The University of Kentucky Press will be publishing a book by retired ETSU Department of History Chairman Colin F. Baxter. Titled The “Secret History of RDX: The Super-Explosive that Helped Win World War II,” the book chronicles the ways in which RDX (Research Department Explosive) contributed to the key Allied victory in the Battle for the Atlantic.

Colin F. Baxter
(Photograph contributed / ETSU)

Baxter’s book also has a local flair; RDX was mass-produced in secret at a Kingsport plant called Holston Ordnance Works.

“’The Secret History of RDX’ should be on shelves by the end of May,” said University of Kentucky Press Publicity and Rights Manager Mack McCormick. “It will be released internationally.”

RDX was the most powerful known explosive prior to the invention of the atomic bomb. Packing twice the punch of TNT, RDX proved to be a valuable ingredient in the Torpex aerial depth charges that were used to sink German U-boats throughout the Battle for the Atlantic. Though not without its controversy, RDX succeeded where weaker explosives failed, finally enabling the Allies to obliterate the hulls of Axis ships and submarines. In doing so, the Allies gained control of the Atlantic sea routes.

“We expect the book to have both regional and international appeal,” said Mr. McCormick.

Complementing the central war narrative, Baxter examines the lives of the men and women who worked at Kingsport’s Holston Ordnance Works. “The Secret History of RDX” elucidates how World War II and its far-reaching consequences affected the lives of East Tennesseans, particularly those who aided the Allied cause from the bounds of their own region.

Local identity hinges largely on the public’s knowledge of a given region’s past and how it relates to the world at large. As one of the first to deeply examine the oft-forgotten role played by East Tennesseans in World War II, Baxter enriches both local and military history.

“The Secret History of RDX will be released in cloth, hardcover and various proprietary ebook versions,” said Mr. McCormick. “The price will be $45 for all versions.”