William "Deke" Parsons, Rear Admiral (1901 - 1953)

Rear Admiral William "Deak" Parsons was born on November 26, 1901, in Evanston, Illinois. He graduated from the Naval Postgraduate School at Annapolis in 1929 with an emphasis on ordnance.

Capt. Parsons's last shipboard assignment prior to America's entry into World War II was in 1939, as gunnery office on board the USS Detroit, flagship of the commander of destroyers of the Pacific battle force. Shore duty came next, at the naval Proving Grounds in Dahlgren, Virginia, and at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he made possible the introduction of the proximity fuses for combat use. By 1942, he was ready to be sent to sea, but the president's science advisor, Vannevar Bush, whom he had assisted in his previous assignment, drafted him into the atomic bomb project.

In March 1943, Capt. Parsons joined the Manhattan Project as leader of the Ordnance Division. Parsons reported to admiral Ernest King, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet, who dashed Parsons's hopes for a wartime sea command. King told him that the services of an ordnance officer were needed to supervise the production of an atomic bomb. Like General Leslie Groves, Capt. Parsons put aside his personal desire for combat duty to make greater contributions to the total war effort: helping to create "a perfectly functioning atomic bomb that could end the war."

Except for the uranium physics and metallurgy, the gun assembly of Little Boy, the uranium bomb, was mostly an ordnance problem entrusted to Capt. Parsons. After the reorganization in August 1944, he was also entrusted with transforming the uranium and plutonium bombs into combat weapons.

Capt. Parsons was also the head of Project Alberta, which oversaw the various responsibilities necessary for the actual delivery of the bombs. These included modifying the aircraft to accommodate the bombs, supervising field tests, developing fuses, and selecting and advancing bases for assembly and delivery.

Capt. Parsons helped to research, develop, assemble and finally drop the atomic bomb. He crawled into the Arctic-cold bomb bay of the Enola Gay to arm the bomb, which was armed in-flight due to its unstable design.

After World War II, Capt. Parsons became the U.S. Navy's leading figure on nuclear issues, and he continued to be involved with nuclear issues for the rest of his career. In 1946, he worked to organize Operation Crossroads, a series of nuclear tests in the Pacific.

He eventually rose to the rank of Rear Admiral. On December 5, 1953, he died from a heart attack in Bethesda, Maryland.