Guide to the NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory Records at NARA College Park, 1939-1958

Guide prepared by Glenn Bugos
NASA Ames Research Center History Office
Mail Stop 207-1
Moffett Field, California 94035
©2006 NASA Ames Research Center. All rights reserved.

NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory Records at NARA College Park, 1939-1958

NASA Ames Research Center History Office National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland

Record Group 255

NASA Ames Research Center History Office

Moffett Field, California

Contact Information:

  • National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland
  • 8601 Adelphi Road
  • College Park, MD 20740-6001
  • Phone: (301) 837-2000
  • URL:
Guide encoded by:
Leilani Marshall
Date Completed:
December 2006

Descriptive Summary

Title: NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory Records at NARA College Park
Date (inclusive): 1939-1958
Collection Number: RG255
Creator: Ames Aeronautical Laboratory
Extent: Number of containers: 28
Repository: National Archives and Records Administration
College Park, Maryland 20740-6001
Abstract: The records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and its precursor the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), comprise Record Group 255 of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). At the College Park, Maryland facility of NARA (known as "Archives II"), there are two groups of textual records and one group of photographic records that contain documents pertinent to Ames. Materials in these groups are presented in this guide, and include research authorizations, material from pubic affairs officers, and photographs.
Language: English

Administrative Information


Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

Copyright does not apply to United States government records. For non-government material, researcher must contact the original creator.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory Records, [Container number], [Folder number], National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Maryland.

Administrative History

The Ames Aeronautical Laboratory was the second laboratory of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA). The NACA was created by act of Congress on March 3, 1915 and charged with the development of aeronautical research and testing facilities to improve both civil and military aviation. By 1917 the NACA had built a fully operational aeronautical research facility called the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory near Norfolk, Virginia. By 1939, American political leaders recognized that the world was heading toward war and that other nations had surpassed the United States in basic aeronautical research. NACA leaders recognized that the Langley laboratory had run out of space for new wind tunnels and was straining the electrical capacity in the area. Thus, the Roosevelt Administration forcefully endorsed a report from the NACA Special Committee on Future Research Facilities, dated December 30, 1938, that argued for the establishment of a second research installation near the West Coast aircraft manufacturers. The tentative site suggested was the U.S. Naval Air Field and Army training base at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California. On February 3, 1939 President Roosevelt transmitted the $10 million request to Congress for incorporation into the second deficiency bill. A stiff partisan political struggle followed, however, and it was not until August 9, 1939, that the funds were approved as a part of the third deficiency bill.
Construction of the second laboratory began on December 20, 1939, led by an elite group from Langley, whose building priorities indicated a sense of urgency: flight research building, wind tunnels, the technical services facilities, and lastly the administration building. On April 18, 1940, the center was christened Ames Aeronautical Laboratory to honor Dr. Joseph Ames, the chairman of NACA from 1927 to 1939 and a staunch advocate for basic scientific research and the responsibility of the federal government in training people for it. Responsibility for organizing the center rested with the Engineer-in-Chief, Dr. Smith J. De France, served as Center Director from 1940 to 1965. Smitty DeFrance was ably assisted by John F. Parsons, his deputy in charge of administrative matters, by Harry Goett who directed low-speed wind tunnel research, and Harvey Allen who directed high-speed wind tunnel research. Allen joked in 1943 that he was actually in charge of "Theoretical Aerodynamics and Reinforced Concrete" because, in fact, the bulk of everyone's efforts at Ames was in building facilities as quickly as possible, rather than conducting research.
The first research effort at Ames involved flight test aircraft rather than wind tunnels. The Royal Air Force Bomber Command raids over Germany pointed out the need for a de-icing system to allow aircraft to fly in all types of weather. Within a year an effective hot-air de-icing system had been developed at Ames for American heavy bombers, and Ames led the development of methods to test for icing conditions in actual flight. Lewis Rodert won the 1947 Collier Trophy in recognition of the outstanding research done at Ames. Later, the knowledge of heat transfer gained in wing de-icing experiments was applied to problems of jet aircraft and missile design.
During World War II, Ames kept its wind tunnels in almost constant operation, working to improve such famous production aircraft as the P-51 Mustang and the P-38 Lightning. A complete set of wind-tunnels was available to West coast manufactures and their military customers: the smaller 1-by-3 foot tunnel that operated at supersonic speeds, to the workhorse 7-by-10 wind tunnels, to the 40-by-80 full scale wind tunnel, then the world's largest. In 1943, the Research Division was split into two divisions, one for theoretical and applied research and the other for full-scale flight investigations. In 1944, the technical service group and the technical shops were combined into the Service Division. Otherwise, Ames' organization changed little during the war years.
Ames changed more dramatically in the post-war period. In 1953, as a result of the Hoover Commission on Government Reorganization and its recommendation on establishing a uniform nomenclature for all governament agencies, sections were renamed branches, the primary operational unit below the division. Two new divisions were added at Ames: the High-Speed and Flight Research Division, and the Research Instrumentation and Engineering Services Division.
Another key addition, in 1950, was the Ames Unitary Plan Design Group. More high-speed tunnels and more sensitive instrumentation were required for the United States to compete in the world of jet aircraft and guided missiles. To combine the talents of NACA, university, military, and industry researchers--as well as to forge a unified front in lobbying for the enormous funds required--Ames led the formation of a Unitary Plan wind tunnel design group. This group was to design a series of high-speed wind tunnels located wherever such research was needed, at a total estimated cost of $10 billion. After Congress whittled down the Unitary Plan to $27 million only one such tunnel was constructed--at Ames. Not only was the tunnel itself an engineering masterwork--with three tunnels operating integrated to make the most efficient use of drive motors and researchers' time--but the tunnel supported much of the key work that led America into the space age.
By 1957, international pressures, the arms race, and the orbit of Sputnik again forced change in the administrative structure of Ames. On July 29, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Act was signed. On October 1, 1958, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was born, it absorbed the NACA, and Ames became a part of America's space program.

Indexing Terms

The following terms may be used to index this collection.

Corporate Name

Ames Aeronautical Laboratory

Geographic Names

Moffett Field (Calif.)

Scope and Content

The records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), and its precursor the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), comprise Record Group 255 of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). When NASA assumed the functions of the NACA in 1958, there were three NACA laboratories in the United States, one of which was the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, located at Moffett Field, California. Per federal guidelines, NACA material meant for permanent retention was sent to the National Archives, which was located in Washington, DC during the 1950s.
This guide provides a detailed list of the materials relating to the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory that have been deposited with the NARA branch at College Park, Maryland (known as "Archives II"). While there are many more records in RG255 than those listed here, this guide is intended to provide access only to the records that relate to the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory. For more complete documents related to the other NACA laboratories and the NASA field centers, please contact the National Archives.
Materials listed in this guide are from three separate sub-groups of RG255, all of which contain some amount of records related to the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory.
RG255.2.2 consists of Records of the Research Coordination Division and includes three boxes of Ames research authorizations, which are primarily made up of correspondence between NACA headquarters and Ames regarding the funding of aeronautical research during World War II.
RG255.4.1 consists of the records of the NASA Ames Research Center, previously known as the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory. While the bulk of materials (over 700 cubic feet) in RG255.4.1 are located at the Pacific Region branch of NARA in San Bruno, California, a few boxes (approximately 3.5 cubic feet) are located at Archives II in College Park, Maryland. Materials in these 10 boxes include press releases, newspaper clippings, and reports from public affairs officers.
The NACA records at Archives II include three sets of photographs that pertain to the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory: RG255-RF, RG255-RFA and RG255-RA. Photographs of NACA research facilities make up RG255-RF, and there are five boxes (numbered 10-14) that contain material related to Ames, such as photos of buildings and facilities, wind tunnels, and aerial photographs of the laboratory campus. Photographs of NACA aeronautical research facilities make up RG255-RFA, and there are 34 folders that contain material related to the aeronautical research conducted at Ames, such as personnel, wind tunnels, facilities, aircraft and spacecraft. Photographs of scientific research conducted at NACA facilities makes up RG255-RA, and there are 11 boxes that are organized by scientific research subject. This guide does not provide detailed information about RG255-RA, and further information must be obtained from the National Archives.
The photograph files were all closed out in 1958, when the NACA was absorbed into NASA. Most of the photos relating to Ames were generated by Ames photographers and thus can also be found using the Ames negative numbers in the Ames photograph collections at NARA San Bruno. Many of the images have also been scanned and indexed by the Ames Research Center and can be found on the Ames Imaging Library System (AILS) on the NASA Ames Web site.


RG255.2.2 Records of the Research Coordination Division: Ames Research Authorizations 1939-1952

Physical Description: Boxes 1 - 3

Scope and Content Note

The materials in this set of records are the Records of the Research Coordination Division. The entirety of RG255.2.2 consists of correspondence, 1915-52; technical reports, memorandums, and notes, 1916-58; reprints of reports issued during World War II ("Wartime Reports"), 1942-52; and a reference library of aeronautical literature, 1938-52. Records of the Research Administration Division, consisting of invention and patent case files, 1917-58. Correspondence of the Research and Contribution Board, 1917- 58. Records of the Research Coordination Division, consisting of research memorandums, 1946- 57; Langley Research Authorizations, 1918-48; case files relating to work accomplished at the Langley Laboratory under research authorizations, 1920-41; Ames Research Authorizations, 1941-50; and Lewis Research Authorizations, 1942-50.
The materials listed below are the records in RG255.2.2 that relate to the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, and primarily consist of correspondence between NACA headquarters and Ames about funding research during World War II.
Box 1, Folder 1

Ames Aeronautical Laboratory Miscellaneous

Box 1, Folder 2

122.1 Ames Aeronautical Laboratory Administration, Policy and Procedures

Box 1, Folder 3

122.22 Administration and Service Buildings

Box 1, Folder 4

122.32 Schedules of Tests 1949-1952

Box 1, Folder 5

122 Ames Aeronautical Laboratory

Box 1, Folder 6

Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, Ames Site Selection 1939

Box 2, Folder 1

122.33 Closed Research Authorizations

Box 2, Folder 2

122.33 (A4) Inv. Full Span Flaps on Consolidated XB-32 Model

Box 2, Folder 3

122.33 Ames Research Authorizations (Misc.)

Box 2, Folder 4

122.33 (A-15) Balanced Control Services

Box 2, Folder 5

122.33 (A-26) Ice Prevention on Boeing B-17F by means of heated surfaces

Box 2, Folder 6

122.33 (A-41) Duct Design and Characteristics of Ryan XFR-1

Box 2, Folder 7

122.33 (A-99) Wind Tunnel Investigation of Aerodynamic Characteristics of North American XP-82 Airplane

Box 3, Folder 1

122.33 (A-143) YP-80 Airplane

Box 3, Folder 2

122.33 (A-117) Thermal Ice Prevention Requirements of Lockheed P-38 Airplane at High Speeds

Box 3, Folder 3

122.33 (A-69) Device for Reducing Forces on an Airplane Control Stick

Box 3, Folder 4

122.33 (A-184) Fundamental Study of Wing Leading Edge Inlets

Box 3, Folder 5

122.33 (A-164) Investigation of Compressibility Effects on Overhang-Type Control Balance

Box 3, Folder 6

122.33 (A-205)


RG255.4.1 Records of the Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California 1939-1967

Physical Description: Boxes 1 - 6, 6A

Scope and Content Note

Most of the materials in this set of records are located at the Pacific Region branch of the National Archives, with guides available online: and Materials at the Pacific Region branch include central correspondence, 1938-58; central coded correspondence; 1951-67; central research correspondence, 1943-65; central files, 1941-65. Report unit files, 1947-77. Research and development reports, 1957, and project authorizations, 1941-59. Life Science Building dedication ceremony, 1968. Records of the Unitary Plan Design Group, 1950-55. Records of the Research Instrumentation Branch, 1941-56. Records of the Photographic Branch, 1945-55. Minutes and reports of the Automatic Stabilization and Control Subcommittee and the Research Advisory Committee on Control, Guidance, and Navigation, 1954-64. Records relating to the NASA Research and Technology Advisory Subcommittee on Aircraft Operating Problems, 1961-69. Historical files, 1941-72. These materials also include sound recordings of the activities at Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, 1942-45.
Some materials, however, are located at Archives II in College Park, Maryland. Listed below are the textual records of the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory that can be found at Archives II. They include correspondence, reports, historical files, and news clippings, and they date between 1938-1958. Also found in these materials is the dedicatory remarks by Dr. W.F. Durand at the official opening of the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory in June 1944. The Don C. Wiley reports were written by Wiley, an Aviation Information Specialist at Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, from the Public Affairs Office. They include weekly reports, correspondence, and brief reports known as Major Information Activities. Daniel S. Wentz II took over duties from Wiley and continued generating reports on a weekly basis.
Box 1, Folder 1

22-1 Site for Ames 1939

Box 1, Folder 2

20-3 Aeronautical Research Facilities, Special Survey Committee on

Box 1, Folder 3

22-1 Field Station General 1941

Box 1, Folder 4

22-1 Ames Laboratory 1938-1940

Box 1, Folder 5

Ames and Edwards

Box 1, Folder 6

Ames Aeronautical Laboratory 1940

Box 2, Folder 1

Moffett News 1944-1945

Box 2, Folder 2

Moffett News 1946-1947

Box 2, Folder 3

Editorials/Clippings on Sunnyvale Selection

Box 3, Folder 1

Ames Press Releases 1949

Box 3, Folder 2

Ames Press Releases 1950

Box 3, Folder 3

Ames Newspaper Clippings 1951

Box 3, Folder 4

Ames TV Show, Science in Action 1951

Box 3, Folder 5

Ames Releases 1952

Box 3, Folder 6

Ames Clippings 1952

Box 3, Folder 7

Ames Clippings 1953

Box 3, Folder 8

Ames Clippings 1954

Box 3, Folder 9

Ames Clippings 1955

Box 3, Folder 10

Ames Clippings 1956

Box 3, Folder 11

Ames Clippings 1957

Box 3, Folder 12

Ames Wind Tunnel, Life Magazine Article

Box 3, Folder 13

Ames Laboratory

Box 4, Folder 1

Wiley, January-June 1949

Box 4, Folder 2

Wiley, July-December 1949

Box 4, Folder 3

Wiley, January-June 1950

Box 4, Folder 4

Wiley Reports

Box 4, Folder 5

Wiley, June-December 1950

Box 5, Folder 1

Wiley Reports 1951

Box 5, Folder 2

Wiley, January-June 1951

Box 5, Folder 3

Wiley, July-December 1951

Box 5, Folder 4

Wiley, January-June 1952

Box 5, Folder 5

Wentz reports 1952

Box 5, Folder 6

Wentz, January-June 1952

Box 5, Folder 7

Wentz, July-December 1952

Box 5, Folder 8

Ames Correspondence, January-June 1953

Box 5, Folder 9

Ames Correspondence, July-December 1953

Box 5, Folder 10

Ames Correspondence, January-June 1954

Box 5, Folder 11

Ames Correspondence, July-December 1954

Box 6, Folder 1

Special to AeroDigest on Ames Inspection, 1950

Box 6, Folder 2

Ames 1952 Inspection, Press Releases 1952

Box 6, Folder 3

Releases, Ames Inspection 1955

Box 6, Folder 4

Ames Inspection Brochure

Box 6, Folder 5

Photographs of Light Gas Gun

Box 6, Folder 6

Ames 1958 Triennial Inspection, Dr. Dryden 1958

Box 6A, Folder 1

Ames Aeronautical Laboratory Bluebook 1940-1946

Box 6A, Folder 2

Ames Dedication Photographs

Box 6A, Folder 3

Ames Light Gas Handouts


RG255.12 Still Pictures, General: Photographs of NACA Research Facilities and Activities 1938-1958

Physical Description: Boxes 10 - 14

Scope and Content Note

RG255.12 contains over 50,000 photographic prints, negatives, transparencies, lantern slides, posters and lithographs. Topics covered relate to aeronautics and astronautics, including activities, facilities, equipment, aircraft, missiles, spacecraft, the lunar surface, astronauts, ceremonies, and conferences.
The photographs in RG255-RF document the NACA Research Facilities and Activities from 1938 to 1958, including photographs of the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, which can be found in boxes 10 through 14 and are listed below.
The photographs in RG255-RFA document the NACA's and NASA's Aeronautical Research Facilities from 1928 through 1963. Photographs of the Ames Aeronautical Laboratory (known as the Ames Research Center after 1958) are listed below, following Box 15.
Box 10, Folder 109

Ames Aeronautical Laboratory

Box 10, Folder 110

Administration Building

Box 10, Folder 111

Plot Plans

Box 10, Folder 112

First Flight of O-47A Airplane

Box 10, Folder 113

Dedication of Ames Aeronautical Laboratory 1944

Box 10, Folder 114

Aerial Views

Box 10, Folder 114A

Aerial Views

Box 10, Folder 115

Plot Plan, Moffett Field

Box 10, Folder 116

Flight Research, P-80

Box 11, Folder 116A

Flight Research, F-86

Box 11, Folder 116B

Flight Research, C-46

Box 11, Folder 116C

Flight Research, General

Box 11, Folder 117

Flight Research, Lab and Hangar

Box 11, Folder 118

Tunnels and Test Setups

Box 11, Folder 119

7x10 foot Tunnel

Box 12, Folder 120

Tunnel No. 1

Box 12, Folder 121

Tunnel No. 2

Box 12, Folder 122

Free Flight Tunnel

Box 12, Folder 123

40x80 foot Tunnel

Box 12, Folder 123

40x80 foot Tunnel

Box 12, Folder 123B

40x80 foot Tunnel

Box 12, Folder 123C

40x80 foot Tunnel

Box 12, Folder 123D

40x80 foot Tunnel

Box 12, Folder 124

6x6 inch Heat Transfer Tunnel

Box 13, Folder 125

1.5x3 foot Tunnel

Box 13, Folder 126

12 foot Tunnel

Box 13, Folder 127

16 foot Tunnel

Box 13, Folder 128

Hypersonic Gun Tunnel

Box 13, Folder 129

Low Density Tunnel

Box 13, Folder 130

Low Turbulence 12 foot Pressure Tunnel

Box 13, Folder 131

12 foot Pressure Tunnel

Box 13, Folder 133

8x8 foot Supersonic Tunnel

Box 13, Folder 134

10x14 inch Supersonic Tunnel

Box 13, Folder 135

1x3 foot Supersonic Tunnel

Box 13, Folder 135A

1x3 foot Supersonic Tunnel

Box 14, Folder 136

6x6 foot Tunnel

Box 14, Folder 137

8 foot Supersonic Tunnel

Box 14, Folder 138

Free Flight Tunnel

Box 14, Folder 140

2x2 foot Transonic Tunnel

Box 14, Folder 141

14 foot Transonic Tunnel

Box 14, Folder 142

Labs and Research Facilities

Box 14, Folder 143

Instrument Research Lab

Box 14, Folder 144

Science Lab

Box 14, Folder 145

Electric Analogue for Aerodynamic Studies

Box 14, Folder 146

Schlieren Photos

Box 14, Folder 148

Atmosphere Energy Simulator

Box 14, Folder 149

Auditorium and Cafeteria

Box 14, Folder 150

High Speed Wing Research

Box 14, Folder 151

Hypervelocity Ballistic Range

Box 14, Folder 152

Light Gas Gun

Box 14, Folder 153

Porous Leading-Edge Construction

Box 14, Folder 154

Shops and Models

Box 14, Folder 155

Technical Services Building

Box 15, Folder 156

Utilities Building

Box 15, Folder 1

Aerial View Ames Facility

Box 15, Folder 2

Ground Views/exterior and interior

Box 15, Folder 3

NACA Exhibit, San Francisco Junior Jaycees Air Fair

Box 15, Folder 4

Flow Chart (graphic)

Box 15, Folder 5


Box 15, Folder 6

6x6 foot/compression

Box 15, Folder 7

7x10 foot/aerial

Box 15, Folder 8

40x80 foot

Box 15, Folder 9

1x3.5 foot high speed

Box 15, Folder 10

16 foot high speed

Box 15, Folder 11

12 foot low turbulence

Box 15, Folder 12

6x6 foot supersonic

Box 15, Folder 13

8 inch supersonic

Box 15, Folder 14


Box 15, Folder 15


Box 15, Folder 16

Unitary Plan

Box 15, Folder 17

Schlieren Effect

Box 15, Folder 18

Airspeed Installations/F-86A-5

Box 15, Folder 19


Box 15, Folder 20

Flight Simulators

Box 15, Folder 21

Flush Inlet

Box 15, Folder 22

Hypersonic Flight

Box 15, Folder 23


Box 15, Folder 24

Inspection (graphic)

Box 15, Folder 25

Model Shop

Box 15, Folder 26

Satellite Launching

Box 15, Folder 27

Stability/Ryan 92

Box 15, Folder 28

Supersonic Flight (graphic)

Box 15, Folder 29

Swinging Probe

Box 15, Folder 30

Thrust reversal/graphs

Box 15, Folder 31

[No caption]

Box 15, Folder 32


Box 15, Folder 33

F-80, F-100

Box 15, Folder 34

Lockheed Constellation