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For better or worse, Navy captain William S. "Deak" Parsons made the atomic bomb happen. As ordnance chief and associate director at Los Alamos, Parsons turned the scientists' nuclear creation into a practical weapon. As weaponeer, he completed the assembly of "Little Boy" during the flight to Hiroshima. As bomb commander, he approved the release of the bomb that forever changed the world. Yet over the past fifty years only fragments of his story have appeared, in part because of his own self-effacement and the nation's demand for secrecy. Based on recently declassified Manhattan Project documents, including Parsons' logs and other untapped sources, the book offers an unvarnished account of this unsung hero and his involvement in some of the greatest scientific advances of the twentieth century.
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Before his death in 2011, Al Christman was a writer and historian for the Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, California. He was the coauthor of Sailors, Scientists, and Rockets: Grand Experiment at Inoyokern and Naval Innovators, 1776-1900.From Publishers Weekly:
Making extensive use of recently declassified archival material, retired Air Force major Christman takes on a distinctively 20th-century military figure: the uniformed technocrat. The growing synergy of science and war making in the industrial age created a zone in which officers like U.S. Navy Rear Admiral William "Deak" Parsons (1901-1953) became necessary links between laboratories on the one hand, cockpits and ships' bridges on the other. Parsons was at heart a line officer, with extensive experience in the surface fleet, who developed as an ordnance specialist in the line of duty. His 1939 assignment to the Naval Proving Ground coincided with a "weapons revolution" focused on electronics. Parsons emerged as a sailor able to speak the language of scientists in a forced-draft environment that left no time for misunderstandings. He played a key role in the design and deployment of the proximity fuse and, in 1943, was assigned to the atomic bomb program. As ordnance chief and associate director at Los Alamos, Parsons emerged as the project's "fixer," an invaluable team builder, committee chair and watchdog whose intellect and integrity inspired respect in military, bureaucratic and intellectual cultures. At the heart of the book are three nearly minute-by-minute chapters charting Parson's arming of the bomb on the fateful flight of the Enola Gay. Parsons became the postwar Navy's leading figure on nuclear issues, representing the interests of his service in the new contexts of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, before dying of a heart attack. In addition to its fresh perspective on the administrative aspects of the Hiroshima project, Christman's work highlights the open-minded flexibility that was arguably the dominant characteristic before and during WWII of America's professional military. 30 photos.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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