Maurice Legg

Chapter 11… To Paris

MITRE had an office in Paris , France and I told my big bosses that, if they wanted me to work there, I would need at least a weeks notice. So it was that one day in 1964, my boss called me in and invited me to move to Paris . I thought it would be a lark for a year or two and Margaret thought so too and a week or so later I started work in Paris . I never subsequently returned to work in the US although I’d enjoyed working and living in Boston and had never really planned on leaving. Such is life and a quick decision had a large impact in Margaret and me and a momentous impact on the life of our children who never got to be Yankees. And I never really guessed as much at the time.

We decided to live in the middle of Paris rather than in the suburbs and quickly found an apartment in the Rue de Vaugirard. John Paul has a picture of it because as will emerge later he was conceived there. It was a grande, Louis Quinze apartment on the Left Bank in the longest street in Paris , at one time the southern boundary of the city and within walking distance of museums, galleries, cafes and restaurants and the sights of Paris . Moreover there was an American sub-culture in Paris at that time with a US “PX” or Post Exchange in Rue Marbeuf  full of US goodies like hamburgers so we had the “best” of both worlds. The children were old enough to go to school and we enrolled them en-masse in the “Ecole Bilingue” which was next to the Eiffel Tower and within walking distance.

My own job was to be in charge of a group of MITRE staff who were contracted to support the US Ambassador to Nato with technical advice in a number of areas. We represented US interests on several technical committees: one in particular involved writing the technical specifications for Nato’s Air defence system and this meant sitting with representatives of Nato’s 15 countries and trying to reach unanimous agreement on thousands of technical and financial details. Each country would contribute a fixed amount to the costs of the system and each tried to maximise the equipment that they would get for their country. The US contributed 35%, the largest amount, and received nothing tangible in return, so we acted as honest brokers making sure the final system made technical sense and arbitrating the many disputes. I spent at least 3 days a week sitting at a large round table with 20 or more others and by about two years we’d produced a detailed specification for a workable system. The specifications were sent to three international consortia one of which was headed by Hughes Aircraft Company. None of the three offers were within the budget so we had to work for much longer to change and lower the specifications. A second round of bidding was won by Nadgeco, now no longer a consortia but a Bermuda company with Hughes Aircraft Co as its principal shareholder. I may explain the nuances of this later. Their win was in spring of 1967 but was overshadowed by other developments. General de Gaulle was never happy with the extent to which the US had infiltrated every aspect of French life: there were large US military airfields and other installations in France and at a lesser level, talk of a Macdonalds in the Champs Elysses. He couldn’t do much about the latter but he issued an edict that all US military, NATO and suchlike had to leave in 6 months. Mitre was included and we didn’t think at first that it was serious but we soon learned differently. In any case, I’d myself returned to MITRE on a part-time basis in April 1967 to work on a problem connected to Vietnam , commuting Paris to Boston on a three week basis, so my period of bliss in Paris was circumscribed in any case.

    Meanwhile we were enjoying Paris and had moved to an even grander apartment in the Avenue  Monceau, one of those avenues which lead off the Etoile. The apartment, painted by Renoir at an earlier time, was next to the Parc Monceau and was 500 yards from the Etoile (the Arc De Triumph) My own main office was off the Place de la Concorde and I walked to and from work down the Champs Elyssees. It was a superb location and we were ready for the next big event of our lives which was the arrival of John Paul delivered in the American Hospital on 5th May 1965. Nothing premature about JP –he was overdue and over 10lbs in weight and duly became a large French citizen. Both Margaret and I were by then US citizens and the other 5 children became US citizens about that time. Normally the rules prescribe that you have to be resident in the US to become a US citizen but this was varied in their case because technically I was able to argue that I worked in the Embassy which was nominally US soil. So the children’s citizenship was unusual and became a matter of the US congressional record- I tried to find it in the US Embassy in London without success. The 5 older children had moved from the Ecole Bilingue to the American School for a variety of reasons which they may each be able to recall. And we were quite happy to stay in Paris for much longer – but nothing is forever and by June of 1967, we had to make major decisions. The salient option was to return to MITRE and I’d been offered a job there and already given a promotion to associate department head. There were difficulties, the first of which was that the Vietnam war was at its most deadly, there were riots in Boston and we questioned whether bringing up children in that environment was a bright move. Also my job would be in charge of an air defence system in Vietnam so I’d have to spend time there. I needed to develop a second option and in doing so gave myself the difficult job of choosing between the two.

The second option was gutsy, the more so because I now had a family of 8 to support!  I knew the main players in the Hughes Aircraft Co operation, and proposed to the President of Nadgeco that I join his company to work on the implementation of the Nadge system, the system whose specifications I had worked on for two or more years. I knew the system in detail and my initiative was welcomed to the extent that I was offered verbally the job of assistant Technical Director of Nadgeco. There were problems to be solved before the offer could be confirmed: there are often rules which proscribe someone in the military from resigning and moving to the contactor with whom he’d been involved also although my job would be with Nadgeco, my employee for the purpose of pay etc would be Hughes. Also I needed assurances that when my job with Nadgeco was finished, I would be offered another with Hughes in Los Angeles . These were weighty matters and I hung by my thumbs for three weeks not knowing where to go or what to do. It was much worse for Margaret because I changed my mind between my two options every day. I remember one day, flying to London and seeing the president of Nadgeco and saying to him that I was on my way to Boston to give in my resignation and that if he thought that there was any doubt that he could solve the problems and give me a job “now is the time to tell me” He told me to stop worrying, he had it all in hand and I did indeed quit Mitre the next day and had a formal job offer from Hughes a day or so later.

Robert Frost talks about
“two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made a difference”

I may return later to this decision which by the way I’ve never regretted: suffice to say the the job with Vietnam went finally to a junior colleague who wasn’t as smart as me (in my opinion!) He was very successful, had a lot of exposure and became eventually President of MITRE

Nadge……Nato Air Defence Ground Environment.
Nadgemo…..Nato’s Nadge management organisation
Nadgeco…….The Nadge Co. A Bermuda company with several major shareholders,  Marconi from England, Hughes Aircraft Co of the US , Selenia from Italy . Phillips of the Netherlands , Thomson of France and AEG of Germany

Chapter 12….Next stop Stoke d’Abernon
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