|The memorial plaque was unveiled at the event.|
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM) held an open house and park dedication at the Grand Junction, Colorado, Office to commemorate its place in the Manhattan Project and Cold War histories. The park, located in the middle of the Grand Junction Office campus, was dedicated to Army Major (retired) Philip C. Leahy. Leahy came to Grand Junction in 1943 under secret orders, as a Second Lieutenant, to establish a domestic uranium procurement program for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Manhattan Engineer District (MED). Leahy’s orders were to “Find Uranium!” He began by purchasing a $10,500, 55-acre gravel pit by the Gunnison River to use for operations. A log cabin, the only structure on the land at the time, became the project office and still stands at the site today.
The Grand Junction Office was an integral part of the Manhattan Project’s development of the atomic bomb that ended WW II and later as a part of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s (AEC) mission to procure uranium for defense and other purposes. After the war, Leahy led the development of a uranium exploration program, metallurgical laboratory, and refinery at the site. “Establishing the Grand Junction Office was an integral part of the Manhattan Project,” said Dr. April Gil, LM’s Grand Junction Office Manager. “Philip Leahy deserves our recognition for carrying out this important project at a crucial time in our nation’s history.”
Approximately 200 current and former employees of the Grand Junction site; two former AEC employees; board members of the site’s owner, the Riverfront Technology Center (RTC); and public officials attended the June 2 event. The open house began with several speeches about the Grand Junction Office’s role in history. Dr. Gil delivered the welcome speech, thanking the workers who contributed to multiple missions over the 70 years of operations at the Grand Junction Office.
|Dr. April Gil, LM’s Grand Junction Office Manager, delivers the opening speech at the event.|
Dr. Gil shared a touching story about her father’s role in World War II and his debt to MED. LM Director, David Geiser, talked about LM’s mission, the importance of records and recording history, and the need for visitor centers, such as the original log cabin at the Grand Junction site. Jon Maraschin, RTC Executive Director, spoke about the site’s future and the collaborative roles of DOE and RTC. Bill Chenoweth, former AEC, Energy Research and Development Agency, and DOE employee—and expert uranium geologist—talked about Grand Junction site history and his memories of Philip Leahy. Letters and papers that Bill Chenoweth and Philip Leahy exchanged over the years document their recollections of MED and AEC activities and are important site history records.
Two of Leahy’s daughters and a granddaughter attended the event, with their spouses. Leahy’s family shared fond memories of their father, his resourcefulness in carrying out his mission, and his “let’s get it done” attitude towards any challenge presented to him. They also recalled a time when, as children, they were surprised to see their father with a briefcase chained and locked to his wrist. “The park is a wonderful tribute to the many people that worked to complete this piece of the Manhattan Project,” said Cathy Green, Leahy’s granddaughter. I can see your respect and high regard for my grandfather, and I believe the office will continue to serve our country. The Grand Junction campus will continue to celebrate its past and look to the future.”
David Geiser and April Gil unveiled a bronze plaque honoring Philip C. Leahy. After the formal ceremony, guests were able to walk around the grounds, look at the history displays, reconnect with friends and colleagues, and enjoy refreshments, including lemon “yellow cake.”
|Sharon Bachochin and Linda Dierks, Leahy’s daughters, share memories of their father at the dedication.||Sharon Bachochin, Leahy’s daughter, admires a history display at the Philip C. Leahy Memorial Park.|