York Town Square

Part of the USAToday Network

York woman worked on The Bomb: ‘And yet it stopped the war’


My book “In the thick of the fight” described this scene: “Soon after Pearl Harbor, York (Pa.) Corporation President Stewart Lauer stood on a truck bed to tell workers the world was embroiled in a war of ships and machines. And a modern war machine can’t keep going without refrigeration. That speech and others in York Corporation’s shop marks Yorkco’s commitment to stick to the knitting — cooling and refrigeration equipment for the Allies. Although the company did produce ordnance, the refrigeration it produced — for example, to preserve food on big ships crossing great oceans — aided the war effort.” And one other project made a difference in the war: Yorkco was involved in the Manhattan Project. Background post: “Little Johnny” called for Allies in World War II and Her words helped win the war’.

The death of Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets prompts York County connections to the atomic bomb:
– Jack Yeaple was aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis when it went down after a Japanese torpedo attack. The Indianapolis had just dropped off atomic bomb parts and was on to another mission. Yeaple was perhaps the last York countian to die in World War II… .

– Companies involved represented a who’s who of county industry: York Corporation (Yorkco), Read Machinery Co., York Safe & Lock Co., New York Wire Cloth Co. and S. Morgan Smith Co.
– And just recently, we learn of a York County woman, Ann Demoise, who worked on a device that would reduce detection of the Enola Gay by Japanese radar.
Her story from the York Daily Record follows:

It’s only been during the past 10 years or so that Ann DeMoise of York has been able to talk to her family about the work she did during World War II.
At the time, DeMoise said, people had a general idea of what she was doing. She worked at Bendix Aviation in Philadelphia, at a time when “aviation” was synonymous with national defense.
But nobody – family, friends or anybody else not directly involved with the project – knew the specific nature of what she was working on. She was helping to develop the device that would hide the Enola Gay from Japanese radar, allowing the plane to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima.
The pilot of that B-29 bomber, Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets, died Thursday at the age of 92. That brought back some memories for DeMoise.
But she said the memory of that time and that work has never been far from her mind. She remembers it every August on the anniversary of the bombing.
“It’s kind of an unsettling time when you think of all the souls,” she said. “And yet it stopped the war.”
DeMoise is now 86. She lives with her husband, Dr. Felix DeMoise.
The two met when they attended Westminster College but didn’t become romantically involved until after the war, when he was stationed in Philadelphia and they renewed their acquaintance, she said.
During the war, Felix DeMoise joined the Marines and ended up fighting the Japanese. Ann DeMoise, who graduated with a degree in business administration, worked for a while as assistant to the vice president of Gulf Oil.
Then she took the job with Bendix, working as assistant to the chief engineer, she said. She was the only woman on the team.
“This is when women were breaking the glass ceiling,” she said. “That was all the big thing then. Only I didn’t look at it that way. I looked at it as a job.”
She said she was responsible for all of the documents and blueprints. That job was more complicated than it may seem, in a context in which the engineers and administrators involved in the project needed to consult each others’ work, but one set of wrong eyes on a document could lose the war.
DeMoise said she and her colleagues put in regular hours. But when they were on the job, there was no idle chatter or cigarette breaks. They were there to work, and that’s what they did.
After the war, the DeMoises moved to York around 1950, and Felix DeMoise became a local chiropractor. DeMoise’s daughter, Abby Sue Schapell of Hamburg, said her mother rarely spoke of the top secret project until recently.
Even now, Schapell said, her mother’s instincts to keep the project secret appear to be deeply ingrained. Just recently, DeMoise was talking to family members in a restaurant about the work but became quiet when a waitress walked by.
In retrospect, DeMoise said, the job might have been a lot of pressure and a lot of responsibility for a recent college graduate in her 20s. But, at the time, it seemed everybody in the country had a lot of pressure and responsibility.
Young men such as her future husband who were fighting overseas had to cope with it, of course. But so did all of the people on the homefront, who had ration books for buying fuel, shoes and even food. On a daily basis, they coped with inconveniences such as sleeping in the aisles of trains and buses that were filled past capacity because of fuel rationing or turning out their lights immediately at the sound of an air raid siren.
“Wartime was entirely different,” she said. “They go around griping today about little things. They have no idea.”
What was the Enola Gay?
The Enola Gay was a B-29 Superfortress bomber that dropped “Little Boy,” the first atomic bomb ever used in war, on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.
Three days later, a second nuclear bomb, dubbed “Fat Man,” was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Less than a week later, on Aug. 15, 1945, Japan surrendered, bringing an end to World War II within a month.
The Enola Gay was named after Enola Gay Tibbets, the mother of pilot Paul Tibbets, who died last week at age 92.