Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - 6

LETTERS
ies, nurses, chauffeurs and telephone operators.
The original plan was not to hire women for
production, but the lack of men soon led to the
employment of women on the production lines
that made the "ticklish" RDX.
Women proved they could take on dangerous
"man's work," working on wet concrete floors
to prevent sparks. The job often required turning
large valves and lifting 50-pound boxes of explosives. Other women working as chemists tested
raw materials in the laboratories. The women
and men at Holston Ordnance Works-"soldiers
without uniforms"-deserve our recognition
and the highest praise for wartime achievement,
which helped to save American and Allied lives.
-COLIN F. BAXTER, PROFESSOR EMERITUS OF HISTORY,
EAST TENNESSEE STATE UNIVERSITY,
JOHNSON CITY, TENNESSEE

ONE OF THE BEST

CALUTRON KUDOS
The article in May/June entitled "Building the Bomb (And
not Knowing it) in East Tennessee" was excellent. I had the
good fortune to grow up in Bristol, Tennesee, and live on a
farm in Sullivan County. I graduated from the University of
Tennessee in 1970. I knew very little about what went on in
Oak Ridge. Thank you for a very enlightening article. Well
done, Nancy Henderson.
-DEBBIE YOUNGMAN, RIDGEWAY, VIRGINIA

THE WOMEN OF HOLSTON ORDNANCE
WORKS, 1942-'45
Nancy Henderson's "Building The Bomb" reminded readers
of the essential contributions women made to the Manhattan Project in World War II. Amazingly, 150 miles away in
northeast Tennessee, there grew up almost overnight the
gigantic $100 million Holston Ordnance Works (HOW),
which became the largest manufacturer of the super-explosive RDX in the world. RDX was the most powerful explosive in existence until the atomic bomb. As in the case of
Oak Ridge, thousands of women of all ages-often as their
husbands, brothers, or sweethearts served in the armed
forces-were employed at the top-secret "powder plant" in
Kingsport and Hawkins County.
The secret of Oak Ridge has long been uncovered. However, the secret history of RDX at Holston Ordnance has
been in the shadows, with only local people remembering
the "Great Holston Ordnance Works." In my book, ("The
Secret History of RDX: The Super-Explosive that Helped
Win World War II," 2018, University Press of Kentucky), I
attempt to reveal that epic achievement. In various forms,
RDX was used on every battlefront, and was a key component in the trigger mechanism of the plutonium bomb.
Women from east Tennessee and southwest Virginia were
essential to the production of this war-winning munition.
Approximately 40 percent of the HOW workforce were
women. After the Great Depression, female workers at
Holston Ordnance served in jobs including secretar-

6

BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

I am writing after reading and re-reading
articles in the BLUE issue of Blue Ridge Country
for July/August, 2020. The articles
re magical lakes and the mountain
rivers were great. We section-hiked
the Appalachian Trail for over 25
years and enjoyed many of the
water wonders we now read about.
We have been faithful subscribers
to Blue Ridge Coutry for over 20
years, but this issue is one of your
very best. Thank you! And, keep
up the great articles. The article
"Trajectory" by Ms. Anna Ziegler is
a keepsake also.
- WARREN LANIER, ROSWELL, GEORGIA

SINGING GARDEN PRAISES
Thank you to Ginny Neil for the wonderful column, "A
Calf, A Cow and Some Seed," in the July/August issue. She
gets it!
-KAREN SNEAD, ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, FLORIDA

MRS. SANDERS' SECRET RECIPE?
Re Joe Tennis' July/August article on Col. Sanders... he
might have mentioned Mrs. Sanders. My father's family is
from Shelbyville, Kentucky. I remember going to Mrs. Sanders' restaurant there for lunch with my Aunt, Rosella Davis,
and sampling fare from a different era. The folks there
credited the Colonel for his marketing savvy but always
maintained that the list of "secret"
spices came from Mrs. Sanders. I
don't know if the restaurant is still
operating but it gave me a few
great memories. If it's still open
and serving from its old menu,
don't go there looking for a lot of
contemporary cuisine.
Thanks for your publication.
-GEORGE CUNNINGHAM,
WEST POINT, VIRGINIA


http://www.BLUERIDGECOUNTRY.COM

Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020

Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - 3
Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - 4
Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - 5
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Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - 7
Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - 8
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Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country September/October 2020 - Cover4
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