Nuclear Weapons And Ballistic Missiles Expert
Kenneth Banks Cooper Thursday, May 24, 2007
Kenneth Banks Cooper, 83, a retired Army lieutenant general and expert on nuclear
weapons and ballistic missile defense, died May 7 at his sister's home in Melbourne,
Fla. He had Alzheimer's disease.
In retirement, Gen. Cooper was chairman of the panel that reviewed the status of ballistic
missile defense technology after President Ronald Reagan's 1983 Star Wars speech.
He spent the next dozen years in a series of consulting assignments related to ballistic
missile defense and nuclear weapons safety.
He was born at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., into a military family; his grandfather was the
Army doctor at Alcatraz prison before it became a federal facility.
Gen. Cooper grew up in Washington, attending Western High School (1942) and
delivering The Washington Post. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West
Point in 1944 and served in the Philippines during World War II and in postwar Japan.
In 1946, he was assigned to the Manhattan Project in Albuquerque, which led to duty as
a special assistant to the project leader, Lt. Gen. Leslie Groves, and to participation in
the Sandstone nuclear tests at Eniwetok Atoll in 1948.
He received a master's degree in civil engineering in 1950 from the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, then served at the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington
and the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in Paris. From 1959 to 1963,
he was at the Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Pentagon, overseeing
research on ballistic missile defense.
Gen. Cooper commanded an engineer construction battalion in Korea, attended the
Army War College and was director of the Army's nuclear power program in the
mid-1960s. He was assigned to a group that developed and deployed a system of
eavesdropping devices intended to detect North Vietnamese on the Ho Chi Minh Trail.
He became the executive to Army Secretary Stanley R. Resor in 1968, then as a
brigadier general commanded the 20th Engineer Brigade in Vietnam in 1970-71. After
several posts in Washington, he became a lieutenant general and worked as
deputy commander-in-chief of the Army in Europe, and later deputy adviser to the
defense secretary for NATO.
Gen. Cooper retired in 1978 and moved to New Jersey to work for ITT. He returned to
the Pentagon two years later to work as deputy assistant secretary of defense for
communications, command, control and intelligence in 1980. The next year he was
president of SPC International in Rosslyn, a defense contractor.
His marriage to Barbara Nesbit Cooper ended in divorce.
Survivors include his wife of 28 years, Jenny Cooper of Alexandria; two children from his
first marriage, Kenneth N. Cooper of Reston and Robert A. Cooper of Davidsonville; a
brother, Richmond J. Cooper of Alexandria; a sister, Caroline C. Wills; and two