Theresa Strottman: As we start, could you briefly tell me when and where you were born and something about your early education and training?
Los Alamos, NM
Bob Porton worked in the recreation division at Los Alamos. A soldier in first the Provisional Engineer Detachment and then the Special Engineer Detachment, he discusses military-civilian relations on the top-secret base, his arrival in Santa Fe, and the importance of keeping up morale at Los Alamos.
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.
Benjamin Bederson: I’m Benjamin Bederson.
Cindy Kelly: Can you spell it?
Bederson: B-E-D-E-R-S-O-N. Sometimes it’s called “Bederson.” I say Bederson.
Kelly: And what was your birth date?
Bederson: I was born November 15, 1921. I'm about to have my 90th birthday next month.
Kelly: You are phenomenal. This man looks like he's sixty-five.
Gordon Knobeloch: Okay, it’s Gordon Knobeloch, G-O-R-D-O-N, and the last name is K-N-O-B-E-L-O-C-H.
Kelly: Great. Okay, why don’t you start with how you got to—
Knobeloch: Okay. Well, everybody who came here had their own particular path and mine wasn’t as spectacular as some of them, but it was interesting to me, and I guess it started with good ol’ Pearl Harbor day.
Gordon Knobeloch worked on the RaLa Experiment at Los Alamos, which was crucial to developing the spherical implosion necessary for the plutonium bomb. He recalls arriving by train in Lamy, the low average age of the scientists at Los Alamos, and presents a defense of the use of the atomic bomb in World War II.
Theresa Strottman: We are speaking with Arno Roensch. We thank you for coming this morning. To start off the interview, I was wondering if you could briefly tell me when and where you were born and something about your early education and training.
Arno Roensch: I was born in Berlin, Germany—1918. We came to this country in 1922. I remember the boat we came on, it was called the S.S. Orbeta; it was a British vessel. It took 21 days to cross the Atlantic.
Eleanor Roensch worked as a telephone operator in Los Alamos. She remembers a fire breaking out in one of the technical buildings and the concern over coded telegrams, sent by scientists like Rudolf Peierls.
Theresa Strottman: It’s Saturday March 21, 1992, and it’s approximately 10:20 in the morning. We are speaking with Jerry Roensch. We thank you so much for coming this morning.
Eleanor (Jerry) Roensch: My pleasure.
Strottman: To start off the interview, I wonder if you could briefly tell me when and where you were born and a little something about your early education and training.