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The Manhattan Project and predecessor organizations



For additional information on research and advocacy leading up to the Manhattan Project, see the Nuclear Fission, 1938–1942 topic guide.

Contents

Resources

Advisory Committee on Uranium, October 1939-1940

Committee/Section on Uranium, June 1940-January 1942

National Academy of Sciences review committee, April-November 1941

OSRD Section S-1, January-June 1942

Manhattan Project Timeline, 1942-43

Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, 1942

Chicago Metallurgical Project, 1943-1946

Project Y: Los Alamos Laboratory

Los Alamos Organization, March 1943-August 1944

Los Alamos Organization, August 1944-August 1945

Other Los Alamos Staff in PHN, 1943-1946

Resources

The official history, Richard G. Hewlett and Oscar E. Anderson, Jr., A History of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, Volume I: The New World, 1939-1946 (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1962) is a detailed introduction to the various technical and administrative facets of the Manhattan Project.

Also see the well developed history pages at the Los Alamos National Laboratory website, including a large collection of wartime staff badge photos.

Advisory Committee on Uranium, October 1939-June 1940

This ad hoc committee was established in October 1939 by President Franklin Roosevelt to monitor and advise the government and military with respect to research on nuclear fission.

Chairman:

Lyman Briggs

 

Colonel Keith Adamson, United States Army

Commander Gilbert Hoover, United States Navy

 

In June 1940 a technical subcommittee was added:

Harold Urey

Ross Gunn

George Pegram

Merle Tuve

Jesse Beams

Gregory Breit

Committee/Section on Uranium, June 1940-January 1942

In June 1940 President Roosevelt created the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) to be chaired by Vannevar Bush. The Advisory Committee on Uranium was absorbed into the NDRC, reorganized, and renamed. Because the NDRC was an explicitly civilian organization, the military members of the committee were dropped. In June 1941 President Roosevelt created the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) to be directed by Bush. James Conant became head of the NDRC, which was now within the OSRD, and the committee became one fo a number of "sections" under the NDRC.

Chairman:

Lyman Briggs (June 1940-January 1942)

Vice Chairman:

George Pegram (June 1940-January 1942)

 

Ross Gunn (June 1940-September 1941)

Merle Tuve (June 1940-September 1941)

Harold Urey (June 1940-January 1942)

Jesse Beams (June 1940-January 1942)

Gregory Breit (September 1941-January 1942)

Samuel Allison (September 1941-January 1942)

Edward Condon (September 1941-January 1942)

Henry Smyth (September 1941-January 1942)

Lloyd Smith (September 1941-January 1942)

National Academy of Sciences review committee, April-November 1941

In April 1941 Vannevar Bush asked National Academy of Sciences president Frank Jewett to create a committee to review progress in fission research and advise regarding future work.

Chairman:

Arthur Compton (April to November)

 

Ernest Lawrence (April to November)

John Van Vleck (April to November)

William Coolidge (April to November)

Oliver Buckley (June to November)

L. Warrington Chubb (June to November)

Warren Lewis (September to November)

George Kistiakowsky (September to November)

Robert Mulliken (September to November)

OSRD Section S-1, January-June 1942

In January 1942, Vannevar Bush reorganized the Section on Uranium, renamed Section "S-1", into a vigorous program to drive toward the development of an atomic weapon. The section was removed from the NDRC and made an independent organization within the OSRD. In June 1942, the leaders of Section S-1 became the S-1 "executive committee" responsible for overseeing the relationship between the OSRD and what was increasingly an army-directed project.

Section S-1 Chariman:

Lyman Briggs

NDRC Chairman:

James Conant

Section S-1 Planning Board Chief:

Eger Murphree

Secton S-1 Program Chief:

Harold Urey

Section S-1 Program Chief:

Ernest Lawrence

Section S-1 Project Chief:

Arthur Compton

Manhattan Project Timeline, 1942-1943

January 1942

Arthur Compton decides to consolidate research on slow-neutron chain reaction into a new "Metallurgical Laboratory" to be located on the University of Chicago campus.

March 1942

The OSRD initiates contact with the U. S. Army to turn over construction of bomb production facilities to their authority.

June 1942

J. Robert Oppenheimer is placed in charge of fast-neutron research, replacing Gregory Breit. The U. S. Army places Col. James Marshall of the Army Corps of Engineers in charge of constructing production facilities for bomb materials. The Stone and Webster Engineering Corporation is chose as primary contractor for the project, and the Tennessee River Valley is first considered a strong candidate for a production plant. The Argonne Forest Preserve outside Chicago is slated for the construction of a pilot plant for plutonium production.

August 1942

The Manhattan Engineer District is established with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers to oversee the bomb development project.

September 1942

On September 17, Col. Leslie Groves of the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers is placed in charge of the Manhattan Project; Marshall remains the district engineer. On the 23rd, following Groves' promotion to Brigadier General, the posting is made official. Shortly thereafter Groves secures a site at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, near Knoxville, as the site for bomb material production and places DuPont in charge of construction of a plutonium separation facility ther ein view of doubts about the capabilities of Stone and Webster. DuPont agrees on October 3. It is also decided that the pilot plutonium production plant will be located at Oak Ridge rather than Argonne, which instead will house the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory's experimental reactor.

November 1942

Groves and Oppenheimer select a boys' school on a mesa near Los Alamos, New Mexico as the site for a new bomb development laboratory.

December 1942

On December 2, the experimental pile at the Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory produces a self-sustaining chain reaction.

January 1943

Hanford, on the Columbia River near Richmond, Washington, is chose as the site of the Manhattan Project's full-scale plutonium production facility.

Resources: See the U. S. Department of Energy page on Hanford history. For much further detail, see John M. Findlay and Bruce Hevly, Atomic Frontier Days: Hanford and the American West (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2011).

February 1943

The experimental pile at the University of Chicago, called CP-1, is shut down and removed to the facility at the Argonne Forest Preserve outside Chicago. The reconstructed and expanded experimental pile, CP-2, goes into operation there in March. On February 25, NDRC Chairman James Conant and Vice Chairman Richard Tolman are officially appointed scientific advisers to Groves, though they had consulted with him since the previous year. They, rather than the S-1 Executive Committee, become Groves' primary points of contact with the OSRD as the OSRD transfers research and development on all basic production processes over to the army.

March 1943

J. Robert Oppenheimer and support staff arrive in New Mexico, working out of Santa Fe as construction of the Los Alamos site continues.

Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory, 1942

The Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory was officially established in January 1942 by Section S-1 Program Chief Arthur Compton, and was built up over the spring and summer. Laboratory administration was initially loose, but was steadily tightened over the course of the year, with some changes in titles and responsibilities. The below-listed names are mainly laboratory leadership, but some support staff, marked with a *, are also mentioned because they are in PHN.

Leadership

Project Leader: Arthur Compton

Administrative Assistant to the Project Leader: Norman Hilberry

Administrative Office: Richard Doan

     (initally Laboratory Director)

Fast-Neutron Research Coordinator: Gregory Breit

     (also Information Chief; resigns May 18)

Physics Group

Leader: Enrico Fermi

     (initially Laboratory Research Coordinator)

Herbert Anderson

*Harold Agnew (a research assistant under Anderson)

Walter Zinn

Leo Szilard (initally uranium supply coordinator)

John Manley (experimental assistant to J. R. Oppenheimer)

George Monk

Arthur Snell

Joyce C. Stearns

Martin Whitaker

Volney Wilson

Frank Foote (MIT)

John Marshall (MIT)

Theoretical Goup

Leader: Eugene Wigner

     (Initially Laboratory Theoretical Chief)

John Wheeler (also Library Leader)

Robert Christy

Francis Friedman

Emil Konopinski

Nicholas Metropolis

Robert Mulliken

Forest Murray

Leo Ohlinger

Gilbert Plass

Edward Teller

Alvin Weinberg

Gale Young

Hans Bethe (Boston)

J. Robert Oppenheimer (Berkeley)

     (Fast-Neutron Project Leader from June)

Robert Serber (Berkeley)

Chemical Group

Leader: Samuel Allison

     (initally Laboratory Experimental Chief)

George Boyd

Milton Burton

Charles Coryell

Glenn Seaborg

*Isadore Perlman (a research assistant under Seaborg)

Frank Spedding

Health Group Leader

R. S. Stone

Property Leader

A. M. MacMahon

Procurement Leader

C. A. Trejillus

Chief Engineer

T. V. Moore

Chicago Metallurgical Project, 1943-1946

In 1943, following the successful completion of an experimental reactor pile, laboratory staff and organization changed markedly as staff moved to the experimental reactor at the nearby Argonne Forest Preserve, to the pilot plutonium production plant and separation facility at Clinton Engineer Works near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to the Hanford full-scale plutonium production and separation facility in Washington State, and to the new bomb design laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico. The below-listed personnel do not comprise a full outline of the organization of the Chicago-area work in this period. However, all personnel who appear in PHN are included here.

After the war, the Argonne laboratory was retained by the new Atomic Energy Commission, and eventually became the Argonne National Laboratory.

Project Director:

Arthur Compton

Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory Directors:

Samuel Allison (June 1943–November 1944)

Joyce Stearns (November 1944–July 1945)

Farrington Daniels (July 1945–May 1946)

Argonne Laboratory Directors:

Enrico Fermi (1943–1944)

Walter Zinn (1944–1946)

Other Personnel in PHN:

James Franck (1942–1945)

     Director, Chemistry Division (1942–1943)

     Associate Project Director (1943–1944)

     Consultant (1944–1945)

Norman Hilberry (1942–1946)

     Assistant Project Director (1943–1946)

     Acting Director, Physics Division (1944)

Glenn Seaborg (1942-1946)

     Chief, Plutonium Chemistry Section (1943-1946)

Henry Smyth (1943-1945)

     Associate Laboratory Director (1943-1944)

     Consultant (1944-1945)

Arthur Dempster (1943-1946)

     Director, Physics and Metallurgy Division (1945-1946)

Farrington Daniels (1944-1946)

     Assistant Director, Chemistry Division (1944-1945)

     Laboratory Director (1945-1946)

Herbert Anderson (1942-1944)

Eugene Wigner (1942-1945)

Alvin Weinberg (1942-1945)

Leo Szilard (1942-1946)

Julian Schwinger (1943-1943)

Luis Alvarez (1943-1944)

Philip Morrison (1943-1944)

Marvin Goldberger (Army SED, 1943-1945)

Anthony Turkevich (1943-1945)

John Simpson, Jr. (1943-1946)

Leonard Rieser (1944-1944)

Project Y: Los Alamos Laboratory

Research and development surrounding the design of the atomic bomb took place at a laboratory atop a mesa near Los Alamos, New Mexico. After the war the laboratory was retained by the new Atomic Energy Commission primarily as a laboratory for the development of nuclear weaponry. It was renamed the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, before being renamed Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1981. The key sources on the wartime history are:

Los Alamos Organization, March 1943-August 1944

Laboratory Director

J. Robert Oppenheimer

Theoretical Division (formally organized in March 1944)

Division Leader: Hans Bethe

Group T-1 (Hydrodynamics of Implosion and Super*)

        Leader: Edward Teller (March-June 1944)

Group T-1 (Hydrodynamics of Implosion)

        Leader: Rudolf Peierls (from June 1944)

Group T-2 (Diffusion Theory, IBM Calculations, and Experiments)

        Leader: Robert Serber

Group T-3 (Experiments, Efficiency Calculations, and Radiation Hydrodynamics)

        Leader: Victor Weisskopf

Group T-4 (Diffusion Problems)

        Leader: Richard Feynman

Group T-5 (Computations)

        Leader: Donald Flanders

*In June 1944 Teller established theoretical work on the "super" fusion weapon as an independent group.

Experimental Physics Division (organized March 1943)

Division Leader: Robert Bacher

Group P-1 (Cyclotron)

        Leader: Robert R. Wilson

Group P-2 (Electrostatic Generator)

        Leader: John H. Williams

Group P-3 (D-D Source)

        Leader: John Manley

Group P-4 (Electronics)

        Leader: Darol Froman

Group P-5 (Radioativity)

        Leader: Emilio Segrè

Group P-6 (Detectors), established September 1943

        Leader: Bruno Rossi

Group P-7 (Water Boiler), established August 1943

        Leader: Donald Kerst

In July 1943 a group for improving counters was set up under Hans Staub; in August 1943 a group for improving electronic techniques was set up under Bruno Rossi; in September these were consolidated into Group P-6.

Ordnance and Engineering Division (organized June 1943)

Division Leader: Cpt. William Parsons, United States Navy

Deputy Division Leaders (from early 1944):

        Edwin McMillan (Gun Program)

        George Kistiakowsky (Implosion Program)

Group E-1 (Proving Ground)

        Leader: Edwin McMillan

Group E-2 (Instrumentation)

        Leader: Kenneth Bainbridge (June 1943-early 1944)

        Leader: Lyman Parratt (1944)

Group E-3 (Fuse Development)

        Leader: Robert Brode

Group E-4 (Projectile, Target, and Source)

        Leader: Charles Critchfield

Group E-5 (Implosion Experimentation)

        Leader: Seth Neddermeyer (June 1943-June 1944)

        Acting Leader: George Kistiakowsky (June-August 1944)

Group E-6 (Engineering)

        Chief Engineer: George Chadwick (prospective, June-September 1943)

        Chief Engineer: J. L. Hittell (September-December 1943)

        Chief Engineer: P. Esterline (December 1943-April 1944)

        Chief Engineer: R. Cornog (April-May 1944)

        Chief Engineer: L. D. Bonbrake (May-August 1944)

Group E-7 (Delivery), established fall 1943

        Leader: Norman Ramsey

Group E-8 (Interior Ballistics), established fall 1943

        Leader Joseph Hirschfelder

Group E-9 (High-Explosive Assemblies), established early 1944

        Leader: Kenneth Bainbridge

Group E-10 (Maintenance and Construction for Implosion Project & S-Site Operation), established June 1944

        Leader: Maj. W. A. Stevens

Group E-11 (RaLa Tests and Electric Detonates), established June 1944

        Leader: Luis Alvarez

Chemistry and Metallurgy Division (May 1943 to April 1944)

Acting Division Leader: Joseph Kennedy

Purification Group, Leader: Clifford Garner

Radiochemistry Group, Leader: Richard Dodson

Analysis Group, Leader: Samuel Weissman

Metallurgy Group, Leader: Cyril Smith

Chemistry and Metallurgy Division (April 1944 to August 1944)

Division Leader: Joseph Kennedy

Associate Division Leader (Metallurgy): Cyril Smith

Group CM-1 (Health and Safety, Special Services)

        Leader: R. H. Dunlap

Group CM-2 (Heat Treating and Metallography)

        Leader: F. Stroke

Group CM-3 (Gas Tamper and Gas Liquefaction)

        Leader: Earl Long

Group CM-4 (Radiochemistry)

        Leader: Richard Dodson

Group CM-5 (Uranium and Plutonium Purification)

        Leader: Clifford Garner

Group CM-6 (High-Vacuum Research)

        Leader: Samuel Weissman

Group CM-7 (Miscellaneous Metallurgy)

        Leader: Claire Balke

Group CM-8 (Uranium and Plutonium Metallurgy)

        Leader: Eric Jette

Group CM-9 (Analysis)

        Leader H. A. Potratz

Group CM-10 (Recovery)

        Leader: Robert Duffield

Group CM-11 (Uranium Metallurgy), established June 1944

        Leader: Alan Seybolt

Los Alamos Organization, August 1944-August 1945

In August 1944, the Los Alamos Laboratory was substantially reorganized on account of the infeasibility of a "gun" design for a plutonium bomb on account of the rate of spontaneous fission in that element. The new laboratory organization was geared toward achieving rapid progress with the implosion bomb design.

Laboratory Director

J. Robert Oppenheimer

Associate Laboratory Director

Enrico Fermi

Associate Laboratory Director

Cpt. William Parson, United States Navy

Theoretical Division

Division Leader: Hans Bethe

Group T-1 (Implosion Dynamics)

        Leader: Rudolf Peierls

Group T-2 (Diffusion Theory)

        Leader: Robert Serber

Group T-3 (Efficiency Theory)

        Leader: Victor Weisskopf

Group T-4 (Diffusion Problems)

        Leader: Richard Feynman

Group T-5 (Computations)

        Leader: Donald Flanders

Group T-6 (IBM Computations), established September 1944

        Leaders: Stanley Frankel and Eldred Nelson

Group T-7 (Damage), established November 1944

        Leader: Joseph Hirschfelder

Group T-8 (Composite Weapon), established May 1945

        Leader: George Placzek

Research Division

Division Leader: Robert R. Wilson

Group R-1 (Cyclotron)

        Leader: Robert R. Wilson

Group R-2 (Electrostatic Generator)

        Leader: John H. Williams

Group R-3 (D-D)

        Leader: John Manley

Group R-4 (Radioactivity)

        Leader: Emilio Segrè

F Division

F Division considered issues outside the main project.

Division Leader: Enrico Fermi

Group F-1 (Super and General Theory)

        Leader: Edward Teller

Group F-2 (Water Boiler)

        Leader: L. D. P. King

Group F-3 (Super Experimentation)

        Leader: Egon Bretscher

Group F-4 (Fission Studies)

        Leader: Herbert Anderson

Ordnance Divsion

Division Leader:

Group O-1 (Gun)

        Leader: Francis Birch

Group O-2 (Delivery)

        Leader: Norman Ramsey

Group O-3 (Fuse Development)

        Leader Robert Brode

Group O-4 (Engineering)

        Leader: George Galloway

Group O-5 (Calculations)

        Leader: Joseph Hirschfelder

Group O-6 (Water Delivery and Exterior Ballistics)

        Leader: Maurice Shapiro

Group O-7 (Procurement)

        Leader: Lt. Col. R. W. Lockridge

Weapon Physics Division

Division Leader: Robert Bacher

Group G-1 (Critical Assemblies)

        Leader: Otto Frisch

Group G-2 (The X-Ray Method)

        Leader: Lyman Parratt

Group G-3 (The Magnetic Method)

        Leader: Edwin McMillan

Group G-4 (Electronics)

        Leader: William Higinbotham

Group G-5 (The Betatron Method)

        Leader: Seth Neddermeyer

Group G-6 (The RaLa Method)

        Leader: Bruno Rossi

Group G-7 (Electric Detonators)

        Leader: Luis Alvarez

Group G-8 (The Electric Method)

        Leader: Darol Froman

Group G-10 (Initiator Group)

        Leader: Charles Critchfield

Group G-11 (Optics)

        Leader: Julian Mack

Explosives Division

Division Leader: George Kistiakowsky

Group X-1 (Implosion Research)

        Leader: Commander Norris Bradbury

Group X-1A (Photography with Flash X-Rays), dissolved May 1945

        Leader: Kenneth Greisen

Group X-1B (Terminal Observations)

        Leader: Henry Linschitz

Group X-1C (Flash Photography)

        Leader: Walter Koski

Group X-1D (Rotating Prism Camera)

        Leader: Joseph Hoffman

Group X-1E (Charge Inspection)

        Leader: Gerold Tenney

Group X-2 (Development, Engineering, and Tests), dissolved March 1945

        Leader: Kenneth Bainbridge

Group X-2A (Engineering), renamed X-2 March 1945

        Leader: Robert Henderson

Group X-2B (High Explosives), dissolved March 1945

        Leader: Lt. W. F. Schaffer

Group X-2C (Test Measurements), dissolved March 1945

        Leader: Lewis Fussell Jr.

Group X-3 (Explosives Development and Production)

        Leader: Cpt. Jerome Ackerman

Group X-3A (Experimental Section)

        Leader: Lt. J. D. Hopper

Group X-3B (Special Research Problems), established November 1944

        Leader: David Gurinsky

Group X-4 (Model Design, Engineering Service, and Consulting), established October 1944

        Leader: Earl Long

Group X-5 (Detonating Circuit), established March 1945

        Leader: Lewis Fussell Jr.

Group X-6 (Assembly and Assembly Tests), established March 1945

        Leader: Commander Norris Bradbury

Group X-7 (Detonator Developments), established May 1945

        Leader: Kenneth Greisen

Chemistry and Metallurgy Division

Division Leader: Joseph Kennedy

Associate Division Leader (Metallurgy): Cyril Smith

Group CM-1 (Service Group)

        Leader: R. H. Dunlap

Group CM-2 (Heat Treatment and Metallography)

        Leader: F. Stroke

Group CM-4 (Radiochemistry)

        Leader: Lindsay Helmholtz

Group CM-5 (Plutonium Purification)

        Leader: Clifford Garner

Group CM-6 (High-Vacuum Research)

        Leader: Samuel Weissman

Group CM-7 (Miscellaneous Metallurgy)

        Leader: Alan Seybolt

Group CM-8 (Plutonium Metallurgy)

        Leader: Eric Jette

Group CM-9 (Analysis)

        Leader: H. A. Potratz

Group CM-11 (Uranium Metallurgy)

        Leader: S. Marshall

Group CM-12 (Health)

        Leader: W. H. Hinch

Group CM-13 (DP Site)

        Leader: Joseph Burke

Group CM-14 (RaLa Chemistry)

        Leader: Gerhardt Friedlander

Group CM-15 (Polonium)

        Leader: Iral Johns

Group CM-16 (Uranium Chemistry)

        Leader: Edward Richers

Project Trinity, established March 1945

Project Trinity prepared the test of the plutonium bomb design.

Head: Kenneth Bainbridge

Consultant (Structures): Roy Carlson

Consultant (Meteorology): P. E. Church

Consultant (Physics): Enrico Fermi

Consultant (Damage): Jospeh Hirschfelder

Consultant (Safety): S. Kershaw

Consultant (Earth Shock): L. Don Leet

Consultant (Blast and Shock): William Penney

Consultant (Physics): Victor Weisskopf

Consultant: Philip Moon

Assembly: Commander Norris Bradbury and George Kistiakowsky

Group TR-1 (Services)

        Leader: John H. Williams

Group TR-2 (Blast and Shock)

        Leader: John Manley

Group TR-3 (Measurements), renamed Physics

        Leader: Robert R. Wilson

Group TR-4 (Meteorology)

        Leader: Jack Hubbard

Group TR-5 (Spectrographic and Photographic Measurements

        Leader: Julian Mack

Group TR-6 (Airborne Measurements), renamed Air Blast

        Leader: Bernard Waldman

Group TR-7 (Medical)

        Leader: Dr. Louis Hempelmann

Project Alberta, established March 1945

Project Alberta prepared for combate use of atomic weapons.

Key personnel on Tinian Island

Officer-in-Charge: Cpt. William Parson, United States Navy

Scientific and Technical Deputy: Norman Ramsey

Operations Officer and Military Alternate: Commander Frederick Ashworth

Fat Man Assembly Team Leader: Roger Warner

Little Boy Assembly Team Leader: Francis Birch

Fusing Team Leader: Edward Doll

Electrical Detonator Team Leader: Lt. Commander E. Stevenson

Pit Team Leaders: Philip Morrison and Charles Baker

Observation Team Leaders: Luis Alvarez and Bernard Waldman

Aircraft Ordnance Team Leader: Sheldon Dike

Special Consultants:

        Robert Serber

        William Penney

        Cpt. James Nolan

Other Los Alamos Staff in PHN, 1943-1946

Felix Bloch (1943)

Boyce McDaniel (1943-1945)

Wolfgang Panofsky (consultant, 1943-1945)

Harold Agnew (1943-1946)

Henry Barschall (1943-1946)

Owen Chamberlain (1943-1946)

Robert Christy (1943-1946)

Edward Creutz (1943-1946)

Robert Duffield (1943-1946)

Kenneth Case (1944-1945)

Samuel Allison (1944-1946)

Herbert Anderson (1944-1946)

Benjamin Bederson (Army SED, 1944-1946)

Martin Deutsch (1944-1946)

Val Fitch (Army SED, 1944-1946)

Roy Glauber (1944-1946)

Robert Marshak (1944-1946)

Maria Goeppert Mayer (1945)

Jerrold Zacharias (1945)

Dale Corson (1945-1946)

Leonard Rieser (1945-1946)

Leonard Schiff (1945-1946)

Anthony Turkevich (1945-1946)

Jerome Wiesner (1945-1946)