Eugene Reybold (1884-1961) was a Lieutenant General and Chief of Engineers in the US Army. He was involved in the early stages of the Manhattan Project.
Born in Delaware City, Reybold attended Delaware College and graduated in 1903. He was commissioned in the Coast Artillery Corps, and first served in the Philippines. He was stationed in Virginia during World War I. After the war, he attended the General Staff College and Army War College, both post-secondary institutions for select military officers. He transferred to the Corps of Engineers (COE) in 1926, and worked his way up the ranks. While serving as District Engineer for Memphis, he dealt with a massive Mississippi River flood.
He was promoted to Chief of Engineers in October 1941, and oversaw the COE through the end of the war, finishing his tenure exactly four years after he started. He headed the COE when it was at its largest, and supervised the construction of the Pentagon. He is notable for being the first Chief of Engineers to be promoted to Lieutenant General, and the first Chief to have not attended the US Military Academy. He obtained the Distinguished Service Medal for his service.
As Chief of Engineers, Reybold was involved in many aspects of the Manhattan Project. Technically, he was General Leslie Groves’s commanding officer, though in practice Groves reported to the Military Policy Committee and Secretary of War Henry Stimson. Reybold gave the official order to form the Manhattan Engineering District on June 17, 1942. He was involved in early-stage planning for project aspects like site selection in Tennessee and corporate contracts. He was responsible for controlling funding for the project as well. He was not given the details of the project, even though he was issuing orders for it. That led to this humorous exchange, recounted by Colonel James Marshall:
I said, “General, I am over here with orders from General [Wilhelm] Styer to get a sum of money, and you are not to ask any questions.”
He said, “How much do you want?”
I said, “I want $15,000,000.”
He immediately reached for the telephone, said, “Get me Styer on the phone—no, get me [Brehon] Somervell.”
“Bill, This is Reybold.” He said, “I’ve got a crazy man here sitting at my desk who says he wants me to give him a check for $15,000,000, and he won’t tell me what it’s for. What should I do?”
I heard Somervell say, “Give him the money and quit asking questions.”
With the war finished, Reybold retired from military service in January 1946, and ran the American Road Builders Association from 1950-1956. He died in Washington, DC in 1961.