Lest We Forget

By Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, U.S. Navy (Retired)

As Enola Gay winged its way at high altitude toward an unsuspecting city in Japan, Parsons worked in the now-frigid bomb bay with the two uranium masses inserted in the weapon, separated by a hollow tube less than five feet long. Amid bucking turbulence in the extremely cramped space, with his fingers close to frost-bitten, Deke carried out the tasks he had rehearsed hundreds of times in the 100-degree heat on the ground. Sometimes lying under the giant bomb, sometimes straddling it, he tested barometric switches, wired complex circuitry, removed various pins, and gradually transformed the tungsten cylinder into the most deadly weapon yet devised by man.

Parsons was arming the atomic bomb in flight because of the very real possibility that an electrical discharge or a sudden jolt could cause a premature detonation. Better to lose 12 men and a single B-29 than the entire island of Tinian.

With less than five minutes to target, Captain Parsons completed his work. The rest was up to "Little Boy." At 0915, the bomb dropped from the belly of the silver aircraft and plummeted toward Hiroshima. At less than a thousand feet above ground, a great cataclysmic burst of fission changed the world forever.

Deke only lived to the age of 52, dying from a heart attack in 1953. While other naval officers had brought about the great victory at sea in the Pacific theater using guns, periscopes, and tailhooks, Captain William Sterling Parsons had done his part with a slide rule. Yet, in one of those great historical ironies, while thousands would die as a result of Parsons' handiwork, countless thousands of others would live, because "Little Boy," and a second bomb called "Fat Man," would convince the Japanese to surrender, ending the war without a bloody invasion.

In 1977-78, then-Lieutenant Cutler served as operations officer in the USS Parsons (DD-949), a guided-missile destroyer launched in 1958 and named for Deke.

Lieutenant Commander Cutler is the author of several books, including A Sailor's History of the U.S Navy and Brown Water, Black Berets .

Thomas J. Cutler is a retired lieutenant commander and former gunner's mate second class who served in patrol craft, cruisers, destroyers, and aircraft carriers. His varied assignments included an in-country Vietnam tour, small craft command, and nine years at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as Executive Assistant to the Chairman of the Seamanship & Navigation Department and Associate Chairman of the History Department. While at the Academy, he was awarded the William P. Clements Award for Excellence in Education (military teacher of the year).

He is the founder and former Director of the Walbrook Maritime Academy in Baltimore. Currently he is Fleet Professor of Strategy and Policy with the Naval War College and is the Director of Professional Publishing at the U.S. Naval Institute.

Winner of the Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Naval Literature, the U.S. Naval Institute Press Author of the Year, and the U.S. Maritime Literature Award, his published works include NavCivGuide: A Handbook for Civilians in the U.S. Navy; A Sailor's History of the U.S. Navy [one of the books in the Chief of Naval Operations Reading Program]; The Battle of Leyte Gulf; Brown Water, Black Berets: Coastal & Riverine Warfare in Vietnam; and the 22nd, 23rd (Centennial), and 24th editions of The Bluejacket's Manual. His other works include revisions of Jack Sweetman's The Illustrated History of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dutton's Nautical Navigation. He and his wife, Deborah W. Cutler, are the co-editors of the Dictionary of Naval Terms and the Dictionary of Naval Abbreviations.

His books have been published in various forms, including paperback and audio, and have appeared as main and alternate selections of the History Book Club, Military Book Club, and Book of the Month Club. He has served as a panelist, commentator, and keynote speaker on military and writing topics at many events and for various organizations, including the Naval History and Heritage Command, Smithsonian Institution, the Navy Memorial, U.S. Naval Academy, MacArthur Memorial Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, U.S. Naval Institute, Armed Forces Electronics Communications and Electronics Association, Naval War College, Civitan, and many veterans' organizations. His television appearances include the History Channel's Biography series, A&E's Our Century, Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor, and CBS's 48 Hours.

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Events and Conferences

Guest Lecturer
12:30pm, “Shifley Lecture Series,” U.S. Naval Academy Museum, 118 Maryland Ave., Annapolis, MD /... Read More
Videotape Interview
10:00am, “Veterans Oral Histories Series,” American Veterans Center, 1100 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington,... Read More


Conferences and Events

Maritime Security Dialogue

Fri, 2016-07-08

You are cordially invited to: Delivering on the Vision for the Future of Submarine Warfare A discussion with Rear Admiral Charles...

2016 Naval History Conference

WEST 2017

San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA

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