Here is an upcoming event I wish I could attend: the George C. Marshall Foundation in Lexington, Virginia is hosting chemistry professor and author Frank Settle this coming Thursday, August 6. That is of course the 70th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Dr. Settle is the author of the forthcoming General George C. Marshall and the Atomic Bomb. As this article from the Richmond Times-Dispatch makes clear historians have largely overlooked Marshall’s outsized role in the planning and construction of the Bomb. The undertaking lasted several years and involved over half a million military and civilian personnel at a cost of $30 billion in today’s dollars. This was all taking place in secret while he and Secretary of War Henry Stimson were carrying out a two-front war in Europe and the Pacific.
It is incredible the way the senior leadership in the Second World War had multiple careers that stretched all the way back to the First. Stimson was Secretary of War in the Taft Administration and part of the Preparedness Movement along with such individuals as Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, who at the time was assistant secretary of the navy in the Wilson Administration. It is no wonder FDR picked Stimson to be his own Secretary of War several decades later, even though he was in the opposition party. In the 1910s Marshall, then as always, kept his mouth shut while doing so much to get the Army ready for the fighting in France. This was no small task given the sitting start from which A.E.F. began the war. Thirty years later the Manhattan Project would test Marshall’s mettle on an even vaster scale.
Here are the details for Thursday’s discussion should one happen to be in the area.
(image by the U.S. Army Signal Corps, Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons)