The seventieth anniversary of the successful completion of the Manhattan Project brings to mind how an operation so immense, jumping technological advances by at least a decade, was accomplished in a mere two years. Brilliant scientists and engineers were of course all important, but without Brigadier General Leslie Groves I have no doubt the project would not have succeeded in delivering a bomb before the end of the War. In our contemporary world we emphasize people skills. Groves, a rather unpleasant man to work under, almost completely lacked those, but he had other attributes which allowed him to get the job done:
First, General Groves is the biggest S.O.B. I have ever worked for. He is most demanding. He is most critical. He is always a driver, never a praiser. He is abrasive and sarcastic. He disregards all normal organizational channels. He is extremely intelligent. He has the guts to make difficult, timely decisions. He is the most egotistical man I know. He knows he is right and so sticks by his decision. He abounds with energy and expects everyone to work as hard or even harder than he does. Although he gave me great responsibility and adequate authority to carry out his mission-type orders, he constantly meddled with my subordinates. However, to compensate for that he had a small staff, which meant that we were not subject to the usual staff-type heckling. He ruthlessly protected the overall project from other government agency interference, which made my task easier. He seldom accepted other agency cooperation and then only on his own terms. During the war and since I have had the opportunity to meet many of our most outstanding leaders in the Army, Navy and Air Force as well as many of our outstanding scientific, engineering and industrial leaders. And in summary, if I had to do my part of the atomic bomb project over again and had the privilege of picking my boss I would pick General Groves.
Colonel Kenneth D. Nichols
The modern world has a plethora of talkers who are ever content to spare the feelings of subordinates. We could use a few more, well, I guess the proper blunt term is “bastards”, like Groves who can be depended to get very large jobs done.