Lieutenant General Leslie Groves (1896-1970) was a United States Army Corps of Engineers officer and director of the Manhattan Project. In September 1942, Groves was appointed to head the Manhattan Project with the rank of Temporary Brigadier General.
Santa Fe, NM
William Lowe: I was born in Bartlesville, Oklahoma in the year 1920. Within a few years, my parents had moved to Westfield, New Jersey, where I grew up. But upon reaching 18, I went to college at Purdue University. It was 700 miles from home. By train, it took a day.
I would say that my 93 years have been dominated by atomic bombs, war, in particular World War II, and later by peaceful uses of atomic energy. What I will do is try to convey, more or less chronologically, what happened.
William Lowe was studying chemical and metallurgical engineering when World War II began. He was appointed to the Special Engineering Detachment and arrived in Los Alamos and began assisting physicist Arthur Wahl. Lowe recalls working with Wahl on the process for purifying the plutonium for the Gadget and the bombs and talks about the safety procedures they used to minimize risk of radiation exposure. Lowe later worked on building new reactors, laboratories, and other support facilities at Hanford.
Cindy Kelly: My name is Cindy Kelly, it is Wednesday, July 31st, 2013, and I’m here with Haskell Sheinberg. And the first question to him is, please tell us your name and spell it.
Haskell Sheinberg: My name is Haskell Sheinberg. And the first name is H-A-S-K-E-L-L, last name S-H-E-I-N-B-E-R-G.
Sheinberg: I haven’t lost that much memory anyway.
Haskell Sheinberg arrived at Los Alamos in late 1944 as part of the Special Engineer Detachment. Sheinberg’s first assignment was to purify plutonium under the direction of Arthur Wahl, one of the co-discoverers of plutonium. Sheinberg discusses the safety procedures the laboratory had in place to protect its workers from the harmful effects of radiation and also recalls attending several of Oppenheimer’s colloquiums regarding the overall progress of the Manhattan Project.
Alexandra Levy: All right, my name is Alexandra Levy with the Atomic Heritage Foundation, and we are here on December 27th with Kenneth Pumphrey in Florida. My first question is to please say your name and to spell it.
Kenneth Pumphrey: My name is Kenneth Pumphrey, and I am 86 years old. My name is spelled, Kenneth, K-E-N-N-E-T-H, P-U-M-P-H-R-E-Y.
Levy: Great. Van you tell me about where and when were you born?
Ken Pumphrey worked as a security guard for the Special Engineer Detachment in Los Alamos from 1946-1948. Pumphrey recalls his part in securing the secret city and rotating around Los Alamos on guard duty. He was one of the last 12 military personnel to leave Los Alamos before the area was turned over to civilian administration. Pumphrey talks about getting treated at the hospital, the military hierarchy, and his family’s suspicion over his odd PO Box mailing address.
Alexandra Levy: Okay, this is Alexandra Levy with the Atomic Heritage Foundation, and we are here on December 27 in Florida with Richard Renner. My first question is to please say your name and to spell it.
Richard Renner: Okay, my name is Richard, and Renner is spelled R-E-N-N-E-R, it is palindromic.
Levy: Can you tell us a little bit about where and when you were born?
Renner: I was born in Gettysburg after the battle. And, that was in 19 [laughs], 19, oh, this is bad, isn’t it, 1927.
Richard Renner arrived in Los Alamos shortly after being drafted into the Special Engineer Detachment in 1945, after the war had ended. Renner worked as a firefighter at Los Alamos, stationed by the top-secret S-Site, where bombs were assembled. Renner recalls how his experiences in Santa Fe influenced his passion for Latin American studies. Renner later worked as a Professor at the University of Florida.
Alexandra Levy: This is December 29, 2013. We are here with Dolores Heaton in Florida. This is Alexandra Levy with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. My first question is to please say your name and to spell it.
Dolores Heaton: Dolores Heaton, D-O-L-O-R-E-S H-E-A-T-O-N.
Levy: Could you tell us a little bit about where and when you were born?