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General Leslie Groves’s Interview – Part 9

In this interview, General Leslie Groves discusses his relationship with Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who he had great respect for. Groves recalls several meetings with the Secretary, including one which required Groves’s advice on how to prevent a congressman from visiting Oak Ridge and threatening to unveil the top-secret Manhattan Project site to the Senate. Groves also recalls the shocking day that President Roosevelt died, the delay in notifying key people of Roosevelt’s passing, and how his death affected members of the War Department. He also explains his relations with other top military officials.

Date of Interview:
January 7, 1965
Location of the Interview:


[We would like to thank Robert S. Norris, author of the definitive biography of General Leslie R. Groves, Racing for the Bomb: General Leslie R. Groves, the Manhattan Project’s Indispensable Man, for taking the time to read over these transcripts for misspellings and other errors.]

Stephane Groueff: So you were saying that they were very close friends.

General Groves: Yes, they were good friends, and [Dr. James] Conant had the ability, which is not common, to be a subordinate to a man who in normal life had always been below him.

Groueff: I see.

Groves: And, there was never any question in Conant’s mind, that Bush was the boss.

Groueff: Bush was his boss?

Groves: He was the boss.

Groueff: And, he accepted it?

Groves: And, he accepted it completely.

Groueff: Did Conant see the President directly or through [Vannevar] Bush?

Groves: No, Bush was the one who saw the president.

Groueff: And Stimson, who was the liaison between you and Stimson?

Groves: Oh, I was.

Groueff: You?

Groves: Yes, there was nothing between us. Now Bush had the right to see, and so did Conant, to see Stimson at any time. Stimson would have seen them, and they did see them on occasion. I don’t know how often. After I started seeing Stimson, I don’t think that they really—

Groueff: Could you tell me a few words about Stimson, what kind of a man, and your relationship with him?

Groves: Well, the first time that I saw Stimson was at the meeting that I described in my book on when the announcement was made when I took over officially. There was no question then. Stimson’s manner was just what you’d expect of a courteous gentleman.

Groueff: He was a gentleman?

Groves: Oh yes, a gentleman through and through and very courteous. But also a man who had occupied very high positions before he was in this position. See he’d been Secretary of War in the last year of the Taft Administration.

Groueff: I see.

Groves: He had been a very competent one. He was very young. He was young of course.

Groueff: Military people didn’t resent him?

Groves: Oh, no. They liked him enormously. Then during World War One, he was Colonel of the field artillery regiment, and quite successful.

We may have been on our way to Tennessee when we were just talking—but in any case, this is just during conversation—we were talking on that trip, or we were waiting for something. I said something to the effect to how he had been able in very young years to become important in life.

He said, “Well it all stemmed from one fortunate happening. As a young lawyer, I was one of the subordinate lawyers. I imagine just barely out of college a year or two. I worked on a case for a senior partner. The senior partner said, ‘I’m not going to spend much time on this because there’s just no hope of winning it. There isn’t a thing that we can win on.’ He kept to that opinion.”

Stimson said, “Well, why did we take the case?”

[The senior lawyer said], “Well, because a very important client of ours has asked us to do it.”

It was a case out in Butte, Montana, and the Anaconda Copper Company was involved.

Anyway, this man finally told Stimson, “Now I’m going out to California, and I don’t want to take these papers all with me, so you meet me out in Butte on such-and-such a day. That’s when the trial is set. I will come up there and meet you.”

Stimson said that that was very fine. He was looking forward to the nice trip west. He’d never been west. There was a train ride. Of course the trains ran then about twenty miles an hour west of Chicago. It took me as a small child either seven or eight days to cross the continent. He was to get into Butte about 6:00 p.m., and then the trial was to be the next morning.

He got this telegram on the train from this lawyer that due to a death in the family, he was not going to be able to meet Stimson in Butte, but he didn’t want Stimson to ask for a postponement. He was to go on with the case because as he put it, “There’s no hope anyway.”

Well Stimson went in.

I said, “Well you were kind of worried, weren’t you?”

He said, “I was worried sick. I said that I wasn’t prepared to try a case like that.” 

I think that he said, “I’d never tried a case in court” or something. 

But this involved what today would be millions of dollars. 

He said, “I knew that I was up against some very fine lawyers of experience and all of that, and then to know that my senior knew that I had no chance anyway—that didn’t help. So I had about one day to think about it.”

He says, “I won the case. They made me partner soon afterwards.”

Groueff: So he was a very intelligent?

Groves: So at a very youthful age, he went zooming up to the top, and then he kept it. I was going over to the White House with him to see Roosevelt. Before I left, Mr. Bundy, who was one of his assistants there, and he had very few assistants, he didn’t want them around. Bundy said, “Now when you’re going over with Mr. Stimson, don’t say a word to him when you get in the car. He’s thinking about what he’s going to say. When he gets ready to talk to you, why he’ll open the conversation.”

So, I sat in the car and got in. We met him in his office. We went down together. He didn’t talk, and I didn’t talk either on the way down. [We] got in his car and drove from the Pentagon over as far as Memorial Bridge. I didn’t say a word. He didn’t say a word. I would’ve been horribly embarrassed and wondering what to do if Bundy hadn’t cautioned me. About when we got the Memorial Bridge, he started to talk. He talked all the way over.

But, Mr. Stimson had a temper at times. He never displayed it towards me, but he displayed it once in my presence to a point that was very embarrassing. On one occasion, he’d sent for me.

When did I really start dealing with Mr. Stimson? I would say that I started being close to Mr. Stimson personally along about the first of December 1944. Before that time, I had taken about two reports, I think, to the President that I had taken in for him to read in my presence, so I could answer any questions. But that was all. 

About that time, I think that he cut loose from any communication from Bush. I always got the impression from Stimson and from Marshall that they felt that Bush had become too insistent on his views and was trying to dominate their responsibilities and also that he talked too long.

One of the things that bothered Marshall a great deal, because he was such a polite Southern gentleman, were people who would get in his office who weren’t officers, and who would talk too long. On one occasion, to divert for a moment, normally my appointments with Marshal were always at 9:00 a.m. His day started at 7:00 a.m. when he arrived from Ft. Myer where he lived. A few minutes after 7:00 a.m. General Arnold would come in and they would go over what had happened the day before in the way of important battle reports and things of that kind.

And then he would have his staff meeting with his senior staff at about 9:30 a.m. as I recall. The result was that along about 8:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. he usually was engaged in the few little personal things that anybody has to do in order to stay alive and writing the letters that he wanted to write himself and things of that kind.

By going in at 9:00 a.m., I had his undivided attention. Other people weren’t going to come in there. The only man that ever interrupted us the few times when I stayed longer than usual was the sergeant who had come in and put up a situation map there, so that they could talk from it, not a big one but just a small one on an easel about the size of this desk.

I would normally take over to Marshall whatever I wanted to talk to him about. I would express it in the form of a memorandum on one page or less, sometimes just that long. It might be a letter that I wanted him to sign to General Eisenhower about somebody going over there from my organization or something of that kind where he needed some explanation as to why in one case as to the importance of it and various other things.

But, I tried to put it in writing, so that I wouldn’t have to explain in maybe a half an hour what he could read in two minutes. I avoided the use of any words that he wouldn’t understand. I wouldn’t use the word “fission” for example or anything of that kind. Those memorandums, I worked on. I wrote them the day before. [I] probably had three or four drafts. I went over them that morning before I came over to be certain that there was nothing that he couldn’t understand and that wasn’t just perfect.

Anyway, one day for some reason, I had an appointment in the afternoon. His orders were that anytime that I wanted to see him, I could see him. So I went over in the afternoon. I waited and waited. I must’ve waited three quarters of an hour, and I got in there. Of course, I wasn’t surprised. My feelings weren’t hurt. But, I got in there, and Marshall apologized most profusely. He said, “I was just stewing and fretting in here. I knew that you were out there, and I know that you don’t have any time to waste sitting around and waiting to see somebody.”

He said, “I know what you’re doing and how busy you are. We just can’t afford to have you waste your time like that.” Then, he went on, and he said, “But I was helpless. The Crown Prince of Norway came into see me. He is a great talker. He hasn’t anything to do. There was no way on earth that I could get rid of the Crown Prince.”

I said, “That that’s perfectly alright General Marshall.”

And he said, “No it isn’t. I don’t like to keep you waiting.”

So, that was rather typical.

Groueff: Stimson was like Marshall? They wanted things efficiently.

Groves: Stimson wanted things done efficiently. I think that it was Marshall or maybe it was Stimson—I think that it was Stimson. I said something about Bush.

He said, “Well I’d much rather see you than Bush because you don’t waste any of my time on non essentials. Also you’re not making proposals that are really out of your pay loop.”

And so I just got the impression. Bush did think, and you can see that in some of his writings post-war, he thought that he knew more about grand strategy than the War Department did. Well, he had done some very remarkable things, and he had advised things that the War Department was dragging their feet on like the amphibious vehicle, the so-called, “duck.”

Groueff: Right, so he did that?

Groves: He fought for that, and he fought for other things. For example—and this is another side light on Bush—Bush wanted the Americans to use the proximity fuse against the Germans in Europe. Were you in the Army at any time?

Groueff: Yeah, I was, but like Civilian Artillery.

Groves: In the Artillery?

Groueff: Yes.

Groves: Well that’s why I asked. Our artillery could not do the damage they should do on the entrenched Germans because of inexactness of the fuse setting. They couldn’t estimate close enough, so that the burst was coming at the wrong time. Bush wanted to use the proximity fuse. The proximity fuse had been developed primarily for use against enemy aircraft and particularly planes attacking naval vessels. So, it was very essential in the war against Japan that we’d be able to have the proximity fuse.

Well Bush said that we would save a tremendous number of casualties if we would turn that proximity fuse over to the Army artillery for use against the Germans. So in about June of ’44, Bush said to me—this came as a surprise because you’d never asked me to do anything like this before—he said, “I wish that, as a favor to me, you would talk to General [Joseph T.] McNarney,” who was acting Chief of Staff when Marshall was away.

He said, “I want to see them use proximity fuses in Germany against the Germans in trenches. McNarney won’t approve it.”

McNarney was an Air Force officer, and in my opinion, he was far overrated and he had no brains really.

But he [Bush] said, “McNarney won’t approve it because he says that the Japs will then find out how to use them and they’ll stop our bombing of Japan with proximity-fused artillery. I’d like to have you talk to McNarney and tell him that he doesn’t have to worry because the War will be over before the Japs can get into production on this. By the time the Germans find out all about it, and eventually they will as you know—they’ll find a round that didn’t go off, and then they’ll take it to pieces, and they’ll see this fuse. And then, they don’t need anything more once they see what the fuse is based on,” which is essentially on radar as you know.

When it got to a certain distance near the target it went off. You didn’t have to set that fuse, you see. You didn’t have to know how far away place was really, as long as you could get in that area. 

And so, I went to McNarney and talked to him. I made the flatfooted statement that yes, we would end the war before the end of ’45. I said that furthermore the Japanese cannot get this thing in time because by the time the Germans get it and find out what it is, and then pass it on to the Japanese, they may not be willing to pass it on because you know that allies aren’t too generous in such things. Then by the time that the Japanese get it into manufacture and then get it into the hands of the troops and then get sufficient quantities of it, and the troops, so that they can use it properly— I said that we will have ended the war.

Well, on that basis McNarney approved the sending of the proximity fuse to Germany. It undoubtedly saved an awful lot of lives. That came entirely from Bush. I would never have suggested it because I didn’t know anything about proximity fuses. I knew that they existed because Admiral Parsons had been responsible for the field testing of them with the fleet in the Pacific. But, that was typical of Bush. A few successes like that naturally would go to his head, but that was the first time that Bush really showed that I could do something that he couldn’t.

Groueff: Usually he wanted to finish things himself?

Groves: Yes, he was proud. He didn’t like to think that anybody could do something that he couldn’t do, but that was the first time that he did it. Although for example, he had recognized that he couldn’t run the atomic project, that he had to turn it over to Army engineers because he said, “I’m not qualified to do it and I don’t have the people to do it.” If he had the people, I don’t think that he would have hesitated about his qualifications. But he knew that he didn’t have the people. This was another example of Bush being what I term, “a really big man.” The average man would not have done that.

Groueff: There would be jealousy.

Groves: There’d of been. He’d of said, “Well. Why should I bring Groves into it? I’ll just get a memorandum from him concurring to me stating that in his opinion the war would be over in Japan in a certain time.”

He felt that I would have more influence with McNarney. Now, McNarney and I weren’t friends. We knew each other from 1939 on when we were on the general staff together, but I don’t think that we liked each other. I certainly didn’t like him, and he didn’t like anybody, but that is a sideline on him.

Now another sideline on Stimson, on one occasion, he had sent for me. And well first, his office called up one day and said that the secretary would like to see me right away. He had sort of a civilian office clerk who handled such things, typical governmental clerk.

I said, “Well, Mr. So and So, I’m awfully sorry, but it’s very inconvenient for me to come over to see the Secretary right now. I wish that you’d make certain that it is a rush thing because I have people in my office or people coming in who I can’t keep waiting. It’d be very embarrassing to keep them waiting. They’ve come a long distance.”

He called back in a few minutes and he said, “I’ve spoken to the Secretary. He said that’s perfectly alright. Can you come over this afternoon without inconvenience?”

I said yes, that I’d be over there. After that, I never got a call from his office that didn’t say “The secretary would like to see you today if it is convenient. What time would you like to come over?”

Only once, I got this call. The man said, “The Secretary would like to see you at once. He doesn’t care what you’re doing. This is awfully important. You’d better get on over here in a hurry. I hope this isn’t too embarrassing.”

I said, “No. It happens, it’s perfectly alright.”

Well, this was a congressional difficulty that had suddenly come up and that he just had to have advice on in a hurry, and there was no question about it. That was typical of Stimson. Nobody else in the Army that I know of would have ever told the Secretary of War, “It isn’t convenient for me to come. Can I come later?” He never would’ve asked anybody excepting General Marshall. He would’ve asked General Marshall.

Groueff: So between you and Stimson the relations were very good.

Groves: Yes, oh, they were absolutely perfect!

Groueff: You respected him?

Groves: Oh my, yes.

Groueff: Did you admire him.

Groves: What?

Groueff: His integrity and patriotism? 

Groves: Oh, yes. He had complete integrity and patriotism and intelligence and everything else. On one occasion he had asked me to come over right after lunch. He said, “It’s going to take quite a while, so you’d better come early if you can.”

So I said, “That’s alright. I’ll be over there.”

This message was always conveyed, of course, through a clerk or an aid. I got there before he’d finished lunch. I was sitting in the outer office of the aids. Here were about twelve people standing around waiting to see the secretary. Among them was General Somervell. Somervell said to me, “Are you over here to see Secretary?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “Well you’re going to have a long wait because I’ve got a very important matter to discuss with him.”

I said, “Well I can’t leave. I guess there’s nothing for me to do than to wait. I just hope that your meeting won’t last too long.”

Well the Secretary came back. The aide went into his office and spoke to him and apparently told him who was there, or talked to him for a moment, and asked if he was ready to see people. As he came to the door—the door was a special door, which was sound proof.

As he came to the door he held the door open for an instant. The secretary announced, he said “I want to see General Groves right away.”

The aide, Colonel Kyle, held the door open so that we could all hear it and said, “General Somervell is here, Mr. Secretary, and he says that he has a very important matter to discuss with you that has to be discussed right away.”

Stimson’s voice rose, and he said, “I want to see Groves. He’s the most important person out there. I’m not interested in Somervell!”

Somervell turned to me, and Somervell was a very keen witted. His mind operated like a flash. He turned at me with sort of a smirk on his face and he says, “Well, I guess that shows me where I stand doesn’t it?” With which, he walked on out.

Well, I was in there for quite a while, I think all afternoon. It was a very touchy congressional affair where a congressman insisted that either he was going to see Oak Ridge, or that he was going to make a speech on the floor of the Senate about this terrific waste that was going on.

Groueff: Was that Engle?

Groves: Engle.

Groueff: Engle.

Groves: Yes, well anyway, we worked on that thing. During the course of the affair, the afternoon, we started off and Bundy came in. Bundy had been a long-time friend of Stimson’s. He had been Assistant Secretary of State under Stimson when Stimson was Secretary of State in the Hoover Administration in ’28 to ’32.

I thought that he was a very able man. He was what is known as an estate lawyer, handled estates in Boston primarily. That was the type of work that he did. [He] saw that the widows and orphans got all of the money that they should and then some. He was a very polite, almost retiring. You thought of him who was somebody who was quite meek and mild, but still a very fine lawyer. He handled special things for Stimson. He started off handling atomic matters. Then he handled things like the Pearl Harbor affair.

Groueff: Bundy?

Groves: Bundy. Well anyway as I say, this story cannot be repeated. But, it was to this effect: Bundy started to make suggestions in the letter—we were framing the letter. Bundy started to make suggestions after I had said that something should be said this way. Bundy said, “I think it should be said this way.”

Finally Stimson, without the slightest indication, just blew up. He said, “Harvey. You don’t know anything about this! Why don’t you keep quiet? General Groves knows all about this. He’s experienced in Washington, and he knows Washington politics. He knows Congress. His advice has always been very sound. You go now out of this office! I don’t want you in here!”

Well I was horribly embarrassed. Naturally you would be. I’d known Bundy a long time. I’d always thought of him as sort of a special assistant to Stimson who deserved a great deal of respect and all of that. When I went out of the room about an hour and a half later, I thought, well I’ve got to say something to Bundy. I can’t ignore that. As soon as that was over, Stimson was just like he had been calm and all polite and all the rest of it and very-well satisfied with the product of the afternoon, which worked beautifully in every way. It was the way to handle it.

We discussed a number of other matters, and then I went out. I said well I don’t like to do this, but I better go into Bundy’s office. I went in there fully expecting to see him pulling the stuff out of his drawers and packing up. I thought he’d just be gone. I went out there, and no, he was busy working.

I said, “Mr. Bundy. I’m very sorry that I was in there when this happened. I was horribly embarrassed. I just wished that I hadn’t heard it. I am very sorry for you.”

I started to say something to the effect that it was entirely unwarranted or something like that.

He said, “General don’t pay any attention to it. Mr. Stimson gets mad once in a while, but our job is to assist Mr. Stimson in running the War Department. And, as long as we can be of help to him, I’m not going to be worried by such purely minor incidents.”

Well to me, that was a great reflection. It showed not only what a tremendous man Bundy was, but what a great man Stimson was that he could exert this pull on him. Bundy used to tell me from time to time—he would catch me going in to see the secretary, and he would say, “Now try to get out of there early would you, because we’re trying to get the secretary to go home early. He’s getting tired.”

They were watching over him all of the time.

Groueff: Because he was an old man?

Groves: He was an old man. He was not in good health. He would have resigned as Secretary of War in 1944 if it hadn’t been for the Atomic Project. He’d have resigned again early in ’45 if it hadn’t of been for that. Then, he was determined that he was going to stick on. After sometime along in January of ’45, he told me once, he said, “You know, General, I want to devote all of my time to the Atomic Project because that’s the only reason that I’m staying on as Secretary of War.”

Roosevelt had tried to get rid of Stimson. There had been various suggestions of course. The people would always say, “Oh. He’s too old.” Well the way I put it, I’d rather have an hour of Stimson a day than ten hours of any one else including the present incumbent of the Secretary of Defense.

Stimson had the proper idea as to the relationship of civilians in the Military. He had a very small staff of civilians. They were personal assistants to him to handle things that he would normally want to handle personally, like the Pearl Harbor affair; like complaints about various conditions in the Army of one kind or another; the handling of the Japanese when we pulled them out of this country and put them in concentration camps, which was done by Mr. [John J.] McCloy.

Mr. [Robert P.] Patterson took over as Assistant Secretary and then Under Secretary, took over the procurement and the overall oversight of General Somervell and his operations. Stimson never interfered with a military matter that I know of, excepting in the case of Kyoto. It’s the first time. But, that’s why he stayed on. His diary said that. He said “I was engaged on this today, but I should be on Atomic Energy.”

Groueff: You think that he deserves great credit of the success of the Manhattan Project.

Groves: Oh, yes because of the support that he gave.

Groueff: He gave you full support.

Groves: He gave me full support. There was never any question, and there was never any question on the part of General Marshall or Mr. Patterson. 

Groueff: Also to you as a person. They gave you complete confidence.

Groves: Complete in every way. You couldn’t have asked for any more.

Groueff: They never sort of questioned your authority or your reason thereof.

Groves: Never. Of course, that developed over time. Now, Mr. Patterson for example was entirely different from Mr. Stimson. Patterson was a man like Stimson of the utmost integrity. People who have asked me about Patterson I’ve said, well, he didn’t have the quick perception of Stimson or the ability to deal with people, but his outstanding characteristic was integrity. That’s what we needed in that particular position where nobody could even intimate that there was anything wrong without his being greatly concerned.

I said that he could best be described as the type of man who, if I had lived in the 1700’s, where it was customary to appoint a personal executor and trustee and guardian for your children in the event of your death, why he would be the kind of man I would have loved to have had. He might not have made the wisest investments, but there would never have been anything that wasn’t, in his opinion at the time, for the benefit of the heirs.

Groueff: He was in charge of all the financial side of the War Department?

Groves: Yes, procurement. He had been a federal judge and resigned the judgeship to become Assistant Secretary of War when Stimson was appointed by Roosevelt. Stimson made it his one condition that he’d be allowed to have his own selection as Assistant Secretary of War, and then he persuaded Patterson to take the job.

Stimson was a great man in every way. He made no bones about not understanding science. On one occasion he called me “Doctor” in front of quite a group who was there. I said, “Listen Mr. Secretary, don’t call me doctor. I don’t want to get mixed up with these scientists and they might resent it.”

“Well,” he said, “You’re a scientist. You’re not only a General you’re a scientist, and we all know it. We look to you.” And that was it.

I tried to explain to him one time about atomic energy. We were on our way to Tennessee to show him Oak Ridge. I knew I was going to be on the plane with him; there wasn’t going to be anything to interrupt us. There wasn’t anything that we wanted to talk about too much. I had these little one-page drawings made up showing the make-up of the atom of uranium, plutonium, helium, and hydrogen I think. I tried to explain them to him.

He says, “Don’t try to tell me that. I can’t understand a word that you’re saying.”

Finally, I said “Well, here is the simplest of all. Just look at this for a minute. This is helium.”

He says, “Oh helium. That comes for Helios the Sun, doesn’t it?”

I said, “Yes, sir.”

He said, “Oh I know all about helium.”

From then on, he would listen, but before that he just closed his mind completely. As soon as I could get a Greek analogy to it, why he was all set.

Groueff: But he didn’t make any bones about it? He didn’t have the complex that he didn’t that you’re a great man.

Groves: No. He didn’t have a complex excepting one: that was that he wanted the bomb to be developed and used at the earliest practical date in order to bring the war to an end and to stop the loss of American lives.

Groueff: How did that affect your business?

Groves: Yes. He of course was satisfied with what I was doing and with what he heard. He undoubtedly heard because he was not stupid. He wouldn’t have just gone along. But, undoubtedly Bush and Conant told him and then Somervell told him that things were moving.

Groueff: Did he go several times to Oak Ridge or only just once?

Groves: No. Only once, and that was a peculiar affair. He didn’t want to go down. Pardon me. I think that was the doorbell.

Groueff: About the visit Stimson didn’t want to go to Oak Ridge.

Groves: He didn’t want to go to Oak Ridge. When we decided that we had to invite the Congressional Committee to come down, he felt that he had before we really made the final invitation, we’d made one arrangement before. That was upset by the death of Roosevelt. Mr. Stimson and I had an appointment to see the Speaker of the House and a group of about three or four people down there about inviting a group of congressmen to go to Oak Ridge in order to quell this Engle business. That was the day after Roosevelt died.

Now as soon as Roosevelt died, and I got the word, I called up Mr. Bundy to make certain that the appointment was canceled because I had a very important engagement in New York, which I had to give up. I called once and said that I might not be able to come, but I would let them know later because you never know when you’re dealing with people in that level when an appointment has to be called off at the last minute. I didn’t want to lose my New York appointment if I could possibly help it.

So I called up Bundy. I said that in view of what has happened—I got the word and an officer’s wife called him on the phone and then he turned on our special radio that we had there for just such purposes. We of course got the news that the President had died. Then the next thing that happened was that Bundy hadn’t heard about it.

It was a very amusing affair because I said this and he says “What do you mean?”

I said, “Oh, I mean the report that’s come in that the President has died.”

Without a word, he didn’t say anything, but I heard this tremendous crash. I couldn’t tell what had happened. I didn’t know just what it could be. About thirty seconds later, he came on the phone again. He said, “General. I’m sorry. I just fell out of my chair.”

Groueff: He physically fell out of the chair?

Groves: Yes, and he went on to express his doubt. He said, “We haven’t heard a word about it over here.”

I said, “Well why don’t you check and find out?”

Well, they didn’t know.

Groueff: That’s extraordinary. Stimson’s office?

Groves: Stimson’s office in the War Department. Now Stimson had been at home and he had been called at home and been just told to come right to the White House. Marshall had been found somewhere and had been told to go the White House on a very important matter. That was all that they had. Nobody had made any announcement to the War Department, which was vitally concerned of course.

So then, he had them check and well yes, they found out that it was so. That’s the first news that the War Department had of it. This was about two hours after the death of the president, at least an hour after it had first come out over the air. Nobody had thought that probably individual officers had been told by their wives calling up. It was probably known to a great many people, but it wasn’t known to the immediate Office of the Secretary.

And so then, after fooling around and waiting, he said that he would let me know.

I said, “Obviously it will be called off.”

He said, “Oh I’m sure that it will be.”

“But,” I said, “I don’t want to leave town knowing it. I don’t want to cancel the other thing.”

So we left it that he would let me know if it was on, if he got a chance. So, he didn’t let me know, and I went on to New York.

When we went to Oak Ridge, Stimson went because he said, “It’s important for me to go before the Congressional Committee goes so that I won’t be faced with having to admit that I’ve never been there and yet this terrific project of such great importance.”

I said that I thought that that was wise. I was very anxious to have him come down. He came down. He saw the whole place. In order to ease up the thing, we’d build ramps on the various entrances to places. That immediately started the rumors that Roosevelt was coming.

Groueff: Because of the wheelchair.

Groves: I don’t know. But, he had a very profitable visit there. We took first-class care of him of course. You had to remember that he was not too strong. Rather typical of him, we had him in the hotel that we ran there, sort of a refined officers’ barracks type of thing. We had him in a suite of rooms along with his aide. We served his meals in there at a small table. Colonel Nichols and I joined him for meals.

When he left, the aide said to me before that, he said “Would it be alright to tip these men?” 

They were all civilians and I said, “Oh yes. But you don’t have to do it. They don’t expect it.”

Afterward he told me—I overheard it actually—I heard Stimson say to Kyle, he said, “Now be sure and remember these men. I want you to be very generous because they’ve done a beautiful job of taking care of us down here.”

I think that he gave out about $100 in tips, about $20 – $25 to these men who would have been delighted to have gotten $2 or $3. That was typical of Stimson. There was never any question about it.

Somewhere it’s written I think—Patterson of course didn’t have money to amount to anything, and he wanted him to have a car to make everything easy for him. The government wouldn’t give an official car to an Assistant Secretary, so Stimson bought a car and had it for him.

Groueff: Himself? With is money?

Groves: Yeah, that was.

Groueff: So, he was a Monseigneur?

Groves: He was a very wealthy man. Now, you might take a run up on Woodley Road at the Estate known as Woodley. It’s now been built on, but I think that the main house is still there and that was Stimson’s house.

Groueff: Here in Washington?

Groves: In Washington. It’s only about a mile from here.

Groueff: He had some estate in Long Island.

Groves: Oh, yes. An estate in Long Island and a city apartment, or city house I suppose.

Groueff: So he was a wealthy man, a lawyer, but he wasn’t a politician.

Groves: Well, he was a politician.

Groueff: But not involved in campaigning and things like that?

Groves: He wasn’t a politician who lived on being a politician. He was a lawyer who accepted public office.

Groueff: Only higher office.

Groves: Only as Cabinet Officer, Secretary of War, then Secretary of State, and then Secretary of War again. I don’t think that he ever ran for political office. I think that gives you a pretty good picture of Stimson. 

Another thing that was interesting was that there was a reception given right in June of 1945. I know that it was in June because Beetle Smith was there. He’d just come back from Europe. My wife, when I told her that we were going to go to the Stimson’s for our reception, she was surprised. She said, “How did you get in on that?”

I said, “Well, after all I am a major general.”

Copyright 1965 Stephane Groueff. From the Stephane Groueff Collection, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. Exclusive rights granted to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.