William Sterling Parsons, born at Chicago III., 26 November 1901, was appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1918 and commissioned Ensign upon graduating in June 1922. His first assignment was in Idaho (BB–42) which was followed by post graduate study in ordnance engineering at the Navy Postgraduate School, Washington, D.C. He then served on board Texas (BB–35) before returning to Washington as Liaison Officer between the Bureau of Ordnance and the Naval Research Laboratory, where he aided in the early development of “RADAR.” In 1939 he was assigned as Experimental Officer at the Navy Proving Grounds, Dahlgren, Va. and helped to develop the radio proximity fuse for anti-aircraft shells for the fleet.
On 15 June 1943 he reported to the Los Alamos Laboratory (Manhatten District) at Los Alamos, New Mexico as Ordnance Division Associate Director. After witnessing the atom bomb test in New Mexico he was appointed Officer-in-charge of the Overseas (Tinian, Marianas) Technical Group, and as Bomb Commander he assembled, in flight, the triggering device of the first atomic bomb used in combat over Hiroshima 6 August 1945. He was next assigned as Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Special Weapons and as Deputy Commander for Technical Direction and Commander Task Group 1.1, conducting the tests on the effectiveness of atomic weapons on naval vessels at Bikini Island. For “exceptional meritorious service in connection with the development of the atomic bomb...” and “gallantry in action while participating in aerial flight against the Japanese Empire, arming and directing the release of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima 6 August 1945...” and “exceptional meritorious conduct as Deputy Commander for Technical Direction, Joint Task Force One, during Operation CROSSROADS...”, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the Legion of Merit.
Having served as Commodore from 10 August 1945, and as temporary Rear Admiral from 8 January 1946 to 7 August 1947, he was promoted to Rear Admiral 1 July 1948.
After serving in various ordnance billets and as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission, he was ordered to duty as Deputy and Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department. While serving in this capacity, he died suddenly 5 December 1953.
(DD–949: dp. 4,000; 1. 418’; b. 45’; dr. 20’; s. 33 k.; cpl. 256; a. 3 5”, 6 3”, ASROC, 1 dct., 2 dcp. (hh.), 2 21” tt.; cl. Hull)
Parsons (DD–949) was laid down 17 June 1957 by the Ingalls SB Corp., Pascagoula, Miss.; launched 17 August 1958; sponsored by Mrs. William S. Parsons; and commissioned 29 October 1959 at Charleston, S.C., Comdr. W. R. Loomis in command.
After shakedown, Parsons reported to her home port, San Diego, and commenced operations with the 1st Fleet in February 1960. In October she deployed to the Western Pacific with 7th Fleet units. She returned to resume West Coast operations in July 1961 and entered the Long Beach Naval Shipyard 6 October for major improvements in her communications and ASW equipment. She then rejoined the 1st Fleet in extensive coastal training from January to November 1962, deployed for her second WestPac tour in November, and returned in July 1963 to the California coast.
During the summer and fall of 1963 she carried out AAW and ASW operations in the San Diego area. During November she escorted Midway (CVA–41) and Hancock (CVA–19) to the Western Pacific and returned to San Diego. Parsons continued her training and service operations alternately with the 1st and 7th fleets until selected for conversion to a Guided Missile Destroyer and decommissioned at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard 19 January 1966.
Parsons was reclassified (DDG–33) 15 March 1967 and recommissioned 3 November 1967, assigned to the CruiserDestroyer Force, Pacific Fleet. Following shakedown she carried out a rigorous testing program for her missile systems, and in September 1968 she assumed duties as flagship for DesRon 31 and immediately deployed to the Western Pacific for operations with the 7th Fleet off Vietnam. Interspersed with her carrier escort duties on Yankee Station, she conducted on-station training operations, assuming duties as ASW training coordinator ship with Commander Destroyer Squadron 31 embarked. Parsons also visited Kaohsiung, Yokosuka, Hong Kong, Singapore and Sasebo. She returned to San Diego 12 May 1969 to resume operations from there and train for her next deployment.
Into 1970, Parsons continues to serve the U.S. Navy.