Target Hiroshima; Deak Parsons and the Creation of the Atomic Bomb
Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press, 1998. First Printing [Stated]. Hardcover. xii, 305,  pages. Includes Illustrations. Preface, Acknowledgments, Epilogue, Appendix: William S. Parsons' Honors, Notes, Bibliography, and Index. Al Christman is a journalist and historian in San Marcos, California. Al Christman was a writer and historian for the Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, California. Mr. Christman's books include "Sailors, Scientists and Rockets," "Grand Experiment at Inyokern," "Naval Innovators: 1776 to 1900" and "Target Hiroshima: Deak Parsons and the Creation of the Atomic Bomb." As a combat engineer in the 99th Infantry Division, Christman saw action in World War II in the Battle of the Bulge, Remagen Bridge and the Ruhr Pocket. He was commissioned in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and retired as major. He graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in journalism and English and from California State Dominguez Hills in the humanities. 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.
Rear Admiral William Sterling "Deak" Parsons (26 November 1901 – 5 December 1953) was an American naval officer who worked as an ordnance expert on the Manhattan Project during World War II. He is best known for being the weaponeer on the Enola Gay, the aircraft which dropped the Little Boy atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. To avoid the possibility of a nuclear explosion if the aircraft crashed and burned on takeoff, he decided to arm the bomb in flight. While the aircraft was en route to Hiroshima, Parsons climbed into the cramped and dark bomb bay, and inserted the powder charge and detonator. He was awarded the Silver Star for his part in the mission.
A 1922 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Parsons served on a variety of warships beginning with the battleship USS Idaho. He was trained in ordnance and studied ballistics under L.T.E. Thompson at the Naval Proving Ground in Dahlgren, Virginia. In July 1933, Parsons became liaison officer between the Bureau of Ordnance and the Naval Research Laboratory. He became interested in radar and was one of the first to recognize its potential to locate ships and aircraft, and perhaps even track shells in flight. In September 1940, Parsons and Merle Tuve of the National Defense Research Committee began work on the development of the proximity fuze, an invention that was provided to US by the UK Tizard Mission, a radar-triggered fuze that would explode a shell in the proximity of the target. The fuze, eventually known as the VT (variable time) fuze, Mark 32, went into production in 1942. Parsons was on hand to watch the cruiser USS Helena shoot down the first enemy aircraft with a VT fuze in the Solomon Islands in January 1943.
In June 1943, Parsons joined the Manhattan Project as Associate Director at the research laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico under J. Robert Oppenheimer. Parsons became responsible for the ordnance aspects of the project, including the design and testing of the non-nuclear components of nuclear weapons. In a reorganization in 1944, he lost responsibility for the implosion-type fission weapon, but retained that for the design and development of the gun-type fission weapon, which eventually became Little Boy. He was also responsible for the delivery program, codenamed Project Alberta. He watched the Trinity nuclear test from a B-29.
After the war, Parsons was promoted to the rank of rear admiral without ever having commanded a ship. He participated in Operation Crossroads, the nuclear weapon tests at Bikini Atoll in 1946, and later the Operation Sandstone tests at Enewetak Atoll in 1948. In 1947, he became deputy commander of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. He died of a heart attack on 5 December 1953. Condition: Very good / Very good.
Keywords: William S. "Deak" Parsons, Atomic Bomb, U.S. Admirals, U.S. Navy, Manhattan Project, Radar, Tinian, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Operation Crossroads, Project Y, Frederick Ashworth, Blandy, Vannear Bush, 509th Composite Group, Leslie Groves, Implosion, Los A