Donald Ross worked on the Manhattan Project at the University of California-Berkeley and the Y-12 Plant for Tennessee Eastman. In this interview, Ross discusses supervising “Calutron girls” at Y-12. He explains how the electromagnetic separation process for separating uranium isotopes work, and recalls the tight security at Oak Ridge. Ross also describes the social life at Oak Ridge, meeting his wife, and the terrible food in the mess halls. He discusses his views on dropping the bomb on Japan and how his thoughts have changed over time.
Stephane Groueff: Interview with Dr. Clarence Larson—L-A-R-S-O-N—head of the Union Carbide’s operations at Oak Ridge, a chemist. Dr. Larson was connected with the electromagnetic separation process during the war, and he was a personal friend of Dr. Lawrence [Ernest O. Lawrence]. He’s married to the daughter of Dr. Stafford Warren, who was also with the project. You came in 1942?
Dr. Clarence Larson: Yes.
Groueff: From where?
Ted Rockwell: It's Theodore Rockwell, R - O - C - K - W - E - L - L. And what do you want to know?
Cindy Kelly: Okay. Tell us about how you happened to go to the Manhattan Project?
Mary Rockwell was born in Shawnee, Oklahoma. She had just graduated from high school when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in late 1941. After working for the Tennessee Valley Authority for a short period, she was hired as a secretary at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, TN. In this interview, Mary describes life at Oak Ridge during the war and meeting her future husband Ted, who was a graduate student at Princeton working as an engineer at the Y-12 plant. Ted and Mary were married at the Chapel-on-the-Hill in Oak Ridge.
Mary Rockwell: My name is Mary Rockwell. Spell it? M-a-r-y R-o-c-k-w-e-l-l.
Cindy Kelly: Very good. What was your maiden name?
Kelly: And how is that spelled?
Kelly: Okay. Is there a funny story attached with that?
Harold Hoover: My name is Harold E. Hoover, that’s H-O-O-V-E-R, commonly known as Hal, H-A-L.
Cindy Kelly: Why don’t you start by telling me how you got into the SED [Special Engineer Detachment]? How you happened to get into the SED, and then what you found when you got to Oak Ridge?
Harold Hoover was a member of the Special Engineer Detachment during the Manhattan Project. He worked as a filter foreman at the Y-12 Plant, but his real job was in counterintelligence, to ensure no sabotage occurred.
Stephane Groueff: Start from the beginning and if you can give me in a few words the history of how it started, who actually came into contract, and how?
[Audio distortion occurs throughout the interview.]
Stephane Groueff: Recording interview with Mr. Leon Love at Oak Ridge July 15, 1963. Mr. Love works with Y-12.
Would you mind repeating sort of some of the characteristics of Y-12, some of the figures? For instance, how many buildings? How many magnets? How many Alpha [calutrons] and Beta [calutrons]? How many units in each?
Leon Love: There were five buildings containing the output separators, and there were nine tracks total in these five buildings.
George Banic worked on high voltage power supplies for the General Electric Company in Schenectady, New York, and came to Oak Ridge in March 1944, to help with the Y-12 Plant.