Resident Helped Develop Stealth Bomber

Fred Gangl, a five-year resident of Wesley Homes Lea Hill and a WWII veteran, is credited with helping to develop the B-2 Stealth Bomber.

Born in Cincinnati Ohio, Fred Gangl went into the service at 18 years old. He was in the Navy during WWII from February 1943 to February 1946.

He spent two and a half years in the South Pacific on the USS Blue Ridge, the Appalachian-class command ship of the United States Seventh Fleet and amphibious force. He operated as the quartermaster in assistance to the navigator on the bridge.

Fred was helmsman on the ship that took General Douglas MacArthur to the Philippines in the Pacific theater during WWII and helped lead the invasion during the Battle of the Philippine Sea. He also had Vice Admiral Thomas C. Kinkaid and Vice Admiral Daniel Edward Barbey on board the ship.

By the end of the war, Fred returned to his hometown of Cincinnati to earn his degree in Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

He also returned to reunite with his childhood sweetheart, Bernadine. They had known each other as early as grade school, and while they went to a different high school, they kept in touch throughout his years in the service. Fred asked Bernadine to teach him how to ice skate. Shortly after, they married in 1946 and had two sons.

Bernadine received a college scholarship but ended up finding work at a hospital instead in order to get extra income during the depression. This helped her support herself, her family and even helped allow Fred to attend college.

The Gangls moved to Dayton, Ohio, where they both worked at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1951. Fred became an analyst for Technical Intelligence and his work involved studying Russian and Chinese aircraft activity. Meanwhile, Bernadine worked at the air base as a medical secretary. Interestingly enough, she worked with Lt. Col. John Stapp who was known as “the fastest man on earth” because of his research on the effects of acceleration and deceleration forces on the human body. By using a rocket propelled sled, John Stapp would personally test the effects of G-forces at speeds as high as 632 MPH.

In 1981, Fred and Bernadine moved to California, where he began his work on the Stealth Bomber at the Northrop Corporation, the leading United States aircraft manufacturer of its time. Fred joined them during the proposal stage of the project as a performance engineer. They had preliminary plans, but it was Fred’s job to turn the plans into a reality by figuring out how the plane could actually work.

“The B-2 Stealth Bomber was a challenge to build. We were essentially building ‘a flying wing’,” said Fred.

A “flying wing” is a tailless, fixed-wing aircraft without a fuselage—at least not in the conventional sense. The crew, payload, fuel, and equipment are meant to be housed inside or on top of the main wing structure.

Fred enjoyed developing it. His work involved first doing the paperwork to predict data and then the wind tunnel tests where he would collect data on drag and inlet/outlet tests on getting the air into the engine. With a five ton internal payload requirement, the plane had to be able to carry the same 10,000-pound payload as the B-52 and yet have a much smaller radar signature.

“Everything that produced heat signatures had to be on the top of the plane so they wouldn’t be detected as easily from the ground,” said Fred.

When asked what the most interesting part about the whole experience was, Fred said it was being required to work on the project in complete secret for five years. He couldn’t even talk to his wife about it, though Bernadine did have an understanding of the nature of his work.

Fred said that after he and his team had finished developing the plane, he didn’t want to have to stick around to analyze flight data. Instead, he decided to retire shortly after.

Fred says he’s thankful for the career he’s had and to be able to live at Wesley Homes Lea Hill, where he can maintain his independence and have services available to him. Out of everything, Fred said that the time he spent with his wife was the best thing to have ever happened to him.