The Century's Ballistician

Post date: Oct 15, 2008 2:24:25 PM

Angela Cole writing about her friend Gerald Bull and The Harp project in Barbados

On March 30th 1990, Dr. Gerald “Gerri” Vincent Bull had a gun full of bullets unloaded in his body and head outside his apartment in Uccle, an exclusive area of Brussels. In 1994, four years after his death, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), fronting for the National Security Council (NSC), in an effort to cover–up for those who are responsible for his murder, released the news that Gerri, my friend, was not the villain or culprit they had for the past twenty years held him up to the world as and for which the Democratic Government had jailed him for six months. They, they admitted, in a spirit of new honesty, had gone to him in 1975, him whom they had created an act of Congress to make an American citizen, the only man to be so hallowed besides Winston Churchill, and appealed to his patriotism.

“You have to help us in South Africa. Castro’s troops in Angola are beating shit out of us. We need something to kick those communists’ asses. We need your guns in South Africa.” They said they said to Gerri.

Bull was the ballistician of the century as named by Jane’s Journal of Armaments and Defence, the foremost magazine in the arms world. When I met him in 1970 he was in Barbados across the runaway from my office at International Caribbean Airways in Seawell International Airport at his High Altitude Research Project (HARP)/ Space Research Corporation (SRC). Those were the days when the war for space was being fought and few people knew.

Bull, who received his doctorate from McGill at twenty-four, was the pioneer mind behind wind tunnels, rocket designs and ballistics. After, Gerri, a teenage student designed a wind tunnel to simulate the conditions which would have occurred when his uncle, a flyer during World War II, was shot down and killed over the English Channel the Canadian government Research and Defense Institute (CARDI) took this young man under their wing and developed his scientific talents. His lifetime idea and work was force, speed and trajectory. He was one of the only people in the world that had an idea of the mathematics behind high velocity physics - aerodynamically designed projectiles fired from barrel lengths, at tremendous speed and force, boosted with rockets, packed with electronics and Boom! Orbit! Satellites! Space Gun!

The largest gun Bull used, was in Barbados; the HARP gun. This was a prototype of the Space Gun and the forerunner of the guns of the future; from the hand-held Schwarzenegger Eraser electromagnetic rail gun that shoots through solid objects and with an X Ray motion sensor that locks on to the heartbeat; to the liquid gas gun at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories that forms part of the Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI), American’s attempt to protect the United States from attack by intercontinental ballistic missiles by controlling the space above earth, with just such a weapon as this that can hurl a projectile into space at an oncoming missile. The gun at HARP is recorded in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest firing gun; at vertical declination i.e. pointed upwards, it fired a projectile 200 miles into the skies above Barbados.

The Iraqi “Doomsday Gun” and ballistic innovations such as the base bleed shell, a patented over the counter shell, which makes a big gun fire one-third farther, are Bull’s creations. Bull changed the shape of shells to increase accuracy, and designed a gun that could shoot thirty miles and hit a target the size of a tennis court nine times out of ten.

Barbados had a laboratory in the breach of the longest firing gun. Bull ran tests for governments - Germany, America, England, and the First-world, - who would have had to set up a laboratory from scratch to test high performance powder munitions. He put gauges into the gun to check the pressure in the chamber at the time of the detonation. He tested propellant; its blasting sequence, burn rate and the pressure wave it produced in the breech. He checked the efficiency of propellant, the burning rate of ammunition, and the pressure the ammunition would produce - all inside the gun. Once the project tested some ammunition for Germany. It was fired and the burning rate was so high that the propellant could never be used for there was no other gun on earth that could withstand it. With new materials of greater tensile strength, this was the future of modern science. Men came from all over the world with papers that could shingle a library: military men, retired and otherwise, mechanical engineers, and experts on guns, brought their ideas on paper and the small group of local Barbadian and foreign scientist under Bull made them work.

There was telemetry for measuring speed in space. Tracking – radar and cameras in St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad and Grenada which tracked and photographed the shot from the time it left the barrel until it reached apogee - the point at which the vehicle loses velocity and falls by inertia. Barbados had more space probes sent above it and research done on conditions in the upper atmosphere above it than Cape Kennedy or any other part of the globe. The experiments carried out in this island were quoted in every scientific magazine, and published in scientific papers. Much of the information about upper atmospheric conditions used at Cape Kennedy for the space programme was collected in Barbados.

“Send me a mathematician.” Bull said after a shoot.

That made me understand that it was just plain, simple, ordinary mathematics, physics and chemistry, which I had done at secondary School – one of the only fifteen girls on the island to do so. Science subjects were taught at only two schools on the island – one for boys and one for girls. Space research, however, was not to be for Barbadians, or the world at large. A powerful lobby closed the project in Barbados; so too twenty years later it was not meant to be in Iraq.

In 1981, I had left Barbados just before the elections and spent some time with some friends in Frankfurt to avoid the elections. They introduced me to a Jewish intern whose father was head of the Jewish Community in Frankfurt and ten years my junior. He brought me collie and invited me to a mime show. The next night he took me to the premier of The Harder They Fall the Jimmy Cliff movie at the university common room. We dated some more and hung out at the guild’s disco.

As prearranged Carlton, the general Manager of HARP/SRC, left the island soon after the elections for Paris. A school friend with her husband who worked for UNESCO lived there and their first and only child, a girl, was newly born and I wanted to visit with the family. As usual whenever I tried to enter France there would be the scene at some airport.

“You do not have a visa for France?” The airline traffic clerk asked.

“I will get it when I get to Paris.”

“We will not put you on our plane to Paris without a visa.”

“You cannot stop me from travelling on your plane. Those are the rules, look them up. I will sign a release relieving you of responsibility and I have a ticket back to Barbados my home.”

The French issue visas for Caribbean people, which were valid for three months only and most of the times travel to France was spontaneous. I had boycotted Paris since the recent widow of an arms dealer and the wealthy unofficial king of Jersey and I were refused a drink at the George V bar because we were unaccompanied women. Before her husband died, the couple had been such honoured guest that when they stayed at the George V the owner tore up their bill when they went to pay.

“We do not serve unaccompanied women.”

“Are you staying at the hotel?”


“We do not serve unaccompanied women.”

The manager explained that he was very sorry it was nothing personal but they were many prostitutes in Paris and this was the way to protect the good name of the hotel. He refused to get Charles Forte on the telephone.

“O.K. We will rent a room, we will not use it and we will have our drink.”

Nothing moved them. We were defeated. I took my argument to Sandy Lane Hotel in Barbados owned by the Forte Group and when I could not get agreement I boycotted the hotel, my stomping ground, for one year.

This was my first visit to Paris since then. We stayed at the Paris Hilton, near the Eiffel Tower. Arbid Arbid was an Iraqi and an older man who recovered from shrapnel wounds. He ran Iraq’s defences ;his address was Lebanon airport and he had been resident at the Hilton for months while he received medical attention. In those days Arabs did not stay in Jewish establishments and the Hilton is owned by Jews.

“This is a different Arab.” Arbid laughed.

Arbid met a French woman in the bar of the Hilton and I convinced her to have a drink and lunch with him behind her husband’s back. Arbid loved malls. He took me along to a Jewish shop on the Left Bank, with a small frontage and huge shop space in the back which run deep and wide where several designer items, from YSL to Cardin were sold at 30% below the market price. I was given a discount card. He said that the Iraqis knew where all the deals were. A short time after our meeting the Israeli blew up the nuclear reactor at Osirak in Iraq. Negotiations with Iraq suddenly stopped. Negotiations resumed during 1982 to 1983 and Carlton and Bull spent many weeks at a time in Iraq. I knew the Iraqi through the telephone. They sent me an Iraqi carpet, a red and a black outfits like Arafat’s with the head scarves, which I wore constantly and a female out fit. Bull loved the Iraqi people and they in turn loved him. They gave him two golden guns in true James Bond style. The night he received them, they were in a holster and he pulled them out like a cowboy and played with them. Nothing could have pleased Bull more, sixty and balding yet forever the golden boy-scientist.

Bull’s assassination was linked to a series of events that lead to the Gulf War. He had almost completed what he and the Iraqi’s called the Babylon Gun, and the world would come to know as the Doomsday Gun – a launching system for satellites, a space gun modelled from the HARP prototype in Barbados. Who killed Gerald Bull, is the subject of my next book The CIA Collaborators?