“The Secret of Tuxedo Park” kicks off another year of American Experience documentaries on PBS Tuesday, January 16, at 9pm ET (check local listings). This one examines the forgotten legacy of millionaire scientist and Wall Street tycoon Alfred Lee Loomis, who personally funded an enormous amount of scientific research at his private estate before leading radar research efforts during World War II.
The film asserts that microwave radar was the technology that won the war, allowing for precise targeting that neutralized the modern German weapons that the Nazi regime counted on to win the war. Churchill gave the United States access to top secret British research and Loomis led the program that turned their ideas into useful technology that fueled Allied victory.
The first half of “The Secret of Tuxedo Park” explores Loomis’ early life and the Wall Street career that made him wealthy enough to personally fund an enormous amount of scientific research. The second half of the documentary shows how he led the transition to government-funded research on a massive scale and the rise of the military-industrial complex.
Loomis shuttered his private lab at Tuxedo Park when he set up what became known as the “Rad Lab’ at MIT. With a team of nearly 4,000 people, he led a research project that was essential to Allied victory. The lab’s innovation was on full display during the invasion of Normandy, when airplanes equipped with radar sets bombarded the coastline, radar beacons guided parachute troops, a navigation system known as landing craft control directed the invasion forces and radar-directed guns protected the infantry from air attack.
“The Secret of Tuxedo Park” is available on DVD and will also stream on the PBS website and apps starting January 17th.