Edward Uhl

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In 1942, a young Ed Uhl sat with his boss, Colonel Leslie Skinner, and discussed how to defeat German tanks. Skinner knew that explosives could be "shaped" to concentrate the blast's effect. He had just taken possession of a grenade that would explode in a controlled jet capable of penetrating several inches of armor.

Skinner gave Uhl the mission to find a way for soldiers to deliver the grenade from a safer distance. Uhl's solution was a small soldier-fired rocket. The problems: how to aim the rocket and how to protect the firer from the burning rocket gases.

Uhl, who died May 9 at 92, stumbled on a solution that changed warfare: "I was walking by this scrap pile, and there was a tube that ... happened to be the same size as the grenade that we were turning into a rocket. I said, That's the answer! Put the tube on a soldier's shoulder with the rocket inside, and away it goes."

Ed Uhl would go on to develop an array of Cold War weapons. But generations of soldiers would immortalize him as the father of the bazooka, that tiny tube of metal that gave the Greatest Generation a fighting chance against Hitler's armored behemoths.

Retired general Scales is president of Colgen LLC, a defense consulting firm