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 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, George and Vera Kistiakowsky, and many more. We add new interviews every week, so check back often! 

Click here to register for the Atomic Heritage Foundation's 70th Anniversary of the Manhattan Project events, to be held in Washington, DC in June 2-3, 2015. The events will include a reunion of Manhattan Project veterans and a symposium featuring veterans and experts.

Recent Oral Histories

Eugene Wigner's Interview (1964)

Eugene Wigner was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist and mathematician and 1963 Nobel Prize winner in Physics. During the Manhattan Project, Wigner led a group responsible for the design of Hanford’s B Reactor. In this interview, Wigner discusses his upbringing and education. He elaborates on his involvement with the Einstein Letter, which Einstein sent to President Franklin Roosevelt urging he begin research into an atomic bomb and led to the Manhattan Project research. Einstein dictated the letter to Wigner, and Wigner was very impressed by Einstein’s ability to dictate such an important letter so quickly. Wigner also elaborates on the personalities of Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi, and other scientists.

John Mench's Interview

John Mench was assigned to the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos where he worked as a pattern maker, creating wooden casts for metal work at the site’s foundry. Mench describes what it was like to live in the barracks at Los Alamos and discusses everything from housing and recreation to security and secrecy, including his daughter’s birth certificate, which was marked P.O. Box 1663. Mench also discusses the founding of the Los Alamos Little Theater, where he directed numerous plays that were attended by some of the most famous scientists on the site. He jokingly recounts a date with one of the young WACs, who never invited him to dinner again because he spent the entire date talking about his wife and child. On a more serious note, Mench offers his opinion on the use of the atomic bomb against Japan and the importance of the Manhattan Project in ending the war.

Rosemary Lane's Interview

Rosemary Lane was the Head Nurse at the Oak Ridge Hospital during the years of the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Lane provides a detailed account of the wartime rise of Oak Ridge, Tennessee from a small military outpost to a town of over 70,000. She discusses the social life of Manhattan Project workers, what it was like to meet General Leslie Groves, and the moment when she found out that Oak Ridge was helping to manufacture an atomic bomb.

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.