John Hayward, 90, Who Helped Develop Atomic Bomb


By William Honan, , May 27 1999

Vice Adm. John Hayward, a weapons expert who helped develop the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in the closing days of World War II, died on Sunday, May 23rd, at his home in Atlantic Beach, Fla. He was 90.

Hayward, who was promoted to vice admiral in 1959 and retired in 1968, also developed guidance systems for rockets and underwater anti-submarine weapons.

When he was 15, he lied about his age and joined the Navy after being expelled from military school for disciplinary reasons and dropping out of high school. But later he was such an exemplary seaman that he was one of the few enlisted men accepted by the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.

As a pilot in World War II, he fought in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea campaigns. The squadron he commanded destroyed 43 Japanese ships, including three submarines, and damaged 54 other ships.

Hayward's record of 13,200 flight hours was the highest ever achieved by a flag officer.

In 1944 he joined the Manhattan Project, the wartime effort to design and build atomic weapons, and was assigned to the China Lake Naval Ordnance Test Station in California, where he helped develop the implosion components of the plutonium bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945.

Partly in response to the bombing of Nagasaki, which took place three days after the the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese surrendered, ending World War II.

After the war he commanded the first nuclear-powered task force, and later became president of the Naval War College in Newport, R.I.

Hayward's wife, Leila, died in 1998. He is survived by a son, John Jr., of Newport; four daughters, Shelley Klein of Fern Park, Fla., Marion Pontzer of Sterling, Va., Victoria Hayward of Neptune Beach, Fla., and Jennifer Bramhall of Oakland, Calif.; a sister, Marjorie Madey of Baton Rouge, La., 22 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.


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© 1999 by Neil Mishalov