the atomic bomb

In the months following the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Manhattan Project–the name given to the atomic bomb program because its original offices were in Manhattan–grew very quickly. And although the Army had been involved since June of 1942, it was just beginning to realize that someone was going to have to be put in overall charge. The man chosen was Leslie Richard Groves, a 46-year-old colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers. While he was a competent engineer, Groves was no scientist. He did not understand the science behind building the atomic bomb, nor did he pretend to. He needed someone who would be able to supervise the scientific side of the project. After dismissing a number of candidates, Groves decided on who seemed like the most improbable of candidate of all–38-year-old J. Robert Oppenheimer. After he was officially given the job of laboratory director, Oppenheimer planned a campaign of absolutely unscrupulous recruiting of anyone we can lay our hands on.1 He used his charismatic personality to recruit some of the greatest scientific talent in the world to join the project. He then helped Groves find a location for his bomb-making laboratory, tentatively called Site Y. A number of southwestern sites were explored. On November 16, Oppenheimer, Groves, and representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers were looking at a site at Jemez Springs, New Mexico, a deep canyon about 40 mi. (64 km) northwest of Santa Fe. Oppenheimer did not care too much for the site, nor did Groves. His main objection was that there was no room for expansion. Oppenheimer then innocently remarked about going back to Albuquerque via the Los Alamos Ranch School. Groves liked Los Alamos at once, and began moving quickly. He called Washington that very evening and began to buy the land. The Ranch School was having financial trouble as a result of the war, and so it was more than happy to sell o…

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