The Manhattan Project

Manhattan Project Voices

Voices of the Manhattan ProjectSpecial Engineering Detachment insignia

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. The Manhattan Project was a great human collaboration, with 130,000 people around the country working on the top-secret project. We are currently in the process of adding many more oral histories to the website, so check back frequently to view new interviews! 

We are still conducting interviews with Manhattan Project veterans and their families, to capture as many oral histories as possible. If you are, or know, a Manhattan Project veteran who would like to be interviewed, please contact us.

Recent Oral Histories

George Cowan's Interview (1993)

George Cowan was a physical chemist who joined the Manhattan Project in 1942. In this interview, Cowan discusses the Soviet atomic program and their effort to build a nuclear bomb. In 1949, he helped convince U.S. government officials that the radiochemistry of air samples taken from the atmosphere proved that the Soviets had detonated their own atomic bomb, rather than what many assumed was just a peaceful nuclear reactor problem. Cowan also discusses Operation Crossroads, where he helped take air samples during atomic tests at Eniwetok Atoll in 1946.

Glenn Seaborg's Interview

Glenn Seaborg, winner of the 1951 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and co-discoverer of plutonium, was in charge of the separation process for removing plutonium from irradiated uranium slugs at the University of Chicago during the Manhattan Project. In his interview, he discusses the pressure to obtain high yields of plutonium, and how he eventually decided on the bismuth phosphate process, which was extremely successful. Seaborg also describes the difficulty of recruiting top scientists to work on a top-secret project, as he was not allowed to explain the importance of his work unless they agreed to join.

J. Robert Oppenheimer's Interview

In this interview, 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 also talks about some of the biggest difficulties that scientists faced during the project, such as developing a sound method for implosion.

General Leslie Groves' Interview - Part 5

In this interview, Groves discusses his administrative approach to managing the Manhattan Project. Groves talks about his early career before the Project and some of the key lessons he learned during his job as an engineer that helped him succeed during the Manhattan Project. Groves also discusses his relationship with Congress and the ways in which he was able to persuade government officials to provide the enormous funding for the Project.