By GLENDA CAUDLE
Special Features Editor
Damian Andrus built his first atomic bomb in his garage in New Mexico.
Since that time, he has moved to Texas and turned his interest into a business. That enterprise, Synthetic Authentics, is providing replicas of the uranium-fueled “Little Boy,” the nation’s first atomic bomb, and of the plutonium-fueled “Fat Man,” the second such devastating weapon, to Discovery Park of America.
DPA, which is being constructed on a 50-acre site in Union City’s northwest quadrant, has as its mission the education of children and adults, with the goal of inspiring them to reach their full potential. The focus of the exhibits which will be available to the public there will be on nature, science, technology, history and art. The Robert E. and Jenny D. Kirkland Foundation is the project’s principal benefactor.
The road that led Andrus to Union City began in 1968, when he was a U.S. Marine serving in the infantry in Vietnam. During that same era, an F-4 fighter pilot was covering the skies above that country. The two would meet several years later while the air veteran was traveling to Russia on a regular basis. His government-supported work was related to arms control in the nation that was emerging from the former Soviet Union’s iron-fisted rule.
On his trips there, the vet would haunt flea markets and bring back a variety of treasures.
As their friendship evolved, Andrus told the airman he would like to make him a model of the F-4, provided the vet could supply him with a MiG clock from his shopping trips. The airman located the clock and was so impressed with the plane model Andrus built that he showed off his acquisition to his employers. The International Programs effort was looking for Russian nuclear warhead storage containers and they commissioned Andrus to build some full-size replicas that would aid them in their efforts to keep track of both U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons.
He set to work in his carport.
Quietly observing this effort was a Los Alamos National Laboratory-employed neighbor who would often stroll past the Andrus home in New Mexico. While Andrus’ efforts were the subject of lots of neighborhood gossip, only the resident with a connection to the nation’s nuclear effort recognized what was going on in the garage.
With the containers delivered, Andrus prepared to move to Texas, but before he left the area, his neighbor approached and asked if he would consider building a replica of Little Boy for Bradbury Science Museum at Los Alamos. That was the replicator’s first effort at re-creating the weapon that was the beginning of the end of World War II. His second effort will be on display at DPA.
He also fashioned a replica of Fat Man for Bradbury Science Museum — a 1 1/2 year effort — and will be delivering one just like it to DPA. Andrus has since moved out of his garage and into an “official” facility to handle his responsibilities and projects.
Special Features Editor Glenda Caudle may be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published in The Messenger 5.28.12