Dolores Heaton’s father worked on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, and she arrived at Los Alamos with her family as a young girl. Heaton recalls what it was like growing up in Los Alamos as a child. With the housing shortage present there, Heaton and her family lived in Quonset huts and were subjected to rationing. Heaton also shares her memories of eating sandwiches with J. Robert Oppenheimer and growing up with the children of the famous scientists working on the Manhattan Project.
Santa Fe, NM
Cindy Kelly: I am Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation. I am here today with a special Manhattan Project veteran. My first question is for you to say your name and spell it.
Fred Vaslow: Fred, F – R – E – D, Vaslow, V – A – S – L – O – W.
Kelly: The next question is, when is your birthday?
Vaslow: November 17, 1919.
Kelly: Where were you born?
Fred Vaslow, a physical chemist, began working on the Manhattan Project while a graduate student at the University of Chicago. During his time working on the project, Vaslow worked in several of the secret cities, including Los Alamos alongside J. Robert Oppenheimer.
Cindy Kelly: I am Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, and today is Thursday, November 7, 2013, and I have with me Margaret Parsons Bowditch. And my first question to her is to tell me her name and spell it.
Peggy Bowditch: Peggy Bowditch, that is B-o-w-d-i-t-c-h.
Kelly: Thank you. And can you tell me something about who you are, when you were born and where you were born?
Peggy Bowditch was a young girl when she and her family moved to Los Alamos in 1943. Her father, Rear Admiral William Sterling “Deak” Parsons, was chosen by General Groves to become head of ordnance for the Manhattan Project. The Parsons lived on Bathtub Row, next door to the Oppenheimers. Deak Parsons and his wife were close friends of Robert and Kitty Oppenheimer, and Parsons had a fatal heart attack in 1953 after learning that Oppenheimer would be stripped of his security clearance for trumped-up security reasons.
Cindy Kelly: I am Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, and today’s date is June 6, 2013. And we’re in Cambridge, Massachusetts with Priscilla McMillan. And I have a very easy question to begin with, which is, could you say your name, and spell it?
Priscilla McMillan: My name is Priscilla, P-R-I-S-C-I-L-L-A McMillan, M-C-M-I-L-L-A-N.
I was in the Army drafted, classified for counter-intelligence work for reasons I will never understand. I got into that, investigative work as an enlisted man and after about a year I was commissioned also in counter-intelligence work. I continued there in the 6th service command in Chicago in that kind of work. One day to my surprise I found myself in the main office of the G-2 part of the service command there. A man from Washington was due there, an officer, for unspecified reasons. It happened to be a day on which there was a large meeting elsewhere and a sub
Thomas O. Jones volunteered to join the Army before the start of WWII. As the war began to unfold in Europe, Jones was placed in a sub-organization of the Army called the Counterintelligence Corps. Eventually, his work in the Counterintelligence Corps led him to being involved with the Manhattan Project. Jones oversaw many of the operations taking place in places like Chicago, Decatur and Ames, IA. He recounts witnessing three of the five bomb testings during his time working on the project.
I was in the SED, the Special Engineer Detachment and I worked in what was then called D-Building and with my college James Gergen I purified all the plutonium that went in the Nagasaki bomb. That’s what I did.
The purification that we used was purely in the liquid phase. We worked with solutions of plutonium nitrate and put it through a series of chemical processes to get out all the impurities. But I want to go back because I think more interesting than the chemistry of plutonium is the whole process, the procedures that we went through.
I was in the Special Engineer Detachment and I was four-stripe sergeant when I got out of the army in 1946. I worked in a group that was doing primarily coatings for the implosion bomb. I was in the army and I was recruited to be in the Special Engineer Detachment. Of course I was told it was Manhattan Project and since I lived in New York, I thought that was wonderful.