BY JOSEPH F. MCCLOSKEY Director of Operations Research, Chicago Office
Presented at luncheon meeting of clients and friends of Haskins & Sells' Honolulu office, Honolulu—November 1958
WHILE the United Kingdom was building radar into its home defenses during the summer of 1939, it encountered technical problems. These it sought to solve by assigning scientists and engineers
directly to the radar sites. Before long, these specialists were able to turn their attention from the question of how well the radar was working to the question of how well it was being used. Before the end of 1940, they had proved their worth in this latter activity to such an extent that groups were formed to do similar work for all of the military services of the United Kingdom.
Because these groups worked on operational problems, because they reported to the operational sections of the various military staffs, and because they had opened up an essentially new field of inquiry, their efforts were given the. name operational research. The idea spread to the U. S. military late in 1941 under the name operations research.
They analyzed weapons systems, tactical systems, and even some strategic systems. (You will note the emphasis on the word systems.) They looked for interactions or cause-effect relationships that would provide deeper insight into and greater understanding of the systems under study. This made possible better policies, better decisions, and better control of military operations.
EXAMPLE 1: SEA-MINING OF JAPAN
The sea-mining of Japan toward the end of World War II was one of the most important and most successful of these studies.
Some scientists at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory who were then involved in the de-gaussing program turned their attention to the offensive use of mines late in 1941. It is important to realize that our Navy then regarded the mine as a defensive weapon for protecting
harbors and the like. These men analyzed the German use of mines and came to the conclusion that they could be used offensively in a number of contexts, but most effectively against an insular people —as the Germans were using them against Britain.
Pearl Harbor occurred about then and this served to focus attention
on Japan as a target for this type of offensive. The strategy,