Harris Harold Levee: My name is Harris Harold Levee, L-e-v-e-e. My birthdate is August 9, 1919. I grew up in Sheepshead Bay doing the—playing a lot of sports, and did go to high school at Brooklyn Technical High School, where I studied to be an engineer. And from Brooklyn Tech, I went to a school called Cooper Union in New York City, which was a school where you had to pass a tremendous examination in order to get into the school because the school was free. All you had to do was pay for your own books.
Chicago Met Lab
Harris Harold Levee served in the Special Engineering Detachment at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago on the Manhattan Project. At the Met Lab, he worked with Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard, who he describes as “not two peas in a pod, one was a pea and one was a string bean.” Levee’s assignments included following up on patents and ensuring strict secrecy was maintained at the laboratory. Levee later worked on construction of nuclear submarines.
Justin Piel: Hi, I am Justin Piel and I am in Palm Harbor, Florida interviewing Dr. Lawrence Litz for a school biography project.
Lawrence Litz: Good afternoon. I am Dr. Litz. I am glad to be able to discuss some of the work that I did many, many years ago on the atomic energy program. And I think Justin has some questions he was interested in getting answers to.
Piel: So, what is your full name?
Lawrence Litz was a young physicist when he began working on radioactivity at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago. From there he was transferred to Los Alamos, where he worked on casting the plutonium hemispheres for the atomic bombs and became the first person to see metallic plutonium. He recalls the twenty-four hour shift he pulled to cast two more plutonium hemispheres in case a third atomic bomb was needed to force the Japanese to surrender.
Theresa Strottman: It’s Saturday, February 15, 1992, approximately 11:28 AM. We’re interviewing Kay Manley. We really appreciate your coming here today. Briefly tell me when and where you were born and something about your education and training.
George Cowan: It's weighted so heavily in favor—not in favor of—but the emphasis on number one Los Alamos, and then Oak Ridge, and then Hanford, as the three secret cities or something. But the fact is the Met Lab at Chicago was enormously important. The Stagg Field reactor was historic in ’42, and its sort of dismissed.
George Cowan joined the Manhattan Project in 1942 at the Met Lab as a chemist for Enrico Fermi’s group. He also worked for Columbia University and the Uranium Corporation of America in Manhattan. Cowan describes his experience working with famous scientists, such as Chien-Shiung Wu and Eugene Wigner, and gives a detailed account of his role in Operation Crossroads, the first military test of the atomic bomb against Navy ships.
Donald Ames describes his experience living and working under Glenn Seaborg at the University of Chicago Metallurgical Laboratories as a G.I. in World War II. He later directed the McDonnell Douglas Research Laboratories.
Cynthia Kelly: So Don, why don’t you tell us your name and spell it?
Donald Ames: My name is Donald Ames, D-O-N-A-L-D A-M-E-S.
Kelly: Okay, and you should look at me instead of the camera. That’s better. Why don’t you tell us about where you were before the war and how you came to work on the Manhattan Project?
Ames: Okay, I was a farm boy. I went to the University of Wisconsin, where I earned my way through school. Of course, the tuition was only $32 a semester.