The Manhattan Project

About Us

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About the Website

“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. Participants included recent immigrants who fled anti-Semitism in Europe, young men and women straight from high school or college, and numerous Hispanics, Native Americans, and African-Americans. Some 125,000 people worked in secret locations in communities developed by the government for the sole purpose of the project. Most surprisingly, very few knew that they were working on an atomic bomb.

Launched in October 2012, this website captures the stories of Manhattan Project veterans and their families. Thanks to grants from the Crystal Trust, Department of Energy-NNSA, Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Kerr Foundation, and the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, the Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society are digitizing and transcribing our oral history collections and adding the interviews to this website. We hope that in time others will add to these oral histories. Our goal is to provide a sense of both the commonality and diversity of the Manhattan Project experience for scholars, students and the public.

There are many ways to search this site. In addition to the search bar and the filters used to organize by location and subjects (which are intended to emphasize important themes), you can also click on "tags" to find out more about a specific topic on the oral history and location pages. For example, the location page for Metallurgical Laboratory includes a tag for Enrico Fermi. Click on the tag, and all the key pages on this website discussing Fermi will pop up. 

If you would like to have access to the original recordings, or you would like permission to quote from an interview, please contact us. This website is a work in progress, so check back often to view new videos and read new transcripts! 


Oral History Collections

Our oral history collections come from a variety of sources. Some entries were conducted with a specific purpose in mind, such as for an exhibit or to provide information for a book, and are not a complete history. As you view our collection, please keep this in mind as the formatting and questions asked sometimes reflect various purposes other than a straightforward interview. 

Many of the interviews come from the Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society's collections. AHF is currently in the process of digitizing and transcribing a number of outstanding archival oral history collections taken as far back as the 1960s:

  • The Stephane Groueff Collection: In the 1960s, Groueff, a Bulgarian journalist, conducted more than 80 interviews with leading Manhattan Project figures. Paul Groueff, Stephane Groueff's heir, has granted AHF the rights to publish the interviews on the "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website and use them for educational and interpretive purposes. AHF has worked in collaboration with the Boston University Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center to digitize and transcribe the Groueff Collection.
  • The Martin J. Sherwin Collection: Historian Martin J. Sherwin, co-author of American Prometheus, the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, recorded audio interviews with dozens of Manhattan Project veterans and friends of Oppenheimer in the 1980s. Sherwin had donated his audio collection to the Library of Congress (LOC), and AHF entered into an agreement with the LOC and Sherwin to publish the interviews on "Voices." 
  • The S. L. Sanger Collection: Journalist S. L. Sanger has granted AHF exclusive rights to publish the more than 50 interviews he conducted in the 1980s with dozens of men and women who worked at the Hanford Site for his book Working on the Bomb.
  • The Richard Rhodes Collection: Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb and more than 20 other books, donated the collection of interviews he conducted with Manhattan Project scientists as research for his books and granted AHF exclusive rights to publish the interviews.
  • The Joseph Papalia Collection: Joseph Papalia, official historian of the 509th Composite Group, has donated his collection of more than a dozen interviews and oral histories with members of the 509th and granted AHF exclusive rights to publish the interviews.
  • The Willie Atencio/David Schiferl Collection: F.G. "Willie" Atencio and David Schiferl, former employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory, have granted AHF rights to publish a collection of video interviews they conducted in 2009 with Hispanos who worked on the Manhattan Project.
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory Collection: The Los Alamos National Laboratory Archives has donated several oral history interviews with members of the British Mission to Los Alamos, as well as other recordings featuring reminiscences by Manhattan Project veterans. AHF is currently seeking funds to transcribe these audio materials and make them available on "Voices."

We are grateful to Paul Groueff, Martin Sherwin, S. L. Sanger, Richard Rhodes, Joseph Papalia, Willie Atencio, David Schiferl, and Alan Carr of Los Alamos National Laboratory for collaborating with AHF to publish their interview collections.

Please remember that oral histories are recordings of an individual's memories. Two people who witnessed the same event may remember differently, and their memories may have changed over time.

We have transcribed the interviews from the original recordings and edited the transcripts and recordings for clarity. We have done our best to produce an accurate, minimally edited transcript and video or audio file of our interviews. Some interviews have been edited for content and some sections containing irrelevant information have been removed. 

If you are a relative of any of the interviewees and have any questions or concerns, please contact us.

 

Our Organizations

The Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the Manhattan Project and the Atomic Age and its legacy. The Foundation's goal is to provide the public not only a better understanding of the past but also a basis for addressing scientific, technical, political, social and ethical issues of the 21st century. AHF works with Congress, the Department of Energy, National Park Service, state and local governments, nonprofit organizations and the former Manhattan Project communities to preserve and interpret historic sites and develop useful and accessible educational materials for veterans, teachers, and the general public. For more information about the Atomic Heritage Foundation, please visit www.atomicheritage.org.

Atomic Heritage Foundation 
910 17th St. NW, Suite 408
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (202) 293-0045
 

The Los Alamos Historical Society was incorporated in July 1968 “to encourage in every way possible an appreciation of the history and heritage of Los Alamos and its surrounding area by collecting, recording and preserving its history.” The Los Alamos Historical Museum opened in late July 1968. Today, the Historical Society continues as a key cultural service provider to Los Alamos County, but with expanded functions that now include ownership and preservation of historic properties (including the wartime home of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer House and the homestead-era Romero Cabin), publishing, and educational outreach. For more information about the Los Alamos Historical Society, please visit www.losalamoshistory.org.

Los Alamos Historical Society 
1050 Bathtub Row
Los Alamos, NM 87544
Phone: (505) 662-6272