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Memorial Day Tribute – Dr. Roy Grizzell

May 28th, 2012 by

Let’s remember the very secret WWII mission of the late Dr. Roy Grizzell.

Dr. Roy Grizzell had a long and varied career in the military that began before WWII started. In the winter of 1940 he was sent to Fort Bragg, N.C. as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Infantry. He was assigned as Range Officer and Supply Officer on the post, thus beginning his career with the Military Police.

His duties at Fort Bragg included security for the entire reservation area known as Fort Bragg. He had charge of several fishing lakes and hunting areas within its boundaries. He was also involved in the testing and selection of the Jeep model that was later used throughout the war.

In the summer of 1941 Grizzell was promoted to 1st Lieutenant and ordered to report to the Presidential Guard unit at Hyde Park, N.Y., the home of President Franklin Roosevelt. His mission was to provide security for President Roosevelt and his family when they were in their New York Home. The estate bordered the Hudson River so it was patrolled regularly too. Grizzell had several opportunities to glimpse and/or visit with the Roosevelts that summer. On numerous occasions he also traveled to West Point to collect rations and pay for the Hyde Park detachment.

When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, 2nd Lt. Grizzell was resting in the barracks at Fort Bragg. An immediate “alert” began and the Military Police guarded the base water supply for several days because of a fear of sabotage.

During the summer of 1942 Lt. Grizzell received new orders. He was ordered to go to Fort DuPont, Delaware, and report to “C” Company of the 101st Military Police Battalion. There he received further instruction in military police work.

Around Thanksgiving of 1942, “C” Company of the 101st Combat Military Police Battalion was alerted for overseas duty in North Africa. Shortly after Christmas, “A” Company was readied and Grizzell was placed in charge of loading the ship. Their departure was slowed because of rumors of submarines near the harbor, but they finally set sail for Oran in North Africa.

When they reached Oran most of the opposing forces was gone. “A” Company set up tents for a couple of weeks on a beachhead, and then moved up to French Morocco to guard the American “back door” from further German invasion.

The soldiers set up tents again and became part of the new 5th Army Headquarters. The unit handled security for the base and for visits from American and Arabic dignitaries.

Early in September1943, Grizzell’s unit received orders to board a British ship and join the invasion of Italy. Their first assignment was to help the Combat Engineers clear the beach and direct traffic near the tip of the Italian peninsula.

Grizzell was among the American forces working their way north through the Italian landscape. He and the military police unit provided security, traffic control and any other needed support and assistance.

On June 4, 1944, the Americans entered Rome and set up temporary headquarters near the Olympic Stadium built for the 1936 Olympic Games. They were on the move north again when they heard of the D-Day invasion at Normandy on June 6.

The day the American forces captured Florence in northern Italy, Grizzell got orders to go stateside. After his service in Italy the most unique experience in 1st Lieutenant Grizzell’s military experiences began. This adventure was his involvement in a special project occurring in the United States named “The Manhattan Project”.

The project was so called because early work/ talks involving the project had begun in 1939 at Columbia University in the Manhattan section of New York City. From these beginnings a massive, secret government project began to evolve that would eventually end WWII.

The “Manhattan Project” actually developed at three sites, one in Washington State, one near Los Alamos, N.M., and the third in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

In late August, 1944, Grizzell reported to the government installation at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and was assigned to the Military Police Detachment. Several months later he was given command of the company.

The project at Oak Ridge led to the development of the atomic bomb, although only a chosen few knew its objective. The code name for the installation was Clinton Engineering District. There were two huge plants located at Oak Ridge named the Y-12 plant and the K-25 plant.

This was strictly a military project under the direction of the Army Corps of Engineers and the command of Colonel Kenneth Nichols. Three units of the Army, a military police detachment, a WAC detachment and a Headquarters detachment were all stationed there.

1st Lieutenant Grizzell’s unit, the Military Police Detachment, was responsible for the overall security of the post. They provided security at the post’s four main gates 24/7. They also patrolled the boundaries of the facility and assisted in security at the plants.

Most workers were local people transported to and from the plants by bus. In one instance Grizzell recalls that the bus drivers decided to go on strike. When they struck, his unit drove the busses the next day. By the third day the strike was over.

The duties of the MPs were to enforce the “rules” of the post. There was no alcohol allowed on the installation. Anyone caught with alcohol or traffic violations was fired. There were few problems, however, because people realized a war was going on.

Life wasn’t all work at the Oak Ridge installation. The people working there also enjoyed football, baseball and basketball in their off hours. Recreation was important.

Early in July of 1945 Grizzell and another soldier were summoned to the office of Colonel Parsons, the commander of the Security and Intelligence Section at Oak Ridge. They were told they’d be going on a trip for about a week and told to wear civilian clothes.

The next morning Grizzell and the lieutenant went out to Y-12 plant and were each given a heavy suitcase and ordered not to open it. They were driven to a small railway station near Knoxville of the L&N Railroad where the train made an unscheduled stop for them.

The train took them to Chicago where they were met by two officers assigned to a laboratory at the University of Chicago. Accompanied by the officers, the two soldiers took the suitcases to the lab, got a signed receipt for them and visited Chicago for a few hours.

Later they picked the suitcases up and caught the midnight train of the Santa Fe Chief railroad going west. They were admonished to keep their door locked and to only leave their cabin for meals, and then to only leave one at a time, for the length of the train journey.

Near Los Alamos, New Mexico, the train stopped at another small way station and the two soldiers were met by a group of soldiers from the post. The two men turned the suitcase over to officials at Los Alamos and went to Santa Fe to spend the night.

The next morning they caught the train back to Chicago and then back to Oak Ridge. They made a second clandestine trip a few weeks later. .

The war had ended before Grizzell learned that these suitcases contained metal canisters loaded with U-235, uranium, the material used for the atomic bomb. The first was used to explode an experimental bomb. The second suitcase was used for the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan.

Little did Grizzell know that he was involved in a mission crucial to the end of WWII – and indicative of the future of atomic power in the world.

In February of 1946 Roy Grizzell was discharged from the army. He had received many awards, including an E.T.O. medal with two Bronze Stars, and an Arrow Victory Medal.

Dr. Roy Grizzell went on to live a colorful and productive life full of family, friends and the many community groups and projects he enjoyed. He died a few short years ago after a long life of 90+ years. He is gone, but his memory will never be forgotten. Enjoy your rest, old and faithful soldier.

 

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