Thanksgiving During The Manhattan Project

Thanksgiving feast preparation in the kitchen at Camp Hanford. Courtesy/AHF

A typical Manhattan Project era Thanksgiving meal. Courtesy/AHF

AHF News:

Manhattan Project workers around the country were usually not allowed to travel home for vacation – even for Thanksgiving.

Top scientists had important meetings on Thanksgiving, preventing them from spending the holiday with family. The communities banded together to celebrate Thanksgiving. New traditions were begun, new friends made, and a good meal was had by all. In these stories, Manhattan Project veterans and family members recalls the unique Thanksgivings they shared during World War II.

Irénée Du Pont: I was a senior in college and I came home to my parents’ place in Delaware from Massachusetts to have Thanksgiving with the family. Someone said, “Where’s Crawford [Greenewalt]?” This was the fall of 1942, when the Du Pont Company had just been called upon to investigate and work with the Manhattan Engineer District.


My father said something that he certainly shouldn’t have, but he didn’t know any better. He said, “Crawford is out working on a bomb so terrible that it will end the war.” There was silence. My sister Margaretta [Crawford’s wife] didn’t react, but the subject wasn’t discussed.

John Wheeler: My first experience [with the Manhattan Project] was Thanksgiving Day, 1942. We were meeting to decide what site should be picked. We had a collection of sites from hither and yon around the country, and it was my function to bring in all kinds of factors that might otherwise be overlooked. For example, how many thunderstorm days per year the given locality has. There are of course obvious ones about security. There were ones about water purity. You name it, I had to think of it.
William E. Tewes (Oak Ridge): I was a part of the Special Engineer Detachment. There were 1,247 of us working here at all of the plants and the Castle on the Hill [headquarters]. A number of us stayed here after the war. And one of the great attractions that kept us here was the fact that we had all those beautiful women. I can speak personally of this, because on Thanksgiving Day of 1945, I met Olive Littleton of Grayson, Kentucky. We dated continuously until we got married.


Bob Porton (Los Alamos): There were certain people who were so good to the GI’s at Thanksgiving and Christmas and Sundays, you’d be invited to a Sunday dinner. My first Christmas here and couple of Thanksgivings, there were certain kinds of civilians that just went out of their way to invite GI’s into their homes for a dinner.


Source: Atomic Heritage Foundation

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