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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Colonel Franklin Matthias (1908 – 1993) was the officer-in-charge at the Hanford site.

Matthias, a civil engineer, had been a close associate of General Groves since the beginning of the Manhattan Project, and was asked to review sites in the West. Matthias and two DuPont representa­tives looked quickly at possible sites in Montana, Oregon, and California, as well as Washington. Matthias felt Hanford, isolated and with a good supply of water, was the best choice. Groves appointed Matthias officer-in-charge at Hanford, granting him authority over civilian operations as well as military.

Matthias left the Army in 1946. He didn’t think atomic energy would amount to much in peacetime, and nothing appealed to him as much as the excitement of big construction jobs. Among the many dams he helped build until his 1973 retirement were two on the Columbia River: Wells and Wanapum, both upstream from Hanford. Wanapum held special significance, since it was named for the people of Johnny Buck, a Native American he knew and liked during the Hanford years.

Franklin Matthias's Timeline
1908 Mar 13th Born in Glidden, Wisconsin.
1931 Received a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
1933 Received an M.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
1941 Called to active duty in the U.S. Army and joined the Construction Division of the Army Corps of Engineers.
1942 Dec 14th Tasked by General Leslie Groves with finding a location for the Manhattan Project's plutonium production site.
1942 Dec 22nd Selected the area near Hanford, Washington for the plutonium production site.
19431945 Directed construction at the Hanford Site.
1945 Jan Personally delivered the first batch of plutonium nitrate from Hanford to a courier in Los Angeles, who then brought the plutonium to Los Alamos.
1946 Awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.
1993 Dec 3rd Died in Walnut Creek, California.

Colonel Franklin Matthias, Colonel Kenneth Nichols, and Vice Admiral Frederick Ashworth in front of a plane with the Manhattan Project insignia

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