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Obituary - Lester Pence Barlow
December 02, 1886 ~ September 06, 1967

The New York Times
New York, New York
September 06, 1967

Lester P. Barlow Is Dead at 80
Built World War I Aerial Bomb
Inventor Had Many Clashes - Supported Huey Long and La Follette
Special to The New York Times

STAMFORD, Conn., Sept. 5 -- Lester Pence Barlow, inventor of some of the first aerial bombs and torpedoes used in World War I, died today at Stamford Hospital after a brief illness. He was 80 years old and lived on Cedar Heights Road, Stamford. During his long and often controversial career, Mr. Barlow not only invented early aerial explosives but also claimed to have developed various super-weapons, put forward a plan for a nationwide system of express toll highways, and engaged in a variety of political ventures.

He was, according to many accounts, a man with a quick temper. He clashed frequently with members of Congress and Government officials, and once demanded the impeachment of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Mr. Barlow was born on December 02, 1886 in Monticello, Wis., and ended his formal education after the eighth grade. Worked on Radio Station in 1904, he joined the Navy. During his four years' service, he was reported to have broken a world's gunnery record. He helped build the first wireless station on Guam.

After his discharge from the Navy in 1908, Mr. Barlow learned to fly. He joined the insurgent forces of Pancho Villa in Mexico in 1914 and there he first experimented with aerial bombs. The weapons were also being developed in France and Germany. Mr. Barlow's bombs, which he dropped on trainse carrying Federal troops, were small and not very effective, but they launched him on his career as an inventor.

As the United States moved closer to involvement in World War I, Mr. Barlow began working for the War Department on aerial bombs for the Army. When the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, production of Mr. Barlow's bombs began. The patents on the Barlow bombs and torpedoes were kept secret during the war. They were made public in the mid-nineteen twenties. Mr. Barlow received no payment for his work on the weapons until 1940. Then, after a long court battle, Congress approved pament of $529,719 to the inventor. It was said at the time that the United States had used about 500,000 of Mr. Barlow's bombs in the war.

Proposed Air Torpedo

After World War I, Mr. Barlow proposed development of an aerial torpedo- something akin to a mdern missle- with a range of 500 miles or more, but the plan was rejected as impractical.

Later, he attempted to interest American military authorities in a secret super-weapon that he said would destroy cities 1000 miles from the launching point.

When the United States displayed little interest in the weapon, Mr. Barlow went to Moscow in 1932 and turned the weapon over to the Soviet Union in return, he said, for a pledge that oit would never be used except to force total disarmament.

In 1925, Mr. Barlow proposed construction of a billion dollar interstate highway system, similar to the one that has been developed during the past decade.As World War II approached, Mr. Barlow fought hard for the development of new and larger bobms. He gave a demonstration in Maryland of a new, secret bomb he had invented, powered by liquid oxygen and carbon.

Mr. Barlow contended that the explosive, which he called gimite (pronounced glimite) was more powerful than T.N.T. But in a test at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds on May 25, 1940, a 1,000 pound sack of glimite failed to harm 84 goats that had been tethered from 200 to 1000 feet from the detonating point.

"I can't understand it," Mr. Barlow muttered in disappointment. "I'm licked on it. But I had to try it to find out."

A month later, Mr. Barlow performed another test with gimite at Bolling Field. Engineers from the Glenn L. Martin Company declared it had greater explosive force than T.N.T., but Mr. Barlow announced that further experiments would not be held unless Congress provided the money, which Congress failed to do.

Accused Cabinet Members

Mr. Barlow subsequently became president of the Gimite Corporation and Mr. Martin, the aircraft manufacturer, became chairman of its board.The corporation produced the explosive for mining uses. In 1937, Mr. Barlow clashed with the National Labor Relations Board after he had interrupted a hearing with the charge that its members were "Reds" and its proceedings were "a racket."

Mr. Barlow demanded the removal of three Cabinet members and said he would circulate a petition for the impeachment of President Roosevelt if the officials were not discharged. The petition, if it was circulated, did not get far.

Mr. Barlow married three times. His first marriage to Ruby Maryon, daughter of James Henry Maryon, a wealthy London banker, ended in divorce in 1918. His second marriage to Gertrude Fitzgerald, ended in divorce in 1941. His third marriage, to Eden Rawlins, ended in divorce in the mid nineteen-forties.

He is survived by a son by his second marriage, Edward L. Barlow of Stamford, and a brother, Floyd Barlow.

A funeral service will be held Friday in Clear Lake Iowa.

  • Lester Pence Barlow biography

    Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, May of 2014

     

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