On March 16, 1926, Dr. Robert Hutchings Goddard, a product of Massachusetts’ Worcester Polytechnical Institute and Clark University, trucked an ungainly framework of piping to a snow covered field on his Aunt Effie’s farm in Auburn, Massachusetts. After filling the tanks with liquid oxygen and gasoline he ignited the engine. After about 20 seconds the engine built up enough power to lift off. In about two and half seconds the primitive liquid fueled rocket reached a height of 41 feet with an average a speed of about 60 miles per hour before crashing back to earth. It was the world’s first flight of a liquid-propelled rocket engine, opening the door to the space age. 

Less than three years later, at 10:30 in the morning on February 14, 1929, four men, two dressed at Chicago police officers and the others in civilian clothes, entered the SMC Cartage Company garage at  2122 North Clark Street in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago’s North Side. Inside they found five members of George “Bugs” Moran’s North Side Gang and two hangers-on.  

When the gunmen entered the garage, Moran’s men thought it was a routine police raid and peacefully did as they were told. The ‘police officers’ quickly disarmed them and lined them up facing a wall. They then signaled the civilians who each unlimbered a Submachine Gun from underneath their overcoats and hosed their victims left and right, scattering 70 rounds of .45 ACP brass on the floor. The ‘police officers’, who were carrying shotguns, also added to din, smoke, and carnage by blasting away at the victims sprawled on the floor. The gunmen then tucked their Tommy Guns under coats, raised their hands, and were marched out to a waiting ‘police’ car by the ‘police officers,’ all to drive into anonymity.  

Enter the second Doctor Goddard. Cook County Coroner Herman Bundesen carefully collected the evidence from the crime scene and hired Dr. Calvin Hooker Goddard, a pioneer in ballistics testing, to work on the case. Goddard was given the shell casings collected at  the crime scene as well as bullets recovered from the wall and bodies of the victims. He quickly determined that  two Thompson submachine guns were used, one equipped with a 50 round drum and the other a 20 round stick magazine. He opined that the two different magazines were used just in case the drum magazine, which had a reputation for jamming, failed. Goddard next obtained samples of fired bullets from the Thompson guns owned by the Chicago Police Department and determined that no police weapons had been used.  

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre remains an unsolved crime to this day and has never officially linked to Moran’s rival Al Capone, but he is generally considered to have been responsible for the murders. A few months later Fred Burke, a known associate of Capone’s, was arrested for a separate crime and in possession of a brace of Thompsons and ammunition. The guns were delivered to Goddard who test fired them and found the bullets matched those taken from the Massacre victims. The “Chicago Typewriters” used in the St. Valentine’s Day today reside in the armory of the Berrien County, Michigan, Sheriff’s Department.  

Goddard was behind the development of the comparison microscope and used it to prove that no two firearms are made exactly alike and so that characteristic marks on the cartridge case and the bullet are the same every time that gun is fired, but not the same a similar type of firearm. 

Goddard rose to prominence with the 1927 Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti robbery-murder case in South Braintree, Massachusetts. The case was a highly charged political affair as the two accused were both Italian immigrants and anarchists. Goddard confirmed that one of the bullets recovered from the scene had been fired from Sacco’s gun. Goddard’s findings were retested in 1961 and 1983, and the results were confirmed each time. 

Both Doctors Goddard brought professionalism and the use of the scientific method to their fields. Robert recognized the potential of rockets for peace and war and was the first to scientifically study, design and construct the rockets needed to implement those ideas. Calvin, almost single handedly, created the science of forensic firearm identification. 

Robert was shy and retiring yet has become the more famous having Goddard. He has been credited with 214 patents for his work. He also influenced many people such as  astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell, and NASA flight controller Gene Kranz.. Goddard was honored with the Langley Gold Medal from the Smithsonian Institution and a Congressional Gold Medal. NASA named its facility in Greenbelt, Maryland in his honor and he even has a crater on the Moon named for him. 

The lesser known Calvin’s legacy was establishing the Bureau of Forensic Ballistics, the first independent criminal laboratory, which brought the nascent science of ballistic forensics into the modern and served as the model for the FBI Forensic Laboratory. 

Different doctors, one a physicist and one an MD, but ballistics is ballistics, be it rockets or bullets. 

About Hap Rocketto

Hap Rocketto is a Distinguished Rifleman with service and smallbore rifle, member of The Presidents Hundred, and the National Guard’s Chief’s 50. He is a National Smallbore Record holder, a member of the 1600 Club and the Connecticut Shooters’ Hall Of Fame. He was the 2002 Intermediate Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion, the 2012 Senior Three Position National Smallbore Rifle Champion a member of the 2007 and 2012 National Four Position Indoor Championship team, coach and captain of the US Drew Cup Team, and adjutant of the United States 2009 Roberts and 2013 Pershing Teams. Rocketto is very active in coaching juniors. He is, along with his brother Steve, a cofounder of the Corporal Digby Hand Schützenverein. A historian of the shooting sports, his work appears in Shooting Sports USA, the late Precision Shooting Magazine, The Outdoor Message, the American Rifleman, the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s website, and most recently, the apogee of his literary career,
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