Research, the Manhattan Project, and my grandfather

What is the role of a field representative?

Tennessee Eastman Corporation job description for the new field representative role.

In August 1944, Mac became the procurement representative for the Boston area, one of the 11 procurement areas around the country, he had several roles to perform. First, he was responsible for reviewing all the project-approved facilities in his area and providing updated information to the Procurement Supervisor in Knoxville. Just as important were taking in the requests for fabrication-related work, reviewing the plans, and asking questions to ensure he understood the class of work involved, then visiting the appropriate vendor or vendors in his area to discuss the requirements and obtain a bid or bids.

Continuation of the Tennessee Eastman Corporation field representative job description.

Once a final bid was obtained, it was transmitted to the Knoxville office, which would then send the acceptance of the bid via teletype or phone to the field representative.

The field representative maintained contact with the contracting facility to monitor the status and deadline for the production of the product needed and, when completed, arranged the expediting of the item to the appropriate location by train and in such a way as it would not attract attention. 

This job description explains why Mac was once again frequently on the road and rarely home, why he had a close relationship with the security officer for the Boston area, and why this job would need access to the senior project engineer in Boston. The field expediter had access to all of the plans, drawings, and records for any Oak Ridge-based contract being fabricated in the Boston area, and transported these detailed specifications to the various vendors for their review. The security officer would need to be in close proximity to ensure the information, along with the knowledge of where and how items were being shipped, remained secure. 

The field representative handled the work of inspector, procurement, and expediting, work that would usually be handled by three people. In addition, the job description provided notes that the field representative was always on call for any project procurement group needing support with both procurement and expediting. So, if needed, he did this same work for another regional office’s contracts.

Some final thoughts and a next step

Based on the letters and what appears in the archival records, Mac served multiple roles for two employers revolving around inspecting, procurement, and expediting, for the Manhattan Project. While the information about his Stone and Webster work with Metal Hydrides, Chapman Valve Company, and possibly E.B. Badger, put him in proximity to information regarding the workings of the X-10 and Y-12 plants at Oak Ridge, his work as the field representative for Tennessee Eastman required access to a broad spectrum of information regarding all the Manhattan Project work at Oak Ridge. This hefty role and the stress that comes with these responsibilities most likely contributed to his heart attack.

A second trip to the National Archives at Atlanta is the next step. While I don’t yet know what else may be found in the records, it is worth a look.

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