The Manhattan Project

Manhattan Project Voices

Voices of the Manhattan Project

J. Robert Oppenheimer"Voices of the Manhattan Project" is a joint project by the Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society to create a public archive of our oral history collections of Manhattan Project veterans and their families. 

Our online collection features over 200 audio/visual interviews with Manhattan Project workers and their families, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, General Leslie R. Groves, Glenn Seaborg, Hans and Rose Bethe, Harold Agnew, and many more. We add new interviews every week, so check back often! 

Recent Oral Histories

George Kistiakowsky's Interview

Dr. George Kistiakowsky was a Ukranian-American physical chemist whose contribution to the Manhattan Project included the design of the explosive lenses for the implosion-type bomb. He emigrated to the United States in 1926 and was the head of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) before going to Los Alamos as the leader of the Explosives Division. Following the war, Kistiakowsky served as a prominent scientific advisor to the White House across many administrations. In this interview, author Richard Rhodes and Kistiakowsky discuss life at Los Alamos, the relationships between many of the scientists of the Manhattan Project, and Kistiakowsky’s contributions after the war.

Rose Bethe's Interview

Rose Bethe and her husband, Nobel Prize winner Hans Bethe, moved to Los Alamos in early 1943 when Hans was appointed leader of the Theoretical Division for the Manhattan Project. During the initial stages of the Project, Rose worked in the housing office, where she assigned incoming scientists and their families to houses and showed them where site facilities were located. When Rose became pregnant with her first child, Henry, she resigned her position to help physicist Bruno Rossi wire electronics boards. Mrs. Bethe recalls raising her children at Los Alamos and some of the relationships she developed with many of the project’s most famous scientists. She also discusses her childhood years in Germany and how the rise of Hitler forced her and many of her close friends to leave the country.

J. Robert Oppenheimer's Interview

In this rare interview, J. Robert Oppenheimer talks about the organization of the Manhattan Project and some of the scientists that he helped to recruit during the earliest days of the project. Oppenheimer discusses some of the biggest challenges that scientists faced during the project, including developing a sound method for implosion and purifying plutonium. Oppie recalls his daily routine at Los Alamos, including taking his son to nursery school.

John Wheeler's Interview (1965)

John Wheeler was a theoretical physicist who joined the Manhattan Project in 1942. During the early stages of the project, Wheeler worked under Arthur H. Compton at the Metallurgical Laboratory, where he helped examine potential problems that could arise during the startup of the world's first nuclear reactor. Wheeler later became the lead physicist at the Hanford Site, where he solved the riddle of the B Reactor going dead a few hours after it started, an event that threatened to delay seriously the first production of plutonium. In this interview, Wheeler discusses his early collaboration with Niels Bohr on the liquid drop model of nuclear fission. He also discusses his involvement in designing the B Reactor and solving the problem of xenon poisoning that occurred during startup.