Withdraw Award To Qian
Aviation Week & Space Technology, 02/11/2008 , page 10
Daniel Plotnick, Wyckoff, N.J.
I must protest your naming Qian Xuesen Person of the Year (AW&ST Jan. 7, p. 56).
Qian is more the "Trofim Lysenko" of China’s space efforts than their father. China only began to make progress in missile and space development after the death of Mao and end of the Cold War, and by finally ending its commitment to the "political" science of Qian. His achievement has only been to outlive those who knew his true nature and disastrous effect on Chinese space and missile efforts and science in general.
Qian was a traitor, and known to be a Communist by the engineers and scientists who worked with him in the 1940s. Further, once back in China, he assisted Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies to identify individuals in the West who might be vulnerable.
In particular, Qian told them to seek out Wen Tsing Chow, for whatever he was doing would surely be important. Chow was a particularly bright student who was personally known to him as was his World War II defense work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Of course, when they investigated, they found Chow, in the 1950s, as head of missile guidance at Arma Div., designing what would become the operational guidance systems for the U.S. Air Force Atlas E and F ICBMs. This led to horrendous and brutal harassment of his and his wife’s families in China. Back here in the U.S., the actions of Chinese agents purposely created suspicion and ultimately would lead to the temporary loss of his security clearance due to his "hostage case" status.
Chow’s security clearance was only restored due to the personal intervention of USAF Gen. Bernard A. Shriever himself, who bluntly told then-Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara that "America has no missile program without Wen Chow."
Fortunately for America, Chow’s resolve and commitment to the defeat of communism was stronger than all that would be thrown at him. He would go on to lead operational deployment of Atlas E/F, and then the successful guidance and control efforts in the Gemini, Minuteman III, Saturn V and space shuttle and the B-52 programs.
In any case, in the matter of Chinese space efforts and Qian, China’s space efforts only got on track after the end of the Cold War, when Chow finally could go back to China to see his aged parents, whom he had not seen in 50 years and who had suffered due to their son’s status in our space and defense efforts. It was during this trip, that he met with Chinese space officials, who were then still wed to the politics of Qian, still looking for bizarre "shortcuts" and "great leaps forward" to catch up in space, punishing any technical failure with "sabotage charges," dismissal or imprisonment, and other Communist nonsense.
It was Chow, whose status in successful American space guidance was legendary to the Chinese, and whose authority they needed and could use to force change from the policies of Qian. He would tell them that it must take many years, that there would be no shortcuts, and that they must develop the science, managerial structures, high-reliability systems, and testing and evaluation programs. They must have a Mercury program, and then a Gemini program, just as the U.S. had done if they were to be successful. They could also be successful if they simply followed as they had done in America, and not fear the inevitable failures.
His word was law to the Chinese. That they followed Chow’s guidance is obvious and would be greatly gratifying to him, as he held no rancor, although he would not live to see their first manned flights.
Ironically, if any individual should be credited with being the father of Chinese space efforts, it should be Wen Tsing Chow. In fact, as he often mused with a grin, since the Russians only succeeded once they copied his Atlas inertial guidance systems, he considered himself responsible for all missile and rocket guidance systems of the three great powers.
Chow died in 2001. I am his son-in-law. In my discussions with Chow about Qian, he would want you to remember the millions who died and suffered due to Qian’s purposeful and enthusiastic "scientific" cooperation with the worst policies of the Chinese Communists.
Chow would want you to remember the engineers and scientists who he assigned to clean toilets and cesspools and sent away to hopelessly work the fields and perform mindless menial labor; the professors and technical managers who were humiliated, physically tortured and beaten to death; and the 40 years of lost science and achievement.