William Sterling “Deak” Parsons was a Rear Admiral in the United States Navy.
He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1922 and the Naval Postgraduate School in 1929 with a concentration in ordnance. During World War II, he served at the Naval Proving Grounds in Dahlgren, Virginia and at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he worked on proximity fuses for antiaircraft guns.
In 1943, Captain Parsons became leader of the Ordnance Division of the Manhattan Project, despite his hopes for a position at sea. Parsons was entrusted with the assembly of the gun-type uranium bomb, save the uranium physics and metallurgy. After the project’s August 1944 reorganization, he was also assigned the task of transforming both bomb designs into combat weapons. Parsons also headed Project Alberta, which prepared for the bombs’ delivery by making modifications to aircraft and conducting field tests. He flew as weaponeer on the Enola Gay and armed the Little Boy bomb in-flight before the U.S. bombed Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
After his work on the Manhattan Project, Parsons joined the first U.S. nuclear test series, Operation Crossroads, in the South Pacific in 1946. He was eventually promoted to Rear Admiral before dying of a heart attack at 52.
To listen to an interview with his daughter, Peggy Parsons Bowditch, click here.