|John "Jack" Lansdale
|9 Jan 1912
|Oakland, Alameda Co., California [1, 2, 3]
|14 Jul 1912
|All Soul's Church, Berkeley, Alameda Co., California
|Los Angeles, California
|Houston, Harris Co., Texas
|Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Rockbridge Co., Virginia
|Harvard Univ., Cambridge, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts
|3265 Chalfant Rd., Shaker Heights, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio
|Obituary, The Guardian, 19 Sept. 2003:
An aspect of the second world war that has long mystified military analysts is the absence of any signs of an early committed espionage effort by the Americans to discover the extent of Nazi progress in the development of an atomic bomb.
When, however, in the closing months of the war, the US intelligence service did react, it launched a mixed American and British strike force, under Lieutenant Colonel John Lansdale, who has died aged 91, to capture the German scientists and their stocks of uranium ore from under the noses of the advancing Soviet forces, and smuggle them out of Europe. Yet Lansdale had no record as the kind of action man needed for such an adventure.
Born in Oakland, California, he took a BA at the Virginia Military Institute and a law degree at Harvard University. In 1936, he joined the law firm of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, first in Cleveland and later in Washington, until he was recruited into the army after the US entered the war.
The events that were to link him to the race for the atomic bomb began in 1942. That September, the US war department created the Manhattan Project, under Brigadier General Leslie Groves, to build a vast array of secret pilot plants, laboratories, manufacturing facilities and a weapons test site to develop the atomic bomb, at the then astronomical cost of $2bn.
Appointed as the project's head of security and intelligence, Lansdale became one of Groves's righthand men - and often the mediator in bitter disputes between the military and industrial people on the one side and the atomic physicists on the other. Groves was a career soldier - he was already deputy chief of construction for the entire US army - and recognised as having an aggressive, authoritarian temperament.
Before the Manhattan Project was launched, atomic weapons work had been largely theoretical, being based on fundamental experiments at several major universities by a handful of brilliant physicists, many of them exiles from Europe. Although divided philosophically about the ethics of developing an atomic weapon, they were united in a belief that the scientists should remain in charge. The Manhattan Project was the moment that they lost control, and their role changed from being on top to being on tap.
In addition to managing a team to vet security clearance for the largest secret project in history, Lansdale found himself interceding in bitter clashes between the military and science. Probably the most acrid of the many disputes he had to resolve erupted between Groves and the exiled Hungarian physicist and mercurial genius, Leo Szilard.
Szilard had fled from Nazi Germany to England in 1933 and, the following year, had taken out a patent on nuclear energy as an energy source. He went to America in 1938 to continue his work at Columbia University. When he learned of the progress being made in Germany on the fission of uranium, he approached Albert Einstein so the two could write and warn President Roosevelt of the possibility of atomic bombs.
Together with Enrico Fermi, Szilard organised in Chicago the first fission reactor that showed, in 1942, how to produce weapons grade plutonium 239. After that, his metamorphosis into a key member of the Manhattan Project was a given. But he constantly broke the rules with his criticisms of the project, and his views differed sharply from Groves's. It was an inevitable collision between one man's obsession with security and the other's dedication to scientific openness.
When Szilard threw his patent on fission into the argument, as giving him rights to a greater say in development work, Groves exploded. Lansdale negotiated a truce, but never succeeded in reducing the intense dislike between the two men, and the distrust that the soldier had for the scientist. The degree to which Lansdale's team maintained watertight security over the project for three years was a tour de force.
When Groves did turn his attention to looking at intelligence of Germany's nuclear effort, he picked a team of scientists with no links to the Manhattan Project, and gave them the codename Alsos - meaning "grove" in Greek.
In April 1945, as allied and Soviet troops were pushing through Germany on their way to Berlin, the Alsos force was sent to track down the enemy's atomic bomb project and its nuclear scientists before they could fall into the hands of the Soviet Union.
Lansdale led a raid on a factory in Stassfurt, northern Germany, where he suspected the Germans had a cache of bomb materials. He found about 1,100 tons of ore - some in the form of uranium oxide, the raw material of atomic bombs - and, in less than a week, had smuggled a number of German scientists, including Werner Heisenberg and Otto Hahn, out of Europe, together with the uranium ore.
In the mid-1950s, Lansdale was called before Congress to testify about his approval, 10 years earlier, of the appointment of J Robert Oppenheimer as head of the Manhattan Project's scientific team. Oppenheimer had been accused of being a communist, and his security clearance had been revoked. Outraged at this treatment, Lansdale ardently defended his former colleague as a loyal American citizen.
In 1987, he retired from the law firm, to which he had returned after the war. His wife died in 2001, and he is survived by five daughters.
— John Lansdale, lawyer and security chief, born January 9 1912; died August 22 2003
|lawyer for Squire, Sanders, and Dempsey in Cleveland, OH
|22 Aug 2003
|"Essex", Anne Arundel Co., Maryland
|All Hallows Chapel, Davidsonville, Anne Arundel Co., Maryland 
|30 Dec 2023
|John Lansdale, Sr.
b. 24 Jun 1882, Triadelphia, Montgomery Co., Maryland
d. 2 May 1961, "Essex", Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (Age 78 years)
|May Hamilton Mannen
b. 3 Mar 1884, Paris, Bourbon Co., Kentucky
d. 5 Aug 1958, "Essex", Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (Age 74 years)
|20 Mar 1911
|Oakland, Alameda Co., California
|Group Sheet | Family Chart
|Spouse / Partner
|Metta Virginia Tomlinson
b. 4 Sep 1913, Bellville, Austin Co., Texas
d. 31 Oct 2001, "Essex", Anne Arundel Co., Maryland (Age 88 years)
|17 Jun 1936
|Trinity Episcopal Church, Houston, Harris Co., Texas
|Group Sheet | Family Chart
|30 Dec 2023
|All Hallow's Chapel and the Lansdales
All Hallow's Chapel stands here behind the graves of, from the right, May Mannen Lansdale, John Lansdale Sr., Metta Tomlinson Lansdale, and John Lansdale Jr. The two vertical stones are of Thomas Franklin Lansdale and his wife Eliza Strain Lansdale.
|Lansdale and Strain graves at All Hallows
The two in front are of Thomas Franklin Lansdale and Eliza Wimberly Strain Lansdale. The four flat stones behind them are, from the right, May Mannen Lansdale, John Lansdale Sr., Metta Tomlinson Lansdale, and John Lansdale, Jr. Just behind these, flanking the small tree, are Cornelia Lansdale (on the right), and her husband Howard Hill (on the left side).
|John Lansdale Jr. (d. 2003)
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