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Manhattan District
WAC Detachment

[2-2.1 BD]

[Note: This manuscript is part of the US Army Center of Military History's Historical Manuscripts Collection (HMC), and carries the catalog number 2-2.1 BD, which should be included in any footnote or other citation. Although the document which follows has been retyped to make it available on the Internet, every effort has been made to retain the spelling, punctuation, and flavor of the original.]

Early in 1943 preliminary construction work for Manhattan District was well under way and as work progressed, the volume of classified information, regarding all phases of the project, increased proportionately. Since it was in the best interests of the government to have a minimum number of individuals handle the classified documents, a letter from the Adjutant General, dated 3 June 1943, gave authority for the establishment of a Manhattan District Women's Army Auxiliary Corps Detachment to utilize women in uniform who had skills, training, and experience principally in the clerical field.

This original authority for a unit of seventy-five members of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps was soon filled. The volume of work had increased; also the number of Manhattan District Area offices in which Women's Army Corps members were used, and as a result allotments were increased progressively until Manhattan District had authority for a total of 425 enlisted women.

During 1944 and 1945 all WAC recruits who entered the Army under general assignment at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, and Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, were interviewed, but special arrangement, and selections were made to meet the various requirements of the District.

The first enlisted woman assigned to the Manhattan District WAC Detachment on 25 June 1943 was Myrtle L. Hayes, who served as First Sergeant for more than two years. Among the first twenty-five enlisted women to report to Manhattan District, the following are still present for duty: Minnie L. Barclay, Shirley A. Sherman, and Elizabeth E. Young.

The first Commanding Officer, 1st Lieutenant Frances W. House, was appointed in June 1943. Captain, then First Lieutenant, Arlene G. Scheidenhelm was assigned to the District in September 1943, and succeeded Lieutenant House as Commanding Officer of the WAC Detachment in March 1944. The District office at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, also served as WAC Headquarters for enlisted women stationed at Pasco, Washington, Chicago, Illinois, New York, New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Alamos, New Mexico. Even before the WAC Detachment was authorized for the District, and as early as April 1943, there were WACs stationed at Los Alamos, New Mexico, as part of the 4817th SCu, Eighth Service Command. These WACs later became part of the District WAC Detachment. After 1 February 1945, the entire military complement of Manhattan District was designated by the Chief of Engineers as the 9812th TSU-CE.

Quarters for Manhattan District WACs were varied. In Pasco, Washington and Oak Ridge, Tennessee, government dormitories were utilized; enlisted women at Los Alamos, New Mexico, were housed in comfortable barracks, and those in New York City were assigned hotel space under government contract.

Maximum strength for the detachment was reached in August 1945 when the roster included 422 enlisted women, representing every state in the union.

Members of the Women's Army Corps Detachment constituted a specialized group of chief clerks, stenographers, telephone operators, scientific technicians, clerks general, and teletype and cryptographic technicians. Stationed in numerous isolated locations, to them was assigned the task of handling detailed records, technical reports, and secret information pertaining to the development of the Atomic Bomb.

A number of enlisted women developed new skills in various fields as a result of assignments with Manhattan District. Enlisted women became skillful in technical duties as follows: metallurgy technician, entailing work in ceramics, plastics, and powdered metals; electronics technicians, pertaining principally to the construction of electronics equipment; photography, dealing mainly with metallurgy, entailing a knowledge of metals; and spectroscopist technician, covering advanced work with the spectroscope.

In recognition of the superior performance on an especially difficult task, the 9812th TSU-CE was awarded the Meritorious Service Unit Award [now called Meritorious Unit Citation]. The members of the detachment receiving individual awards include twenty women who have been presented with the Army Commendation Ribbon, and one who has received the Legion of Merit.

Upon release of the information on 6 August 1945, that stated the mission of the Manhattan District, a number of congratulatory messages were received, copies of which are attached.


[Attachment 1]


6 September 1945


It is certainly with pride, and a deep feeling of gratitude to each one of you that I send this message.

The security measures that still involve the Manhattan District Project, the great responsibility that each one of you will always have, set you apart as very special and honored heroines in World War II.

Your devotion to duty, the sacrifices you have made, the daily soldier privileges that you have forfeited and your loyalty to the security measures necessary, will be proudly recorded in the history of the Women's Army Corps. You have established a very enviable record, and you may justly feel that, in selflessly serving your country, you have made a valuable contribution to the struggle that brought Victory to our Cause.

My warmest greetings to you all.

Colonel, GSC
Director, Women's Army Corps

[Attachment 2]



9 August 1945

I wish to express to you, the military personnel of the Manhattan Project, my official and personal appreciation for the industry, ability and attention to duty under most trying conditions which you have displayed since the inception of the project. Without you, this project could not have achieved success. Your devotion to duty and particularly you conscientious efforts to maintain the vital security of the project have been of the highest order. You have every right to be proud of the vital role which you have played in this development which has culminated in the use in combat against Japan of the greatest weapon man has ever forged. Our achievement could not have been realized but for your individual effort. The saving in American lives will be your reward.

Major General, U.S.A.

[Attachment 3]



7 August 1945


Today the whole world knows the secret which you have helped us keep for many months. I am pleased to be able to add that the warlords of Japan now know its effects better even than we ourselves. The atomic bomb which you have helped to develop with high devotion to patriotic duty is the most devastating military weapon that any country has ever been able to turn against its enemy. No one of you has worked on the entire project or known the whole story. Each of you has done his own job and kept his own secret, and so today I speak for a grateful nation when I say congratulations and thank you all. I hope you will continue to keep the secrets you have kept so well. The need for security and for continued effort is fully as great now as it ver was. We are proud of every one of you.

Under Secretary of War,
Washington, D.C.