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JAMES HOBSON STRATTON 1898-1984 BY WILSON BINGER j AMES HOBSON STRATTON, retired brigadier general in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers anct partner in the engineer- ing and architectural consulting firm of Tippetts-Abbett- McCarthy-Stratton in New York, sliest of congestive heart failure on March 16, 1984, at the age of eighty-five. Thus encled a noteworthy professional engineering career, marked by General Stratton's direction of a number of major civil and military engineering projects. Stratton was born in Stonington, Connecticut, on June 7, IS98; he attenclect public schools in Paterson, New Jersey, where his family tract subsequently moved. After the out- break of World War ~ and the declaration of war by the United States, Stratton enlisted in the National Guards shortly thereafter, however, he was discharged to enter the U.S. Army Military Academy at West Point. Upon gradua- tion, he transferred to the Corps of Engineers. During his pre-WorIcl War Il years with the corps, Strat- ton was assigned to various district engineering offices. It was during these tours that he became acquainted with the im- portance of soil mechanics in the design and construction of earth clams and later with the construction of military air- fields. More than any other engineering officer at that time, Stratton acted as a catalyst to incorporate the young science of soil mechanics into the project development activities of the corps. 327
328 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES James Stratton encouraged engineers to develop their skills and, through his leadership anc! expertness, provicled them with an example. His work had a major impact on the design ant! construction of dams at Denison, Texas; Franklin Falls, New Hampshire; and Conchas, New Mexico; and of the locks and dams on the upper Mississippi River. In actdi- tion, he assumed a major role in the design and construction of the airfield and flood control works at Cacicloa, Colorado, inclucting the John Martin Dam. At the onset of WorIct War II, James Stratton was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Engineers. In this capacity, Strat- , ton was given responsibility for the engineering, planning, ant] design of those facilities related to the extensive military construction program that had clevolved upon the corpsas well as the responsibility for the somewhat curtailed Civil Works Program. As the selected representative of the chief of engineers, James Stratton participated in the initial engi- neering-related planning of the tangling operation on the north coast of France in 1944. In September 1943 he was assignee! to the European the- ater of operations as a G4 in the Communications Zone; he was stationed in London until being assigned to France in July 1944. For his wartime services, General Stratton was awarclect the Legion of Merit (1944) anti the Distinguished Service Medal (19451. As the end of hostilities neared, he returned to the Unitecl States for an assignment as assistant chief of engineers. In this role he was responsible for reacti- vating the Civil Works Program of the corps, which played an important part in reducing unemployment following the end of the war and the demobilization of the armed forces. With the passage of Public Law 280, the seventy-ninth U.S. Congress provi(le(1 for a study of the future Panama Canal. Consequently, in early 1946 Stratton was named special en- gineering assistant to the governor of the Panama Canal anti placed in charge of the investigation and study of the Isth- mian Canal. Years later, the results of these preliminary stucI- ies established an invaluable basis for the more comprehen- sive Sea Level Canal Studies program.
JAMES HOBSON STRATTON 329 General Stratton's position of special engineering assistant served far more than merely an administrative or even an executive function, for his leaclership role of managing a group of 150 engineers and geologists was a highly technical assignment. General Stratton had the vision, creativity, and attention to cletai! to ensure that the Panama Canal study was thorough, well grounded in the technology of the time, and supporter! by complete investigations in geology, soil me- chanics, hydrology anct hydraulics, economics, urban plan- ning, and military and naval sciences. He completed this duty in micI-1948. His final active duty assignment was as the New England division engineer at Bos- ton, Massachusetts, following which, in 1949, after thirty years of service, he chose to retire with the rank of brigadier general. Stratton then joined the engineering and architectural consulting firm in New York that had been foundect many years before by his West Point classmate Theodore T. Knap- pen. After the death of Knappen in 1951, the firm's name was changed to Tippetts-Abbett-McCarthy-Stratton. As a partner, Stratton was responsible for many of the firm's ma- jor dam projects; for a number of highway, port, harbor, and airport construction projects; ant! for numerous feasibility studies, all of which were successfully completed in many of the fifty countries in which the firm was active. He retired from the firm in January 1967. Following his retirement from military service, General Stratton was active in community affairs ant! for seven years was a member of the boars! of education in Englewood, New Jersey. He was also a member of the Special Curricula Com- mittee, which was appointee] to advise the clean of the De- partment of Civil and Sanitary Engineering at the Massachu- setts Institute of Technology (MIT) regarding courses of study for enrolled undergracluates. In acIdition, for three years General Stratton served as a member of the board of visitors, which met annually to advise this same MIT depart- ment on substantive matters significant to the fulfillment of the purposes for which MIT tract been established.
330 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES Among his technical publications was an article on military airfields, published in 1945 by the American Society of Civil Engineers, for which Stratton was awarded the society's Ar- thur Wellington Prize. He was also a contributing author to the Handbook of Applied Hydraulics, eclite(1 by Calvin Davis, and American Civil Engineering Practice, edited by Robert W. Abbett. Stratton was a member of Theta Xi fraternity at the Rens- selaer Polytechnic Institute, and he was a Mason. His profes- sional society affiliations included the Society of American Military Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the Boston Society of Engineers, and the American Institute of Consulting Engineers. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1981. General Stratton hell! professional licenses in eighteen states. In acIdition to his personal professional accomplishments, Stratton provider! firm leaclership to his associates. He was particularly generous in the encouragement, guidance, and support of younger engineers, to whom Stratton believed in giving responsibility. When he himself was in his seines, ne said to a friend in his firm, "What's wrong with the world is that the leaders are old men, ant! ~ mean men of my age!" · . - .