The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

Robert Furman YouTube 480p

Robert Furman's Interview

Robert Furman served as General Leslie Groves’ assistant on the building of the Pentagon and the Manhattan Project. As Chief of Foreign Intelligence in the Manhattan Project, he coordinated and was a part of the Alsos Mission, conducting epsionage missions across Europe to interrogate Italian and German scientists, locate uranium, and determine how far the Nazis had proceeded with their atomic bomb project. Furman also accompanied half of Little Boy’s uranium ore across the Pacific to Tinian aboard the doomed USS Indianapolis. After the war, Furman was sent on a special mission to Japan to investigate whether any efforts had been made by the Japanese to develop a nuclear weapon. Furman recalls General Leslie Groves’ determination and the scientists’ frustration over his emphasis on secrecy.

Irene LaViolette's Interview

Irene LaViolette's Interview

Irene LaViolette was born in the United States and raised in Greece. During the Nazi invasion of Greece, she worked as a nurse, and encouraged the nurses to strike when the Germans took over her hospital. In 1941, she joined a repatriation group to return to America. After studying chemistry at Barnard, she began to work for the DuPont Company. There she met her husband, Fred. When Fred was transferred to Hanford, she went with him, and worked on analyzing the Columbia River’s water and checking Geiger counters.

J. P. Moore's Interview

J. P. Moore's Interview

J. P. Moore worked as a chemist for US Vanadium Company and then as Chief Chemist at Grand Junction, where he analyzed uranium. He worked for Union Carbide for forty years. He recalls Grand Junction’s social scene, including dancing lessons, and the emphasis on secrecy.

Larry Bartell Final Cut

Lawrence Bartell's Interview

Before he had even graduated from college, Larry Bartell was interviewed by Glenn Seaborg to join Seaborg’s plutonium team at the University of Chicago. There he tested various ways of extracting plutonium from uranium that had been irradiated in a reactor. As he was exposed to high levels of radiation while working with the plutonium, he constantly set off the radiation detectors as he left the lab and had to avoid eating food with his hands. Bartell recalls the strict secrecy surrounding the Manhattan Project, remembers Seaborg, John Wheeler, and other luminaries, and discusses the chronology of the Manhattan Project. He also recalls sneaking into the Trinity test crater site area, where he was promptly arrested by the Army for trespassing. He went on to an illustrious career as professor of chemistry at the University of Michigan.

Dimas Chavez's Interview

Dimas Chavez's Interview

Dimas Chavez was a young child when he moved to Los Alamos with his family for his father to work for the Zia Company on the Manhattan Project. He recalls his struggle to learn English, and the support of his parents and members of the Los Alamos community to help him become fluent. He lived in a small house by Bathtub Row, and sold newspapers to J. Robert Oppenheimer. Social activities included watching wrestling matches, concerts, and riding inner tubes on the Rio Grande. Chavez unwittingly turned down an opportunity to watch the Trinity test.

Willie Daniels's Interview

Willie Daniels came to Hanford from Texas by way of Oklahoma, where he worked at a naval air station. He was one of thousands of African Americans who left low paying jobs at home for high pay at wartime Hanford. Like many others, he came for the good pay. He and his brother made $19.20 on their first day of work, more than his brother made in one month on the railroad. Daniels worked mostly pouring concrete and performing manual labor; he poured concrete for all the reactors in the 100 area. In this interview, Daniels recalls Hanford social life, working conditions, and race relations.

Monsignor William Sweeney's Interview

Monsignor William Sweeney was a priest working in Hanford. He talks about the growth of the site as his church became larger and larger, and how it became difficult to plan for masses given the high demand for interior spaces for social events and other religious activities. He also describes one of the accidents which occurred on the site, as well as the secrecy surrounding the Manhattan Project.

William Norwood's Interview

William "Dag" Norwood came to Hanford in March 1944, where he worked as DuPont's Medical Director. He specialized in occupational health and radiation monitoring, and he was responsible for the frequent testing of workers exposed to radiation.

Warren Nyer's Interview

Warren Nyer is one of very few physicists who worked at all four main sites – Chicago, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and Hanford – of the Manhattan Project. He began working on the classified project at the young age of nineteen. He discusses his interactions with Oppenheimer and Fermi, along with the excitement of viewing the world’s first nuclear test at Trinity. Nyer also describes his living situation at Hanford, from the dormitories to the houses. Finally, he offers his justification for the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Walter Simon's Interview

Walt Simon was Hanford's first Operations Manager. Before joining the Manhattan Project, he was Plant Manager at DuPont's Wabash River Ordnance Works. He moved to Richland in the summer of 1944. He recalls the early "friction" between scientists, specifically Enrico Fermi, and the DuPont Company over the design of the B Reactor. He also recalls watching the B Reactor go critical and then shut down due to the Xenon poisoning.

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