The achievement of that war’s end also marked a distinct allegiance between the military and scientific communities, exemplified by their collaboration on the Manhattan Project, the top-secret production of the first atomic bombs.
To acknowledge this union of shared purpose, in 1945 the Army and Navy commended Project Y participants with the Army-Navy “E” Production Award (E Award), given for excellence in war production. The E Award and its emblems are now revered mementos within the Laboratory’s material history.
‘Along the road to victory’
The detonation of the atomic bombs over Japan set the stage for that country’s surrender and WWII’s conclusion. A few days after the declared victory, Laboratory Director J. Robert Oppenheimer received a letter from Under Secretary of War Robert O. Patterson. It announced the bestowal of the E Award to the exceptional team of scientists, engineers, military personnel, academics and many others who worked together at the secret Project Y lab in Northern New Mexico.
“Your patriotism, as shown by your remarkable production record, has helped our country along the road to victory,” Patterson wrote. “May I extend to you men and women of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory my congratulations on your great accomplishments.”
Celebration and solemnity
On Oct. 16, 1945, an E Award ceremony took place outside of Fuller Lodge in central Los Alamos. Many military personnel and civilians gathered to watch, and the event kicked off with the 680th Army Air Forces Band from Clovis playing “America.” Ceremony participants Oppenheimer, Major General Leslie Groves, University of California President Robert Sproul and Commodore William S. Parsons held the commemorative E Flag for photographs.
Today, this E Flag is displayed in the Weapons Conference Center at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
In his solemn acceptance speech, Oppenheimer said, “Today that pride [of our achievement] must be tempered by a profound concern. If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The peoples of this world must unite, or they will perish.”
In addition to the certificate award and E Flag, Project Y contributors received an E Award lapel pin. Each pin was tacked to a card with a printed message attributed to President Harry S. Truman. “Remember always that it is the symbol of your own individual contribution to the defeat of our enemies.”
In many ways, the E Award is a hallmark of the establishment the present-day Los Alamos National Laboratory. The partnership between the military and scientific communities is one that continues in this century, furthering national security, diplomacy and innovation.
You can see an E Award pin in the Bradbury's online collections, as well as other materials related to this chapter in the Lab’s history.