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Farrell (R) and Maj. Gen. Leslie R. Groves (L), 1945

General Thomas Francis Farrell (December 3, 1891–April 1967) was the Deputy Commanding General and Chief of Field Operations of the Manhattan Engineer District, acting as executive officer to General Leslie Groves.


Before World War II

Farrell was born in 1891 in Troy, New York, the son of John Joseph Farrell, Sr. and Margaret Connolly. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1912. He worked on the Panama Canal from 1913 to 1916. He served in the 1st Engineers in the American Expeditionary Force in France in 1918 and while serving won the Distinguished Service Cross. He resigned from the Regular Army in 1926, and as a civilian became the head of construction and engineering of the New York State Department of Public Works.

The Manhattan Project

In February 1941 at the direction of then-Colonel Groves, Farrell returned to active duty with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel to act as Groves' executive officer in the Operations Branch of the Construction Division under the Office of the Quartermaster General. Gen. Farrell went to the China-Burma-India theatre to help build the Burma Road. In January 1945, general Groves chose Farrell as his second-in-command, and Farrell was stationed in Los Alamos.

On signing a receipt for the plutonium from Oak Ridge, Farrell commented, "I recall that I asked them if I was going to sign for it shouldn't I take it and handle it. So I took this heavy ball in my hand and I felt it growing warm, I got a certain sense of its hidden power. It wasn't a cold piece of metal, but it was really a piece of metal that seemed to be working inside. Then maybe for the first time I began to believe some of the fantastic tales the scientists had told about this nuclear power."

Farrell supervised the Trinity test at Alamogordo, observing at the 10-mile bunker with Robert Oppenheimer. In his report on the test, he stated, "The effects could well be called unprecedented, magnificent, beautiful, stupendous, and terrifying. No man-made phenomenon of such tremendous power had ever occurred before...It lit every peak, crevasse and ridge of the nearby mountain range with a clarity and beauty that cannot be described but must be seen to be imagined. Seconds after the explosion came, the air blast pressed hard against the people watching, to be followed almost immediately by the strong, sustained, awesome roar which warned of doomsday and made us feel we puny things were blasphemous to dare tamper with the forces previously reserved for the Almighty."

In August, he went to Tinian to hand-deliver the orders from President Truman to Col. Paul Tibbets (commander of the Enola Gay). He signed the bomb, "To Hirohito, with love, T. F. Farrell."


On August 30, 1945, Farrell led teams of scientists to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to inspect the effects of the atomic bombs on those cities.

After the war, Farrell was promoted to the rank of Major General. He retired from active service in April 1946.

His children were Thomas, Barbara, Peter, Patricia, and Stephen. His son, Thomas Jr., graduated from West Point, received the Distinguished Service Cross, and died at Anzio in 1944; a port repair ship, the USS Thomas F. Farrell Jr., was named in his honor. Farrell's daughter, Barbara Farrell Vucanovich, was the first woman from Nevada to be elected to the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1983 to 1997. Farrell's granddaughter, Patty Cafferata, served as State Treasurer of Nevada from 1983 to 1987.

Farrell died of cancer in 1967.




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