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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Grace Groves’s Interview

Manhattan Project Locations:

In this interview, Grace Groves discusses her relationship with her husband and director of the Manhattan Project, General Leslie Groves. Grace describes her husband’s early life, his personality, and what characteristics made him the right man to lead the project to develop the world’s first atomic bomb.

Date of Interview:
September 12, 1965
Location of the Interview:


Stephane Groueff: We said that the nickname of the General was “DNO.”

Grace Groves: DNO.

Groueff: And your children even now the grandchildren and yourself, call him DNO.

Groves: He’s also known as Dick. 

Groueff: Dick?

Groves: By his friends, yes. 

Groueff: Why Dick?

Groves: You see his name is Richard, and that’s the nickname for Dick. 

Groueff: Richard. 

Groves: That’s right. 

Groueff: So, Dick or DNO.

Groves: Well, nobody calls him DNO except the family. 

Groueff: Oh, the family yeah, I see. 

Groves: The other friends call him Dick. 

Groueff: But the friends call him Dick. 

Groves: Yes.

Groueff: And your nickname was Buddha and that’s from your childhood. And so we said that you played piano since childhood. 

Groves: Yes.

Groueff: During the War, you gave lessons only to one neighbor boy?

Groves: Oh, just one little boy. He was a little friend, yes. 

Groueff: You were working during the war at Garfinckel’s? 

Groves: Yes. In the afternoons. 

Groueff: Where was that?

Groves: Spring Valley. 

Groueff: Spring Valley in Washington. 

Groves: Yes. 

Groueff: What else did we say?

Groves: Oh, well I was working with the Red Cross making the dressings that we made, the surgical dressings, you remember?

Groueff: Yes. 

Groves: We would go there one day a week. That and I worked at these dances.

Groueff: For officers. 

Groves: For the Officers’ Club. 

Groueff: In the Officers’ Club, yeah.

Groves: Army, Navy, Marines, and all of that. 

Groueff: And then, we started talking about the General, and you said that the General doesn’t understand art. 

Groves: No. It just doesn’t mean anything to him. I don’t think. Maybe that’s unfair. 

Groueff: Anyhow he doesn’t show any particular interest music, painting.

Groves: Sports. That’s what he loves, sports. 

Groueff: He was a very good tennis player I understand. 

Groves: He was a good amateur tennis player. 

Groueff: Do you play tennis yourself?

Groves: No. I used to when I was a girl a little.

Groueff: But your daughter was good, no?

Groves: She’s good. She has real ability. 

Groueff: I was told that the General and your daughter even won some championship here, tournament. 

Groves: Oh well, perhaps. You know, just club things. 

Groueff: Club things, yeah.

Groves: They were called, “Groves and Groves.” They played as a team. 

Groueff: I see. But, she was a better player than you?

Groves: Oh, yes. I only played when I was very young. I haven’t played from many years. 

Groueff: But what are the other interests outside of: Science, Army, History, Political Affairs. Does the General have some hobbies? 

Groves: Not really, not like things that he does with his hands. He’s not interested in anything like that, but he loves football. I would say that that’s his hobby. He adores it. 

Groueff: He watches it on TV now. 

Groves: Oh, yes. And, he goes to the game. He usually goes to every Army football game. He goes up to West Point or he goes to New York. 

Groueff: Even during the war when he went back?

Groves: Oh, no. He had no time.

Groueff: He told me that when he used to go to Berkeley, he would go with [Ernest] Lawrence just to relax and talk probably about Chemistry while watching the football game.

Groves: Yes, he probably did. 

Groueff: I read also that he had a special taste for sweets that your daughter is giving him. 

Groves: Well you see, I think that she mentions his weight problem. He’s always overweight and the doctors are always trying to get it off of him. He’s always been that way. Right now, you can see, he’s a pretty big man. 

Groueff: He always was. I mean. He’s always been a big size?

Groves: Always. [He] always has to fight that. You see. He doesn’t smoke. He likes candy. 

Groueff: The family teases him about it?

Groves: The family tried to keep it away from him and that was what she was speaking about. She says that he would go on trips. They thought that he was making a gastronomic tour of the United States when he was supposed to be working. She jokes about that. 

Groueff: Is he what you would call a gourmet, very knowledgeable?

Groves: I think that perhaps he might be getting that way, as he grows older. He’s been a great deal in Europe and he appreciates the finesse of the cuisine over there very well.

Groueff: But, during the war?

Groves: During the war? I don’t know, you see, we didn’t have that kind of thing that much during the war. 

Groueff: Yeah, and especially he had to just grab a sandwich or something. 

Groves: Pretty much I think. We didn’t see him very often. 

Groueff: Are you interested in cooking especially?

Groves: I don’t particularly like the kitchen. 

Groueff: No, it’s not your hobby. 

Groves: No it isn’t. I can do it. I do it, but I’m not—

Groueff: So your interests are different from General’s?

Groves: Totally. 

Groueff: Totally. Are you interested in literature?

Groves: Yes. 

Groueff: Kind of poetry. 

Groves: And these languages. 

Groueff: Languages?

Groves: See I studied German and I speak Spanish pretty well. I studied Latin for many years. He worked on that with me. So I like languages. That’s my hobby. 

Groueff: But how come that your father spoke languages? Because he was interested? 

Groves: He was just a natural linguist. He was an American Officer, Colonel. He never went to Europe in his life. Isn’t that strange. 

Groueff: Never? And he learned French and German?

Groves: Italian, Spanish. He spoke Spanish well because he was in Cuba and Puerto Rico. But, French—he didn’t speak with a good accent. He didn’t have a very good ear, but he knew the languages extremely well. 

Groueff: Grammatically.

Groves: And literature and all of that, 

Groueff: So I understand that your father was the Commanding Officer in the regiment where the General’s father was the Chaplain. So, that’s where you met?

Groves: Yes. 

Groueff: Where in the West?

Groves: In Montana. 

Groueff: In Montana. With the regiment I mean, the two families following?

Groves: Sure enough. 

Groueff: What kind of man was your father? Was he typical for the well-read Army officer of that time?

Groves: No. I don’t think so. I’ve known very few Army officers who were like my father. In fact, I think that he was very unusual that way. He was a student. He was a scholar. I said that to him once, and it made him very angry. He was very much older than my mother. My father could’ve been my grandfather, I mean, in age. 

Groueff: So, what was his name?

Groves: Richard Wilson.

Groueff: He was Colonel at that time? Colonel Richard Wilson.

Groves: Yes, and I said to him, “How did you happen to go into the Army, father?” Because it struck me—I was just a young girl—that he was more interested in other things. He became very angry with me. He said, “You should never think that because I’ve devoted my life to my military career.” And he was decorated. I mean he was; he had distinguished himself in battle in the Spanish War.

Groueff: In Cuba?

Groves: Yes. So, he was a real fighting man, but he didn’t want me to think that he wasn’t. But really his love was books. 

Groueff: He wasn’t a typical officer who is most interested in shooting, and in horses, and only that. 

Groves: Not only that, no. 

Groueff: A man’s man. 

Groves: He was devoted to his career like my husband. He was devoted to West Point. Oh, they never get over that you know. 

Groueff: West Point?

Groves: West Point is in their blood. They never— 

Groueff: That’s what I tried to find out.

Groves: You have noticed that, haven’t you?

Groueff: Yes, and I asked him specifically, the General because I want to find out what created the person that General Groves was when he lead the project. Obviously he’s the product of several influences and forces. It’s part of the American heritage, so I want to find out what—

Groves: Makes him tick. 

Groueff: Yeah, makes him tick. One of the answers is, I think, definitely is West Point. Another one is his family upbringing, his father. 

Groves: Very stable, very severe, and very austere. 

Groueff: Very austere?

Groves: Oh, very. If you know anything about early New England, it’s typical. 

Groueff: Like Puritanical. 

Groves: That’s right. And the Huguenots.

Groueff: Huguenots?

Groves: See he’s descended from them. They were very tough people you know, those Huguenots.

Groueff: The moral values completely with no compromise. 

Groves: I think not. I’ve been reading about the Huguenots and what they went through in the 17th Century. They were just like the New England Puritans, same kinds of people. 

Groueff: The father of the General was—?

Groves: He was descended from them. 

Groueff: This type of man was also morally very strong.

Groves: Uncompromising. 

Groueff: I see this in the General. He seems to me—you know him, of course, I don’t—but he seems to me like a man who never doubted about certain things. 

Groves: Nothing. Never anything like that, no. He’s just black and white, that all, and nothing in between.

Groueff: He is probably the only man that I have met in whom this lack of doubting is to such a degree because he’s so confident about what he believes in. 

Groves: Yes. He doesn’t worry. He does what he thinks is right, and that’s it. I’ve never seen anyone else like him in my whole life. 

Groueff: He must have an extraordinary nervous system, no? 

Groves: Yes. He does. He’s fortunate. 

Groueff: He’s never afraid or worried. 

Groves: He’s very well endowed because he has that. He has that temperament and he has the good health, which upholds it, you see. 

Groueff: He’s never sick.

Groves: He has this background of stability. For instance, if you wanted something and you couldn’t afford it, well, that’s that. You just don’t think about it anymore. From his childhood, you see. I mean if you could, well alright, you get it. But if can’t, you don’t fret about it. You don’t fret. I’m the other way, I fret all the time. 

Groueff: It’s a good combination. 

Groves: I know. 

Groueff: He seems to be extremely steady in everything. Actually when I started my interviews, I thought—like every writer thinks—that when I ask him during those months and years of tremendous responsibilities and worries and risks and dangers, there were probably nights that you spent walking and pacing the room, or let’s say that before the first explosion of at Alamogordo, what did you do? And he answered very naturally that he slept. 

Groves: He did. He can lie down and close his eyes and he’s asleep. Anywhere!

Groueff: He told me that he’s never been worried.

Groves: I don’t think that he has. It seems incredible that anyone could be like that. 

Groueff: Especially with such responsibility. 

Groves: Well, [or] that any human being could be absolutely free from anxiety and apprehension. I think that he probably has anxieties. But he doesn’t show them and he seems to be able to keep them in check and to go on operating without letting them deter him.

Groueff: Emotionally, he’s very stable and always in control. 

Groves: Very dependable. You always know that he’s just the same. 

Groueff: He never hit the roof and shouts or gets in tantrums?

Groves: Oh, never. He punished the children when they were small. He believed in spanking, and he did it, but never in anger. I think that he’s remarkable.

Groueff: It’s very unusual. He’s a very unusual man from the human point of view. 

Groves: We all depend on him every one of us. My son, who is also I think a very fine man, but not quite like his father; he’s different and a little like me I suppose. But he and his children, everyone depends on this man. I mean, they ask him what to do. 

Groueff: And, he’s like the Rock of Gibraltar.

Groves: That’s what he is. 

Groueff: You never find him even in private life or in every day things that he’s sort of doubting or hesitant?

Groves: No, not really. I don’t think that he’s as firm as he used to be. He’s getting older. You know. And, he’s getting gentler than he used to be. He will let me tell him what to do in some things now that he never would have before.

Groueff: He was definitely the master, the boss at home and everywhere?

Groves: Oh, yes. We had a name for him, Judge DNO. Whenever anything had to be decided we would bring it to the judge, Judge DNO. Or, he was Dr. DNO. If it was anything that we thought a doctor should of thought of, so he was this and that.

Groueff: His decisions were without appeal? Final? 

Groves: Yes, and that’s very comforting to people who are a little bit vague as some of us are. 

Groueff: It must be because I’ve never met people like him to that degree. I envy him for that because imagine not having all of the anxieties and doubts that we all have. 

Groves: I’ve always envied him terrifically, yes. I think that he’s quite unusual. I’ve always thought so. I admire him more than anyone I’ve ever known.

Groueff: He has no fear?

Groves: No. Don’t think that I don’t get awfully mad at him sometimes, but I still admire him very much. I used to say to him that I would like to fight with you because I like to fight, and I like to get excited, but you never will fight back, so there’s no use trying. 

Groueff: He will never shout back. Yeah because there are a lot of as you know domineering husbands who will get in a fight and throw things. 

Groves: And, be unreasonable. That’s right. No, he won’t do that. 

Groueff: Always calm. He seems to me to be a very gentle and polite man, and yet he has a reputation of having been ruthless. 

Groves: And very gruff. 

Groueff: And tactless even.

Groves: When he was young, he was more like that than he is now. He has mellowed, do you know what I mean? He has mellowed. Sometimes I say to him that you’re so mellow, you make me sick. I’m used to having you tougher than this! But, that’s what age does to you I think a little bit.

Groueff: Wisdom also and also experience. 

Groves: Perhaps. When he was a young man he was very tactless you might say. Not endearing to most people.

Groueff: What was the biggest criticism of people who accuse him of being tactless and rough? Before I met the General, I expected to see somebody who shouts, you know, kind of like the German generals in the movies. But everybody, even the people who wrote critical things about him, say that he was always calm.

Groves: Oh, he was calm. 

Groueff: So, in what way was he tactless or rough do you think?

Groves: Well, I think that whatever was his object or his aim, he went after it to attain it. He didn’t care who he had to step on to get there. And, he was unquestionably not always considerate of people’s feelings because he wasn’t thinking about that. He was not a cavalier type. Never!

Groueff: But, most of us to different degrees, we worry about what other people think and we try to be liked and popular.

Groves: You’re right. He didn’t. I think that now he would. He likes to be liked. He likes to be loved. Not when he was young. 

Groueff: That impressed me. Several times in the conversation when we discussed some of his subordinates he said, “Oh yeah, this one didn’t like me, or that one did not like me,” in a very matter-of-fact way. And then, he says, “I never cared whether my subordinates liked me. I wanted things to be done.”

Groves: No I don’t think that he did really. He may have, but again he wouldn’t let it bother him. He would’ve preferred to be liked; I think that he’s human enough for that. He wouldn’t consider that. 

Groueff: He wouldn’t come home with ulcers and worried and terribly nervous because somebody said something about him?

Groves: And of course, the scientists, as you found out, thoroughly detested him because he didn’t consider their feelings or their opinions or anything. He was just driving toward his object and they had to put up with him. 

Groueff: And they also have the kind of superiority complex to every military man.

Groves: Oh, yes. They thought that he was just a blustering soldier with no appreciation of their intellectual superiority. They must’ve thought that. They must’ve thought that it was terrible to be subservient to a man who they considered ignorant no doubt. They must have. I imagine that.

Groueff: And yet, the truly great men were working very well with him. 

Groves: Yes, they were. That’s true. Oppenheimer.

Groueff: Yes, we talked about Oppenheimer for one hour. The general was the first one to say that there are no two men so different and opposite like Oppenheimer and myself in everything—physically and sensitivity. 

Groves: You saw him the other night didn’t you? Oppenheimer on the TV? 

Groueff: Yes, he looked very old. 

Groves: He did look very old and he hesitated so in his speech, but I think that it was because he was so overcome with what he was thinking, don’t you think? I haven’t seen him lately. 

Groueff: You knew him during those years?

Groves: I knew him after the bombing. I met him a few a times. 

Groueff: Were you impressed by him?

Groves: Oh, yes. A wonderful person!

Groueff: Everybody says that you can’t help being impressed. 

Groves: You can’t help it. He’s a truly great man, I think. He has all this love of the beautiful and this sensitiveness of an artist as well as the genius of a scientist. He’s unquestionably a genius.

Groueff: He has a big soul with the mind of a genius. 

Groves: Oh, he is a genius. 

Groueff: And, humanly likable. He has charm. 

Groves: Oh, I would say so, a great deal.

Groueff: So how do you explain the two men? The one man who is the military sort of black and white man and not interested in painting and music and [the other] an overly sensitive artistic man. Why do they like each other?

Groves: Well, I think that it’s simple. I think that each one appreciated the integrity of the other. Don’t you think that that could be?

Groueff: Also they’re on the same level mentally and their values may be different, but the level is the same. 

Groves: But, the quality of each different thing is equal. In that case I can imagine that that might be it because they are good friends, and when—I don’t know whether you were in this country a few years ago when Oppenheimer—remember the investigation? 

Groueff: Yes, and the General took his defense. 

Groves: He did. I think that he did. He came down here. He appeared. 

Groueff: Oh, yeah. On the record I have all of this. He’s on the record that he has no doubt when they asked him, “Do you think, General, that he would be a danger and that he could be disloyal?” and the General said, definitely not! He’s a loyal man. He had his past record and made a few mistakes. But yesterday he was telling me that Oppenheimer made some mistakes like trying to protect his brother, but he said that that’s understandable, and even I [Groves] would say that if loyalty to your country means that you have to denounce your brother or your wife if they do something wrong, he said that “I disagree with that.” So I was surprised in a way. I thought that the General would be completely without any softness.

But actually he was the one who cleared Oppenheimer at the beginning against the FBI.

Groves: Yes, he did. Well, he has said somewhere, I think, that Oppenheimer was so valuable to him in some ways that it was worth it.

Groueff: He had to take a calculated risk. 

Groves: He had to take a risk, that’s right. Oppenheimer proved that it was alright. 

Groueff: But, he’s quite an extraordinary man, the General. 

Groves: I’ll tell you Mr. Groueff, I can only say that he’s different. I’ve never seen anyone the least bit like him anywhere. 

Groueff: Does he have good sleep?

Groves: Yes. As I say, he lies down and he shuts his eyes and that’s the end until morning. 

Groueff: And good appetite of course. 

Groves: Well, yes he does. He’s working very hard now. 

Groueff: And good health?

Groves: Yes, I would say. Of course he’s getting older, but we all are.

Groueff: In this amusing paper of your daughter, I expected her to be like a scared child of a very tough disciplinarian father, and it’s exactly the contrary. It’s kind of teasing relationship between father and daughter. 

Groves: Oh, she adores him! She adores him, and he her. They are just the best of friends. There she is over there. That’s her picture. 

Groueff: So he wasn’t the kind of very severe father that your children were scared of when he came home. They love him coming home. 

Groves: Oh, no! They played. They still do. 

Groueff: So, he was severe only when they did something that required it.

Groves: He was rather severe with our son because he felt that he was a boy and that he should be disciplined. But the son is just as devoted to him.

Groueff: So he wasn’t severe with the children?

Groves: Oh, no, no. Never. 

Groueff: No, on the contrary. They liked to play with him.

Groves: They played, they still do. And he plays with the grandchildren. The grandchildren were here the other night, and they were having practically a rough house out here in the hall. They were tearing the place apart. He had them on his lap and he would throw them off onto the floor, and then they would come back, and he’d throw them. That went on for about an hour. It was terrific! That’s the way he plays—very roughly. 

Groueff: After so many years of living with him, what is the basis of this complete peace with himself that I detect in him?

Groves: Do you? That’s very nice to hear. 

Groueff: There is a kind of wisdom, a kind of serenity. You can feel that he’s a man who doesn’t doubt anymore. I don’t know how he was as a young man. Like all of us doubt and even the highest values or religion or moral issues. He doesn’t. To me he gives the impression that all this has been set.

Groves: It’s true.

Groueff: Do you think that he always was like that, or it’s lately?

Groves: No. He was always like that. 

Groueff: What is the base of that? Is it a profound religious feeling? Or, is it a sense of duty?

Groves: Well, I suppose those two would tie together. I’m sure that his father—he had a deeply religious upbringing. 

Groueff: Yes, the father being a chaplain. 

Groves: They were Presbyterians—if you know what that is like—of the strictest kind. 

Groueff: You’re not a Presbyterian? 

Groves: No. I’m with the Church of England. I’m Episcopalian. 

Groueff: Episcopalian, I see. But they were the strictest kind of Puritanical—?

Groves: They were. For instance, nobody went anywhere on Sunday. They observed the Sabbath strictly all of his childhood. He couldn’t play ball. They could sit in the house and read. They couldn’t go anywhere on Sunday except to church. 

Groueff: He respected that, the family.

Groves: Oh, yes the family. The whole family was just a part of the scene nobody talked about it.

Groueff: From what I understand, it was a family in which what the father says goes without any questioning.

Groves: Yes, but the mother too was a very strong and very beautiful and lovely person. I remember her well. She died when my husband was about sixteen. I think that he got a great deal of his personality from her. She was a very lovely woman. 

Groueff: Actually she spent much more time with him than the father because—

Groves: Because the father was in China as he told you for many years, that’s right. 

Groueff: Then China, yes, and Cuba with your father’s regiment. So, and he told me that he didn’t remember his father the age of five. 

Groves: That’s true. 

Groueff: So, the mother played a very important role in this?

Groves: Yes, she did.

Groueff: But is the whole family like that, his brother?

Groves: They are. Yes, they are. 

Groueff: Very solid.

Groves: That’s right. He has only one brother left now. 

Groueff: There was not frivolity in the life of the General?

Groves: No there was not Mr. Groueff, absolutely not. I remember that we were sorry for them; my father used to think that Chaplain Groves was too hard on them.

Groueff: Austere?

Groves: Yes. They were deprived. Of course, I was not deprived. It was bad, and the other way around. My family is from a Southern background, very different. 

Groueff: From what state?

Groves: Virginia. 

Groueff: Virginia, Maryland.

Groueff: And it was completely different?

Groves: Completely different. Everything about us is as different, my husband and me, as you could imagine everything about our whole lives. It’s funny isn’t it? Most people marry people that are congenial; we’re not congenial, but we get along very well. I don’t like football, and he doesn’t like the Pearl Musica that I went to last night at the cathedral.

Groueff: But to such a point you were different that your family felt sort of sorry for them?

Groves: Yes, they did because he was brought up—I think that this is helpful—with very little in material things. The Chaplain’s pay was that of a Major in the Army, which is—I don’t know what it is today—but in those days it was not very much. There were four children. What they believed in was education, so they all went to the best of colleges, but that meant very strict economy you see. No frivolity. Well, they wouldn’t have had that anyway because they didn’t believe in it. But it shows doesn’t it that there’s something to that kind of thing—to bring up a child that way. We couldn’t do it these days. 

Groueff: And, you were brought up in the Southern way? I mean, liking the beautiful things—

Groves: That’s right. Doing pretty much what I wanted to do.

Groueff: And, music and things.

Groves: That’s right. For instance, we always served liquor to guests. My father didn’t drink but I mean we always had it, you see, it was there. I’m sure that Chaplain Groves disapproved very much of my father and his way of doing things because the Groves family disapproved extremely of drinking and of anything. 

Groueff: Drinking, smoking things like that?

Groves: I suppose so. I don’t think that they smoked. No, I know that my husbands never smoked in his life not once, not even a cigarette. 

Groueff: No speak of any kind of love affairs or divorces.

Groves: No that would not be known. I mean that would be just out of there— 

Groueff: Adultery of people?

Groves: Of course in those days, those things existed. We didn’t talk about them as we do today. But no, that would just not be thought of, you see. 

Groueff: But a lot of people come from similar families and they change. 

Groves: They change. They do. That’s true. 

Groueff: Some of them even develop the opposite. There’s a reaction.

Groves: They do. They do indeed. 

Groueff: Like most of the anticlerical people come from convents. 

Groves: Very often. That’s right, or clergymen’s families. 

Groueff: So in his case, he was what his father and mother knew how to raise.

Groves: Yes, for instance, I’ve never known General Groves to use profanity. He wouldn’t even say “damn” or “hell.” He wouldn’t say those. I do all the time, and it’s like, “Momma how can you talk that way?” But, he has never. And, I’m sure that his father never did. 

Groueff: Which is rare for a military man. 

Groves: Goodness knows he’s heard plenty, but he never has used it. 

Groueff: But, you were brought up in a sort of Garrison life with your father being the commanding officer. 

Groves: We used to move. We moved at least every two years in those days, the Army. We’d go from one post to another one you see. 

Groueff: And, where were you educated a private place?

Groves: No. My father taught me. 

Groueff: I see. 

Groves: We went so many places where there were no schools as this was so long ago like the Philippines, Alaska, and Puerto Rico and places like that, and so he just got in the habit of teaching me. 

Groueff: Did your father and mother come from a rather well-off family?

Groves: Well, they had been well-off. They were very very early settlers in this country. My father’s family came to Maryland in the 17th Century. They had great lands and many slaves and that kind of thing. So did my mother’s family. But the [Civil] war had changed all of that, so their immediate forbearers were not [well-off].

Groueff: The damn Yankees. 

Groves: That’s right. 

Groueff: So in other words if you lived one century earlier you definitely will be on the certain side of your family, and the General—

Groves: My grandfather was a Confederate officer.

Groueff: And the General’s [family]?

Groves: His family was fighting for the North. Yes we had quite the opposite family. I’m a daughter of the Confederacy as they say.

Groueff: And, the General is definitely not. New England type.

Groves: His grandfather fought through the war on the Northern side. He was a soldier. My grandfather was on the Southern side. 

Groueff: But you knew the General when he was a young boy, and you were a little girl?

Groves: That’s right. 

Groueff: So, what did you think of him then?

Groves: Well, nothing much, just a big boy on the post. 

Groueff: Rather serious?

Groves: Oh, very. He was studying. I think he must’ve told you that he got through two years of school. Well, in those days it wasn’t like today with the teenagers having a big time. We didn’t do that kind of thing.

Groueff: You don’t go out and flirt?

Groves: Oh, no. And, have the cars and things. That’s what is so different today because we couldn’t get around like we do now. 

Groueff: Did he come to your home or did the Groves family used to—

Groves: They lived next door to us. 

Groueff: Where was that?

Groves: That was in Montana, and then later on in the State of Washington. He was there. And then after than, he went—

Groueff: Vancouver?

Groves: No. That was when he was a little boy. I wasn’t there, but he left then you see to go to Boston Tech in Massachusetts. 

Groueff: Yes, MIT.

Groves: Yeah, so I didn’t see him very much after that for quite a while. He went to West Point. 

Groueff: You didn’t know that you were going to marry him?

Groves: No, I didn’t know that. He told me that he said he was going to marry me the first day that he saw me though. He said that to himself, but I doubt if that’s true. 

Groueff: But, you certainly had no idea? 

Groves: Oh, no.

Groueff: Your father liked the Groves family?

Groves: Of course. Oh, you couldn’t help but respect them and like them because they were really wonderful people. Of course he thought that Chaplain Groves was very hard on his children, especially his youngest son who my father thought was the best of the three. He said that he thought that boy would go very far. Well he did.

Groueff: Why because he was working all of the time?

Groves: I guess so. He just thought that he had character. He could tell he said. But, that was sort of a thing that I remember him saying. 

Groueff: Why did he think that it was helping him? Because he didn’t have the material things and also discipline?

Groves: Well, he had the discipline. No he didn’t have the material things that my father thought that he should have had because he thought that the Chaplain was too anxious to educate them to give them things that they really could’ve enjoyed at the time. Well now, that was one man’s—you know, how people think about their neighbors and say things. I remember him saying that. He probably didn’t give it much thought. 

Groueff: He succeeded. Your father was right that he would amount to something.

Groves: He was right that he went quite far, didn’t he? Yes, he did.

Groueff: I’m still trying to find what makes him tick, and I have a much better idea now. 

Groves: Have you really? You know more about him as a man.

Groueff: Yes. But, if you can give me some sort of details. 

Groves: Well, I think that makes him really what he is, is just a combination of things in which he’s been very fortunate to have the temperament, which I think is a thing you were born with don’t you? The personality traits are there. Environment does a great deal to develop those. I think that he was very fortunate in his environment because it was good. It had worth. 

Groueff: Yes, and all of those values were established in a very definite— 

Groves: That’s right and they were the right values; they were the good values that are enduring. They don’t change. Today he can do as he pleases, but he still just likes to do the right thing, I think, and he always has. 

Groueff: He resisted all the temptations of a young man who needed to get money.

Groves: He kept his eye on the ball. He always knew what he was after. That was the thing that he thought about I think. He was a student, a good one, because he wanted to get the education that would enable him to achieve the other.

Groueff: Was he interested in kind of luxury things? 

Groves: Not particularly, no. 

Groueff: He wouldn’t do any compromising of it?

Groves: Oh, no. 

Groueff: To have a better house.

Groves: I know that he’s told me that he went to Boston, that his father sent him to Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That was all the way across the continent, because they lived on the West Coast. So he had to travel to Boston. And, his father had two other sons in college in New York at the time. He naturally couldn’t afford very much of an allowance for my husband to live on. He was very young; he was probably seventeen. But he went to Boston and he had to find a place to live. He had to live on very little in order to go to school in Boston, but he did that. He didn’t complain and didn’t think a thing about it. He just made what little money he had due for what he had to get along with. He spent two and a half year there, and then he went to West Point, which his father did not want him to do. 

Groueff: He told me.

Groves: He told you that.

Groueff: Yeah.

Groves: He went against his father’s wishes there. 

Groueff: And, he was right probably.

Groves: He was right.

Groueff: At that point of his life. 

Groves: His father didn’t want him to go in the Army, but he did.

Groueff: What does he think about people like all of us who have our doubts and insecurities?

Groves: Well, he doesn’t understand that. 

Groueff: He doesn’t understand that?

Groves: No he doesn’t.

Groueff: Probably that’s part of his reputation of not being—

Groves: That’s right of being harsh. I think so.

Groueff: He doesn’t understand.

Groves: He wouldn’t understand Oppenheimer in 1,000 years. I know what Dr. Oppenheimer is like. I really can guess. I know that he has great personal troubles, Dr. Oppenheimer, and I think that it shows in his. 

Groueff: And weakness. 

Groves: And weakness at times. 

Groueff: The General doesn’t understand weakness. 

Groves: No. He doesn’t understand not being able to hold to your target. He doesn’t understand that. He doesn’t understand nerves. He thinks that that’s foolishness. And giving way to your feelings and that’s why he can’t see why anyone would do it because it wouldn’t come into his category. He just wouldn’t know about that. 

Groueff: And conflict of loyalties, he doesn’t understand any of that?

Groves: I don’t think so. No. It wouldn’t make much sense to him. 

Groueff: All of us sometimes have those problems.

Groves: Surely. No he looks upon psychoanalysis, for instance, as a great big piece of foolishness. He can’t see why anybody would need to study it. He thinks it’s just ridiculous. But you see he has some blind spots. 

Groueff: He’s been lucky. 

Groves: We all know that those things are authentic and that they are needful, but he won’t admit that. 

Groueff: He didn’t need it. It’s like a healthy man would never understand the psychology of sick man for instance. 

Groves: Sure. That’s right. You don’t really understand. I don’t mean to say that he’s unsympathetic or anything like that, but he doesn’t really understand. You have to experience things to understand them, don’t you?

Groueff: Was he interested in literature or any kind of fiction?

Groves: No.

Groueff: Poetry? 

Groves: Biography, history, oh yes, that kind of thing. But no, I have never known him to read a novel. 

Groueff: He’s not interested then?

Groves: No. Now, he must’ve had to read those in school. He must’ve had to pass examination in literature. 

Groueff: He wouldn’t take it upon himself though?

Groves: I’m sure that he doesn’t remember anything like that. It doesn’t make any impression on him. He doesn’t like the drama. He hates to go the theater. 

Groueff: And movies?

Groves: Oh, he can’t bear them. On television he’ll look at sports, and that’s all, football games. Entertainment to him is sports. 

Groueff: On the other hand, I saw that he read everything on the Civil War and the First World War, and biographies of Napoleon. 

Groves: Napoleon is his hobby if he has one. You see the pictures. Well there aren’t any in here, but Napoleon is all over this apartment, little pictures of him. He loves Napoleon. When we go to Paris, we spend our time in the Invalides [War Museum].

Groueff: Really that’s one of his heroes?

Groves: Oh, we walk up and down that gloomy place by the hour. He loves it. 

Groueff: Among Americans, what kind of man does he respect and admire?

Groves: [Douglas] MacArthur. 

Groueff: MacArthur?

Groves: Oh, yes. Not Eisenhower. 

Groueff: Not Eisenhower, and not Roosevelt certainly. 

Groves: Oh, no. 

Groueff: Probably more Truman because at least he did things. 

Groves: Yes, I think that he feels a kind of an affinity for Truman. Truman has his discrepancies, we all know, but he’s a real American. He’s more understandable to us, to me even, than a person like Kennedy for whom I would have no respect whatsoever nor would my husband.

Groueff: You would personally, I think, understand a person like Kennedy or Roosevelt?

Groves: Oh, I might understand them, but I would have no respect for them. I don’t have much respect for Truman because I know that he’s done some very dishonest things, but in a way I think that he has certain kind of—

Groueff: I think he was efficient and made decisions. Had the guts to.

Groves: He has certain integrity about him.

Groueff: He’s a fighter and courageous man. 

Groves: That’s probably what we like about Truman. 

Groueff: But, McArthur was the man— 

Groves: Great man! Truly great!

Groueff: This morning I see that he liked Secretary Stimson. 

Groves: Very much. 

Groueff: General Marshall. 

Groves: Very much. 

Groueff: They get along. But, he’s the type who wouldn’t like any kind of sort of wishy-washy left-winger socialist?

Groves: Anybody who is the least bit that way, no. 

Groueff: Does he like things like the flag, the parades, and things like that? 

Groves: Well, yes. Most any soldier responds to that.

Groueff: Yeah because now as you know, the new generation is sort of skeptical and even laugh on those things. 

Groves: No. General Groves is what you might call patriotic to the bottom.  He really feels very strongly about what he considers to be the American way and the American viewpoint, which a lot of people are out to destroy today. They’re trying very hard to eliminate it.

Groueff: He’s very proud of being an American. 

Groves: Yes, very proud indeed. Well, of course, his family like mine were over here long before the Revolution. We fought for independence, our people. We are not what you call New Americans; we’re Old Americans in every respect. 

Groueff: But it’s amusing how you represent but two kinds of Old Americans: the puritanical, northern and the sort of more refined charm of the South.

Groves: Well the South in some of us, it is sort of a dream a way of life. It perhaps didn’t really exist, but we think that it did. We have it in us. We think that we have something in usthat’s a little different from the North. I don’t know. 

Groueff: Oh, yes. That’s why Europeans when they come here—French and Latins, especially—have more affinity with the South, while Scandinavians and English and Germans probably more with the North. But, every Frenchman is crazy about—

Groves: Virginia, and the feeling they have— 

Groueff: They disapprove of them politically now. In Europe that was an extreme even this kind of—they exaggerated the whole thing, but yet, the heart of a European is mostly with the South. 

Groves: They feel more at home perhaps with this way of thinking, some of it. 

Groueff: There was a lot of French and Spanish influence. 

Groves: That’s true, yes, but it was very English too. I think that they just evolved a certain type of civilization as peculiar as their own. It didn’t work out very well. It obviously didn’t have the elements of worth that the northern kind had because it was crushed by that. That perhaps proves that we were not really—well we had the amenities. In the South, good manners probably counted for than good morals. In the North it was the other way around. Good manners weren’t terribly important, but good morals were. I think that that’s some of it. 

Groueff: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. 

Groves: But good manners are terribly important in the South.

Groueff: In all of Europe too.

Groves: Of course. 

Groueff: But people like the General’s father and his mother and grandfathers they were the opposite. I mean, the morals where the most important. 

Groves: The principles, yes. That’s true. 

Groueff: And no compromise with principles.

Groves: No, it just wasn’t thought of. I mean, no talk about it or anything you just behaved in a certain way and that was the only way to behave. I think that in the South it was the same only in another direction. Hospitality, comfort perhaps is their form of luxury, which wasn’t probably very luxurious, but lots of servants, you see. In the North you didn’t have that. I think that that must’ve had a lot to do. Now my grandmother said that until she was married—I don’t remember my grandmother, but I was told this—she had never put on her own shoes. She lived in Virginia. She had never done anything for herself. 

Groueff: Yeah, so that influences your whole life. It’s a difference. You see it in people even later. 

Groves: Well, yes. I suppose that you do. We are a melting pot. Over in Paris, a taxi driver said to me something about “votre marmite” [pot]. I didn’t like that, and I said, “Ce n’est pas une marmite!” I’m not a part of any “marmite,” I said to him, but it is a “marmite.” It certainly is. I suppose that the whole world be because it’s getting so small.

Groueff: And it continues to be in America places like New York, there are so many foreigners. 

Groves: Oh, New York isn’t American at all. The whole Eastern Seaboard is more like Europe, I think, than it is like America.

Groueff: Yeah, except still in New England they might keep some of the old culture. 

Groves: They keep some character, and I hope that it will continue. But, the world is getting so small with communication. We can’t continue, I think, to have any regional wholeness. I don’t believe that we can. I deplore that because I’d like to think that we have differences. I think that differences are good, don’t you?

Groueff: It kills the charm. 

Groves: What is wrong with differences? Why should we all be homogenized? 

Groueff: That’s a big danger now. Even in France probably you saw how—

Groves: Oh I did the [French word], and the horror.

Groueff: And the drugs stores. 

Groves: The Drug Store on Champs Elysees. That is the most horrible place that I have ever seen in my life!

Groueff: Fantastic success! 

Groves: You can’t get in there. The French having—

Groueff: The French think that it’s a big favor to invite there. 

Groves: Oh, yes. You see all of these young couples in the little booths having lunch, and it seems to be.

Groueff: And now, self-service with frankfurters and all of us, we want to go in the red check table and the bistro Lata Tram. All of these disappeared. 

Groves: Oh, I hate to think of that. 

Groueff: You have the drug stores, and hot dogs. 

Groves: And the supermarkets they’re beginning, I think. 

Groueff: Yeah. Motels. 

Groves: Motels, yes. 

Groueff: Everything is modern. 

Groves: We saw hotels in Ireland. 

Groves: Oh, yes.

Groueff: That time during the war, he drove the car from here to—

Groves: Oh, no. Let’s see. Did he? I’m trying to think. 

Groueff: I’d better ask him now. 

Groves: I think that he did. We only had one car in those days. 

Groueff: What car? Do you remember what?

Groves: We had a Dodge then, yes. 

Groueff: A Dodge?

Groves: Yes. We’ve always had Chrysler cars, but I’ve forgotten now. He was away so much of the time. He had his own private plane, did he tell you that?

Groueff: No. 

Groves: Yes, he had his private airplane with a crew.

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.