Seminar June 9, 2021: “RDX and Holston Ordnance Works During World War II”

Dr. Colin F. Baxter will tell us about the journey of the super-explosive RDX (Research Department Explosive) from conceptualization at Woolwich Arsenal in England to mass production at Holston Ordnance Works in Kingsport in East Tennessee from 1942 to 1945. Twice as deadly as TNT and overshadowed only by the atomic bomb, this ordnance proved to be pivotal in the Battle of the Atlantic and directly contributed to the Allied victory in WWII. When the United States entered the conflict, the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) tasked Tennessee Eastman Company (TEC) as one of three companies assigned to develop pilot plants to manufacture RDX. This led to authorizing Tennessee Eastman to design and build the Holston Ordnance Works in Kingsport in June 1942. Dr. Baxter will illuminate both the explosive's military significance and its impact on the lives of ordinary Americans involved in the war industry in this talk.

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Presenter Bio

Dr. Colin F. Baxter, Professor Emeritus of History, East Tennessee State University, was born in Harrow, England.  He earned his B.Sc., degree from East Tennessee State University, and his M.A., and Ph.D., degrees from the University of Georgia.  His first teaching post was at Furman University, Greenville, South Carolina, where he taught British and European history.  He is the author of 5 books: The Normandy Campaign, 1944: A Selected Bibliography (1992); The War in North Africa, 1940-1943: A Selected Bibliography (1996); Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1887-1976: A Selected Bibliography (1999): Co-author and contributor to The American Military Tradition from Colonial Times to the Present. 2nd edition (2007).  He is the author of the Montgomery entry in the online Oxford Military Bibliographies series.  Baxter’s most recent book, The Secret History of RDX: The Super-Explosive that Helped Win World War II was published in 2018 by the University Press of Kentucky.