David Hawkins was a philosopher professor who became the administrative aide at the Los Alamos Laboratory in 1943 and the Manhattan Project's historian in 1945-46. In that role, he had free access to all the top people involved, including project director J. Robert Oppenheimer and physicist Edward Teller. In this interview, Hawkins describes his encounters with lawyer Cliff Durr after the war, when he, like Oppenheimer, was facing suspicion from the U.S. government for his involvement with the Communist Party.
Los Alamos, NM
Rhodes: Well, I had started to ask you about the Korean War. Was that a shock? Did that worry everyone and accelerate your sense of pressure?
Taylor: I don’t think so. I don’t remember any feeling of pressure, that we had to do something by a certain time or else all hell would break lose. All I remember was excitement and anticipation and eagerness to know the result of something I had worked on.
Siegfried Hecker: Okay, I was just—a little bit more on the testing business. Again, I will not give you much because eventually, I am sure you will do all the research on this. There are some interesting dynamics in the testing business all the way around, because it is such an emotional issue. So hard drawn on both sides, almost a little bit like abortion. You just cannot seem to bring people together. They are either in one camp or in the other.
Richard Rhodes: Although again, I was struck in Russia with how different a world that was.
Ted Taylor: Oh, yeah.
Rhodes: How much more closely they were—
Taylor: That is why I am so thankful because in many other places people get shot.
Rhodes: Yeah. We could not even get directions on the street. Nobody wanted to talk to foreigners. Even now, partly, I am sure.
Taylor: Some of that is habit, I think.
Martin Sherwin: I am in Cambridge, Massachusetts on April 26, 1982. Were you married when you were in Los Alamos?
Alice Kimball Smith: Yes. We had been married for twelve years.
Sherwin: I see. So you and your husband, Cyril Smith, went to Los Alamos and you were promptly put to work as a schoolteacher. Is that correct?
Kimball Smith: That is right, yes.
Alice Kimball Smith was an American historian and educator. She and her husband Cyril Smith, a British metallurgist, moved to Los Alamos in 1943 after Cyril joined the Manhattan Project. Alice became a schoolteacher at Los Alamos. While on "the Hill," she and her husband became friendly with J. Robert Oppenheimer and his wife Kitty. Kimball Smith also encountered numerous other scientific luminaries, including Niels Bohr.
Martin Sherwin: This is an interview with John DeWire at Cornell University in his office at Newman Hall 228, Newman. Today is May 5, 1982.
You were with Robert Wilson’s group from Princeton that was recruited by [J. Robert] Oppenheimer in ’43, right? Late ’43, was it?
John DeWire: Early ’43.
Sherwin: Early ’43.
DeWire: I went to Princeton in February ’42.
Sherwin: From where?
John De Wire was a physicist who was recruited by J. Robert Oppenheimer to work on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. In this interview, De Wire discusses how he was recruited, the move to Los Alamos, the organization and administration at Los Alamos, and the unusual speed with which scientists could procure items. He explains how he came to work at Princeton, and his involvement after the war in opposing Lewis Strauss’s nomination for Secretary of Commerce. He recalls what made Oppenheimer such an effective leader.
Gerhart Friedlander: My name is Gerhart Friedlander.
Interviewer: What was your role in the Manhattan Project?
Friedlander: I got into the Manhattan Project very early; in fact, before there was an official Manhattan Project. I was a graduate student at Berkeley at the University of California. My thesis advisor was Glenn Seaborg, who later on got a Nobel Prize and became chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, but at that time he was just a new instructor and I was his first graduate student.
German-American chemist Gerhart Friedlander fled Nazi persecution in 1936. He studied at the University of California with Glenn Seaborg, earning his Ph.D. in nuclear chemistry in 1942. The following year, he joined the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos and became group leader of the radioactive lanthanum group in the Chemistry Division. After World War II, Friedlander worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory for many years and chaired the Chemistry Department.