My name is Robert Buck.. I’m originally from New York and that’s where I was when… in 1960 Martin Marietta hired me. I was a copy writer for an ad agency up there and they wanted me to write recruiting material. It was very difficult to get engineers and technical people to move to Orlando because who’d ever heard of Orlando? And it was, you know, it was just not a place to be…
LISTEN Part I (16:06) (Text highlights excerpts from audio recording)
So I was brought here and put in a group called Presentations and I was given unlimited money and whatnot to write brochures, ads and that sort of thing. You can see the expense, you’re doing thousands of those things. You know, that’s a very expensive brochure. You just didn’t normally do bound books. It’s a recruitment brochure…. VIEW
Front cover from Transition: Martin Marietta Scientists & Engineers Keeping Pace With Tomorrow by Robert Buck, circa 1960.
We had a whole art department. They were trying to recruit and that was the thing. We did ads that went into a high tech magazine. Just to get the scientists to move to Orlando and those were our principal scientists… VIEW.
This advertisement appeared in ARMY and SIGNAL magazines.
They originally brought me here.. to do recruiting and we worked so fast on that they gave us everything else in the plant to do…And I hired different people because I just liked them or thought they were funny… I had to give them something to do. So I remember I gave Joe Torre security. So he ended up doing these giant posters… He created a group of spies and a blabbermouth. And I was the blabbermouth and the spies were various people and they were always hiding under the tables listening. And he did these posters, and the people became sort of famous in the plant. Everybody recognized them as the spies…
Robert Buck whispering in Santa’s ear. Poster by Joe Torre of Martin Marietta Presentations Department in Orlando.
About halfway in my stay there we had a thing occur that caused a big program for us which was the Pershing Missile which was Martin’s main weapon which was a field missile, ground to ground missile… We built the perfect one and that was called building a missile with zero defectiveness…
Mr. Willy was having lunch with the Secretary of Defense that day and told him about Zero Defects. And they said, “Why don’t you get a program.
So they decided to send us around the country, everywhere to create Zero Defects in the Defense Industry. So I had a guy who specialized in oral presentations, Langdon Tolan, and Langdon took off around the country and gave these presentations.
The next thing we knew Zero Defects was in every plant in the country in the Army, Navy, Air Force. We had this big thing that was going….
LISTEN Part II (15:06)
Another interesting project that we had, this was at the time that President Kennedy was talking about going to the moon
and all that sort of thing, so we decided to do a Martin Moon Base. And since nobody knew what the moon was like we had to think it up….
And there used to be a show in New York called the Air and Space Show. You know there were things there at the show like the monkeys that we sent off into space and there’s our moon base. It’s where I met Von Braun. Von Braun went through it and came out. I said, “What do you think?” He said, “This is as good a guess as anybody has. I think it’s pretty good.” I said, “Thanks….”
And it became the American Moon Base for several years…
This was a, this group of mine, was a very talented and interesting group. In a short time they were stolen away by other companies… But, you know, we had a lot of fun together. And we, you know, they’d occasionally do an ad. They’d occasionally do a brochure….
When I got there they had 10,000 employees. All this advertising was to nail key employees. To nail somebody’s principal scientist…. Orlando had, very early in its deal, had to train hundreds of women that were picking oranges to assemble electronic devices. And they turned Orlando into a technical community.
We’d just be doing a technical ad, we generally featured a technical guy.
You know like Vern Der was the principal scientist at Martin. Vern hated being interviewed. And Vern always wore bib overalls or Levis to work and we kept trying to get him to wear a jacket and a tie, and he wouldn’t do it. And so we would write an article about what Vern was working on right then which was probably so obscure and never used, but it didn’t matter to other scientists it was neat stuff. So we’d write him up and he’d curse at us for a couple weeks and forget about us….
LISTEN Part III (13:09)
I opened my own company. It was called Presentations South…
We built exhibits for big corporations and we would take them to trade shows. And we also then shortly after that I bid on a National Park Service Museum and we got it. It was out in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and we didn’t know they were testing us. And the next thing you know they awarded us the job to do the new museum in the Statue of Liberty… It was in the base of the Statue of Liberty and we did that. It had a section from each country or place in the world…. And then we had, just as we were supposed to open, Nixon was president and he said, “Hold it til fall.” (We were going to open in May.) Because he wanted the chance to speak to all these foreigners about voting for him for reelection…. You know this was the election when he had more votes than any other president ever had.
So, anyway, we were stalled. It turned into a pain in the neck for us because then the Yugoslavian people started counting how many objects the Czechoslovakian people had. If they had three more than they had, they wanted more. It drove us nuts… And then it finally opened. [Nixon] He came and dropped by helicopter through the back of the place. He walked through it in about two minutes, appeared out in front and said some words to the foreigners within our borders and hopped on a jet and left…
And I did that until I retired. I built museums. I had a factory on Sligh Boulevard. Or when it was a show, we continued to do trade show exhibits, but mostly we did museums. We did museums all over the country. The big one in Philadelphia, The Franklin Institute. We did museums all over the place. We did the whole thing on the inside of the museum with the exception of the offices. Oh yeah, they had historians that work for the museum so we would have to work with them and specialists. They’d tell us what story they wanted told, how they wanted to be spoken of. We did over a hundred museums. We were probably the most prolific museum builder in the United States. Lots of them. Nation of Nations, entrance exhibit at Air & Space….
LISTEN Part IV (19:06)
Scientists coming here felt they were isolated. There were no universities here. Who ever heard of a scientist not working around a university? So we had to arrange that a plane would take our scientists up to the University of Florida every Friday for six hours so they could have a session with the physicist and so on up there. There were various country clubs around that would take Martin people. That had been arranged. There were housing developments….the housing development out by Martin. Sky Lake. Yeah, that was Martin people. Consequently schools got built around them…
We built the Martin Moon Base in the Martin Model Shop . Martin had a model shop to build models of their proposals. You know they’d propose a missile they’d build one. Maybe even have to shoot it somewhere. And the model shop would build our exhibits and we built the exhibits for all the other divisions of Martin around the country. You know, up in Baltimore, out West and that sort of thing, in the Orlando Model Shop. And when I opened my company my partner was chief engineer from the model shop, Bob McGary, industrial designer….
The Martin Moon Base Power Plant System
Mr Willey who was head of Martin Marietta… he got a call one afternoon when he was running Martin Baltimore and it was Harry Truman on the phone and he said, “Yes, Mr. President.” Truman says, “You got to build me a plane that will take this cargo size bomb to Japan and drop it on them.” And he says, “Well, I think we can.” And the big plane at that time, the bomber was Martin Marauder, I think. So, he says, “I think that we can whip one up for you in about a year.” And he says to him, “Willey how about one month?” And he says, “Yes, Mr. President.” And he got the plane ready in a month and they stuffed the big – the first atomic bomb was huge, it was like, you know one of those things that you see the garbage in outside, you know big square thing, big as this table – so they put the bomb in the plane and flew over Hiroshima and that’s the end of the war….
All that time I was his promotion guy and so I would sit in the board meetings. I was the only outsider allowed in the board meetings… the peculiarity of my group was they did PR work, they did recruitment work, they did this work, they did that work and so consequently we knew all the directors and all the directors’ secretaries who were more powerful than the directors and so we had access to almost everything in the plant. We had access to everything in the plant period.
I liked the group I was with. Nobody understood what we did so they just left us alone. We did what we wanted to do. You know, if they said we need such and such brochure the next thing, you know, this thing was put on their desk. They’d say, “Gees, what did that cost?” “Oh a hundred thousand bucks, you know. “Did you have to do something like that?” But, it was good stuff what we did. You know, we didn’t do silly stuff and I’m sure it did its job for recruiting.
LISTEN Part V (2:10)
Please peruse additional documents and images under Attachments below.
Robert Buck, Oral History Interview Part II
Robert Buck, Oral History Interview Part III
Robert Buck, Oral History Interview Part IV
Robert Buck, Oral History Interview Part V
Martin Marietta recruiting brochure in book format created to lure top scientists to Orlando, circa 1960. VIEW above.
By way of background, the Martin Company experienced a sharp transition from aircraft to spacecraft in the mid-fifties.
At the height of this transition, a new Division was formed within the Martin Company. Its primary mission was to design, develop, and produce vital missile and electronic systems for our country's armed forces. The year was 1957- the Division was Martin/Orlando.
Robert Buck, who was recruited by Martin Marietta in 1960 to write recruiting material describes the Transitions brochure and the work of the Martin Marietta Presentations Department in this excerpt from an oral history interview on March 14, 2014. LISTEN (16:06).
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Zero Defects: THE WHY, THE HOW, & THE RESULTS, the Martin Company, Orlando Division, booklet prepared to explain in detail - the concept behind, the implementation of, and the results from Zero Defects. VIEW DOCUMENT above.
The Orlando Division of the Martin Company inaugurated a program called Zero Defects on 20 July 1962. Zero Defects is a management tool aimed at the reduction of defects through prevention. Directed at motivating people to prevent mistakes by developing a constant, conscious desire to do their job right the first time, the program uses every available management/communications technique to achieve this end. Zero Defects is a giant step toward attaining production perfection despite the complexities of today's weapon systems.
Though alone at the start, we have seen the idea spread. Major industrial corporations and government organizations have paid us the ultimate compliment of starting similar programs of their own. In 1964 Zero Defects was officially endorsed by the Department of Defense...
Robert Buck of the Martin Presentations Department in Orlando played a key role in the Department of Defense contract. He personally wrote much of the material in the Zero Defects Information Kit and supervised the production of all materials to be used. VIEW Significant Incident Reports.
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Martin Project Aims At Perfection, Evening Star Editorial, Orlando Evening Star, September 25, 1962, Page 6-A. VIEW above.
The folks at Martin-Orlando who have always done a bang-up, pace-setting job of producing reliable missiles at low cost and on schedule are now shooting for the moon in efficiency through their revolutionary Zero Defects program.
The plant's new do-it-right-the-first-time project has turned the ideal of perfection into a practical working goal. The Z-D move for perfection in quality has proved so successful that it is attracting international attention...
G. T. Willey, Martin vice president and general manager of the Orlando division, attributes the success of the company's most unusual program, to the coordinated efforts of the entire Martin-Govt. team which is creating and building powerful and reliable weapons for the defense of America....
Martin Marietta Orlando Division 1965 brochure What you Should Know About LASER SAFETY. VIEW Document above.
Courtesy of the Robert Buck Archives.