Research, the Manhattan Project, and my grandfather

What did we know?

Letters in the Green Box

The Green Box

Because we never met him, information about Mac was gleaned from my grandmother, father, and uncle, as well as the letters. Each family member focused on rather specific memories. My grandmother spoke about the love letters Mac had sent her. She promised us that one day we could read them.

My grandparents with their two sons, Douglas and Donald, on the seawall at Marshfield, Massachusetts.

My father told us that his father worked for Stone and Webster, the Boston engineering firm, traveled a lot, and was home only on weekends. My uncle said he was a great baseball player but not a skier, my uncle’s passion, and that my father was most like their father. All three talked about how Mac loved Gilbert and Sullivan and Cole Porter. 

All of these statements provided aspects of our grandfather, but not a complete picture of Mac. What we wanted to know was what he did on this top-secret, hush-hush project he was working on when he died. At the time, there was little he could share with his family about his work, for security purposes. This made it all the more tantalizing a mystery. My goal was to find out what he did and how much he knew about the work he was doing.

As I noted in my post, The Green Box, my grandmother kept love letters and postcards from Mac along with 140 +/- letters my uncle wrote home during his 3-year stint in the 10th Mountain Division from March 1943 to March 1946, along with the sympathy cards she received at the time of Mac’s death. And the letters provide a sense of the times during which this was happening as well as the daily activities of each family member, including Mac. The sympathy cards provide a snapshot of how people perceived Mac, dedicated to seeing the war-related, top-secret project he was working on to its conclusion no matter how exhausting, so the boys, including his oldest son, would come home sooner. A cousin, who was 13 or so when the war ended, remembers his father, my grandmother’s cousin, switching off the cheering crowds on the radio on VJ Day, August 14-15, 1945, to say a prayer for Uncle Mac because he would never see how his work had turned out. He had died less than a month before the first bomb was dropped.

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