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Chapter 16: Manpower Procurement

The Manhattan Project in its manpower requirements and problems, as in so many other respects, was unique among wartime programs. Its work force, for example, was notable for its great diversity, running the gamut from completely unskilled manual laborers to the most highly trained scientists and technicians from all parts of the United States and from Canada, Great Britain, and many other countries. While the majority of its employees were civilians, representatives from all the military services were assigned to it. And in terms of total number of workers employed, Manhattan was one of the single largest wartime enterprises.

Less than two years after the Army took over active administration of the project, Manhattan was employing nearly 129,000 persons in its various operations. This peak figure, reached at the end of June 1944 when construction activity on the fissionable materials production plants was at a height, included contractor employment of 84,500 construction workers and 40,500 operating employees. In addition, there were slightly fewer than 1,800 military personnel assigned to the project and an equal number of civil service employees. Although construction activity gradually declined after the summer of 1944, total employment on the atomic project would continue at more than 100,000 into the summer of 1945, with military personnel reaching a peak of about 5,600 in the fall of that year.1

In recruiting and holding this vast work force, especially during the midwar period when competition for manpower from other important wartime programs was intense, Manhattan had to contend with a number of serious difficulties. Many of the skills the atomic project required were in chronic short supply; location of the major production plants in relatively remote areas with limited housing, inadequate transportation, and sparse population compounded existing manpower procurement obstacles; and the increasingly stringent requirements of the Selective Service System threatened to take away virtually irreplaceable technically trained workers at the most critical juncture in project operations. Even Manhattan’s eventual attainment of the highest priority among wartime programs recruiting personnel with scarce skills did not

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completely compensate for the many problems.2

The Manhattan Project, as other. World War II employers, operated in general compliance with existing labor laws, regulations, and policies, modified in certain instances to meet the exigencies of wartime conditions. Among those most affecting the program were the Davis-Bacon Act, the Convict Labor Law, the Eight-Hour Law, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Selective Training and Service Act, the Building and Construction Trades Wage Stabilization Agreement, and the “Little Steel” Formula. ‘There were also the various modifications of these basic statutes and regulations embodied in executive orders and engineer directives. The single most important modifying factor in the project’s adherence to existing manpower laws and regulations was its requirement for the most rigid security in all of its operations. Thus, for example, the Manhattan District placed strict limitations on union activities, established special grievance procedures in lieu of public hearings by the National Labor Relations Board, and provided its own internal administration of the Fair Labor Standards Act.3

Personnel Organization

Until mid-1942, Manhattan’s manpower problems were limited primarily to recruiting scientific and technical personnel. The National Research Council, under its contract with the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), had established the Office of Scientific Personnel in the spring of 1941, primarily to assist those wartime programs requiring scientifically trained persons. But as the demand rapidly increased, more drastic measures were needed to ensure an efficient and equitable employment of scientific manpower. Accordingly, Vannevar Bush, as head of the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD), had appointed the Committee on Scientific Personnel. This committee, which held its first meeting in June 1942, not only recommended measures for securing scientific personnel but also actively assisted OSRD contractors in such matters as determining proper rates of compensation for scientific employees, securing deferments from military service for them, and recruiting additional scientists.4

The decision to proceed with construction of the production plants brought a major change in the atomic program’s manpower requirements. Henceforth, the emphasis became one of fulfilling requirements for a complex industrial enterprise. Project recruiters now had to procure many engineers and technicians, tens of thousands of skilled and unskilled

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workers from the ranks of American labor, and the additional administrative personnel, both civilian and military, requisite to managing the far-flung activities of this vast new army of atomic employees.5

The Army continued the OSRD practice of delegating most recruitment activities to project contractors. Generally speaking, Manhattan recruited only the District headquarters staff of specialists, whose primary role in manpower procurement was to assist project contractors and the hundreds of firms that supplied essential equipment and services to the project. The District personnel staff devoted considerable time to such measures as wage adjustments and improvement of working conditions that contributed to procurement and maintenance of an adequate work force. More often than not the District’s role was to serve as the liaison channel through which project contractors and suppliers could communicate with various governmental agencies, with labor unions, and with other wartime organizations that could provide assistance in the solution of manpower problems.6

Under the original organization of the district engineer’s office, various personnel activities were distributed among several divisions. (See Chart 1.) The Military Personnel Section, which also carried on liaison with the Selective Service, constituted a part of the District’s Administrative Division. The Labor Relations Section, which was concerned mostly with wage and salary schedules, formed part of the Service and Control Division and operated in combination with the Safety-Accident Prevention Section. Other departments administered routine personnel matters. Personnel problems from area engineers in the field were similarly distributed to the appropriate headquarters office for disposition.7

Following the move of the Manhattan District headquarters from New York to Oak Ridge in August 1943, the district engineer took steps to centralize the administration of many functions, including those relating to manpower. (See Chart 2.) He shifted the Military Personnel Section, including its Selective Service functions, from the Administrative to the Service and Control Division. This left the Administrative Division with supervision chiefly over civil service and other civilian personnel of the District and of the Clinton Engineer Works (the District headquarters had absorbed most functions of the Clinton Area Engineers Office when it moved to Oak Ridge). Finally, in February 1944, the district engineer created a separate Personnel Division, placing in it all those manpower functions hitherto carried out by the Service and Control Division. To provide more assistance to area engineers and contractors as manpower problems reached a peak, both the Selective Service and the Labor Relations Sections of the new Personnel Division opened field offices in New York,

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Chicago, and Oak Ridge, and at Pasco, Washington, near the Hanford Engineer Works.8

Organizational arrangements at field installations did not conform to any set pattern. Each area engineer or post commander set up the type of organization required for the kind of personnel needed to perform the work in progress at his installation. At the Hanford Engineer Works, for example, where manpower requirements resembled those at the Clinton Engineer Works, the area engineer established an organization similar to that in Oak Ridge. A large labor relations section worked in close coordination with Du Pont and local labor officials in the recruitment and employment of thousands of construction and production workers. A smaller personnel section dealt with problems relating to employees of the area engineer’s office.9

At the Los Alamos Laboratory and the University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory, the work force consisted primarily of civilian scientists and technicians employed under university contracts, a few civil service employees, some military personnel, and a varying number of workers brought in by construction and service contractors. Because there were no large production plants at either site, labor relations with construction and production workers constituted only a minor administrative problem. At Los Alamos, which the Army administered as a military post, the post commander established a small civilian personnel section in his administrative office to deal with nonmilitary manpower problems and to assist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the civilian project director, in recruiting scientists, technicians, and other specialists. At the Metallurgical Laboratory, manpower problems were similar to those at Los Alamos, except that there were fewer military personnel. The area engineer for the laboratory designated the personnel staff in his office as the Deferments Branch, which was indicative of its primary function.10

Neither the district engineer nor the area engineers by themselves could solve some of the most crucial manpower problems. Procurement of industrial workers with scarce skills, recruitment of scientific and technical specialists, and obtaining deferments for key personnel were examples of manpower problems so vitally related to the entire war effort that they could not be adequately dealt with except through officials who controlled the nationwide recruitment and employment of manpower. Consequently, General Groves made his personal headquarters in Washington, D.C., available as a liaison point through which project personnel officials at District headquarters and in the field installations could channel manpower problems to appropriate Washington officials or agencies. More often than not, the Manhattan commander himself would take the initial steps.11

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General Groves was able to deal effectively with the problems of wartime manpower without building up a complex organization in his own office because he could secure assistance whenever he needed it from manpower specialists in the Office of the Under Secretary of War, the Army Service Forces’ (ASF) Industrial Personnel Division, and the Office of the Chief of Engineers (OCE). Also, in matters pertaining to military personnel, he could channel project requests directly to Lt. Gen. Brehon B. Someryell, the ASF commander. Furthermore, through these various War Department channels Groves had ready access to union leaders, manpower officials in federal agencies, and others who controlled important elements of the country’s manpower pool.12

Manpower procurement activities of the atomic project generally fell into three major categories: the quest for scientific and technical personnel, nationwide recruitment of industrial labor, and securing military and civilian administrative personnel. Each aspect of manpower procurement presented its own special problems and the Army administrators of the project would devote a considerable amount of time and energy to their resolution.13

Scientific and Technical Personnel

Even though there was a decrease in research and development activities after mid-1942, the need for more scientists and technicians did not decline proportionately. Because of the highly technical and unusual character of the laboratory-devised methods for producing fissionable materials, the firms engaged in building the production plants had to rely upon the project’s research organizations for the technological knowledge to design, engineer, test, and operate the plants. Not only did these research organizations have to solve many crucial technical problems of plant construction and operation, they also had to supply from their own staffs on a more or less permanent basis many of the experts who supervised the equipping and operation of the plants.14

In addition to maintaining the staffs of these existing research organizations at a reasonable level of efficiency during 1943, Manhattan recruiters had to find scientists and technicians to staff an entire new research and development center operating under a University of California contract, the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico. At the peak of its activities in 1945, this installation required more than seven hundred scientifically trained persons on its staff. While many of the division and group leaders came from the project’s other research organizations, many of the technicians and junior scientists and

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some of the most important senior personnel were newly recruited.15

By 1943 junior scientists, typically graduate students with little or no practical experience, were about the only available scientifically educated manpower, and many of them were subject to the draft. In fact, a large number of the young scientists who came to work for the project after 1943 were already in uniform or, shortly after joining the atomic program, were called into service and assigned to the project’s Special Engineer Detachment.16

During the OSRD’s administration, each research and development organization had recruited its personnel with assistance and guidance from the OSRD’s Committee on Scientific Personnel. The Army continued essentially the same policy, with General Groves and the project’s Washington Liaison Office replacing the Committee on Scientific Personnel as the chief channel through which the directors of Manhattan’s research organizations could obtain assistance in difficult cases. The Manhattan commander, for example, often intervened directly with government or academic manpower officials to ensure an adequate staff for the new Los Alamos Laboratory, or to aid Manhattan contractors in obtaining technical personnel. Because most personnel in these categories already were employed on other important wartime projects, Groves frequently had to seek assistance at the highest levels to secure their transfer to the Manhattan Project.17

One method that proved to be most effective was a direct communication – usually a letter – from Groves to the appropriate university administrator, corporation president, or government agency head, pointing out the vital character of the atomic program and requesting the release or loan of scientists to the Manhattan Project. In other instances, Groves enlisted the aid of OSRD Director Vannevar Bush or Harvey Bundy, special assistant to Secretary Stimson, and, through Bundy, of the Secretary himself. Stimson, for example, was instrumental in recruiting Norman F. Ramsey, the radar specialist who helped design the atomic bomb.18

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Groves also turned often to his military and scientific advisers. Both Maj. Gen. Wilhelm D. Styer and Rear Adm. William R. Purnell of the Military Policy Committee assisted in securing scientists and technicians in active military service. Richard C. Tolman and James B. Conant were instrumental in procuring a number of key scientists for the Los Alamos project. Tolman drew up for Groves a comprehensive list of all atomic scientists in the United States and had them rated by scientists already assigned to the atomic project as to their ability, experience, qualities of leadership, and availability. Conant played an important part in persuading George B. Kistiakowsky, an explosives expert on the NDRC staff, to leave this position for one at Los Alamos and then in assisting him to secure additional scientists for his implosion research team at the laboratory. Supplementing the efforts of Tolman and Conant was Dean Samuel T. Arnold of Brown University, a chemist by training, engaged in 1943 as a consultant to recruit technical personnel at educational institutions.19

By late 1944, the Manhattan Project was employing virtually all available specially trained personnel. Hence, the only solution to answering the specific needs of the various project installations was to transfer scientists from one area to another area of the atomic program. For example, when Oppenheimer requested approximately fifty scientists holding a doctor of philosophy degree in physics, or its equivalent, to staff a major new division at the laboratory, he suggested that this number was available in the Metallurgical Project, serving as standby crews for the Hanford plant. After consultations with Metallurgical Project Director Arthur Compton, Groves directed him to release the fifty physicists from his program. By December 1944, Compton had complied, but only by placing on a virtual standby all research and development activities related to physics at the Clinton, Argonne, and Metallurgical laboratories.20

Industrial Labor

As in the procurement of scientific and technical personnel, the Manhattan Project employed a variety of methods and drew upon many sources in recruiting both skilled and unskilled labor. For assistance in procuring skilled construction workers and some maintenance personnel (carpenters, bricklayers, electricians,

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pipe fitters, mechanics, and related trades), Manhattan turned to the unions comprising the Building and Construction Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor. For unskilled or common labor and some semiskilled personnel (cafeteria employees, plant operation trainees, and similar job categories), it depended primarily upon recruiters hired by project contractors or by the Army, who followed regular routes established by the War Manpower Commission in their search for available workers. Supplementing these recruiters, but a far less productive source, were the offices of the United States Employment Service in each important employment center. Finally, for much of the manpower that supervised work forces for both plant construction and operation, the project relied upon personnel furnished directly by the major contractors.21

Manhattan’s multifaceted and far-ranging quest for workers was necessary because, by 1943, when the project was beginning its large-scale procurement of construction labor, the nation had used up the large pool of unemployed carried over from the Depression and was experiencing an actual labor shortage. Project recruiters had anticipated problems at the Hanford Engineer Works because it was located in Region XII of the War Manpower Commission, an area that long had had serious labor shortages. But they were surprised when a severe shortage of common labor developed at the Clinton Engineer Works where contractors were recruiting from Region VII (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee), an area that still had a labor surplus. Nevertheless, by June, lack of some three hundred laborers was jeopardizing the construction schedule at Clinton, and the indications were that neither the common laborers’ union nor the regular itinerant recruiters working through the U.S. Employment Service were going to be able to procure the additional numbers needed.22

For a solution, General Groves looked to manpower agencies in Washington, D.C. Using War Department channels, specifically Under Secretary of War Robert P. Patter-son’s office and the ASF’s Industrial Personnel Division, he negotiated with officials of the War Manpower Commission. His objective was to secure a change in certain commission practices. One such practice was the reluctance of its field organization to permit Manhattan recruiters to interview prospective workers in regions

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other than those in which atomic facilities were located until all local and regional employment needs in those other regions had been met. Another was what Groves claimed was its tendency to route Manhattan’s itinerant recruiters to small towns where few prospective workers were available, rather than to the cities where there was a surplus of labor. Du Pont officials at Hanford also had complained to Groves about this inconsistency in policy, “necessitating recruitment in a certain manner in one town and in a different manner in a similar nearby town.”23

As an immediate result of Groves’ negotiations with the Manpower Commission, the Manhattan Project in late summer of 1943 received a very limited and temporary priority for recruiting common labor. Taking care to maintain very strict control over what was to be the first wartime instance of establishing a system of priorities in manpower recruitment, the commission assigned a special representative to the Manhattan District, giving him authority to issue certificates of availability to potential recruits for the project’s common labor force. The representative could issue the certificates only to workers employed in nonessential jobs. Armed with these certificates, workers could leave their nonessential employment and go to work for Manhattan even though their employers were opposed to the move. At the same time, the Manpower Commission directed that all workers in the common labor category who had looked for employment through the U.S. Employment Service should be referred first to interviewers of Manhattan District contractors. When even these priority arrangements failed to secure all the common laborers needed, the commission authorized Manhattan recruiters to seek workers on a temporary basis in areas immediately adjacent to Region VII. The manpower priority system applied initially only to recruiting for the Clinton Engineer Works, but in September 1943 the commission also granted similar privileges to recruiters seeking common labor for the Hanford Engineer Works in Region XII.24

The Manpower Commission’s special concession only temporarily relieved the project’s labor recruiting problems. In late 1943 and early 1944, when requirements for both construction and production workers mushroomed, the atomic installations developed new manpower shortages. By April 1944, General Groves estimated that the project required an additional ten thousand construction workers at the main production plants and more than eighteen hundred research personnel at the research laboratories. He noted that the major deficiencies were a shortage of four thousand common laborers and twelve hundred operating personnel at Clinton and Hanford, respectively, and, in addition, of eight hundred millwrights at the latter site. The chief of the Labor Branch of ASF’s Industrial Personnel Division, Lt. Col.

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John K. Collins, confirmed Groves’ figures for the Clinton Engineer Works after an inspection trip there in May, adding the further observation that, as a result of the shortage, some seventeen hundred carpenters were doing laborers’ work at carpenters’ wage rates. Colonel Collins cited, too, the need for electricians, estimating the requirements to be twenty-five hundred – more than twice the number Groves had mentioned.25

In spite of these shortages, General Groves remained optimistic that the atomic program had a good chance to produce a bomb during the first part of 1945, provided that the project continued to have the “highest priority in supplies, personnel, and equipment.”26 When the Manhattan commander expressed this view at a meeting of the Combined Policy Committee, Secretary Stimson, who was presiding, assured him that the project would continue to have first priority in manpower recruitment. In March 1944, the War Production Board placed Manhattan at the top of its list of the twelve most urgent programs currently in progress. Then in November 1944, the War Manpower Commission further strengthened Manhattan’s top-priority position by awarding the project the highest category under its system for priority referral of workers seeking jobs through the U.S. Employment Service.27

Manhattan, however, did not rely solely upon a high-priority rating. Working in close coordination with labor officials in Under Secretary of War Patterson’s office, the District arranged for assignment of special recruiting teams to Clinton and Hanford, composed of eight or nine military officers from the Manpower Commission, the ASF’s Industrial Personnel Division, and the Corps of Engineers. Special representatives designated by the commission and the War Department coordinated the activities of the teams and provided them with a direct channel of communication to Washington manpower agencies. Because of the success of these special military teams, Manhattan continued to use them well into 1945. In late 1944, for example, the Los Alamos Laboratory desperately needed 190 additional machinists and toolmakers, a category of skilled workers always difficult to recruit. The District organized several teams – each composed of an Army officer, a professional recruiter, and a security agent – and dispatched them into six manpower areas (Regions I, II, III, V, VI, and VII). In less than a month they had procured all of the machinists and toolmakers required by the New Mexico installation.28

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Procurement of certain types of essential skilled labor, such as pipe fitters and electricians, defied efforts of even special recruiting teams, and other measures had to be instituted. When construction at Hanford in the summer of 1944 required several hundred additional pipe fitters, Du Pont, the prime contractor, and the International Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters jointly launched a major recruiting effort, even though the absolute unavailability of pipe fitters in the civilian labor market foredoomed them to failure. There were, however, many soldiers with this skill in Army units stationed in the United States. Consequently, Secretary Stimson directed Army Chief of Staff Marshall to transfer 200 enlisted men with pipe fitting skills into the Enlisted Reserve Corps for a period of 90 days (subsequently extended to 180 days). The soldiers had to be in limited service status, that is, not qualified for overseas duty, and willing to work at Hanford. By early September, the first of an eventual total of 198 military pipe fitters were reporting for duty at the plutonium site.29

About the same time, a shortage of some twenty-five hundred electricians was seriously jeopardizing meeting construction schedules at both Hanford and Clinton, and project recruiters indicated to General Groves that there was little likelihood of obtaining them through normal’ employment channels. In this emergency the Manhattan commander once again turned to Under Secretary of War Patterson’s office for assistance. Patterson immediately got in touch with Edward J. Brown, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and Laurence W. Davis, manager of the National Electrical Contractors Association, as well as officials at the War Manpower Commission. In due course he and Groves worked out an agreement with these organizations, the so-called Patterson-Brown Plan, by which Manhattan had authority to borrow for a ninety-day period electricians already employed on jobs not essential to the war. To make the plan attractive, there was provision for payment of travel expenses and a guarantee that the individuals would not lose their seniority rights and could return to their previous place of employment after completing ninety days of service on the atomic project. To encourage cooperation of employers, the plan provided that all organizations that released electricians to work at Hanford or Clinton would receive official recognition. A news release from Patterson’s office gave the plan wide publicity in the newspapers, and General Styer requested the appropriate Army service commands to furnish whatever assistance they could. In a few months, this novel solution supplied the electricians needed to meet both Hanford and Clinton construction deadlines.30

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Military and civilian 
workers at CEW

Military and civilian workers at CEW

After the fashion of the fringe benefits of the Patterson-Brown Plan, project recruiters frequently offered special inducements to attract persons with critical skills, usually in the form of payment of all or part of a worker’s transportation costs in traveling to Hanford or Clinton, a guarantee of housing (but usually not for family), and furnishing recreational and other community facilities. On occasion, Manhattan applied to the National War Labor Board for modification or adjustment of the prevailing wage rates. Thus, in July 1943, Under Secretary of War Patterson secured a wage rate increase ($0.50 to $0.575 an hour) for common labor at the Clinton Engineer Works and, a year later, one for skilled maintenance workers, especially electrical repairmen and machinists. The latter increase was necessary because these workers could earn a higher wage at construction jobs, at TVA installations, and at some of the major war industries in the local area than as employees of the atomic plants.31

Civilian and Military Personnel

Although most Manhattan workers were employees of project contractors, two important groups were not: civil service employees at District headquarters and in the several area offices, and military personnel serving on the District staff, in the area offices, and in the various military units. Combined numbers of these two groups, even at the height of project activities, amounted to considerably less than 10 percent of the Manhattan Project’s total manpower. But because many members of these groups held key positions in administration and operations, they exercised an influence over the course of the atomic bomb program far out of proportion to their relatively small numbers.

From the start of its administration of the project, the Army employed civilians in staff positions at both the District and area levels. Generally, they served in positions requiring special administrative or technical knowledge and experience, such as

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those relating to finance, insurance, safety, contracts, and office management, as well as in jobs that women could fill. Most were recruited through regular civil service channels or were transferred to the Manhattan Project from other government agencies. When Colonel Marshall formed the original Manhattan District headquarters organization, he primarily recruited civilian employees who were members of his former Syracuse (New York) District staff. Included in this group were a number of veteran Corps of Engineers civilians who, as the District headquarters expanded, received military commissions. The District continued to hire additional civil service employees, securing many from other engineer projects, from other government agencies, and from the civilian staffs of the other military services. Project area engineers also followed similar policies in forming their local administrative staffs.32

For reasons of security and for convenience, the District carried its civilian workers on its employment roles as if they were regular engineer employees. While this arrangement facilitated administrative aspects, it subjected the District to all wartime manpower regulations. For example, the presidential proclamation of December 1942 suspended the eight-hour day and that of February 1943 established a 48-hour workweek for all full-time workers in areas of labor shortage. Consistent with these regulations, the War Department provided in May that its civilian employees could work a six-day, 48-hour week, receiving overtime pay for work on Sunday or beyond eight hours on a weekday, and the District adopted this policy in June, including in it a provision for overtime work up to sixty-four hours a week when specific emergency situations required it. In actual practice, only lower-salaried employees received overtime pay. Higher-paid employees, such as section and division chiefs, who put in overtime did so voluntarily, without additional compensation.33

An unforeseen disadvantage of this administrative arrangement was that the District also had to conform with OCE manpower ceilings, as required by the ASF or the War Department. Thus in the hectic summer of 1943, when the project was on the threshold of rapid expansion, OCE personnel officials notified General Groves that the District must reduce its personnel by some 13 percent. The Manhattan commander immediately registered vigorous objection. General Styer interceded with OCE officials, who then arranged to have other engineer agencies absorb the staff reductions prescribed for the Manhattan District. A year later, OCE personnel authorities again informed the District that substantial reduction in both civilian and military personnel

Chart 5: Estimated officer 
personnel requirements for the Manhattan District, January 1943

Chart 5: Estimated officer personnel requirements for the Manhattan District, January 1943

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were necessary. Lt. Col. Charles Vanden Buick, head of the District’s Administrative Division, instructed area office and division and section heads to initiate appropriate measures, such as reassignment or separation of unsatisfactory workers and elimination of duplication of functions. By this time some personnel reduction in those staffs primarily concerned with site development and design and building of production facilities was possible, but operational activities were expanding rapidly, requiring enlargement of District and area staffs overseeing plant operations and bomb development. The net result was continued growth in total personnel, a trend that was to persist until the fall of 1945.34

Militarization of the atomic project did not begin until the summer of 1942 (Chart 5). The first group of military personnel came to the newly activated Manhattan District as part of an OCE authorization of sixty-two officers, assigned primarily to fill key supervisory and administrative posts in the District headquarters and area offices. For many months, however, the number of active duty personnel remained small (as late as December 1943, no more than four hundred). Subsequently, additional authorizations from OCE, ASF, and, in certain special cases, the Secretary of War himself, furnished a continuing inflow of officers and warrant officers. The majority came under a series of supplementary bulk allotments, but some were also included in personnel authorizations for military police, counterintelligence, Women’s Army Corps (WAC),35 and other units assigned to the project. The District procured some hard-to-secure specialists – for example, patent attorneys, engineers, chemists, and physicists – by obtaining authorization to have naval officers assigned to Manhattan and to commission qualified civilians directly. The District’s Military Personnel Section in Oak Ridge remained in charge of the procurement and central administration of all project-commissioned personnel throughout the war, numbering more than six hundred by the summer of 1945 and stationed in many different parts of the United States as well as in several overseas areas.36

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Beginning in 1943, the District regularly requisitioned military personnel to carry out functions that, for reasons of security or lack of civilian manpower, could not be performed by civilian employees. In January, General Groves requested the Services of Supply (ASF’s earlier designation) to allot military police, medical, and veterinary personnel for a special military police company to protect and service the highly secret operations at Los Alamos. In March, he asked for additional military personnel to form provisional military police, medical, and engineer detachments to be used at the other major project sites. The ASF promptly authorized the requested military manpower, providing for their activation and training at appropriate training centers of the 6th and 8th Service Commands.37

When rapid expansion created an urgent need for additional military personnel to handle classified mail and records, Groves requested the ASF to provide Manhattan with a detachment from the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) to perform that type of clerical work. The processing of mail and records at District headquarters, as well as at the Clinton, Hanford, and Los Alamos installations, Groves pointed out, provided such a broad view of project activities that it must be kept in the hands of personnel under strict military control. The 1st Provisional WAAC Detachment was activated at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, on 17 April, and a few days later an officer and six auxiliaries reported to Los Alamos. In June, the ASF authorized Manhattan’s request for a total of three WAAC officers and seventy-five enlisted women, and in subsequent months granted the District substantial WAG allotments. In the period from 1943 through 1945, those WAC members assigned to units at Clinton, Hanford, Los Alamos, and other project installations worked not only as handlers of classified material but also at a great variety of other jobs, some of them highly technical and scientific.38

By spring of 1943, project leaders were anticipating problems in recruiting and holding younger technicians and scientists who were subject to military service. The obvious solution was to constitute a military organization within the Manhattan Project to which these technicians and scientists could be assigned. Accordingly, in May, the District established a Special Engineer Detachment (SED) and requested ASF authorization for an allotment of 675 men to form a headquarters element and four separate companies. Recruiting began in late 1943 through the Army Specialized Training Program, the National Roster of Scientific and Specialized Personnel in Washington, D.C., and

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Women’s Army Corps 
detachment at CEW

Women’s Army Corps detachment at CEW

universities and colleges in all parts of the country. Personnel officials also screened and interviewed qualified individuals in Army camps and directed inquiries to other government agencies and private industrial firms concerning former employees who were in the military service.39

The District assigned most of its scientific and technical enlisted personnel to the SED unit. In those instances, however, when the District had to place enlisted men on duty with private contractors or in small communities, it transferred them to the Enlisted Reserve Corps. This permitted the men to work in an inconspicuous civilian status yet to remain, for reasons of security, under military control. It also reduced the cost of military administration for small numbers of enlisted personnel stationed in outlying areas.40

In providing for the efficient and adequate administration of Manhattan Project enlisted personnel, whether in scientific and technical, clerical, housekeeping, or military intelligence and security units, the District encountered special problems. Some of these stemmed from the rapidity of increase in enlisted personnel – from several hundred in early 1944, to twenty-six hundred by year’s end, and continuing up to a maximum total of

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Enlisted men at CEW during 
off-duty hours, studying U

Enlisted men at CEW during off-duty hours, studying U.S. Armed Forces Institute courses

about five thousand by the fall of 1945. Other problems arose from the wide geographical distribution of enlisted personnel, making any effort to achieve effective centralized administrative control from District headquarters in Oak Ridge impracticable.41

Under normal circumstances, a solution would have been attachment of the District’s scattered military units to the various area service commands for purposes of administration, but such arrangements presented a security risk. Consequently, the district engineer assigned responsibility for administering enlisted personnel to the commissioned officers at the larger sites and to the experienced noncommissioned officers at the remaining project locations, making them directly responsible to the District’s Military Personnel Section in Oak Ridge. Administrative policies varied, depending upon conditions prevailing at each particular location. The policy on rations and quarters for enlisted personnel is illustrative. Enlisted men at all areas except Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and Richland received a rental allowance in lieu of quarters. The same was true for rations, except at Los Alamos and Richland. Similarly, WAC enlisted personnel received a monetary allowance in lieu of both quarters and rations,

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The large troop contingent 
at Los Alamos on parade

The large troop contingent at Los Alamos on parade

except at Oak Ridge, Richland, Los Alamos, and New York; those at Oak Ridge and in New York lived in government quarters and received a daily monetary allowance in lieu of rations.42

In early 1945, the OCE, which had been serving the project as a higher-echelon channel for manpower procurement and organization, provided the Manhattan District with a military designation: 9812th Technical Service Unit, Corps of Engineers, Manhattan District. Effective on 1 February, most of the uniformed personnel, including SED units at Clinton, Hanford, and Los Alamos, were assigned to the 9812th. At Los Alamos, however, military police, WAC, and other service elements continued to be assigned to the 4817th Service Command Unit, an element of the 8th Service Command.43

Success in the procurement of tens of thousands of new employees with a variety of skills and talents, perhaps unmatched by any other World War II program, was directly attributable to the personnel policies and organization developed by the Army for the Manhattan Project in late 1942 and 1943. General Groves and the District personnel staff had persevered during the period of severe

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manpower shortages and – by combining effective use of existing manpower procurement facilities in the OSRD, the War Department, and the War Manpower Commission with those developed for the Manhattan District – were able to meet substantially all of the atomic program’s requirements for scientific and technical workers, skilled and unskilled industrial labor, and civil and military personnel on schedule. Consequently, by late 1944, with most of the manpower procurement needs attained, project officials could shift their primary focus to conservation of the work force in face of such potentially eroding factors as the demands of Selective Service and labor union organizing activities.