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Vice Admiral Andrew McBurney Jackson, Jr., USN (Ret.) (1907-1989)

Vice Admiral Andrew McBurney Jackson, Jr. U.S. Navy (Retired)Based on ten interviews conducted by Dr. John T. Mason Jr. from November 1971 through April 1972, the volume contains 385 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The transcript is copyright 1978 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed no restrictions on its use.

Designated naval aviator in 1932, Jackson served with Scouting Squadron Three on board the USS Lexington (CV-2) and Patrol Squadron One at Pearl Harbor during the 1930s. In 1939 he served in the USS Enterprise (CV-6) and in 1941 became project officer in design of the Grumman F6F Hellcat at the Bureau of Aeronautics. During World War II he was with Fighter Squadron Eight, participating in operations at Palau, Woleai, Hollandia, and Truk; then, as operations officer with Carrier Division Six, he was involved in strikes against Saigon, Hong Kong, Formosa, Kyushu, Shikoku, Luzon, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. He subsequently served at the Bureau of Aeronautics; as CO of the USS Timbalier (AVP-54); with the Atomic Energy Commission; with Task Force 77 during operations in the Korean area; and as CO of the USS Ticonderoga (CV-14). In 1960 he became Commander Middle East Force, then in 1964 Assistant CNO (Plans and Policy). In 1967 he became Naval Representative and Vice Chairman (later Chairman) of the U.S. Delegation to the UN Military Staff Committee, retiring in 1969.

An index to this volume can be viewed here (.pdf).


Vice Admiral Jackson: The tour in the Atomic Energy Commission, which lasted three years, was a very interesting one.

John T. Mason, Jr.: Did it come as a surprise to you?

Vice Admiral Jackson: Oh, yes. I didn't even know they had such an out­fit in the Atomic Energy Commission, but having an aeronautical PG, and also Jim Russell was the senior Navy man in the mili­tary applications over there and I'd known Jim for a number of years, so I'm sure he's the one who put the bee on me to go over there.

I was, first, assistant, and then became the chief, as they called it, of atomic weapons research and development. This sounds like a very important job. Actually, I had very little to do with the atomic side of the weapons, and it would have been more accurate if I had been called chief of military requirements rather than military development, because it was my job to tell the scientists what kind of weapons we needed and could use. As in the design of every­thing, there's always a play-off between weight, performance, and yield of a weapon, the size of a weapon.

For instance, we had a 20-kiloton weapon, which was the Hiroshima size, that was more or less our standard and those were the ones that we had in the stockpile. The scientist says, "We can make the weapon smaller and lighter, but you won't get as much yield. Or we can make it bigger and it will give you more yield. Which do you want? Do you want smaller weapons with less yield? How small a yield can you use?"

Of course, I had to keep very close liaison with the people in the Navy Department and counterparts in the Air Force. "Enola Gay," the Boeing B-29 Superfortress that on August 6, 1945, dropped the world's first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

At that time, SAC, who had delivered the bombs to Japan, their bomb bays had been designed - the airplane had been built around the bomb, rather than the bomb built for the airplane. And, understandably, they were not particularly anxious to reduce the size. They wanted bigger yield because they could carry the big size. The Navy, who had smaller planes, was interested in smaller weapons. We were also interested in weapons, small weapons, for guided-missile warheads.

There was quite a bit of politicking in there as to whether we should concentrate on building the same size bomb with bigger yield or the same yield, maybe with a smaller weapon. General LeMay, who was the head of SAC, is a strong character, as you know, and he was for bigger bombs.

John T. Mason, Jr.: Did you, in preparation for this job, have to go to any refresher course and master the terminology and so forth?

Vice Admiral Jackson: I didn't go to any courses but I got a lot of help. There weren’t any courses in existence. Eventually we had the courses out at Sandia base, but I more or less set them up, or helped set them up, after I'd gotten to the Atomic Energy Commission. I picked it up from the people there.

Dr. Paul Fine, who was a nuclear physicist and a civilian was in the military applications division and he was the one who really educated me. He was a very fine young man. I've lost track of him now but we became quite close friends. He was a bachelor and we used to have him out to the house for dinner. He was most helpful in keeping me straight on the technical side. And I had enough technical background in my postgraduate work, I mean having a master of science degree from Cal Tech. I had enough basic scientific knowledge to pick up as much as I really needed, because, as I said, I was working more on the military side, the outside, not the inside of the bomb. The fuses and that sort of thing were pretty basic, and the radars and that sort of thing were very similar to things that you have on a conventional bomb or in airplanes and things like that.


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