Lawrence S. O’Rourke began working on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University after he was called up from the Army Reserves in 1944. O’Rourke was among the first group of SEDs who worked at Columbia, where he helped research and develop the gaseous diffusion process for the separation of uranium. After nine months, O’Rourke’s group moved from the Pupin Physics Lab to the Nash Garage Building, where they helped develop the barrier material that would be used at the K-25 plant in Oak Ridge.
Bill Wilcox: My name is Bill Wilcox. William J. Wilcox, Jr.
Cindy Kelly: And how do you spell Wilcox?
Kelly: Why was Oak Ridge chosen for the Manhattan Project?
James S. Cole: I’ll put it this way. I was in Biloxi, Mississippi and getting ready to go overseas as a B-17 engineer. I was on the train getting ready to come here, not knowing I was coming here. An MP came on and said, “You’ve got another set of orders.” I figured I had done something bad, so I went in there and talked to the guy. He said, “You’ve got another set of orders.” He gave it to me. It was a telephone number, Knoxville, Tennessee.
I said, “What kind of orders are those?”
He says, “Get on a train.”
James S. Cole is an American engineer. He served as an airplane engineer during World War II, and began working at the K-25 plant at Oak Ridge, TN in 1945, shortly after the end of the war. Cole later worked at the Y-12 plant. In this interview, he recalls his early days at Oak Ridge and how he adjusted to the new environment. He shares several stories about his time working at K-25, including finding ways to fix broken pumps and valves. He also explains the importance of the Special Engineer Detachment and members of the military to the Manhattan Project.
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. It is Thursday, April 26, 2018, and I have with me Gordon Fee. Gordon, first, why don’t you just tell us a little bit about your background and how you happened to come to Oak Ridge and what you’ve done here.
Cindy Kelly: Okay. I am Cindy Kelly. I’m here in Albuquerque. It is Wednesday, October 12.
Hal Behl: Okay. I’m Harold Behl. B as in boy, e-h-l. Known as Hal.
Kelly: Okay. I just want to have you tell us when and where you were born and a little about your childhood.
Stephane Groueff: Mr. Hobbs, part three.
J.C. Hobbs: The discussion in connection with piping and all of these fancy bends. Badger Company in Boston, I think, had the contract for the copper expansion joints.
Groueff: Between pipes?
General Kenneth Nichols: —found we did not have the authority to satisfy DuPont.
Stephane Groueff: But why did DuPont challenge your authority?
Nichols: Because they had trouble, in World War I, being called munitions makers and investigated after World War I, so they are more conservative than most companies. And they wanted to have in their files copies of our authorities. And what we had, which I have shown you, and that is satisfactory to them.
Groueff: I see.
Stephane Groueff: Mr. Hobbs, part two. So to go now to how you were contacted for the Manhattan Project.
J.C. Hobbs: You see, [Ludwig] Skog was one in the group and had me in on –
Groueff: And [William Francis] Gibbs.
Ted Rockwell: It's Theodore Rockwell, R - O - C - K - W - E - L - L. And what do you want to know?
Cindy Kelly: Okay. Tell us about how you happened to go to the Manhattan Project?