Research, the Manhattan Project, and my grandfather


How to begin?

Between 2017 and early 2020, I photocopied, scanned, and read all the letters and sympathy cards to see if I could uncover information about my grandfather and his work on the Manhattan Project. Additionally, I wanted to understand how the family managed through WWII, including how my uncle faired in the 10th Mountain Division. Using the people, places and events mentioned I have been able to track where Mac was and what he was doing and match events happening in the Manhattan Project to references to Mac and his work in the letters.

Having reviewed all the information in the letters, it was time to see if I could find more about Mac, my next step was to see if he appeared in any of the original records of the Manhattan Project, including anything that may be available in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Most of the written records related to the Manhattan Project are held at the National Archives. By searching, I learned that the project records are spread over various regional branches based on the area where the work was done or the project facility was located. For example, the files and documents related to the work done at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, are mostly held at the archives branch at the Atlanta, Georgia, regional repository for records from the Southeastern United States. Most of the project files related to the Office of the Chief Engineer for the Boston area are held at the Boston branch, with some of those being held at the Atlanta branch. Some of the more sensitive files are held at the College Park, Maryland, facility.  

Research at the Boston branch

An Office of the Chief of Engineers, Manhattan Engineering District, Boston Area Office, records box held at the National Archives and Records Center at Boston.

My first stop was to visit the Boston branch in the spring of 2018 to review the records of the Office of the Chief Engineer, Army Corps of Engineers, records for the period from 1942-1946. (Note: there are chief engineer records pre-and post- this period but my focus was solely on WWII). While I found nothing directly related to my grandfather, I learned a lot about how the Manhattan Project office in Boston was created, how quickly work was assigned, buildings were taken over and staffing, particularly draughtsmen and women, was increased each month at a pace that was hard to comprehend. 

Research at the College Park branch

In August of 2018, I accompanied my husband on a business trip to Washington, DC. While he attended a conference, I spent two days at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, which holds from across the project, particularly sensitive, and some still restricted, even more than 75 years later. With just two days devoted to this search and one full day spent on the thousands of photographs of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, I did not turn up anything directly related to my grandfather. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.