The Bomb That Went Off Twice

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tags: war, weapons, RDX



It was a secret wartime project, with a code name and an urgent mission: develop a more powerful bomb, one that could be mass produced in time to fend off the German forces ravaging Europe. It was 1940.

British chemists toiled with a tripod-shaped bond of nitrogen and oxygen molecules linked by carbon and hydrogen they referred to as “research department explosive” — a substance one and a half times as powerful as TNT, but so delicate it had to be mixed with beeswax to be stable and pliable enough to fit into warheads. Even then, it wasn’t good enough. Only 70 tons could be made in a week. Defeating the Nazis would require more.

In 1941, American chemists accomplished what their British counterparts could not. John Sheehan and Werner Bachman, University of Michigan researchers, worked with a team of government scientists to invent a new chemical process that made it possible to manufacture what Sheehan described as “super-explosives.” Best, enormous quantities could be churned out quickly — 500 tons a day, an assembly line for destructive might.

Read entire article at Propublica

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