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First Name: Robert

Last Name: Furman

Birthplace: Trenton, NJ, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Ralph

Date of Birth: 21 August 1915

Date of Death: 14 October 2008

Rank: Major General

Years Served:
Robert Ralph Furman

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Robert Ralph Furman
Major, U.S. Army

Robert Ralph Furman was born on 21 August 1915 in Trenton, NJ, to bank teller William Furman and Leila Ficht Furman. He graduated from Princeton University in 1937 with a degree in Civil Engineering, and went on to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad and a New York-based construction company.

Furman was a member of the U.S. Army Reserve and, in December 1940, he was called into active service with the Quartermaster Corps at the rank of Captain for the construction of the Pentagon, which was under the overall command of Colonel Leslie Groves from 1941 forward. As the third-ranking supervisor of the Pentagon project, he was among those responsible for completing the large construction project in the short 17-month time span.

When Groves, now a General, was given charge of the Manhattan Project, the American efforts for an atomic bomb, he kept Furman, now Major, on his staff as head of the intelligence unit. To find out German progress in their own effort to build the atomic bomb, Furman worked with physicist Luis Alvarez to study water samples from the Upper Rhine River and Lake Constance for signs of German nuclear activity. As pressure heightened, his efforts took him to the front lines, participating in a commando raid into Belgium to seize a sample of German uranium under sniper fire and directing efforts to kidnap German physicists, including Werner Heisenberg. As Germany neared defeat, he oversaw the effort to move captured German physicists westward to avoid their capture by the Russians. He personally escorted half the uranium necessary for the atomic bomb "Little Boy" to Tinian in the Mariana Islands aboard the cruiser USS Indianapolis, arriving on 26 July 1945. On 6 August 1945, he watched the B-29 bomber "Enola Gay" as the aircraft took off to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

During, and for decades after the war, his role in the Manhattan Project and other international espionage operations were considered so sensitive that his name did not appear in any official Government documents. A year after watching the "Enola Gay's" departure from Tinian Island for its historic journey to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, Furman left the Army.

Post-Military Life

After the war, Furman founded the construction company Furman Builders, Inc. in Rockville, MD. Furman Builders was responsible for many important buildings, including the U.S. Embassy building in Nicaragua. He retired from his company in 1993. Six decades after his involvement, researchers began revealing long-kept secret details of his war activities, which Furman reluctantly began to acknowledge before his death.


He was married in 1952 and had four children.


Major Robert Ralph Furman died from metastatic melanoma, a skin cancer, on 14 October 2008 in his residence, Buckingham's Choice retirement community, in Adamstown, MD. He was 93. The location of his burial is unknown.

Honoree ID: 2525   Created by: MHOH




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