The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

Lawrence S. Myers, Jr.'s Interview

Lawrence Myers was a chemist who worked at the Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. In his interview, he discusses attending the University of Chicago, where he was invited to begin working on the Manhattan Project conducting experiments on uranium. He later moved to Oak Ridge along with a group of Chicago scientists. His wife joined him thanks to some chemistry coursework she had completed while in Chicago. Following the Project, Myers worked at Argonne National Laboratory before taking a position at the new medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Denise Kiernan's Interview

Denise Kiernan has worked as a journalist and producer. She is best known for "The Girls of Atomic City," which came out in March 2013 and immediately shot to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list. "The Girls of Atomic City" tells the story of the women who worked at Oak Ridge on the Manhattan Project. She has appeared on the Daily Show and NPR to talk about her book and the women who worked on the Manhattan Project.

Crawford Greenewalt's Interview

Crawford Greenewalt was an American chemical engineer for the Dupont Company who acted as the liaison between the physicists at the Chicago Met Lab and the company's engineers in Wilmington, Delaware during the Manhattan Project. The challenge was to translate the scientists’ theoretical ideas into workable blueprints for the production of plutonium on a massive scale at the B Reactor being built in Hanford, WA. In this interview, Greenewalt discusses his role as a member of DuPont's review committee, which evaluated the different methods of fissile material production. Greenewalt, who was present at the University of Chicago when the first artificial self-sustaining nuclear reaction was set off, recalls the relatively calm atmosphere in the laboratory that day.

General Leslie Groves's Interview - Part 6

In this interview, General Groves discusses his relationship with some of the famous scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Harold Urey, Vannevar Bush, James B. Conant, and Ernest O. Lawrence. Groves also discusses the Chevalier incident and how Oppenheimer’s affiliation with the Communist party raised suspicions among fellow scientists of his motivations.

Walter S. Carpenter's Interview

Walter Samuel Carpenter, Jr. was a corporate executive at DuPont who oversaw the company's involvement in the Manhattan Project. In 1919, at the age of thirty-one, Carpenter was elected to DuPont's board of directors, the first member who was not from the du Pont family. Carpenter discusses how DuPont came to be involved in the Manhattan Project, and how Groves' initial request seemed to be an almost impossible task. He also discusses the expansion of the American chemical business and the corporate structure of DuPont. Additionally, he touches upon his early life and how he initially got involved with the company after quitting school in the fall of his senior year at Cornell University to manage DuPont's Chilean nitrate interests.

John Arnold's Interview

John Arnold joined the Manhattan Project in 1943 when the MED tasked his employer, the Kellogg Corporation, with developing a special barrier for the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge. Arnold discusses his role as director of research and development and process engineering at the plant, where he supervised the assembly and testing of what would become the K-25 plant. In his interview, Arnold describes the challenges of creating a suitable barrier that could withstand the corrosive effects of uranium hexafluoride gas while remaining porous enough to allow smaller atoms of uranium-235 to pass through.

Harold Urey's Interview

Dr. Harold Urey was an American physical chemist and winner of the 1934 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Urey worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University, overseeing the development of the gaseous diffusion method. He discusses working with numerous colleagues, including Arthur Compton, Enrico Fermi, and General Leslie Groves. He also discusses his early life, his education, and his work following the war.

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.

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.

Robert E. Hayes's Interview

Robert “Bob” Hayes worked as an airplane mechanic on Kwajalein Island, maintaining Boeing B-29s. He talks about life in the Pacific during World War II, being trained to use a flamethrower on Iwo Jima, maintaining complicated airplane engines, and witnessing the Bikini Atoll nuclear tests.

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