Max Babb, FDR & the Manhattan Project

Max Babb (Number 3 in the image below) was part of the Official welcoming party for Franklin Delano Roosevelt as he visited Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company on the 1st of October 1942. This photo seems happy enough on the surface, but it is of a very dark time in America at the onset of WWII. Roosevelt was, of course, the Head Cheerleader for the war effort and did his best to keep up morale.

The exact facility location doesn’t seem to be available. We know from the diary that he was in the Chicago area that day and Allis-Chambers had a number of facilities across the area. So, it could be any one of them.

The date on the photo is actually the date it was developed upon the groups return to Washington. The real photo date is Sept 19th, 1942.

Roosevelt took a road trip from Sept 17th-October 1st 1942 and 3 Press Pool writers were allowed to come along. One of them published an itinerary that they deemed a Diary of the trip in the News-Herald in Franklin, Pennsylvania and gives a great amount of details about the entire trip.

Select Image for High-Res view of Newspaper Clipping (then click on the Magnifying Glass if it is showing you the full page on your screen)

Along the way he visited a large variety of factories that were all involved in War Time production. This particular facility was making Bullets for the soldiers. What wasn’t known at the time is that at this same time he was kicking off a 3-year effort to make the first Atomic Bombs on the planet. Allis-Chalmers is one of the manufacturers who made components for the Manhattan Project, which was the code name for the project.

It isn’t known if he stopped to have a private meeting with the leadership of Allis-Chalmers, but a diary of his itinerary shows that during his trip, virtually every factory he visited ended up being involved in Manhattan Project. Those include, Chrysler Corporation, Aluminum Corporation of America (Alco), Higgins Industries and, of course, Allis-Chalmers. The timing would seem to indicate that additional talks were underway simultaneously. The ability to conduct this Top Secret program successfully relied on not drawing attention to it.

So, who is this Max Babb?

Max’s full name is Max Wellington Babb (6-1-8-1-1-1). He was the Chairman of the Board of Allis-Chalmers and lived in West Allis, WI where the company was Headquartered. Max’s face is obscured by someone in the front Passenger seat. However, other pictures of him survive.

Max Wellington Babb

Many of you may not be familiar with the Pedigree that starts with the number 6, so here is a brief refresher:

USA Pedigree 06 is the ONLY line of Babbs in the US who do not trace back to England. They are of Bavarian descent. In August of last year we got our first Y-DNA candidate from the lineage and were able to establish the lineage “DNA-11 Blue Panthers of Bavaria”.

Here is a link to the announcement: Announcement: 11th Proven Y-DNA Lineage – Babb Unabridged

To stop and realize the significance of this event, Max is a 5th Generation American who is of German Descent. His bullets will end up killing distant relatives in his Ancestral Homeland. What personal issues he had about this are unknown. But I suspect he didn’t have any reservations because his namesake son was already fighting in the war effort. At this point he is all American!

Max never lived to see the Manhattan project come to fruition. He died about 6 months after this photo was taken on 13 March 1942. However, 3-years later it executed the first successful test of an Atomic Bomb in history.

Regardless, Max traveled in many well elite circles having served as a director of the Cutler-Hammer corporation, a member of the executive committee of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance company and a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.

His parents were a bit famous also, but that is a post for another day!

Background on Allis-Chalmers

Allis-Chalmers was a U.S. manufacturer of machinery for various industries. Its business lines included agricultural equipmentconstruction equipmentpower generation and power transmission equipment, and machinery for use in industrial settings such as factoriesflour millssawmillstextile millssteel millsrefineriesmines, and ore mills. The first Allis-Chalmers Company was formed in 1901 as an amalgamation of the Edward P. Allis Company (steam engines and mill equipment), Fraser & Chalmers (mining and ore milling equipment), the Gates Iron Works (rock and cement milling equipment), and the industrial business line of the Dickson Manufacturing Company (engines and compressors). It was reorganized in 1912 as the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. During the next 70 years its industrial machinery filled countless mills, mines, and factories around the world, and its brand gained fame among consumers mostly from its farm equipment business’s orange tractors and silver combine harvesters. In the 1980s and 1990s, a series of divestitures transformed the firm and eventually dissolved it. Its successors today are Allis-Chalmers Energy and AGCO.

An M6 tractor for military useAn Allis-Chalmers Model WD

The 1940s

World War II caused Allis-Chalmers, like most other manufacturing companies, to become extremely busy. As happened with many firms, its civilian product lines experienced a period of being “on hold”, with emphasis on parts and service to keep existing machines running,[20] but its war materiel production was pushed to the maximum of productivity and output. In the late 1930s through mid-1940s, Allis-Chalmers made machinery for naval ships, such as Liberty ship steam engines, steam turbines, generators, and electric motorsartillery tractors and tractors for other army use; electrical switches and controls; and other products. Allis-Chalmers was also one of many firms contracted to build equipment for the Manhattan Project.[21] Its experience in mining and milling machinery made it a logical choice for uranium mining and processing equipment. Allis-Chalmers ranked 45th among United States corporations in the value of wartime military production contracts.[22]

Immediately at the war’s end, in 1945–1946, Allis-Chalmers endured a crippling 11-month labor strike.[23] Buescher was convinced that the corporation never entirely recovered from the effects of this strike.[23][24] This seems debatable given the various successes that Allis-Chalmers did have during the next 30 years, including prosperity in the farm equipment business in the 1950s and 1960s.[24] But it certainly gave competitors a chance to grab market share.

After WWII some companies refused to sell equipment to Japanese farmers. Allis-Chalmers dealers did not hesitate to sell to these farmers so many farms to this day still have an Allis-Chalmers tractor in Oregon.

In 1948, the Model WC was improved with various new features and became the Model WD, another top seller. The WD was a milestone for the company. It included fully independent power take off, which was powered by a two clutch system.[25] It also included power adjust rear wheels, which became an industry standard. Production of this model continued into 1953, with nearly 150,000 tractors produced.[26]

Source: Allis-Chalmers – Wikipedia

Background on The Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom (which initiated the original Tube Alloys project) and Canada. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory that designed the actual bombs. As engineer districts by convention carried the name of the city where they were located, the Army component of the project was designated the Manhattan DistrictManhattan gradually superseded the official codename, Development of Substitute Materials, for the entire project. Along the way, the project absorbed its earlier British counterpart, Tube Alloys. The Manhattan Project began modestly in 1939, but grew to employ more than 130,000 people and cost nearly US$2 billion (equivalent to about $23 billion in 2019).[1] Over 90 percent of the cost was for building factories and to produce fissile material, with less than 10 percent for development and production of the weapons. Research and production took place at more than thirty sites across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.

Two types of atomic bombs were developed concurrently during the war: a relatively simple gun-type fission weapon and a more complex implosion-type nuclear weapon. The Thin Man gun-type design proved impractical to use with plutonium, and therefore a simpler gun-type called Little Boy was developed that used uranium-235, an isotope that makes up only 0.7 percent of natural uranium. Since it was chemically identical to the most common isotope, uranium-238, and had almost the same mass, separating the two proved difficult. Three methods were employed for uranium enrichmentelectromagneticgaseous and thermal. Most of this work was performed at the Clinton Engineer Works at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

In parallel with the work on uranium was an effort to produce plutonium, which was discovered by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1940. After the feasibility of the world’s first artificial nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1, was demonstrated in 1942 at the Metallurgical Laboratory in the University of Chicago, the Project designed the X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge and the production reactors at the Hanford Site in Washington state, in which uranium was irradiated and transmuted into plutonium. The plutonium was then chemically separated from the uranium, using the bismuth phosphate process. The Fat Man plutonium implosion-type weapon was developed in a concerted design and development effort by the Los Alamos Laboratory.

The project was also charged with gathering intelligence on the German nuclear weapon project. Through Operation Alsos, Manhattan Project personnel served in Europe, sometimes behind enemy lines, where they gathered nuclear materials and documents, and rounded up German scientists. Despite the Manhattan Project’s tight security, Soviet atomic spies successfully penetrated the program. The first nuclear device ever detonated was an implosion-type bomb at the Trinity test, conducted at New Mexico’s Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range on 16 July 1945. Little Boy and Fat Man bombs were used a month later in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, with Manhattan Project personnel serving as bomb assembly technicians, and as weaponeers on the attack aircraft. In the immediate postwar years, the Manhattan Project conducted weapons testing at Bikini Atoll as part of Operation Crossroads, developed new weapons, promoted the development of the network of national laboratories, supported medical research into radiology and laid the foundations for the nuclear navy. It maintained control over American atomic weapons research and production until the formation of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in January 1947.

Source: Manhattan Project – Wikipedia

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