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Tower Sounds Air Raid.

The blood-chilling siren that is the highest object above the forty acres may not have been heard all over the city Monday night because of a whipping wind, but it nearly knocked me off the top of the 308-foot Tower.

Together with Jack Maguire, chief communications engineer for the University, and C.J. Eckhardt, professor of mechanical engineering, I was perched atop the tower, clinging in the wind to the small superstructure holding the huge 1,000-watt loudspeaker. As the eerie shreik of the siren that you heard split the air, we all three forgot about the wind, the hundreds of feet of space that fell away beneath the parapet, and grabbed our ears.

The effect of being two feet away from the loudspeaker that will warn this section of Austin in case enemy raiders ever appear over the city cannot be imagined. The night air carries sound well, and yet the Tower rears into the night with a disturbing silence as cars and bright life are visible below with no sound heard. As for the wider hearing of the siren, for which it was intended, this reveals the success or failure of the instrument. If enemy bombers roar over Austin its inhabitants won't be grouped within two feet of the speaker, clinging to it with one arm and trying to protect tingling ear drums with the other.

The success of the test Monday night would not be known until Tuesday, when listeners over the city had got together and checked their individual reports. Variation in sound caused by wind, and reports from separately located hearers and other factors will determine the effects of the siren.

But the University and its area can rest assured that the instrument will be their watchful guardian.

Set to go into action within 25 seconds after a button is pushed at the city hall, the siren has its own individual source of electricity, so that if the University's blackout switch is pulled, it will continue to wail forth a warning. A watcher on the ground even can easily tell whether or not the unit's power is flowing normally, for the red beacon lights atop the tower, lights which I was higher than Monday night, are served from the same line.

The difficult problem of having a warning system for the University was solved by the ingenuity of its own men. Mainly responsible for the campus siren is Maguire, no relation to the Texan reporter, who practically built the system with the aid of John R. Blocker, of the University's physical plant. Priorities and shortages, explained Eckhardt, have made it almost impossible to obtain warning equipment and replacement parts, so Maguire, aided by Theodore Allen, a senior engineering student leaving for the Navy soon, worked out the revolving siren system atop the Tower.

The speaker itself is of the type designed for use by the Navy, in any weather and over tremendous distances. Its spine-tickling wail is set up by 250 electrical watts. Some idea of how much noise that is can be gained when you know that it takes about twenty watts to knock you off your seat in Gregory Gym.

The University's system works, if Goering is interested. Except any time I go into a bomb shelter, after Monday night, it'll be to escape that siren as much as the bombs.

Daily Texan. November 17, 1942.
Article by: Tommy Turner.

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3 May 1999
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