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Obituaries: Richard L. Knodle, Nuclear Research Engineer


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Richard “Dick” Knodle, 89, a retired research electrical engineer who worked at the Naval Ordinance Laboratory in White Oak, Md., from 1947 to 1972, died June 17, 2011 in Cedar Grove, New Jersey after succumbing to cancer.

Born in Elgin, Illinois, Mr. Knodle enlisted Oct.1942 as an Aviation Cadet while attending Yale University, entered active duty August 1943 in Boca Raton, Fla., and accepted a commission as a 2nd Lt. in June 1944. He served as a Radar Maintenance Officer in the Army Air Corps in Germany between June 1944 and September 1946, rising to 1st Lt.

In 1947 Mr. Knodle received a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois and moved to Silver Spring, Md. to work for the Naval Ordnance Laboratory’s Explosives Effectiveness Division.

Mr. Knodle participated in “Operation Ivy” on Enewetak Atoll in November 1952. The device was the first full test of the Teller-Ulam design, a staged fusion bomb, and is generally considered the first successful test of a hydrogen bomb. “Ivy Mike” was the codename given to this first United States nuclear test of a fusion device.

In 1954 Mr. Knodle took part in “Operation Castle” at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands, the first U. S. test of a dry fuel thermonuclear hydrogen bomb device with a yield far exceeding expectations. The bomb tested at Castle Bravo was the first practical deliverable fusion bomb in the U.S. arsenal. It was the largest bomb ever tested by the U.S. although this was by accident. The yield of Bravo dramatically exceeded predictions, being about 2.5 times higher than the best guess and almost double the estimated maximum possible yield. Mr. Knodle received a superior performance award for his service to the country.

He lived in Silver Spring and Adelphi, Md. between 1947 and 1985 before moving to join his brother Robert Knodle in Verona, NJ, in caring for their mother Virginia Knodle. He was an avid shortwave radio listener and had a love for trains. He was a constant reader, world traveler, accomplished story teller and considered a bon vivant by all who enjoyed his company. He is survived by a niece, Jane Knodle Dixit, of Ohio, and other family members throughout the country. Interment shall be in Illinois.

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  1. Sorry to hear that Dick is gone. He was a wonderful person. I enjoyed his great sense of humor, stories, and thoughtful conversation. Bon Voyage, Dick!


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