My name is Tom Endrusick and from 1972 to 2012 I worked as a research scientist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) located in Natick, Massachusetts, 20 miles west of Boston, USA.
TLE wiping the “sweat “from a thermal manikin used at USARIEM to evaluate the protective characteristics of military clothing and equipment.
I am hoping to assist the Foundation in researching Sir Hubert Wilkin’s (SHW) years while he was in the employ of the U.S. Government as a consultant on extreme environmental survival. From 1952 until his death in 1958, SHW was officially called a Geographer with the Environmental Protection Research Division at the U.S. Army Quartermaster Research Command, Natick. This Division was eventually renamed the Military Ergonomics Division, placed under the control of the Army’s Surgeon General and moved into the new Natick USARIEM building in 1968. When I started work at USARIEM, there were many people still employed who had previously worked with SHW at Natick. Later in my career, I was credentialed as a Principal Investigator to conduct human wear trials of military clothing and equipment in the Arctic Climatic Chamber at Natick. During these studies, we were always under the watchful eyes of SHW, his portrait hanging proudly on the wall of the data collection area directly outside the Chamber.
Lady Suzanne Wilkins with Vilhjalmur Steffanson and wife at the dedication of the Sir Hubert Wilkins Arctic Climatic Chamber, US Army Natick Laboratories, December 1960
Over the next months, I hope to uncover more detailed information of what exactly SHW was doing for the U.S. Government from 1942 to 1958. There may be undiscovered documents at the Army Natick Technical Library. I also plan to file a formal request with the U.S. Government to access any files available on SHW that have been restricted or classified for certain reasons. Additionally, I will show that SHWs influence within the US military is still ongoing with information on USARIEMs current collaboration with the Australian military on modern day environmental stress research.
The photograph below shows my first supervisor at USARIEM, the brilliant physicist John Breckenridge (1912-2008), and an onlooking SHW at the Pentagon waterfront in January 1955 during a high-level demonstration of a new military uniform designed to protect personnel from cold water immersion. Several individuals have just come out of the cold water and are having their skin and body core temperatures displayed for the attendees. This COLDBAR suit utilized early versions of a cellular rubber now known as neoprene. Similar suits are widely used today in both recreational and commercial endeavors to prevent life-threatening hypothermia. When I look at that photograph, I cannot help but wonder what SHWs influence and involvement was in that new protective clothing development.
I hope to uncover more on SHWs activities and accomplishments during his years assisting the U.S. in World War II as well as his post-war consulting efforts.
Sir Hubert Wilkins at the Pentagon Lagoon, Potomac River, Washington D. C., observing a demonstration test of prototype COLDBAR Immersion Suits, January 1955.
Thomas L. Endrusick
Research Physical Scientist (Retired)
U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine
Natick, MA USA