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A Kosynier in Hollywood Part 4

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A Kosynier in Hollywood

Part 4

By Dan Groya

When America entered World War II in 1942, Herman Groya’s four brothers served in the military in some capacity, though none were really soldiers.  Take Uncle George, for example.  There is a story from the late 1950’s in which he disassembled a Ford Thunderbird and then put it back together in the recreation room of his basement.  Kind of like a cool sofa for watching TV. 

1956 Ford Thunderbird

Anyway, during the war he had the wackiest job of all.  Because he was good with electronics and fluent in German, the Army assigned him to the Signal Corps and deployed him to the Atlantic coast of Florida.  As the legend goes, George Groya spent the entire Second World War in a radio shack on the beach, connected by wire to an array of underwater microphones that tracked the audio trail of German U-boats as they reconnoitered U.S. Navy and Army Air Corps bases.  He captured the conversations of submariners on magnetic wire recorders, and then translated them into English for Naval Intelligence and the OSS.  He once said he was the laziest spy who ever lived—sitting around all day with headphones and dining on fresh crab and beer after work.  Every family should have an Uncle George.

My father’s tale had a different twist.  By 1940 he had become a journeyman packaging designer.  Worked his way up from the mailroom to full-fledged engineer.  When the US Army contracted Container Corporation to develop packaging for their emergency meals for soldiers, known as K-Rations, he was given a deferral from military service. 

That’s the official story.  But my mother once revealed another side of it, one night decades later and after a few cocktails.  She said an FBI agent once came to the house to interview her.  His questions indicated that Uncle Sam wanted to be sure my parents were patriotic Americans, and that my father could be trusted with government secrets.  She wondered why anyone would go to so much trouble over food packaging.  Her suspicions evolved over time, and she began to think her husband was in fact working for the Manhattan Project, the Army’s secret plan to build an atomic bomb. 

It was based in Chicago, though its laboratory and test grounds were located in Los Alamos, in the New Mexico desert.  She said that Dad had made a few absent-minded comments, which seemed to indicate he may have been developing other types of packages altogether—fail-safe enclosures for radioactive materials, or even the warhead of a bomb.  We never asked, and he never told.