KNOXVILLE, TN (May 2, 2007) Dr. Colin Baxter, professor of history and chair of the History Department at East Tennessee State University, will present “Eastman Chemical, Kingsport, and RDX: The Explosive that Won World War II” at noon on May 9 at the East Tennessee History Center in Knoxville. Part of the East Tennessee Historical Society’s Brown Bag Lecture Series, the lecture will look at the World War II contributions of Eastman Chemical and the explosive RDX. Often overlooked as a result of the high-profile nature of Oak Ridge and the atomic bomb, Kingsport and the explosive RDX were just as important to the overall war effort. Dr. Baxter points out that the Holston Ordinance Works, now Eastman Chemical, was the primary production site for RDX, an explosive that ultimately became so vital it was sometimes called “the explosive that won World War II.”
With an explosive force fifty times greater than TNT, RDX was both powerful and easy to transport. It could easily be combined with other explosives and just as easily converted into versatile “plastic” form. RDX was used extensively by the Allies in the Battle of the Atlantic and later in the aerial war over both Germany and Japan. Due to the experimental and highly technical nature of RDX, Holston Ordinance Works was closely associated with its contractor, the Tennessee Eastman Corporation, now known as the Eastman Chemical Company.
Dr. Baxter’s teaching and research interests include British and military history. He is the author of Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1887-1976: A Selected Bibliography, as well as two studies published by Greenwood Press in their “Battles and Leaders” series: The Normandy Campaign, 1944: A Selected Bibliography and The War in North Africa, 1940-1943: A Selected Bibliography. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the College of Arts and Sciences Research Award and the University Research Award from East Tennessee State University, and the 2004 Teaching Excellence Award from the East Tennessee Historical Society.
The East Tennessee Historical Society, whose mission is to preserve, interpret and promote the region’s history, is located at 601 S. Gay Street (across from the Tennessee Theatre) in downtown Knoxville. This lecture will begin at noon and is free and open to the public. Soft drinks will be available. Directions to ETHS are available at www.east-tennessee-history.org.