On Dec. 5, 2007, the indefatigable Army engineer Robert Furman, who died Oct. 14 at 93, drove more than four hours through a winter storm to dedicate the offices where he had worked 64 years earlier as a key aide to the head of the top-secret Manhattan Project.
Born on Aug. 21, 1915, Furman studied engineering at Princeton; he remembered seeing Albert Einstein walk across campus. After graduating in 1937, Furman was called up by the Army Reserve in December 1940. Assigned to the quartermaster corps construction division, he supervised day-to-day operations in the building of the Pentagon (left).
In 1943, Furman was appointed to head the first atomic-intelligence effort and was soon able to report that the Germans had not gotten very far in building a bomb. Two years later, he accompanied Little Boy's uranium core from Los Alamos, N.M., to Tinian Island and watched the Enola Gay take off on Aug. 6, 1945, with its historic payload.
To Furman, the "biggest miracle" of the past 63 years was that no other atom bombs had been used. His fervent hope was for that to remain so. My last memory of Robert, a barbershop-quartet member, was of him standing in the snow on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, singing peacefully.
Kelly is president of the Atomic Heritage Foundation