Page 394

Chapter 19: Communications and Transportation

Along with electric power, communications and transportation constituted vital process support elements for the Manhattan Project’s laboratories, production plants, and atomic communities. With the major sites located in widely separated regions of the country, successful project operations were dependent on achieving effective coordination via an efficient communications network and on timely procurement of materials from suppliers in all parts of the United States via readily accessible rail and highway transport. Because preliminary surveys of the Tennessee, Washington State, and New Mexico sites revealed that existing local communications and transportation facilities were relatively rudimentary, the Army – under conditions demanding extraordinary measures of safety and security – faced the large task of developing them into the complex and sophisticated systems required by the atomic installations.


A common sight in and around the Clinton, Hanford, and Los Alamos installations during their developmental phase was linemen busily stringing and connecting miles of wire or cable, in some instances, across great stretches of mostly open and uninhabited countryside. While much of this was for power transmission, a considerable part was for complex and highly integrated communications systems.

Communications at each of the atomic installations, for all practical purposes, had to be constructed from the ground up, because none of them had more than the minimum facilities normally found in rural, sparsely populated regions in the United States before World War II. Of the three sites, Hanford had the most complete existing system with telephone service being furnished to the towns and farms in the area by five independent companies and the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company. Furthermore, the Bonneville Power Administration maintained for its own use a two-way radio network in the vicinity of its 115-kilovolt lines in the Hanford area. In contrast, Clinton had only one telephone line, a 6-mile section of the Clinton-Harriman toll line, that served a few of the farmers who

Page 395

lived in the area and Los Alamos had only a government-owned Forest Service line, operated by the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company and providing service to the boys’ school located on the site. With respect to all of the privately owned communications facilities found on the atomic sites, the War Department’s policy was to acquire them and, wherever feasible, to integrate them into the extensive systems being planned for Manhattan’s atomic installations.1

At each of the major sites, Manhattan worked closely with the Army Signal Corps, with local telephone and telegraph companies, and with prime contractor organizations to install the most up-to-date communications available under wartime procurement conditions. Because of unusual safety and security requirements, these communications included such specialized instruments as alarm devices, to warn of fire and other hazardous conditions in time to guarantee evacuation of dangerous areas, and two-way radio networks and radio-monitoring devices. Connections into the nationwide Army Command Administrative Network teletype circuit with codification equipment provided rapid and secure communication between the various facilities of the Manhattan District, including General Groves’ personal headquarters in Washington, D.C. Other TWX equipment furnished direct teletype service between prime contractors’ field organizations and their home offices. An example was Du Pont’s private teletypewriter service between its Hanford and Richland offices and head office in Wilmington.2

The Army was more directly concerned with details of designing, building, and operating communications than in most other process support activities, partly because its Signal Corps had the necessary expertise to furnish communications speedily and the Army Command Administrative Network was an established communications system that could serve the specialized needs of the project. Also, the Army wished to maintain close control over all aspects of the project’s security system in which all forms of communications played a vital role.

The extent of the Signal Corps’ participation in development of atomic project communications varied from site to site. At Clinton, the 4th Service Command signal officer served chiefly in an advisory capacity to the district engineer, participating most actively in the period before the establishment of a communications unit in the Clinton Area Engineers

Page 396

Office in April 1943. At Los Alamos, the Signal Corps’ contribution was limited to furnishing technical advice and some items of equipment. But at Hanford, planning and overseeing construction of the telephone system was one of the largest single jobs undertaken by the Signal Corps in the United States during the war.3

In early 1943, after the Signal Corps had agreed to Colonel Marshall’s request to assist Manhattan in building the Hanford telephone system, 9th Service Command signal officers participated in a series of planning meetings with representatives of the State of Washington Public Utilities Commission, local telephone companies, Du Pont, and the Hanford Area Engineers Office. A problematic issue was the division of responsibilities for design and construction of the Hanford system: Du Pont and the Signal Corps both wanted the task. Apprised of this situation in June, Groves immediately conferred with officials in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer in Washington, D.C., and, after emphasizing the project’s requirement for complete secrecy, successfully worked out an arrangement with them for Du Pont to design the system in conformity with standard specifications of Army telephone installations. According to this working agreement, the Signal Corps’ Plant Engineering Agency of Philadelphia would provide Du Pont with its technical expertise, if needed; Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company crews, under supervision of the 9th Service Command signal officer, would construct the system; both the Signal Corps and area engineer would take responsibility for procuring equipment and materials; and Du Pont would give Pacific Telephone and Telegraph any assistance it needed in handling materials and securing workmen.4

The division of responsibilities for design and construction of the Clinton and Hanford communications facilities followed a similar pattern; the prime contractors had responsibility for overseeing the task and the local telephone company for actual construction. At Clinton, Stone and Webster designed the system in consultation with the 4th Service Command signal officer and erected the telephone buildings, but shared the line construction work with the Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company. At Los Alamos, the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company performed whatever construction was necessary.5

As Manhattan’s production installations reached the operations stage, the Army increased security by tightening up its administrative machinery for control and supervision of communications. At Clinton, for example, the administrative element supervising

Page 397

communications – at first only a unit in the Clinton area office, then later part of a section under the District’s executive officer – became in early 1945 a separate branch of the Operations Division at District headquarters in Oak Ridge. Similarly, at Hanford, when the area engineer enlarged his communications staff, he requisitioned Women’s Army Corps personnel because they were more readily subject to close security control than civilian employees.6

During the war, however, the Army never actually took over operation of project communications facilities except, of course, those that were used to carry on the business of the District itself and those at Los Alamos, which operated as a military post. Completed installations were turned over to the operating contractors. At Hanford, where Du Pont was both the construction and operations contractor, the company’s operational staff continued to hire and supervise employees who manned the switchboards, operated teletype machines, and kept the lines in repair. Similarly, at Clinton, the Roane-Anderson Company assumed responsibility for operating the Oak Ridge community facilities, built by Stone and Webster, and also arranged with the Western Union Company to provide telegraphic service for the town. And the operating contractors took over plant communications facilities in the production areas and employed Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company crews, under supervision of the District’s Communications Branch, to do maintenance, repair, and installation work.7


Transportation problems for the Clinton, Hanford, and Los Alamos sites were similar to those of furnishing electric power and communications. Project site selection teams had chosen locations near well-established railroad lines and highways, but the requirement for relative isolation meant that the sites themselves generally lacked adequate access to these nearby facilities. Clinton’s primarily rural acreage had only one major highway and no rail line, although main lines of the Southern Railway and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad ran close by the reservation. Hanford’s semiarid farming and ranching country had a highway system adequate only to serve its sparse agricultural population and, in its northern area, a single-tracked, second-class branch rail line. Los Alamos was the most isolated of all, with only a few secondary roads and a branch of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad some 25 miles distant.8

Transportation problems fell into two categories: those within the

Page 398

boundaries of a site, where Manhattan could exercise a great deal of control over their solution; and those within the region immediately surrounding the site, where control was much more tenuous. The Army’s objective was to achieve a coordinated system that would adequately serve the transportation needs in both the on- and off-site areas. In the interests of economy, both in time and money, the Army followed a consistent policy of using, to the maximum extent feasible, all available means of transportation and adding new facilities only where project requirements made them absolutely necessary.

In those instances where the Army had to provide new transportation facilities, it delegated as much of the task as possible to nonmilitary agencies. Development of transportation means within the boundaries of each site became the responsibility of the construction contractors. At Clinton, the three major construction contractors – Stone and Webster, Du Pont, and the J. A. Jones Construction Company – designed and built the rail and road system, respectively, for the town of Oak Ridge and the electromagnetic plant, for the plutonium semiworks, and for the diffusion plants; at Hanford, Du Pont expanded the existing road network and built an on-site rail system; and at Los Alamos, the M. M. Sundt and A. O. Peabody construction companies, with assistance from post work crews, improved the existing road system and built many road extensions.

To the extent feasible, the Army also assigned transportation as a function of the operating contractors. Roane-Anderson, for example, provided transportation for the town of Oak Ridge, the Tennessee Eastman Corporation for the electromagnetic plant area, the University of Chicago-operated Clinton Laboratories for the plutonium semiworks, and the Carbide and Carbon Chemicals Corporation for the diffusion plants area. At Hanford, Du Pont and the Army shared responsibility for the on-site railroad net, but the area engineer maintained the roads, controlled highway traffic, and operated the bus service within the site. At Los Alamos, where security was an overriding consideration, the Army retained almost exclusive control over operation of all forms of transportation, limiting vehicular traffic within the reservation to trucks, buses, and cars driven by military personnel.9

Except for certain aspects that required negotiations with federal agencies, resolution of most transportation problems was the responsibility of the Army officer in charge of each of the sites. He had, for example, to reach agreement with state and local officials on building access roads and improving existing highways, to negotiate with local bus companies to increase service between nearby towns and the site bus depots, to arrange with the Transportation Corps’ zone officer for vehicle procurement, and to supervise the construction and operating contractors. Each officer in charge had to set up an appropriate organization within his staff for this particular purpose.

Page 399

Unimproved Santa Fe – 
Los Alamos road

Unimproved Santa Fe – Los Alamos road

During the period when construction was the dominant activity at Clinton, the district engineer administered day-to-day transportation matters through a section in the Construction Branch of the District’s Clinton Engineer Works (CEW) Central Facilities Division. He formed a CEW Transportation Board in December 1943, comprised of representatives of the prime contractors, to assist him in formulating area-wide policies and procedures concerning passenger transport, traffic regulations, licenses and regulatory activities, and government-owned vehicles. In mid-1944, he reorganized the administration of transportation, forming in the Services Branch of the Facilities Division two separate sections – Automotive and Bus Transportation – to monitor automotive, rail and motor freight, and bus operations. At the same time, he transferred the CEW Transportation Board’s functions to his policy-making operational group, the Central Facilities Advisory Committee.10

At Hanford, the area engineer established in March 1943 a Transportation Department in his office to maintain and operate all transportation except railroads, which Du Pont operated, and to oversee all vehicular procurement – usually surplus stocks from other Corps of Engineers projects or from Transportation

Page 400

Improved Santa Fe – 
Los Alamos road, ascending to the Pajarito Plateau from the Rio Grande valley

Improved Santa Fe – Los Alamos road, ascending to the Pajarito Plateau from the Rio Grande valley

Corps sources. Burgeoning transportation requirements resulted in a departmental reorganization in late 1944, first as the Transportation Office under the chief of operations and finally as the Transportation Branch in the Administrative Division. These requirements gradually declined in early 1945 with the completion of major construction at the site, making possible a substantial reduction of employees in the branch.11

Primarily for security reasons, but also consistent with its administration as a military post, the Army furnished and operated almost all types of transportation at Los Alamos. In mid-1943, the post commander assigned responsibility for transportation to a supply and transportation officer in the Supply Division, who, in turn, delegated actual operation of the Motor Pool and Motor Maintenance Section to an assistant transportation officer. This administrative arrangement, with only minor changes, continued for the duration of the war.12

Motor Vehicles and Roads

Manhattan’s transportation requirements were out of the ordinary, even for a wartime activity. For example,

Page 401

the project was unusually dependent upon the motor vehicle for transporting its employees relatively long distances from the communities where they lived. Primarily for safety and security, major installations at both Hanford and Clinton were not only miles apart but also a considerable distance from their operating communities, Oak Ridge and Richland, and from off-site towns where many other project employees lived. Plant-operating employees residing at Richland had a round trip of from 58 to 76 miles each day. Workers coming from Knoxville by bus rode some 17 to 20 miles to the Oak Ridge terminal and then transferred to other means of transportation to get to specific site locations, including the gaseous diffusion plant nearly 10 miles west of the terminal. Even at Los Alamos, where the need for exceptional security dictated housing as many employees as possible on the site, hundreds of construction and service personnel commuted long distances from off-site communities. Typical was the 35- to 45-mile trip from Santa Fe over mountainous and generally poorly maintained state highways.13 (See Maps 3, 4, and 5.)

Manhattan relied primarily upon motor buses to cope with its huge commuter problem. At Hanford, the Transportation Department regularly maintained, scheduled, dispatched, and operated more than 900 buses, making it probably the world’s largest motor bus operator in a given area during World War II.14 From April 1943 to March 1945, a total of 20 million passengers rode some 340 million miles on the Hanford system. The Tennessee bus system, which was maintained and operated by civilian firms under government contract, was considerably smaller. Nevertheless, by the end of 1944, more than 350 buses were in off-area service. In addition, a substantial number more, operated by Roane-Anderson’s CEW Bus Authority formed in December 1943, provided service within the boundaries of the site (as, for example, for the townspeople living in Oak Ridge). Manhattan regularly received assistance from the Transportation Corps, acting through its appropriate zonal commands, in procurement of most of the buses used at Clinton and Hanford and in the operation of its various bus systems.15

As on countless other war projects, thousands of Manhattan workers commuted in private automobiles. At Clinton, this was the major means of passenger transportation in the early stages of the project, and by early 1944 nearly twenty-five thousand automobiles were passing through the reservation gates each day. The Army took steps to supervise and control

Page 402

Oak Ridge Bus Terminal

Oak Ridge Bus Terminal

this heavy traffic, encouraging share-the-ride programs; assisting employees in procurement of rationed tires and gasoline; and trying, without too much success, to provide automobile repair and maintenance facilities.16

Manhattan’s heavy dependence upon buses and automobiles placed further strain upon existing road networks, which already were disintegrating under the pounding they received from the hundreds of trucks and other vehicles operated by the construction contractors. While the Army itself did not undertake to build and maintain roads for the project, area engineer personnel at each of the sites devoted much time to supervising the efforts made by the major construction firms to improve original roads, design and build efficient new plant road networks and connecting routes, and maintain all road and highway facilities essential to project operations. In most instances, the major contractors followed the practice of subcontracting road work to local construction firms that had equipment and working crews for the job.

Road development at Hanford will serve as an example of what in general was done at all the major sites. In January 1943, the site selection team had reported to General Groves that the road system of the Washington site consisted essentially of two main state highways: one running east from Yakima through what would become the heart of the production plant area, thence to Hanford and on to

Page 403

Spokane; and the other running from Richland to Hanford by way of the Yakima River horn. This major existing axis, plus a few secondary roads, eventually became the nucleus for a system of 350 miles of roads of all types, most of them asphalt surfaced, including two four-lane divided highways running from the vicinity of the pile and separation plants southeastward to Richland. When critics later questioned the wisdom of building these broad thoroughfares across miles of arid sagebrush grazing lands, Groves pointed out that they were consistent with the Army’s policy of preparing for every foreseeable contingency. Manhattan had to provide for the quick evacuation of thousands of workers in the event of an explosion, or similar accident, in the production area that conceivably might spread deadly radiation over a wide zone. Under the day-to-day supervision and inspection of the area engineer’s staff, Du Pont planned and built the Hanford road system, employing two California road-building firms to do most of the actual earth moving, grading, and paving.’17

Existing access roads near the Manhattan reservations were generally inadequate and poorly maintained. The Army improved the original off-site road networks to keep them in usable condition and arranged for construction of certain new connecting routes. Whenever and wherever possible,

Manhattan tried to secure agreements with county, state, and federal highway officials for sharing the work of carrying out improvements on access roads. For example, in November 1943, District representatives met with officials of the state of Tennessee, the Public Roads Administration, Roane and Anderson Counties, and the principal contractors to work out an overall access road program, agreeing to assignment of priorities so that each project would be undertaken in order of its urgency. In carrying out the program, however, Manhattan found that while state and local highway officials endeavored to plan and build the sorely needed routes, they were unable in most cases to provide them in time to meet project requirements. Consequently, much access road work had to be done by Manhattan itself.18

Typical was the case of the Gallaher Bridge and Blair Roads. Manhattan submitted plans and specifications for these new roads to the Public Roads Administration in November 1943 as a basis for approval and allotment of the necessary funds, but the normal procedures of the Public Roads Administration and the Tennessee Department of Highways and Public Works preliminary to construction of a new road were so complicated and time-consuming that a start on building of the two access routes was not likely to be made until April 1944. Because the roads were needed urgently to provide good access from the west and north to the gaseous diffusion area, the Army built them as

Page 404

quickly as possible. The Real Estate Branch, Ohio River Division, Corps of Engineers, acquired the rights of way and the district engineer contracted with two road-building firms to do the actual construction. Work on the Gallaher Bridge Road started in mid-January and on the Blair Road at the beginning of February. Both roads were in use by May 1944.19

In spite of vigorous efforts, the Army experienced considerable difficulty in maintaining project road networks, especially those outside the reservations. Constant and heavy use of roads originally designed to carry only secondary traffic was one of the factors that contributed to maintenance headaches. Another was the problem of coordinating the activities of state, county, and local authorities who had responsibility for repair and upkeep of many of the off-area access roads. State and county maintenance crews were handicapped by lack of equipment, workmen, and funds. At Clinton, the Army employed its own project personnel and equipment for road maintenance, financing the work from funds allotted for the purpose by the Public Roads Administration. It followed a similar policy at Hanford, where the Public Roads Administration provided money to the Washington State Highway Department and local county highway departments. At the Los Alamos reservation, the Army hired road-building contractors to assist state and local highway crews in maintenance of off-site roads.20


While Manhattan made extensive use of motor vehicles to transport manpower, it shipped most materials and equipment by rail. This meant construction of miles of spur lines and plant rail nets to connect installations with main-line railroads. The expense and effort could be justified because they eliminated costly and time-consuming shipment by truck from off-site railheads. Relatively few rail transport problems arose for the Army in Tennessee. But at the Washington site, Groves and the Hanford area engineer became involved in a prolonged controversy with some of the western railroads concerning both the quality and extent of service to be provided for the plutonium works.

The rail net at Clinton consisted of two separate and unconnected systems. Stone and Webster built and operated the eastern rail net – or Central System, the popular designation until Roane-Anderson took over in 1944 – which provided service from the Louisville and Nashville’s Cincinnati-Knoxville line to the town of Oak Ridge and the electromagnetic plant area. (See Map I.) The western rail net, built and operated by J. A. Jones, provided the gaseous diffusion plant area with direct service from the Southern Railway’s Cincinnati-Chattanooga line. The only plant area not directly served by rail was the plutonium semiworks. To cope with an early shortage of transportation for workers commuting from off-area towns, the Army obtained an order from the Office of Defense Transportation for

Page 405

Gallaher Bridge Road at the 
Tennessee site

Gallaher Bridge Road at the Tennessee site

the Louisville and Nashville to operate passenger trains between Knoxville and Oak Ridge. This service, unwanted by the railroad company and never popular with the patrons, ended in the summer of 1944 when off-area bus service had increased sufficiently.21

One important feature of the Richland-Hanford area was its proximity to four main railroad lines: the Union Pacific; the Northern Pacific; the Spokane, Portland, and Seattle; and the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific. (See Map 4.) Only the Milwaukee Railroad’s Priest Rapids Branch provided direct service into the site. This branch ran from the main line at Beverly Junction, located north of the site, some 46 miles (25 of them within the project area) south and east along the Columbia River to White Bluffs and Hanford, where it terminated. The other main-line railroads interconnected at Pasco, about 14 miles down-river from Richland. Pasco was the location of a large Transportation Corps holding and reconsignment point with extensive warehouse facilities and a railroad siding. In February 1943, the Hanford area engineer arranged through the Corps of Engineers’ Pacific Division and the 9th Service Command for transfer of the

Page 406

warehouses to the Manhattan District. Combined with expert assistance from Corps of Engineers officers assigned to the holding point, these facilities proved invaluable in handling the numerous shipments made to Hanford while the Priest Rapids Branch underwent extensive reconditioning.22

Working closely with the area railroads, Du Pont drew up a rail service improvement plan for Hanford, with provisions for a thorough overhaul of the second-class Priest Rapids Branch and its extension from Hanford southward to Richland; for building of a complex access rail system in the plant area; and for construction of a southern rail connection to link Richland with the three major lines running out of Pasco to the south of the site. Consistent with this plan, the Milwaukee Railroad began reconditioning and extending the Priest Rapids Branch in the spring of 1943. Its objectives were strengthening the existing track bed and numerous trestle bridges so that heavier trains could be run over the line and, at the point where the branch entered the installation, constructing a large classification yard to serve as a switching point for cars entering the plant rail system.23

Although the Hanford Area Engineers Office closely supervised the Milwaukee Railroad’s work, actively assisting in procurement of scarce rails, ties, rolling stock, and other items, there were interminable delays in deliveries and a general inability to cope with the ever-growing traffic. At Groves’ request, Lacey Moore, a Corps of Engineers rail transportation expert serving as an adviser to the Hanford area engineer, inspected the branch in September. He noted serious defects in design- of the line, including its excessive vulnerability to sabotage. Corrective measures by late November had somewhat improved conditions on the branch, leading Colonel Matthias to observe that “there is no question that the Milwaukee R.R. is now making every effort to meet the requirements of our service, and to expedite freight shipments as much as possible.”24 Yet systemic deficiencies continued to be a problem and were a cause of grave concern for several more months as construction activities at Hanford moved into high gear.25

The access rail system in the plant area comprised 125 miles of track, mostly in the northwest part of the site, and served the pile and separation plants, the metal fabrication and testing areas, and the administrative center at Richland. The Guy F. Atkinson Company of San Francisco, subcontracted by Du Pont, had responsibility for actual construction, with the Hanford area office providing considerable procurement assistance for hard-to-get rails, ties, rolling stock,

Page 407

and other equipment. Once completed, the Hanford area office and Du Pont jointly supervised operation of the plant rail net, with the latter providing operating personnel.26

Strong support existed for construction of the proposed southern rail connection, which involved reconditioning existing lines and building several miles of new tracks and a bridge across the Yakima River. The major railroads in the area wholeheartedly favored its construction, because of obvious benefits to them. Manhattan supported the connection not only as a shorter route than the Priest Rapids line for freight coming from suppliers in the central plains and southern Midwest states but also as an alternate rail access in the event of sabotage. And Du Pont endorsed the connection because it was not at all certain that the Priest Rapids line would be able to move, on schedule, the undetermined – but obviously large – amount of construction materials that would have to be shipped by rail at the height of the construction period.

But the unsettled question over who should bear the burden of cost of new construction delayed any prompt action. When lengthy negotiations in the spring and summer of 1943 failed to produce an agreement, General Groves – determined to get a firm decision – personally visited Union Pacific President William Jeffers, who was in Washington serving as the War Production Board’s rubber administrator. The informal understanding that resulted provided for construction of the southern connection by the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific Railroads, with the government bearing the entire cost of any new construction and the railroads agreeing to pay a user’s fee.27

Despite the Groves-Jeffers understanding, the participating railroads were unable to break a stalemate over financial terms, and new legal bottlenecks loomed up suddenly. At the end of August, the Great Northern Railroad, joint owner with the Northern Pacific of the Spokane, Portland, and Seattle Railroad, began a formal investigation to ascertain why its area railroad had not been included in negotiations concerning the southern connection. Meanwhile, the Office of Defense Transportation informed Union Pacific that it would not approve a contract between the War Department and the railroads for construction of the southern connection and the Interstate Commerce Commission wrote to General Groves that the connection could not be built without its approval because it would constitute a link in an interchange between the through lines of the Milwaukee and the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific, which made it subject to ICC jurisdiction.28

When the Office of Defense Transportation issued an order in October prohibiting construction, in spite of a direct approach by Groves and the

Page 408

Under Secretary of War to ODT Chairman Joseph T. Eastman, the southern connection seemed doomed. At this juncture, Groves and the Hanford area engineer worked through channels in the Office of the Secretary of War to get the agency to reconsider the case. The area engineer achieved partial success in this direction in mid-November 1943, when ODT, 9th Service Command, and Transportation Corps representatives visited the Hanford installation. These officials, who were assessing traffic density on transcontinental rail systems, expressed the view “that the railroad connection was not only desirable but essential ... [for dealing with] the great activity on the transcontinental lines which is due in the near future” and promised to recommend that it be given serious reconsideration.29

Manhattan used the possibility that the alternate connection might be constructed as a powerful lever to pressure the Milwaukee Railroad to improve the still far from satisfactory service over its Priest Rapids Branch. Thus, in December, General Groves told the railroad representatives that if they could maintain adequate service, “we [will] take no further action towards developing the connection ... We will, however, ... continue our design and layout and other plans to insure their being ready to construct the Southern Connection if and when it is required.” The strategy worked; service on the Priest Rapids Branch steadily improved in early 1944. But by mid-year, the plutonium works had reached its operational phase and rail service declined appreciably, thus obviating construction of the southern connection.30

Air Transport

Ever in a race against time, Manhattan frequently utilized air transport services to speed up movement of materials and personnel over the great distances separating its research and development centers, procurement facilities, and plant production areas. For the most part, Manhattan relied upon the services of commercial airfreight companies for shipment of such items as blueprints, parts, tools, and chemicals and on the Army Air Forces’ Air Transport Command for movement of key personnel.

Because of the rough character of the terrain, neither Clinton nor Los Alamos had airfields within the reservation. Clinton used the Knoxville Airport, accessible over good roads some 25 miles southeast of the site; Los Alamos had to depend upon the Air Command’s shuttle service into Kirtland Field at Albuquerque, some 114 miles by highway, parts of which were mountainous and often poorly maintained. At Hanford, where the

Page 409

terrain was relatively flat, Manhattan maintained a small airfield near the construction camp. In early 1943, the area engineer arranged with the Air Command to fly critical items to the Spokane Army Air Field, where a shuttle service picked them up and flew them to the Hanford airfield. In emergencies, the six Army airplanes of the Hanford security air patrol, piloted by civilians, were used to transport passengers and small freight items.31