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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

V-E Day in New Orleans

As World War II wound down, LeMaistre was running an intelligence office on Canal Street in New Orleans. He remembers that the biggest danger he encountered was airborne typewriters thrown in celebration of V-E Day. He remembers a vague knowledge of and curiosity about the Manhattan Project.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
In '45 I went back to New Orleans.
ALLEN J. GOING:
That's where you were at the end of the war?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
In '45 I was sent ashore in January when they left to go to Yalta. I was given 30 days leave and then ordered to report to take the zone intelligence office for Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and a chunk of east Texas, and Arkansas. So I had a real good setup. I had an office there on Canal Street in the Wohl building. I guess I had 25 or 30 officers and yeomen assigned to it and no sign on the door—completely incognito. I don't know what people thought with all these uniforms going in and out, but they had nothing to tell them what the office was. And I stayed there doing that work which was somewhat different than it had been when we were under danger from submarines.
ALLEN J. GOING:
That was four years later.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
The biggest danger was to get out of the way on V-E day [laugh] when they were throwing typewriters and things like that out of the upper windows on Canal Street. Then in September I got mustered out one day and got back here and started teaching the next.
ALLEN J. GOING:
Is that right? You were back for the fall semester?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Yeah, I got back here on September the—well, I forget if it was the first, fifth or tenth, but say if I returned on the fourteenth, the school started on the fifteenth.
ALLEN J. GOING:
V-J Day was sometime in late August, wasn't it? [Aug. 10, 1945.]
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Yeah. We had a minimum of information about the atomic bomb. We knew there was a Manhattan Project, we knew it was something that no one understood, we knew it would be a devastating weapon that, if developed, could end the war, we knew we had to develop it before the Germans did and that they were also trying to develop it, but we never knew what it was. Nobody ever said this is a bomb that will fracture the atom or anything like that.
ALLEN J. GOING:
How early did you know about it?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Five days before Hiroshima.
ALLEN J. GOING:
I meant the Manhattan Project.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Oh, earlier in the year.
ALLEN J. GOING:
Then you hadn't heard of it before '45?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Well, I hadn't been there. Maybe the people in the field office had. I would say it wasn't commonly talked about until January or February '45. Then everybody wondered how the project was coming along. They knew something big was going on at Oak Ridge and places like that because you had tons of money being directed in that direction so people had a pretty good idea that something was brewing.
ALLEN J. GOING:
You came back to Tuscaloosa, then, right away.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
I had all the necessary points to get out. I remember when V-J day was made official, the next day I was in my commanding officer's office, and I told him I had X number of points, so many points were required to be discharged, mine was considerably above that, my relief was trained and ready, and I awaited his command. And he was very nice. He let me out the next day, I think, or started the process. It takes a couple of weeks to get you mustered out.
ALLEN J. GOING:
Then you started up the practice again?
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Started practicing law, teaching at the law school. It didn't hurt me to teach full time cause I didn't have any practice.