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Operation Smoke Puff, HAARP, Chemtrails, the Ionosphere, and Crowd Sourced Citizen Science

There's an ongoing effort to save HAARP from the demolition block[4], and as it inevitably does in all matters HAARP, the topic of chemtrails came up.  Chemtrails are by and large considered to be an urban legend, but like all good legends, it turns out there's more than a trace of truth embedded in the story  Perhaps the chemtrail legend has propagated so well because the ham radio community at large was involved in the first experiment that might have blossomed into the chemtrail mythos.  During a magical period, in the mid '50s  the United States Air Force experimented with augmenting the performance of the ionosphere, (think HAARP), by creating airborne clouds of particulate reflectors, (think chemtrails).

In his landmark 1958 article describing the experiment[1], author Michael Gladych, (expect to see  more about Gladych in these pages soon), first explained what the ionosphere was, first in words:

"In this electronic age, everybody knows that the ionosphere is an electrified upper atmosphere region that bounces off radio waves around the globe."
and then with a picture:

Gladych went on to explain that the reflectivity of the ionosphere was due to rays from the sun ionizing molecules of the atmosphere forming a conducting layer between 60 and 70 miles up.  As many ham radio operators know, this reflecting layer is a boon to radio communications in the high frequency range around 7 MHz, but higher frequencies like microwave communications at 144 MHz are not reflected back to Earth.  However, there are periods of intense solar activity that improve the 'reflectivity' of the ionosphere.  For more about this, see +Ian Poole's excellent article on sunspots and the ionosphere.

What the Air Force sought to do was create these enhanced ionospheric patches at will.  They assembled a team of researchers in Bedford Massachusetts, Dr. Frederick F. Marmo and his associates L. Aschenbrand, and J. Pressman.  Marmo and company reasoned that by creating an easy to ionize cloud, one made out of particulate phosphorous, they could deliver an ionosphere in a can.  And thus was born Operation Smoke Puff.

A launch pad for an Aerobee rocket was assembled in southern New Mexico, and a fifteen pound, (xxx kilo), clump of phosphorous was launched to an altitude of 60 miles where it was detonated.  Ham radio operators in a radius of 700 miles around the launch site were asked to transmit on frequencies between 7 and 144 MHz and submit reception reports on the quality of their communications.  Sure enough, the artificial ionosphere worked like a champ providing "next-door clear" communications for 45 minutes.

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time
As it turned out, the 45 minute dispersion rate was a bit limiting, and there were other problems besides.  The invention only worked during daylight hours when there was sunlight available to ionize the cloud.  There were plans in the works for a night enabled version, but it had it's own issues.  While it was advertised as being very effective at confounding enemy radar, the cloud presented a bit of a defensibility problem in that it would have produced a visible light glow over the ground target it was protecting, easily pointing out its location for bomber pilots.  In the ever-optimistic 50's though, there was still an upside.  Gladych reported that

"for peacetime applications, the glow of a large and longer-lasting ion cloud could be used to illuminate a city better than the street lamps.
1.  Gladych's article in Popular Mechanics

2.  +Ian Poole article on sunspots and the Ionosphere in Radio Electronics

3  Marmo's patent on expansions to the Operation Smoke Puff work

4.  Saving HAARP... You know, for the hams...

5.  Newspaper article about operation Smoke Puff 4/18/1957,371543
mentions Dr. O. G. Villard of Stanford who headed up the radar measurements of the cloud.

6.  Popular Electronics article enlisting listeners

also shown here:

7.  O.G. Villard on Operation Smoke Puff


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