The Manhattan Project

Wendover Air Field, UT

Benjamin Bederson

Benjamin Bederson, a New York native, was selected to serve in the Special Engineering Detachment during the Manhattan Project. A physicist, he was first sent to Oak Ridge, and then to Los Alamos, where he worked for Donald Hornig on designing the ignition switches for the implosion bomb. At Los Alamos, he knew Ted Hall and David Greenglass, who were secretly sending atomic bomb secrets to the USSR. Bederson instructed the 509th Composite Group at Wendover and was sent to Tinian to help wire the switches for the bomb.

Nancy K. Nelson's Interview (2018)

Alexandra Levy: I’m Alexandra Levy with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. It is September 13, 2018, and I’m here in Chantilly, Virginia with Nancy Nelson. My first question is to please say your name and spell it.

Nancy Nelson: Nancy, N-a-n-c-y Nelson, N-e-l-s-o-n. I live in Riverside, California. My husband was Richard H. Nelson, the radio operator on the Enola Gay, August 6, 1945. 

Norris Jernigan's Interview

Alexandra Levy: I’m Alexandra Levy with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. I’m here on September 13, 2018 in Chantilly, Virginia with Norris Jernigan. My first question is for you to please say your name and to spell it.

Norris Jernigan: Okay. I’m Norris Jernigan. That's N-O-R-R-I-S. Jernigan is J-E-R-N-I-G-A-N. You would be surprised how some people pronounce it. It's comical.

Levy: Please tell us your place and date of birth.

Norris Jernigan

Norris Jernigan served in the 509th Composite Group at Wendover, UT, and Tinian Island during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Jernigan describes being assigned to the Intelligence Office of the 393rd Bomb Squadron. As a clerk, he prepared information for briefing missions and typed subsequent reports. He recalls his surprise at being transferred to Wendover and learning that the 393rd had been selected to be part of a top-secret project.

Benjamin Bederson's Interview (2018)

Cindy Kelly: My name is Cindy Kelly from the Atomic Heritage Foundation. It is Thursday, February 1, 2018 in New York City. I have with me Benjamin Bederson. I would like to ask him to say his name and spell it, please.

Ben Bederson: I am Benjamin Bederson. Benjamin, B-E-N-J-A-M-I-N, Bederson, B like Boy, E-D like David, E-R-S-O-N.

Kelly:  Great. Ben, we were just chatting about your background and your parents, who came from Russia. Could you talk about your childhood and your parents?

Larry DeCuir's Interview

Cindy Kelly:  I’m Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation. This is Wednesday, February 22, 2017. We’re in Encino, California, and I have with me Larry DeCuir. I first want you to tell me your full name and spell it, please.

Larry DeCuir: Laurence Edwin DeCuir. L-A-U-R-E-N-C-E, Edwin is E-D-W-I-N, and DeCuir is D-E-C-U-I-R. It translates to “of leather” in French. If you go to Montreal, you’ll see a lot of shops with my name on the window. I don’t own those shops. They handle leather.

Nancy K. Nelson

Nancy K. Nelson is the widow of Richard H. Nelson, who was the VHF radio operator when on the Enola Gay on the Hiroshima atomic bombing mission. In this interview, Nelson discusses how she met her husband after the war. She describes his experience training to be radar operator and in the 509th Composite Group. She recalls how he and other members of the missions felt about the atomic bombings.

Russell E. Gackenbach's Interview

Alexandra Levy: We are here on December 27th, 2016, in Florida, with Russell Gackenbach. My first question for you is to please say your name and spell it.

Russell Gackenbach: My name is Russell E. Gackenbach. G-A-C-K-E-N-B-A-C-H.

Levy: Please tell us your place and date of birth.

Gackenbach: I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, March 1923, on March 23.

Russell E. Gackenbach

Russell E. Gackenbach was a navigator in the 393rd Bombardment Squadron and 509th composite group. He flew on both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions. His crew flew aboard the Necessary Evil, which was the camera plane for the Hiroshima mission. Gackenbach photographed the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. His crew flew again during the Nagasaki mission as the weather reconnaissance plane for the city of Kokura. 

Joseph Papalia's Interview

Alexandra Levy: This is Alexandra Levy of the Atomic Heritage Foundation here in New Jersey on June 13, 2016, with Joseph Papalia. My first question is to please say your name and spell it.

Joseph Papalia: Joseph Papalia, P-A-P-A-L-I-A.

Levy: Can you tell us where and when you were born?

Papalia: I was born August 20, 1936, in East Meadow, New York.

Levy: Can you tell us briefly about your life and career, and how you became involved in the 509th Composite Group?

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