The Manhattan Project

Manhattan Project Voices

Voices of the Manhattan Project

Chicago Pile-1 scientists"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 400 audio/visual interviews with Manhattan Project workers and their families, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, General Leslie R. Groves, Glenn Seaborg, Hans and Rose Bethe, George and Vera Kistiakowsky, and many more. We add new interviews every week, so check back often! 

"Voices" now includes interviews with some of the men who flew on the bombing missions.

Recent Oral Histories

Geoffrey Chew's Interview

Geoffrey Chew was an undergraduate studying physics at George Washington University when he assisted Washington Post journalist (and future children’s novelist) Jean Craighead in writing an article on atomic weapons. His professor, George Gamow, recommended that Chew join Edward Teller’s team at Los Alamos. At Los Alamos, Chew witnessed the Trinity Test from a nearby mountain and worked on Teller’s ideas for developing the hydrogen bomb. In graduate school, Chew was supervised by Enrico Fermi. In this interview, Chew recounts his unique entrance to the Manhattan Project and his relationship with Edward Teller. He also recalls an incident when Fermi had trouble playing a game at a party, his conversation with an intelligence man on the Craighead article, and serving as John von Neumann’s “human computer.” Finally, Chew discusses his current research on the Big Bang.

Joseph Papalia's Interview

Joseph Papalia is an official historian of the 509th Composite Group, the US Army Air Force unit created specifically for dropping atomic bombs. Papalia, who served in the Air Force in the 1950s, became interested in the 509th later in his life. He began attending 509th reunions, held annually, and became friends with many veterans of the group, as well as with other historians who focused on the unit. In this interview, he describes how the reunions have changed as the veterans have grown older or passed away, as well as how they view their role in the atomic bombings and their legacy. He also tells anecdotes about members of the unit, including Colonel Paul Tibbets and Captain Bob Lewis. He shares examples of the 509th memorabilia and artifacts that he has collected over the years.

Esther Floth's Interview

Esther Floth worked as a secretary for General Leslie Groves during the Manhattan Project in Washington, DC. Her job afforded her the opportunity to meet leading Manhattan Project officials and scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Niels Bohr, Ernest Lawrence, and others. She went on to work for the Atomic Energy Commission after the war. In this interview, Esther recalls the secrecy of the project, including getting her top-secret clearance, and what everyday life during the war was like. She recounts General Groves’s leadership qualities and how he interacted with her and other Manhattan Project staff. Floth also describes her response to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Oppenheimer’s security trial.

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, which he declares was the most difficult aspect of the project. He discusses the chronology of the project and his first conversation with General Leslie Groves. Oppenheimer recalls his daily routine at Los Alamos, including taking his son Peter to nursery school.