOCOM) turned out 664 new large scale maps covering 149,000 square miles, 392 medium scale maps covering 2,116,800 square miles, and 184 city maps during the year. Initiation of a computerized program to consolidate the management of map distribution activities has simplified and improved stock management procedures in the overseas theaters.

TOPOCOM produced digitized terrain data (DTD) of 135 map sheets. The Electromagnetic Compatibility Analysis Center continues to be the primary user of digital terrain data. During October 1971, Army topographers produced a special block of DTD covering an area adjoining Fort Riley, Kansas, for use by the Weapons Systems Evalua-


tion Group of Defense Research Engineering in a joint operations test evaluation.

The sale and production of 1:250,000 scale plastic relief maps of the fifty states was discontinued in August 1971 due to budgetary restraints. The T. N. Hubbard Scientific Company received a contract to produce and sell these maps.

TOPOCOM made significant contributions to the Apollo manned lunar landing program. Apollo landmark graphics and lunar surface exploration data packages were prepared for use in the Apollo 15 and 16 missions. Army topographers prepared a 16 by 25-foot three-dimensional relief model of the Taurus Littrow landing area for use in astronaut training at Cape Kennedy for the forthcoming Apollo 17 mission. This is the eighth such model prepared by TOPOCOM in support of the Apollo program. Technical proposals for the development of a lunar control network and the production of photomaps at 1:250,000 scale were formulated and presented to the National Aeronautics and Space Agency.

TOPOCOM continued to support the Mobile Army Sensor System Test Evaluation and Review (MASSTER) test facility. An experimental air movement map to support extremely low-level flying was completed, and 300 35-mm. slides of the Fort Hood, Texas, area were provided in support of MASSTER's Position Reporting and Recording System.

Major ground survey activities undertaken during the year, using conventional optical and electronic distance measuring equipment, involved establishing precise traverses at both the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, and the Arizona Test Range; establishing astronomic positions at missile sites; and providing control for the Launch Region Gravity Model gravity surveys. Other projects included surveys at military bases, surveys in support of civil works programs, and training support to the Iranian Mapping Project.

Gravity surveys are currently being conducted under contract or co-operative agreements in a number of foreign countries including Norway (land and marine), Iceland (marine), and Finland (land). Negotiations to establish agreements for conducting gravity surveys in certain areas bordering the Mediterranean were initiated during fiscal year 1972.

The 30th Engineer Battalion (Base Topographic) was relieved from attachment to TOPOCOM and placed under command and operational control of the Commanding General, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, on April 1, 1972. This action was taken in consonance with the pending realignment of worldwide topographic assets, which is scheduled for completion in fiscal year 1973. The reconstitution of topographic units


will provide the theaters with an organic mobile topographic capability to support theater tactical planning and operations through the production of surveys, maps, map substitutes, and related terrain information. The mission of oversea topographic units has been modified to conform with the anticipated establishment of the Defense Mapping Agency.



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Last updated 27 August 2004