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Harold Silent

Harold Charles Silent was born Sept 26, 1896. Born in Azusa from an old family of Glendora. He was educated at Cornell University and was a talented physicist who was doing secret work for the Air Force as a consultant for Hycon. He worked on voice operated switching devices on the first commercial trans-Atlantic telephone. He spent several years in Hollywood when the “talkies” were beginning and departed from Norway, where he had been assigned on a patent case, and departed just 30 hours before the Germans invaded the country in World War II. During the war, he worked on the staff of the National Defense Research Council at Duke University, improving artillery detection and range finding equipment by acoustical means. As a consultant to several branches of the Military, Mr. Silent traveled extensively including trips to Guam, the Arizona and Nevada deserts and many classified ocean voyages. Harold was 59 at the time of the crash.

Harold C. Silent My Close Friend and Co-worker

Remembrance of Harold Charles Silent as told by Denny Thatcher.

As I write this little remembrance about my very special friend Harold Silent, I’ll never forget one of my first Hycon assignments after coming aboard as a electronics technician back in 1949 and that was to work with Harold. What a wonderful opportunity that was and one I’ll never forget. I was to construct a large rack and panel design of electronics, which would house the central controls for an U. S. Navy system. Silent was one of the finest gentlemen I have ever known, and possibly the most intelligent. We worked well together and his requests were always within milliseconds, a number of 35mm cameras. These were spread over several miles at points, which would photograph high-speed torpedoes as they were launched at the Navy’s test range in the southern end of the Salton Sea! We built and proved the feasibility of the concept but Silent and I were never able to complete the project unfortunately.

Every project I worked on with Silent was always very interesting and educational for me, as he was a great scientist and a wonderful individual. He is greatly missed.

Hycon’s Contribution to the U-2 Project

There is no such a thing as a reconnaissance aircraft without a camera. Thanks to Hycon’s B-camera the U-2 could photograph at 70,000 feet elevation. The B-camera weighed about 500 lbs. and could photograph an eight hour flight.

Hycon Model B Camera by Dorothy Cochrane

During the Cold War, the Hycon Model B panoramic camera, installed in the Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, was an essential intelligence-gathering tool of the United States. As the world’s premier high-resolution, high-altitude camera, enabled the United States to conduct routine reconnaissance in relative safety and to observe global hot spots in astonishing detail.

Shortly after the end of World War II, Dr. Edwin Land, an eminent photographic scientist, initiated the development of a new automatic camera design with a lens barrel capable of rotating from side to side and filming from horizon to horizon. By 1953, prototype cameras were being tested for use in the new reconnaissance aircraft, the Lockheed U-2, under development by “Kelly” Johnson and his legendary “Skunk Works.” The development and application of this new technology were under the auspices of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Hycon Model B Camera
National Air and Space Museum
Photo courtesy of Denny Thatcher









Milliampere Meter made by Harold Silent in
Los Angeles 1917. He was 21 at the time he made this milliampere.

© 2011 Silent Heroes of the Cold War National Monument
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