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Born in Albany, New York, he was educated at the University of Washington and MIT before entering the military career at West Point. He graduated in 1918 and was commissioned to the Army Corps of Engineers, completing his studies at Camp Humphreys, between 1918-21. He married Grace Hulbert Wilson in 1922.
After working throughout the United States, he worked for the office of the chief engineer, was promoted to captain in October 1934 and continued with courses at Fort Leavenworth in 1936 and the War Department in 1939. He ascended to major in 1940 and destined to the central command of Washington. He was appointed head of construction and oversaw a large number of projects, including the construction of the Pentagon in 1940. In the same year he was promoted to colonel.
In September 1942 he eventually became a brigadier general and was appointed director of the newly founded Manhattan District of Engineers of the Armed Forces. He himself personally assigned the code name ‘Manhattan’, although initially he expressed many doubts in joining an apparently small arms project. It was important in determining the locations to be used, deciding on Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Los Alamos, New Mexico and Hanford Engineering in the state of Washington, as main sites for theoretical research and production of materials. He not only proposed atomic targets in Japan, but the bombing of cities and civilians with incendiary bombs.
Groves was one of the first to propose the use of waste produced by nuclear reactors as material for weapons in the form of depleted uranium. He was promoted to division general in 1944.
He continued in Los Alamos as head of the Special Weapons Project until January 1947 when the armed forces ceded control to the Atomic Energy Commission. He asserted that he conceived the Manhattan Project as a project aimed at the Soviets, “the real enemy.” He also assured that it was not Truman, whom he described as “a kid on a slide”, who made the decision to throw the atomic bomb, he simply stayed out of the way at the critical moment to avoid any interference. Among four cities that were shuffled, Groves insisted on throwing the bomb on Kyoto, spiritual capital of Japan, but his supervisor Henry L. Stimson discarded it, and tipped the balance against Hiroshima. In addition, during the same period, with the increasingly widespread rumor that the bomb was not necessary to subdue Japan, Groves called to order the generals of the US military so that they would not make statements, as McArthur, who categorically, had affirmed that Japan was practically defeated in May 1945 without the need to launch the atomic bomb.
Groves was appointed Lieutenant-General in 1948, just before his retirement on February 29, 1948. After launching the United States nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Leslie Groves led the US government’s propaganda campaign to deny that the radiation was affecting the Japanese population that did not die in the detonations months and years later. However, all those who were within a radius of 5 km. from the epicenter they suffered some type of subsequent injury due to radiation. Some inhabitants of Hiroshima and Nagasaki died 20 years after the nuclear bombing and even today there are elderly people who continue to undergo bi-annual reviews. Leslie Groves always defended that both bombs had been a necessary evil and that nobody was affected by the radiation after the detonation of the bombs, against all evidence.
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