A-Bomb Test Pic Signature
August 8, 2011 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Who signed this A-Bomb pic?
posted by ecourbanist to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Appears to say "Warner."
posted by Sys Rq at 11:47 AM on August 8, 2011

+1 Warner
posted by AugustWest at 11:54 AM on August 8, 2011

Response by poster: I should have added: Who was Warner? And Watson? Did they have something to do with the A-bomb?
posted by ecourbanist at 12:07 PM on August 8, 2011

...and, according to this:
Lanahan, who was an assistant to the head of the B Division Assembly Division, Roger S. Warner, recalled for CONELRAD how the idea for naming the bomb came about.
That bomb was "Gilda," dropped on Bikini Atoll in Operation Crossroads. Roger S. Warner, Jr. was Assembly Team Chief for the Fat Man F31. Gilda was one of those, as was the bomb dropped on Nagasaki.

So my money's on Roger S. Warner, Jr.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:07 PM on August 8, 2011

It was taken July 25, 1946, at the Baker explosion. I checked a California passenger list database, and found a Roger S. Warner, Jr., of Boston who arrived in San Pedro, California, August 12, 1946, aboard the USS Abermarle. He had departed Kwajalein, Marshall Islands, on July 30th. Dr. Roger S. Warner, Jr., was a member of the Fat Man assembly team, part of Project Alberta.
posted by Knappster at 12:07 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Abermarle = Albemarle
posted by Knappster at 12:09 PM on August 8, 2011

The Watson may be Watson F Kinney.
"The Story of the Icaroscope," by Watson F. Kinney [the instrument used to observe and record the detonation of the atomic bomb in Operation Crossroads at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean on 1946 Jul 1], [1995]; shelved with box 2 of Accession 90-M-042
"Memoirs of Operation Crossroads," by Watson F. Kinney [the story of atomic bomb testing at Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean on 1946 Jul 1], [1995?]
posted by zamboni at 12:27 PM on August 8, 2011

Can we ask where you found the photo (museum, book, random internet search)?
posted by sharkfu at 12:46 PM on August 8, 2011

Yes, where's this photo from?
posted by fivesavagepalms at 12:55 PM on August 8, 2011

Response by poster: Can we ask where you found the photo (museum, book, random internet search)?

My brother bought the framed b/w pic at a second-hand store in L.A.
posted by ecourbanist at 12:58 PM on August 8, 2011

Response by poster: Real signed copy.
posted by ecourbanist at 1:24 PM on August 8, 2011

My father was there -- eventually died of leukemia as did a disproportionate number of men who were there.
posted by la petite marie at 3:26 PM on August 8, 2011

Los Angeles?

Holy shit, I believe I personally knew the Watson to whom this was signed. I was going to chime in earlier, but your profile said Vancouver and everyone posted people actually related to the development of the atomic bomb so I started to doubt myself.

More than a decade ago I went with friend to visit his elderly relative in Brentwood, California (if you're not familiar with Los Angeles this is a more upscale neighborhood on the West side). I was worried it was because he needed a wingman for what would be an awkward dinner, but nothing could've been further from the truth. Watson was active and vibrant had fascinating stories about Los Angeles in the 40s and 50s. Basically, the type of person we should all hope to be when we turn eighty.

Anyway, after retirement Watson had gotten into photography. While walking around looking at all the photos on his wall, we were fascinated by two of them: one of him standing on a hill in Brentwood in the 40s (the now very expensive and developed area was just an empty hill with grass) and this photograph. I remember it being signed but I don't specifically remember what it said (possibly because I was focused on the ships near the explosion and how frail they looked next to the horrifying mushroom cloud, possibly because it's been a decade plus since I've seen it), but it's haunted me ever since. Watson wasn't involved in the development of the atomic bomb in any way, so I was curious why someone had given him the print, but I didn't get a chance to ask him that evening.

Watson passed away about a year after our visit. I attended the wake with my friend, which was held at the same house in Brentwood. Because of the sheer number of photographs Watson had accumulated, the person who inherited his house arranged them in stacks in the foyer and told people to take what they wanted. I guess this was a good way of spreading pieces of Watson out amongst family and friends, but at the time I felt odd about it. It was my first wake, I wasn't directly related him so I felt the pieces should go to family members, and it felt weird to go through his belongings like I was at a yard sale. I suppose I should've, as Watson's neighbors attending the wake felt no such qualms.

My guess is someone else took this photograph and they've just now passed away themselves or it was donated/sold for some reason. To be honest, it turns my stomach a little that it ended up at a second-hand shop like their memory of Watson didn't matter. I guess that's life. Eventually all of our stuff just ends up shelves or in landfills.

I don't have any direct proof like the links everyone else posted. I do feel in my gut this is the right Watson, enough so I actually had to step away from the computer for a moment because I was overwhelmed with how bizarre the internet can be sometimes. He was a military man, although he may have had friends there, or it may have been a print someone bought later as a gift. Watson liked to host parties and dinners, so it would make sense with his personality that there would be some sort of regular gathering on Sundays that he would throw, but I'm going to have ask my friend if they know that to be true or if they can identity Warner (Werner?). I suppose if it was a second-hand place on the West side it would be even more likely (the Goodwill on Santa Monica west of the 405 is somewhat close to where Watson lived.)

I'm not sure if I should post his name directly in the thread or if I should private message you with more details. I already feel odd sharing the memory.
posted by sharkfu at 5:23 PM on August 8, 2011 [12 favorites]

*wasn't a military man
posted by sharkfu at 5:32 PM on August 8, 2011

In case anyone's curious about the outcome of this, I've been in contact with ecourbanist's brother. He picked up the photograph right after my Watson passed away and about a mile or so from his house. I think he and I are in agreement that it is, in fact, the same Watson I knew. So if you're ever looking for proof of the crazy, eerie, probability-defying power of Metafilter and the internet, look no further. A photograph I saw only once amongst a wall of photographs, now found eleven plus years later. Thank you for posting this, ecourbanist.
posted by sharkfu at 6:23 PM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

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