Signatures of War
Leslie Groves was born in
Albany, New York on August 17, 1896. He graduated fourth in his class in an accelerated program from the West Point Military
Academy in 1918, after attending both the University of Washington and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Upon graduating
from West Point he took courses at Camp Humphreys, an engineering school in Virginia, from 1896 to 1821. In 1922 he was married
to Grace Wilson and from 1821 through 1825 he served for relatively short periods of time in many posts including Fort Worden
in Washington, the Presidio in San Francisco, and Schofield Barracks in Honolulu. After serving in these posts he became Assistant
to the district engineer in Galveston, Texas where he directed the opening of the silted up harbor in Port Isabel and then
in 1931 he became involved in the Military Supply Division in Washington DC.
In 1934 Groves was promoted to Captain after working with the Office
of the Chief Engineers located in Washington. He then proceeded to attend the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth,
from which he graduated in 1936. He then attended the Army War College and graduated in 1939. Upon graduation Groves was assigned
to the General Staff in Washington.
In 1940 Leslie Groves was promoted to Major and Temporary Colonel and assigned to the offices of the Quartermaster
General and then to the Office of the Chief of Engineers. In 1941 Groves was put in charge of the construction of the largest
office building in the world, the Pentagon, and he also directed the construction of many new military camps and facilities
across the nation.
In 1942 the Army was placed in charge of the Manhattan Engineering District, which was a program created to construct
the world’s first nuclear weapon. When the immense amount of work that would be required to complete this project and
the number of people that would be needed to accomplish it were realized, Leslie Groves was promoted to Temporary Brigadier
General and placed in charge of directing the project.
The Manhattan Project, as it became known as later, required an incredible amount of planning and
organization and General Groves was the perfect man to lead it. He pursued several options to make the uranium of sufficient
quality and built large nuclear reactors to produce plutonium. Thousands of military personnel and civilians were involved
in the project and Groves purchased large tracts of land for the military to provide housing and living necessities for these
people. He worked with hundreds of firms and hired vital scientists, like Robert J. Oppenheimer, who were key in constructing
the nuclear weapons. He also acquired all the necessary equipment and materials needed in the creation of the bombs.
After being released from
his position as head of the Manhattan Project in 1946 he remained in the army until 1948 when he retired and became vice president
of research and development at Remington Rand. He then retired from Remington Rand in 1961. He died on July 14th,
1970 and was buried in section two of Arlington National Cemetery.
In hindsight the direction of the Manhattan Project was General Leslie
Groves’ most notable accomplishment and it is what he is most remembered for despite his many other feats.
Written by Ethan Black