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Charting a Parallel Course A Regulus nuclear-armed cruise missile sits aboard the USS Grayback submarine. The Regulus, designed by Los Alamos, was the first nuclear weapon to enter the Navy’s stockpile. (Photo: Open Source) Los Alamos and the U.S. Navy: Partners Since World War II On December 7, 1941, Imperial Japanese forces launched a surprise attack against the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. This attack, which claimed the lives of 2,400 Americans, marked America’s entry into World War II and, ironically, represented the beginning of the end of Imperial Japan, which would suffer defeat after defeat at the hands of the U.S. Navy in the years to come. The final blow to Imperial Japan came in the form of two atomic bombs in 1945. Surprisingly, the Navy also played an important role in the development of these weapons and has continued to be a key partner with the institution responsible for designing, constructing, and delivering them: Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Navy’s first major contribution to Los Alamos was by pro- viding the Laboratory with one of its best experts in ordnance: Captain William Sterling Parsons. Known as “Deak” (short for Deacon, a nickname he acquired during his days as a mid- shipman at the Naval Academy that played off his last name), Parsons became the head of the Laboratory’s Ordnance Divi- sion in June 1943. Little more than a year after arriving in Los Alamos, Parsons was promoted to associate director. (To put that promotion in perspective, his only peer as associate direc- tor was the legendary Italian Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi.) Deak Parsons moved to Fort Sumner, New Mexico, at the age of 8 where he learned to speak fluent Spanish. He attended the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, from 1918–1922 and eventually returned to New Mexico in 1943 to work at Los Alamos. (Photo: Open Source) 30 The Ordnance Division was tasked with engineering and building the final combat-versions of the experimental atomic weapons. For example, under Parsons’s guidance, the Navy built the special-purpose gun barrel that became the heart of Little Boy’s “gun-type” weapon design that was used to destroy Hiroshima.