The Manhattan Project: Making the Atomic Bomb

Part IV: The Manhattan Engineer District in Operation

Taking Care of Business

Personnel shortages, particularly of physicists, and supply problems complicated Oppenheimer's task. The procurement system, designed to protect the secrecy of the Los Alamos project, led to frustrating delays and, when combined with persistent late war shortages, proved a constant headache. The lack of contact between the remote laboratory and its supply sources exacerbated the problem, as did the relative lack of experience the academic scientists had with logistical matters.

Groves and Conant were determined not to let mundane problems compromise the bomb effort, and in fall 1944 they made several changes to prevent-this possibility. Conant shipped as many scientists as could be spared from Chicago and Oak Ridge to Los Alamos, hired every civilian machinist he could lay his hands on, and arranged for Army enlisted men to supplement the work force (these GIs were known as SEDS, for Special Engineering Detachment). Hartley Rowe, an experienced industrial engineer, provided help in easing the transition from research to production. Los Alamos also arranged for a rocket research team at the California Institute of Technology to aid in procurement, test fuses, and contribute to component development. These changes kept Los Alamos on track as weapon design reached its final stages.

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