Covert Engine Legend Joe Sorota Heads West

Engine pioneer was a member of a secret GE team in WWII that raced to develop the technology.

Joseph Sorota
Joseph Sorota, who died last week at age 96, played an integral role in developing the jet engine and helping the Allies win World War II.GE

Joseph Sorota, who died last week in Singer Island, Florida, was a guy few people might recognize when they first hear his name. But Sorota’s role within a secret GE engineering team known as the “Hush-Hush Boys” helped the Allies win World War II.

More people might remember Royal Air Force officer Frank Whittle, the man who designed the first jet engine. That revolutionary powerplant and a mandate from the War Department to create a version of the invention suitable for mass production gave Sorota his first job as a young engineer at GE’s Lynn, Massachusetts, facility in 1941.

Sorota and other members of the Hush-Hush Boys worked together in total secrecy at Lynn in an effort the Allies hoped would eventually shorten the war. Sorota recalled in a GE video his first look inside Whittle's engine. He said it revealed an inefficient compressor section that reminded him of a vacuum cleaner. The Hush-Hush Boys eventually created the axial-flow compressor and its stage system that has since become part of almost every jet engine built since World War II.

Before his death at age 96, Sorota said, "It never dawned on me that it [the jet engine] was going to turn over the entire aircraft industry the way it did." As for the secret group's name? Sorota told GE Reports last year, "We couldn't talk to anyone about our work. They told us that we could be shot."