E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company
Wilmington 98, Delaware
August 24, 1945
To all employees of E. I. Du Pont de
Nemours & Company:
All of you have
unquestionably read and heard a great deal about the releasing of atomic energy;
culminating in the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japanese cities. Some
of you have been engaged in work in this field. Those who have been
directly connected with the project have by now almost certainly heard that our
company had a part in it.
In preparing this
report, the purpose has been to inform all of you of du Pont's connection
with this work, so that you will know what was done and what some of us here in
Wilmington thought about it. I do not mean to go into technical details of
our operations, as it is the company's feeling that it is up to the Government
to decide what should be said on that score. I do want to cover the
non-technical aspects of the project with some thoroughness.
In the first place,
the Government has indicated that our part of the work was accomplished to its
complete satisfaction. In the second place, the du Pont Company did not,
and does not, make atomic bombs. Our part in the project has been to
produce one of the essential ingredients used in the ultimate construction of
the weapon which helped to bring the war to an end. It has been quite a
job, and the story of that job begins in the fall of 1942.
It was at that time
that Major General Leslie R. Groves, representing the War Department, came to du
Pont with the request that our company undertake a share of a project of great
importance in the war effort. This project dealt with the release of
atomic energy. The atom had been split in laboratory experiments, and
scientists believed that if a way could be found to release this force at will
and if adequate means of production could be developed, the United States would
have an explosive enormously more powerful than any previously known, and could
undoubtedly bring the war to a quick end.
evidence strongly indicated that our enemies, especially Germany, were seeking
the same end. If they got it first, even at the last minute before
collapse, the entire course of the war would be changed. This fact was
brought to our attention by General Groves.
He also made it very
plain that he was asking the company to go into a field about which little was
known beyond the fundamental scientific theory. He realized fully that the
chance of failure was so high as to make the project inadvisable under ordinary
circumstances. He knew that it might well involve dangers for those
engaged in the work. But the fact that our enemies were after the same
result left the Government no choice. The attempt had to be made, and
General Groves explained to us -- that is to say, the Executive Committee of the
company -- that the Government regarded du Pont as the organization best
qualified to undertake a major phase of the work.
We hesitated to
accept the proposed responsibility for two reasons: the first was that the
company was already so heavily burdened with war work, accepted at the urgent
request of the armed services, that we feared our personnel would be hopelessly
overloaded if we took on anything of the magnitude of this task; the second was
that du Pont is a chemical company, and while it has done considerable
pioneering work, it has always been in the general field of chemistry, where we
had the aid that comes with experience. Now we were asked to enter the
field of nuclear physics, and we felt it was out of our line.
pressed his argument. He told us that President Roosevelt, Secretary of
War Stimson, and General Marshall, Chief of Staff, all felt that this was a
matter of the utmost urgency. He pointed out that victory in the war would
go to the nation that solved the problem first. His presentation of the
situation made it evident that, whatever the odds against success, the country
could not afford to give the Axis a clear field in the attempt to liberate
atomic energy. He reiterated the Government's confidence in du Pont.
This being the
case, we felt compelled to give up our hesitation about participating in the
project, taking the position that if the Government believed du Pont's
assistance was needed, we could not refuse.
however, insist upon two conditions. The first was that du Pont make no
profit whatever from the work it did. The contract accordingly gave du
Pont a fixed fee of one dollar on work that ultimately was to necessitate the
expenditure of about $350,000,000, and the design, construction, and operation
of by far the largest plant that du Pont ever built or operated. The
second was that no patent rights growing out of du Pont's work on the project
should go to du Pont. Our feeling was that the importance to the nation of
the work on releasing atomic energy was so great that control, including patent
rights, should rest with the Government. The Government accepted these
these two conditions, we felt that we were justified in asking that the
Government provide very complete protection to the company as to costs,
expenses, claims, and losses. The Government found this request
reasonable, and agreed to protect du Pont. It of course agreed to pay all
costs of the work.
was assigned to the Explosives Department, which organized a new division known
as "TNX" to handle the work. The department drew heavily on its
own personnel from commercial and war plants as well as from nearly all
departments of the company, so that in the end TNX represented a group of the du
Pont men best suited for the work, irrespective of their previous
locations. Thus it was, and continued to be, an over-all du Pont effort
under the able guidance of the Explosives Department.
connection, the contributions of the Engineering Department were outstanding,
and the design and construction problems met and solved by it were the greatest
the company ever encountered.
beginning of our conversations with General Groves, the nature of du Pont's
share in the project was necessarily somewhat vague. The truth was that no
one knew enough about the field into which we were going to be definite.
Responsibility for the fundamental research and development essential to the
success of the work done by du Pont was entrusted to the University
of Chicago by the Government. By essential, I mean that if the
University had not fully done its job, du Pont could not have carried through
its share in the project.
We were asked
first to engineer, design, and construct a small-scale semi-works plant which
was to be operated by the University of Chicago. This semi-works plant was
built by du Pont at Clinton, Tennessee, where the larger Oak Ridge project was
also being constructed by others. In addition, a number of key du Pont
technical men were "loaned" to the University of Chicago, which needed
skilled assistance along lines of industrial experience.
meantime, the pressure on the Government for haste grew to such proportions that
du Pont was asked to go ahead with the engineering, design, construction, and
operation of a large scale plant (Hanford) to produce one of the essential
materials for atomic bombs, a new chemical element called plutonium.
was without precedent. In normal procedure, a large-scale plant is
constructed on the basis of the experience gained in semi-works
operations. The semi-works is, so to speak, a practice model where the
"bugs" can be eliminated and workable methods of production
perfected. The Government representatives were frankly doubtful as to
whether it was possible to short-circuit this normal procedure by going ahead
with a large-scale plant before waiting for the results of the semi-works
project. They wanted du Pont's opinion as to the feasibility of such
procedure. The company pointed out the difficulties involved, but in the
end, as I have said above, agreed to proceed if that was the way the Government
wanted it. It was.
secrecy had to be observed. That the secret was well kept is
obvious. Much technical information is still highly secret, and will
presumably continue to be for a long time to come.
Many new and
unusual problems were encountered by du Pont in carrying through this
project. We had aid from the University of Chicago,
to which we turned for consultation and advice, using this knowledge to augment
our industrial and engineering experience. The University answered many
specific questions put to it by us, and in addition studied and concurred in the
final du Pont decisions and designs.
Department, in a press release concerning the Hanford plant, commented that
"The story of its construction and operation is a story of ingenuity,
intelligent planning, and bold innovations in design and construction. It
is a story of action, sacrifice, high morale, and loyal, hard-working
employees. It is the epic of American industry's and the American workers'
answer to the challenge of a great emergency."
A few facts
about Hanford may be of interest. The area owned or controlled through
lease by the Government exceeds 600 square miles. The manufacturing area
is subdivided into three large areas, each of which is again subdivided into
sections miles square. One of the three main sections contains three
enormous groups of structures in which material is produced. The second
area contains three huge chemical plants where the material is purified and
concentrated. The third prepares the raw materials.
As an adjunct
to construction of the plant itself, it was necessary to build housing for
construction workers at Hanford, a community which mushroomed to 60,000
inhabitants in the course of two years. The actual construction forces
reached 45,000 at its maximum in June of 1944. The separate village of
Richland, built to house the plant operating force, had a population of 15,000.
of Hanford involved the use of 8,500 major pieces of construction equipment, and
the building of 345 miles of permanent roads and 125 miles of railroad.
Twenty-five million cubic yards of earth were excavated and 750,000 cubic yards
of concrete were placed along with 1,500,000 concrete blocks and 750,000 cement
bricks. Forty thousand rail carloads of materials were received, including
40,000 tons of steel, 160,000,000 board feet of lumber, and 11,000 poles for the
electric power and lighting system.
The plants at
the Hanford Engineer Works are huge structures. They are plants in which
materials in enormous quantities are handled through many successive processes
with no human eye ever seeing what actually goes on, except through a
complicated series of dials and panels that enable the operators, in many cases
behind thick concrete walls, to maintain perfect control of every single
operation at all times.
been made to the hazards which we thought might be involved. Largely
because of the great care taken by all who worked on the various projects to see
that all possible safety measures were provided and rigidly observed,
construction and ordinary operating accidents were held to a minimum.
There have been no accidents due to the hazards inherent in the process.
semi-works at Clinton, TN (Oak Ridge) was not of use as a complete early edition
of Hanford, because design, procurement, and some construction for Hanford had
to go on while Clinton was being built, things worked out all right at the
Washington State plant. And, Clinton proved very helpful in the solution
of the many completely new problems encountered in the large-scale operation
In addition to
the Clinton and Hanford projects, on which the Explosives and Engineering
Departments did such a splendid job, the du Pont Company made several other
contributions to the atomic program. I should mention specifically the
Ammonia, Grasselli, Organic Chemicals, Pigments, and Plastics Departments, all
of which aided greatly by doing research or supplying materials to Hanford and
to other parts of the atomic project. The work these departments did was
not covered by the Clinton-Hanford contract, but by other agreements of a more
usual nature. The auxiliary departments contributed substantially.
this report, I want to express the company's profound gratitude to all du Pont
employees who had a part in the atomic program. They did their work
faithfully and well, and the satisfactory conclusion of their efforts is in
itself a tribute beyond any words that I, or anyone else, can address to them.
W. S. Carpenter, Jr.,