VICKSBURG, Miss.— When Susan Vogel Wilson was growing up, she thought of her grandfather as a loving man with a priceless sense of humor who always brought back fun souvenirs from his travels. To the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), Wilson’s grandfather is remembered as the man who started it all— the first commander of the Waterways Experiment Station.
Wilson’s grandfather, Herbert D. Vogel, was a world leader in engineering and retired as a brigadier general for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. At the age of 29, after earning a doctorate in hydraulic engineering in Berlin, Germany, Lt. Vogel was selected to oversee the construction of a new hydraulics laboratory in Vicksburg. Today, the Waterways Experiment Station (WES) has grown into ERDC—seven laboratories across four states, home to approximately 2,100 employees and a $1 billion annual research program.
Recently, more than 90 years after her grandfather first came to Vicksburg to scope out land for the laboratory, Wilson and her husband stopped to visit WES during a riverboat cruise down the Mississippi River. As she toured the facility with ERDC Historian Terry Winschel, she got a firsthand look at the impact her grandfather made.
“We are so proud to be a part of his legacy,” said Wilson, who now resides in Glen Allen, Virginia. “Terry gave us very memorable information during our visit, both personal and historical.”
As the first WES director from 1929 until 1934, Vogel led the construction of small-scale models for research, which became the basis for models still used today.
“I never knew very much around the details of creating models to offset cost, as well as test theories that could then be expanded upon,” Wilson said.
In 1930, Brig. Gen. Thomas Jackson offered to build a home on station for the Vogel and his wife so that he could better facilitate the management and construction of this new laboratory. The house, known today as the Vogel House, was designed by Vogel and reflects the German architecture he favored during his time in Europe.
“We loved visiting the home he had built, very impressive with German architecture and Jack and Jill bedrooms,” Wilson said about the Vogel House, which has housed numerous commanders over the years and now serves as a conference center with office space. “We took many pictures, especially the building with his name on it, and the historical plaques written about him.”
“It was a pleasure and honor to meet Susan and Bruce Wilson and listen to some of their remembrances of Lieutenant Vogel. The look of wonder and discovery on their faces as they toured through the Vogel House was especially delightful to see,” Winschel said.