Source: NASA Historical Reference Collection, NASA History Office, NASA Headquarters, Washington, DC.

Baron Report (1965-1966)

Excerpt from: Brooks, Courtney G., Grimwood, James M., and Swenson, Loyd S., Jr. Chariots for Apollo: A History of Manned Lunar Spacecraft. (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4205, 1979).

Baron was a rank and file inspector at Kennedy from September 1965 until November 1966, when he asked for and received a leave of absence. He had made observations; had collected gossip, rumor, and critical comments from his fellow employees; and had written a set of condemnatory notes. He had detailed, but not documented, difficulties with persons, parts, equipment, and procedures. Baron had observed the faults of a large-scale organization and apparently had performed his job as a quality inspector with a vengeance. He noted poor workmanship, spacecraft 012 contamination, discrepancies with installations, problems in the environmental control system, and many infractions of cleanliness and safety rules.

Baron passed on these and other criticisms to his superiors and friends; then he deliberately let his findings leak out to newsmen. North American considered his actions irresponsible and discharged him on 5 January 1967. The company then analyzed and refuted each of Baron's charges and allegations. In the rebuttal, North American denied anything but partial validity to Baron's wide-ranging accusations, although some company officials later testified before Congress that about half of the charges were well-grounded. When the tragedy occurred, Baron was apparently in the process of expanding his 55-page paper into a 500-page report.

When his indictments were finally aired before Teague's subcommittee, during a meeting at the Cape on 21 April, Baron's credibility was impaired by one of his alleged informants, a fellow North American employee named Mervin Holmburg. Holmburg denied knowing anything about the cause of the accident, although Baron had told the committee that Holmburg "knew exactly what caused the fire." Holmburg testified that Baron "gets all his information from anonymous phone calls, people calling him and people dropping him a word here and there. That is what he tells me." Ironically, Baron and all his family died in a car-train crash only a week after this exposure to congressional questioning. (22)



September 1965-November 1966

It has often been said that "People must do what they think is right." In many cases this has been a costly quotation to follow, but it is probably one of the very few ways we have of advancing ourselves as a nation. There are too many opportunities for organizations to live off of the taxpayer. It always seems that the more tax moneys that can be had, the more this money is wasted. There is no question in my mind that there is gross mismanagement in relation to man-hours and proper control of materials, and to the treatment of people. In my opinion, North American Aviation has had the funds to correctly administer a Space Program without compromising the safety of its employees, the astronauts, or the objectives of the Project itself.

North American Aviation, has not, in many ways, met their contractual obligations to the United States Government or the taxpayer. I do not have all the information I need to prove all that is in this report. I just hope someone with the proper authority will use this information as a basis to conduct a proper investigation. Someone had to make known to the public and the government what infractions are taking place. I am attempting to do that, someone else will have to try to correct the infractions.

There are many reasons why this report is being written. I have been with NAA for the past sixteen months. During that time I took the time to make notes on daily happenings. There were difficulties with people, parts, equipment, and procedures, not to mention, poor safety practices and the accidents they caused. These notes, which were sometimes in the form of letters, were sent up to channels, starting with the leadman. In most cases, as far as I can remember, they were not acted upon or never got further that the leadman.

When I was hired by NAA, I was assigned to the Quality Control Department. I was told of the vast importance of my task, and of the great responsibility associated with it. I was told how the slightest infraction could be detrimental to the objectives of the program. I, along with others, was told how important our job was when it came to manned launches. We were told to report every infraction, no matter how minor we felt it was. Unfortunately, this is not practiced by the Company.

The Apollo program is only the beginning, but this is not to be used as an excuse for poor operations. I was just recently told by management that we were still in research and development even if we are going manned. I go along with this for the most part, but we should not compromise the safety of the astronauts just for the benefit of a schedule.

Trying to keep this Project on schedule has caused a great many problems in itself. It can also be said, that because of this objective in mind, it has actually cost us much time, thereby, putting us behind schedule.

Trying to keep this schedule has cost the taxpayer a great deal of money. Money wasted due to the tremendous waste of man-hours, materials, parts, and equipment. The proof of the waste is not to difficult to verify. It would take an investigation of procedures and interviewing several conscientious people. I am not talking about interviewing full supervisors or managers. I'm saying, interview the technicians, the mechanics, the QC man in the area of work. These are the people who know what is really going on as far as wasted man-hours and material, is concerned.


The incidents that are described in this report can be put into several categories. I have listed these categories for the benefit and clarification of the reader.

It must be noted that all of these problems were given to my supervisors at the time they took place or shortly thereafter. Many of the problems could and should have been eliminated or prevented if NAA took the proper steps to do so. Almost every case of trouble gave a clear warning as to what was going to happen. This is why I say, that if the leadman, or assistant supervisor took the proper action the problem for the most part, could have been avoided.

The following is a list of policies that NAA should follow to make themselves the "professional" people they should be in the first place. I am afraid the public had the wrong image in their minds when they think of project Apollo. They probably believe that everyone knows exactly what they are doing at all times. They probably also believe that the work out here at the launch complexes is done on a routine manner. They are wrong. I have been told by two managers that we are still in research and development stages even if we are going to send up a manned spacecraft. This, I firmly believe is the wrong approach to the project. Does NASA know or realize that every spec that we have is inadequate for the task being done? Do they really know that they are changed constantly to comply with the output of quality of the part or system being tested? Are they fully aware of the compromising position that NAA has put the program in? Do they know that of the great number of people we have working on the hardware are not satisfied with their own work and the work of others? NASA is not aware of the vast snags that go on in receiving inspection. Do they really know where all the parts and materials come from? I believe that all these questions can be answered with the word "No."


  1. If an OCP has been written for a specific system, it should not be changed. Process specifications should not be changed to conform to the results of a test on a component.
  2. Men should be assigned to a specific task or area and stay there. In this way his chances of promotion increase. Too many people get "transferred" just before they get used to a system or work area. If they stayed where they were we would really be building a "professional" group of engineers, technicians and mechanics. As it stands now, we have very few.
  3. Our supervisors or anyone else that writes Internal Letters should coordinate with the people that will be affected by the letter. In most cases this does not appear to be done.
  4. We should completely eliminate all verbal orders.
  5. All launch people, troubleshooting people, systems engineers should work much more closely with NASA. I believe if we had more NASA people to see if the contractor is meeting their contractual obligations many problems could be eliminated. I would think that a project of this magnitude, would warrant this surveillance.
  6. A safety group that would take care of safety infractions immediately.
  7. Schedule shifts so they give a man a firm tie-in time that they get paid for.
  8. Immediately investigate improper practices and don't sluff them off.
  9. Solve the vast problem of communications between all the people.
  10. Many of the problems that are written about, have to do with the morale of the working people. There has been, at different times, a great deal of apathy on the part of these people. Much of this is caused by poor working conditions that are prevalent in some areas. At Pad 34 the bathroom facilities are extremely poor. There doesn't seem to be enough trailers available for the working personnel. The technicians at one time had all their tool boxes, extra clothing, etc. in a small semi truck trailer. The technicians also stayed in this trailer. They had no other place to go. Many times we had to be exposed to the elements for extended periods of time. There were no people to relieve us or no one scheduled a relief. People have missed lunches due to this problem. The laxity of the Company to protect the men by enforcing the safety policies, was another worry of the men. I remember a man that refused to go into an escape operation, because he did not feel safe. He had to report to the assistant QC manager.
  11. The constant transfers of men from one task to another, even if they are in the middle of a test, is distracting to the technicians. He never really knows if the test was completed properly or if some problems arose that he could have helped with because he was familiar with the original set-up. He is left without any feeling of accomplishment for the task he started. NAA does not realize that this feeling is important to a good technician or mechanic.

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Updated February 3, 2003
Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator
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