The Scientific War Work of Linus C. Pauling Narrative  
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Chain of Command
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With interventionist support growing through movements and organizations like the CDAAA and FFF, Vannevar Bush felt it was time to take his campaign to the top. On June 12, 1940 after more than a little help from friends in Washington, Bush was granted an audience with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Bush, famously, came prepared with only a single sheet of paper containing the proposal for his research group. Within minutes, he had Roosevelt's approval. On June 27, Roosevelt resurrected the long-dormant Council of Defense, creating the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC). Naturally, Bush was placed at the helm.

The NDRC was run and operated by a council of eight members. The chairman, Vannevar Bush, was selected by Roosevelt. The President of the national Academy of Sciences and the Commissioner of Patents were selected by title. The Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy were required to appoint one man each and the final three were nominated by the chairman. With half the selection outside his jurisdiction, Bush knew he had to pad the committee with allies. And so he called on the men with whom the genesis of the NDRC lay - his comrades from the Committee on Scientific Aids to Learning.

Within weeks, Bush had assembled an all-star team of men from some of the most prestigious institutions in the country. The title-mandated positions were filled by Frank B. Jewett, President of the National Academy of Sciences; Conway P. Coe, Commissioner of Patents; Brigadier General George V. Strong, representing the Secretary of War; and Rear Admiral Harold G. Bowen, representing the Secretary of the Navy. In addition to these four men, Bush had selected James B. Conant, President of Harvard University; Karl T. Compton, President of MIT; and Richard C. Tolman, Professor of Physical Chemistry and Mathematical Physics at Caltech. With his men gathered together, Bush went to work.

The NDRC was designed to operate with a great deal of autonomy. It received funding directly from the Executive Office of the President rather than through contracts with the military, had the authority to form contracts with various institutions including universities and private manufacturers, and reported directly to the President. Bush had funding, facilities, and the greatest scientific minds of the day under his direct command.

The size of the undertaking necessitated a great deal of organization. Bush and his cabinet quickly decided on a pyramidal structure, with each committee member commanding a semi-autonomous division and reporting directly to Bush who, in turn, reported to Roosevelt. Each division was then assigned sections by the committee member leading it. From there, each section chief chose his staff, assigning men to projects under the NDRC umbrella, with frequent reports to his division chief. And so the chain of command went, branching out into a complex yet manageable series of divisions, sections, and subsections, each staffed with administrators, scientists, lab technicians, and a multitude of other employees, all a part of the great American war machine.

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See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to W. A. Wooster. October 10, 1940. 

Click images to enlarge 

Group photograph of the National Defense Research Committee membership. approx. 1940.

Page 1
Carbon copy of an untitled application to the National Defense Research Committee. approx. 1940.

"I had a plan for the NDRC in four short paragraphs in the middle of a sheet of paper. The whole audience lasted less than ten minutes... I came out with my 'OK - FDR' and all the wheels began to turn."

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