Joseph “Joe” A. Haaga (1919-1974) was a nuclear engineer who worked on the Manhattan Project.
Born in 1919, Haaga graduated from Notre Dame in June 1940 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering.
He began working on the Manhattan Project in 1943 at the age of twenty-four. Initially, he worked with Enrico Fermi on reactor experiments at the Chicago Met Lab. Later, as an employee of DuPont, he conducted research at the nuclear facility in Oak Ridge, TN and in the 300 Area at the Hanford Site in Washington.
After the war, Haaga worked for General Electric and developed ways to use utilize nuclear technology as an energy source. He organized and managed training for the joint GE-US Navy crew assigned to construct a reactor for the U.S.S. Naitilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine. Haaga went on to become the Lead Manager of GE’s Atomic Power Equipment Department. Serving in this capacity from 1950-1960, he oversaw and directed the safety training and installation of every GE reactor. By 1960, he had started up over thirty nuclear reactors, more than any man in the world. In 1962, he was assigned to work at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute in Tokai Mura, Japan.
Haaga was known in the industry as “The Old Man of the Mountain” for his strict enforcement of safety protocol. George C. Fullmer, one of Haaga’s colleagues, recounted in his book The Great American Carpool and Other Stories, “Joe knows all the tricks; he’s pulled them all himself so he won’t let anyone do the same.”
In 1969 Haaga began working for Jersey Nuclear prior to Exxon Nuclear’s acquisition of the company. After suffering from a series of heart attacks, he died on June 6, 1974 at the age of 55 in Bellevue, WA.
For more information about Joseph Haaga, see this article written by his granddaughter Kristin Sabo.