The Manhattan Project

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Harry Allen and Robert Van Gemert's Interview

Harry Allen: Mr. Wilson and company set us up a purchase request for a barber chair, because they couldn’t get off work in time to get their hair done.

Robert Van Gemert:  There was only one man cutting hair, I think, up there.

Allen: The barber service was extremely limited, and we just happen to know where there was an old barber chair down in the old engineers’ warehouse. So we sent the truck driver down, and we delivered one barber chair down to the cyclotron building. 

Robert Van Gemert

Harry Allen and Robert Van Gemert worked in procurement at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, the pair discusses getting ready for the Trinity test, the challenges of using Jumbo, and how materials were transported safely and secretly in and out of Los Alamos. They remember helping to acquire the lead-lined tanks used to transport scientists to the blast zone after the Trinity test. Allen and Van Gemert also discuss the dormitories at Los Alamos, how the Town Council handled problems, and the secrets of PO Box 1663.

Harry Allen

Harry Allen and Robert Van Gemert worked in procurement at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, the pair discusses getting ready for the Trinity test, the challenges of using Jumbo, and how materials were transported safely and secretly in and out of Los Alamos. They remember helping to acquire the lead-lined tanks used to transport scientists to the blast zone after the Trinity test. Allen and Van Gemert also discuss the dormitories at Los Alamos, how the Town Council handled problems, and the secrets of PO Box 1663.

Norris Bradbury

Norris Bradbury was an American physicist and director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1945-1970. During the Manhattan Project, Bradbury directed the implosion field test program and helped prepare the “Gadget” for the Trinity test. In this interview, Bradbury explains why he was selected to work at Los Alamos, and discusses his work on the plutonium implosion bomb. He recalls his interactions with Manhattan Project leaders J. Robert Oppenheimer, George Kistiakowsky, and Admiral Deak Parsons.

Sir Rudolf Peierls's Interview

Martin Sherwin: This is Martin Sherwin. I'll be interviewing Sir Rudolf Peierls at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Today's date is June 6th, 1979. 

You first met [J.Robert] Oppenheimer in Zurich in 1929?

Rudolf Peierls: Right, yes.

Sherwin: At that time, I think you mentioned you were working with [Wolfgang] Pauli's group?

Peierls: Yeah.

Sherwin: Who else was there in that group?

Rudolf Peierls

Rudolf Peierls was a German-born physicist. He worked with Wolfgang Pauli in Switzerland, and moved to England when Hitler rose to power in 1933. In March 1940, Peierls and fellow colleague Otto Frisch co-authored the Frisch-Peierls memorandum, the first technical exposition of a practical atomic weapon. Peierls joined the British Mission and worked on the Manhattan Project in New York and Los Alamos.

Robert Christy's Interview

Martin Sherwin: This is Martin Sherwin. I am on my way to interview Professor Robert Christy in his office at 423 Downs on the Caltech Campus in Pasadena, California, March 30th, 1983.

You were a student of his?

Robert Christy: I was a graduate student of [J. Robert] Oppenheimer’s from the fall of 1937 until the spring of 1941 when I got my degree, my PhD degree in theoretical physics in Berkeley.

Sherwin: What did you do your dissertation on?

Robert Christy

Robert Christy studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer at the University of California, Berkeley while earning his PhD in theoretical physics. He joined the Manhattan Project in February 1942 at the University of Chicago, and later relocated to Los Alamos when Oppenheimer personally recruited him on a visit to Chicago. At Los Alamos, Christy worked on the design of the water-boiler reactor. He was then recruited into the implosion group, where he designed the Christy gadget, the solid-core design of the plutonium bomb. He also witnessed the Trinity test.

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