Leslie Groves

Leslie Groves Praised by Army Chief Engineers



Army Chief Engineer Praises Leslie Groves’s History of Manhattan Project

 

RAYMOND A. “SPECK” WHEELER, Typed Letter Signed, to Leslie R. Groves Jr., July 12, 1962, Washington, DC. Signed “Speck.” 1 p., 8.5" x 11".  Very good.

 

Excerpts

“Reading your book brings me keen enjoyment as well as excitement. As I was out of the country during your operations, it is most interesting to me to read the names of friends and others whom I know and the parts they played in this most dramatic project. I have looked forward each day with pleasurable anticipation to my evening’s reading of your book. I haven’t quite finished it, (I am however near the end) which is due to my having turned back the pages to reread two chapters of especial interest to me.”

 

“It is quite evident to me that the book did not have a ‘ghost writer’ for it is clear to me and to all your old friends that it is in the clear, straight-forward style of Dick Groves himself. I congratulate you for literary skill not frequently found in ‘General’s books’ that have been published in recent years.”

 

Postscript by Virginia Wheeler:

“Since Speck had first call on your book, I’ve had to snatch it away when he wasn’t looking. I’m still laughing over the anecdote of the DuPont refund of a portion of their $100.”

 

Historical Background

General Groves published his account of the Manhattan Project as Now It Can Be Told: The Story of the Manhattan Project in 1962.

 

In October 1942, the DuPont chemical company agreed to design and build the chemical separation plant the Manhattan Project needed at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Groves obtained the services of the DuPont chemical company for the sum of $1 over actual costs. Still hurt by charges of wartime profiteering in World War I, DuPont pledge to stay out of the bomb business after the war and offered all resulting patents to the United States government.

 

 

Raymond A. Wheeler (1885-1974) was born in Illinois and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1911. He worked on construction of the Panama Canal and on engineering projects in Mexico. When the United States entered World War II, Wheeler was developing a transportation network of railroads and roads in the Middle East to ship munitions to the Soviet Union. In the fall of 1943, he was appointed to the South East Asia Command and directed construction of the thousand-mile Ledo Road from India to China to supply forces under Chiang Kai-shek who were fighting the Japanese. From February 1944, he was Deputy Supreme Allied Commander. From October 1945 to February 1949, Wheeler was the Chief of Engineers of the Army Corps of Engineers and managed projects including the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Missouri Valley Development. After retiring from the army in 1949, Wheeler was an engineering consultant for the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He also directed the clearing of the Suez Canal of forty-five wrecked ships in four months following the 1956 Suez Crisis. His first wife Olive Keithley Wheeler died in 1954, and he married Virginia A. Morsey (1919-2011) in 1959.

 

Leslie R. Groves Jr. (1896-1970) was a United States Army General with the Corps of Engineers who oversaw the construction of the Pentagon and directed the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb during World War II. Born in New York to a Protestant pastor who became an army chaplain, Groves graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1918 in a course shortened because of World War I. He entered the Corps of Engineers and gained promotions to major by 1940. In 1941, he was charged with overseeing the construction of the Pentagon, the largest office building in the world, with more than five million square feet. Disappointed that he had not received a combat assignment, Groves instead took charge of the Manhattan Project, designed to develop an atomic bomb. He continued nominally to supervise the Pentagon project to avoid suspicion, gained promotion to brigadier general, and began his work in September 1942. The project headquarters was initially in the War Department building in Washington, but in August 1943, moved to Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He and physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer selected the site in Los Alamos, New Mexico, for a laboratory, and Groves pushed successfully for Oppenheimer to be placed in charge. Groves was in charge of obtaining critical uranium ores internationally and collecting military intelligence on Axis atomic research. Promoted to major general in March 1944, Groves received the Distinguished Service Medal for his work on the Manhattan Project after the war. In 1947, Groves became chief of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. He received a promotion to lieutenant general in January 1948, just days before meeting with Army Chief of Staff Dwight D. Eisenhower, who reviewed a long list of complaints against Groves. Assured that he would not become Chief of Engineers, Groves retired in February 1948. From 1948 to 1961, he was a vice president of Sperry Rand, an equipment and electronics firm. After retirement, he served as president of the West Point alumni association and wrote a book on the Manhattan Project, published in 1962.

 

 

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