Research, the Manhattan Project, and my grandfather

Tying everything together

This post summarizes the information I gathered from my research at the National Archives and from the family letters and shares my thoughts on how much he may have known about the overall project based on his documented roles in the project.

I was successful in finding out what Mac, my grandfather, worked on within the project and have discovered that he was involved in more than one aspect of the project. My secondary goal, some of which is outlined here, is to see how the family letters lined up with the work he was doing on the project.

Image of the Metal Hydrides Visitors Report for the week March 27 - April 2, 1943, listing D. L. Macdonald from the Company, meaning Stone & Webster.

Based on records found at the National Archives at Atlanta, Mac visited Metal Hydrides, Inc., in Beverly, Massachusetts, regularly from late March into early April 1943, and again in October of 1943. These visits are weekly and in some cases daily. In a letter from mid-April 1943, my uncle comments that Mac, his father, should get a raise since he’s rarely home.

Metal Hydrides Inc, as noted in the previous post, worked with natural uranium-238 to produce a metal powder that was sent to the three nuclear facilities in Chicago, Hanford, and Oak Ridge, to be used in experiments.

Comparing Information in the archives to the letters

In a letter from May 1, 1943, my uncle notes that the last two letters from his father are post-marked Springfield, Massachusetts. The work by Metal Hydrides, Inc., was very different from the work done in Springfield, Massachusetts. Springfield was where General Electric, Westinghouse Electric, and Chapman Valve Co. were contracted to build the parts necessary for the Calutron Cubicles while Metal Hydrides, as noted above, was working with natural uranium-238 to produce metal powder for experiments. Working with the roads that existed at the time, it is 125 or so miles from Beverly to Springfield, Massachusetts. Alternatively, Beverly, Massachusetts is 23 miles from the Stone and Webster offices located at 161 Devonshire Street in Boston, and Springfield, Massachusetts is 84 miles from the same downtown Boston location. It would appear that Mac was traveling some distance on a daily and weekly basis in April 1943.

In early July 1943 Mac is listed as Stone & Webster’s resident inspector for Chapman Valve Company in Indian Orchard, a suburb of Springfield, Massachusetts. In the letters from July 1943, my uncle notes that “. . . Father missed dinner at his own dinner party by working late; should tell Mr. Stone and Mr. Webster that he will quit so he’ll get more money; he could find a better job at home(?); can’t win the war all by himself.” The words noting that he can’t win the war all by himself are also that would be echoed in the sympathy cards my grandmother would receive two years later. And a letter from later in July 1943 my uncle notes “. . .Enjoyed Father’s letter explaining a bit about what he was doing in Springfield.” The work being done in the Springfield, Massachusetts, area with the project revolves around the development, fabrication, and testing of the Calutron Cubicles with General Electric, Westinghouse Electric, and Chapman Valve Company.

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