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BY JACOB H. DOUMA
JOSEPH M. CALDWELL , formerly the top civilian eng ineering official in the Army Corps of Engineers, died in Arlington, Virginia, on December 21, 1980. His professional career began at the U.S. Waterways Experiment Station in ...
JOSEPH M. CALDWELL , formerly the top civilian eng ineering official in the Army Corps of Engineers, died in Arlington, Virginia, on December 21, 1980. His professional career began at the U.S. Waterways Experiment Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1933, and he retired as Chief of the Engineering Division of th e Directorate of Civil Works, Office of the Chief of Engineers, in 1973, after forty years of federal service. He had a major impact on research and development of coastal engineering technology worldwide and was responsible for design or consulting work on every major commercial harbor in the United States and on major harbors in twenty foreign countries, largely under the Agency for International Development. He was recognized as one of the world's foremost coastal engmeers.
Born on December 19, 1911, in Yazoo City, Mississippi, Mr. Caldwell received a B.S. degree in electrical engineering from Mis sissippi State University in 1932. During World War II, after gradu ating from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School, he spent four years as an Engineer Intelligence Officer and was dis charged with the rank of Major in 1946, when he returned to civilian service with the Corps of Engineers.
Mr. Caldwell was with the Coastal Engineering Research Center, formerly the Beach Erosion Board, from 1946 to 1971 and served as its Technical Director from 1963 to 1971. During this period he made innovations in the field of emergency shore protection and scale-model testing techniques, researched methods for predicting hurricane wave heights, and set standards for constructing deep water ports for large oil tankers. Following the 1962 East Coast hurricane, he quickly developed the "Caldwell section," which formed the emergency shore protection fill placed along the U.S. seaboard; it formed the backbone for subsequent protective works.
In 1971 he was appointed Chief of the Engineering Division of the Directorate of Civil Works, Office of the Chief of Engineers. Mr. Caldwell was responsible for supervising the engineering and design of the Nation's largest water resource development program, with a design output covering over $1 billion of construction work annually in the areas of flood control, navigation improvement, harbor devel opment, beach erosion control, hurricane protection, wastewater control, water quality improvement, and hydroelectric power plants.
Following a dam disaster in West Virginia, he was instrumental in drafting legislation for a national dam safety inspection program. As an engineering executive, he made great policy and management leadership contributions to the successful accomplishment of the Corps of Engineers' enormous annual construction program.
All during his long professional career, Joseph Caldwell devoted a significant amount of time to engineering society activities. He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, International Association for Hydraulic Research, Coastal Engineering Council of the Engineering Foundation, Marine Technology Society, American Geophysical Union, International Union of Geodesy and Geophys ics, and Washington Academy of Science.
He served on the Marine Science Advisory Committee for the Smithsonian Institution. After retiring in 1973, he practiced as a consulting engineer for private industry and the U.S. Government and was a consultant on coastal engineering in eight South American countries, four African nations, Canada, Portugal, India, Thai land, South Vietnam, and Bermuda.
During his career Mr. Caldwell's professional accomplishments were recognized by numerous honors, including the National Civil Service League Career Service Award, two Army Meritorious Civilian Service awards, and the Navy's Southeast Asia Civilian Service Award for his work on port development in Vietnam. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1973.
Recognizing that a well-rounded man's total contributions to life involve more than a distinguished career in his occupational spe cialty, Joe, as he was called by everyone, gave unstintingly of himself to his fellow citizens in a number of religious, charitable, and civic activities. Among these were the local PTA, Boy Scouts, church visiting committees to alcoholic and penal institutions, teaching Sunday School for thirty-five years, and serving on the boards of direc tors for several church and benevolent institutions.
Throughout his career, Joe Caldwell combined the fundamental curiosity of the research scientist with the practical thinking of the engineer. His achievements exemplify the classic purpose of the engi neer, that is, to understand nature and to modify and control nature's forces so as to meet the basic needs of mankind. His out standing contributions in coastal engineering are well documented in his numerous writings in books, encyclopedias, and professional journals, but his influence on the prevention of coastal erosion is more far reaching than the publications indicate. It provides the basis for engineers to conserve and to improve our beaches and shorelines for use as recreational areas, as wildlife habitats, and as barriers to coastal flooding.
Joe Caldwell was a very friendly and informal man, revered by all his friends and associates. His sincere compassion and outstanding work have not reached their end. Both will continue to serve man kind on earth for many years to come.