A 1941 graduate of the University of North Carolina, Karpeles that same year became a contract physicist for the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance. In that capacity he specialized in the degaussing and deperming of ships to provide protection against magnetic mines. He was also involved in measures against acoustic mines. He worked initially at the Boston Navy Yard in early 1942, then went to Pearl Harbor in April of that year. Karpeles continued in that work until 1945, becoming a civil service physicist in 1943. He was drafted into the Navy as an enlisted man in May 1943 and subsequently served as an electrician's mate in the battleship USS Alabama (BB-60) until discharged in July 1946. Subsequently he was a physician, as well as teaching physiology and biophysics at the university level.
In this audio excerpt from his oral history, Dr. Karpeles describes the unique circumstances of his enlistment in the Navy in 1942, when he was 21 years old and fresh from a university physics degree. The fleet would find a good use for him, but first he had to go through such reactions as “What’s a physicist? Never heard of that.”
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