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Robin's memories of SHAPE Technical Centre and John Maniello
Updated 2300 BST (2200 GMT/UT) Thursday 4th June 2020. See footnote at very end
1971-1981: After 6 months of "Positive Vetting" for the required security clearance, we moved to Holland, and I worked for the NATO research establishment called SHAPE Technical Centre (STC). See footnote. e.g. NC3A. My job title became "Senior Scientist" and my work included working closely with military officers, including American USAF returning from Vietnam. I decided to write demonstration software, used in our Laboratory, as a means of showing military officers our ideas, before we wrote these into our reports.
I had the priveledge of managing the implementation of SHEWS - the SHAPE Early Warning System. This supplied SACEUR with information from the NATO Europe Air Defence Systems, from Northern Norway to Eastern Turkey. Click on the map for more information. SHEWS was desribed by SACEUR General Rogers as "the best thing since sliced bread", and was presented at an international conference in The Hague, a few years later. It was in Holland that our first two daughters were born, starting with Samantha.
June and I remember the day of Samantha's birth, at home: 6th March 1974. Neither of us got much sleep that night, and I drove June and tiny Samantha, the few miles to Leiderdorp Hospital. June said she was fine, after an hour in the private room, where a nurse took this photo. I had time to drive directly into work, and get there just in time, to brief DSACEUR about SHEWS. This Brit, was deputy to SACEUR, and top of the UK Military. I was ready, just in time, before DSACEUR, and his entourage arrived. They sat down, just in front of me, sat next to my touch-interactive colour screen. My boss, John Unsworth, introduced me: "This is Robin Lovelock: sorry about Robin's disheveled appearance; he has only just got in, after being up all night, with his wife June, having their first baby". The first few minutes of my "briefing" consisted of smiling faces of top brass, thrust close to mine, asking questions like, "How is she and the baby ?", "what weight ?", "have you decided on a name yet ?". I remember responding with answers like, "6.5 pounds" and "Samantha", despite the fact that I had not made any written notes all that night :-)
It was at STC that I learnt, from the Americans and procedures, how to approach security. e.g. use secrecy when it is needed, such as the existence of Stealth Bombers, GPS, or the Internet (ARPANet). But make something unclassified if it makes sense to do so. e.g. principles of EMP Protection, so that electronics, or even mechanical things like a door lock, can withstand the effects of a high altitude nuclear burst. Click on that leaving certificate, or Samantha, to see bigger versions.
Without doubt, the craziest, yet most loved Division Chief we ever had at STC, was John Mannielo - or to give him his proper title - Sir John Mannielo. The Vatican eventually knighted him. John was an Italian migrant, and when he entered the States, he did not speak a word of English - or American. He earned cash as a "shoe shine boy", and that skill remained with him all his life. I fondly remember arriving for work in the mornings, walking down the corridoor, and being greeted by his "Good Morning Robin !", with him standing in his office doorway, polishing his shoes. John had become an American, and by the 1940s, was flying in the US Air Force, and supporting the Allies moving up through Italy. His air missions including "mail runs" *, but he always wondered why they involved flying across enemy lines. It seems there was a pattern in John's career: he had many important and distinguished jobs, but it seems he was always promoted sideways or upwards, as if those around him could not make better use of his skills. He told us how, when working for the US Defence Department, they wanted more information on the Russian Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs). John was always a "lateral thinker", so he thought, "why not ask the Soviets themselves ?". John went into the Russian Embassy, went up to the reception desk, and asked, "Could someone give me details about your Surface to Air Missiles ?". Then all hell broke loose, with alarms going off, and armed security guards rushing in. After that episode, John's boss took him to one side and said, "John: don't ever do that again".
* It's only now, years later, that I discover how much John "talked down" his war years. Those "Mail Runs" were probably his time in the 100th Bomb Group, before he was shot down. John is listed as spending time in the POW Camp Stalag Luft III. John was Member of the Goldfish Club. (survived ditching aircraft into the sea), Caterpillar Club, (parachuted), and Tonkin Bay Yacht Club (US Navy 7th Fleet during Vietnam War). It seems John Manniello was never one to brag about his war record.
By the late 1960s, John was Vice President of CBS (American TV). He was the guy who suggested to NASA that they beam live colour TV pictures back to Earth, during the 1969 Appollo landing. On John's office wall was that iconic photograph of the Moon landing, with a handwritten personal message and signature, from the Director of NASA: "John, without you, none of this would have been possible". His office wall was dominated by a large World map, with lots of pins stuck into it, showing where he had been - mostly Italy.
John's office wall also had a photograph of President Richard Nixon, with it's own personal message: "thanks for the binoculars, John". He had been Scientific Adviser to the President during that important Ping Pong Diplomacy visit in 1971. John had given them to the President when they were needed, aboard their US Navy ship. I lost count of the stories I heard about John Mannielo, both from within STC, and from TNO, the Dutch National Research Establishment next door. I was directly involved in one of them: it was shortly after the death of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, who had been found dead in the back of a car. A few days earlier, Aldo Moro had been kidnapped, and John had a bright idea: it was to have three TV cameras on the top of every Italian police car. As soon as the alarm were raised, every police car would send 360 degree TV coverage to a control station - enabling rapid response to a national crisis such as this. John Maniello came into my office, shared with another John, who remembers all this: "Robin, I know you are a bit of an artist, with those poster-sized leaving cards. I asked the Drawing Office to draw something, to add to a letter I'm sending to my contacts in the Italian Government. They don't seem to understand what I want. Could you draw something ?".
After giving it due consideration, and discussing the implications with my office mate John, I drew a cartoon which I'm still trying to find, amongst all our old files at home here. It showed an Italian police car, with a cluster of TV cameras on the roof, and a huge crowd of onlookers gathered around, all with smiling faces. There was an inset picture of the scene inside a control centre, with a row of TV monitors, three of which had the crowd's smiling faces. Out of shot of the cameras, were the three occupants of the police car, that had been riddled with bullets: one hung out of the open passenger door, one hung out of the broken front window, across the bonnet, and one lay slumped over the wheel. After photo-copying, I delivered the original to John Maniello's in-tray, with a post-it sticker that said, "Is this what you wanted John ?". Not long after, he stormed into our office, and I thought he was about to "give me a rocket". Instead, he said something like, "Just what I wanted, if you could just make this minor change here". I don't recall what the minor change was, but maybe John's letter with my cartoon was why he got his Italian knighthood :-)
For some unknown reason, John Maniello did not serve the normal 3-year posting as our Division Chief. I understand that the US Department of Defence needed him back there, so he only served the 6-month "probationary period". John passed away, aged 92, in Ozone Park, NY, on 8th September 2016. Dennis Marquis, the guy who came after John, had a tough act to follow. He led a Division that was handling some of NATO's most important projects, including NADGE, ACCS, SatComms, and others I won't mention here. He also had to deal with crazy senior scientists, such as one who claimed that a boat or land vehicle could be "windmill powered" . It seems that this guy, took bets from his doubting scientist workmates, then built a working model one evening. He brought it into work the next day. He collected LOTS of beer money that day, but it was many years later until he built a working Windmill Powered Robot Boat. Dennis could not have done his job too badly, because later he became the Director of SHAPE Technical Centre. Dennis passed away on 18th August 2019 in Florida.
The words, pictures, and links above have not changed much since I created this page in 2015, but in 2018, my wife June and I woke up to the probability that NATO was born in Sunninghill. I set up a new draft page, still under construction, on www.GPSS.co.uk/sss.htm called "SACEUR, Snoopy, and Sunninghill . The NATO Alliance was not signed until 1949, and by that time, countries like Poland, who had military staff and Royalty near Sunninghill, was behind the Iron Curtain.
I am seeking declassified maps, that were probably Cosmic Top Secret (CTS), showing the locations of key headquarters. e.g. General Eisenhower, who became the first SACEUR, had his bunker in the middle of Sunninghill village.
The SHEWS map and images below are taken from www.usarmygermany.com/sont.htm . During my NATO days, in the 1970s, I spent much of my time with USAF and RAF, because the work involved military air operations. At EASAMS my work widened to the three services, and my CTS clearance was renewed. However, when I left EASAMS, I chose to do only unclassified work, with less need to keep secrets.
As Mrs Brown's friend said: "I can keep secrets; it's the friends I tell them to who can't" :-)
I've added a link here, to the official NATO web site: www.ncia.nato.int which says what this larger NATO organisation does. The original site of www.nc3a.nato.int seems to have gone. It used to have some of my photos, with others, taken at several "STC Reunions" in the 1990s through 2003 to 2005. Scroll down the long page on their About page, and you will see the mergers and changes of name, over the years. SHAPE Technical Centre ( STC ) is near the end, from 1963. It was preceded by the SHAPE Air Defence Technical Centre, from 1955. The picture below, from three stiched photos, should be enough for those who were at an event, or have seen photos - or maybe even a video ? :-)
This 6 minute video was found on VHS tape and is very poor quality because of how it was captured - pointing Robin's camcorder at a very old CRT TV ! It will also be seen to be very boring by everyone, perhaps other than those who worked there in the 1970s. As the years go by, things become less sensitive. This video was downgraded from "Cosmic Top Secret" to "NATO UNCLASSIFIED" :-)
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