The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

Bill Tewes' Interview

William E. Tewes' Interview (April 2013)

William E. Tewes worked on the gaseous diffusion process at the Nash Garage Building under Dr. Francis Slack, testing the barrier material. He recalls the Nazi invasion of Poland and how the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the country together.

James Forde's Interview

James Forde's Interview

James Forde was a lab assistant in the Nash Garage Building, where scientists worked on developing the gaseous diffusion process. Seventeen year-old Forde was the lone African-American in the midst of PhD scientists. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, he immediately realized that his job cleaning pipes was related to the bomb.

Richard Shepard's Interview

Richard Shepard's Interview

Richard Shepard joined the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, working in the K-25 Plant as a member of the Special Engineer Detachment. With many family members serving overseas in the military, he explains his personal reaction to the end of the war. He discusses his later work in nuclear science, including the Bikini Tests.

John Schacter

John Shacter's Interview

John Shacter was born in Austria and immigrated to the United States after Hitler came to power in Germany. He first worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University, then was transferred to the K-25 Plant in Oak Ridge in 1943. He explains how the innovative design of the uranium enrichment process facilitated the design and construction of nuclear reactors around the country. He recalls the urgency the workers felt to beat Nazi Germany in making an atomic bomb.

Harry Kamack's Interview

Harry Kamack's Interview

Harry Kamack worked as a chemical engineer for the DuPont Company during the early 1940s, when he was transferred to Chicago to work at the Metallurgical Laboratory. As a chemical engineer, Kamack admits that he did not have much knowledge of nuclear physics, but he quickly learned and was soon tasked with building a Geiger counter. In 1943, Kamack was transferred to Oak Ridge, where he continued work on developing processes for the separation of plutonium at the X-10 Graphite Reactor. In October of 1944, Kamack was transferred again to Hanford, where he continued research on the chemical separations process of the T-Plant.

Bob Schwerin's Interview

Robert Schwerin's Interview

Robert Schwerin arrived at Los Alamos in June of 1945 and worked as a security guard for the Manhattan Project, often guarding plutonium. He provided security detail for the “black” government vehicles carrying the precious plutonium from the railway stations in New Mexico to Los Alamos and offers valuable insight into the Army’s emphasis on secrecy and security. He also recalls his brief encounter with General Leslie Groves, to whom he hand-delivered a top-secret message regarding the 1947 nuclear tests in the South Pacific.

Carolyn Stelzman

Carolyn Stelzman's Interview

Carolyn Stelzman worked at the K-25 Plant in Oak Ridge as an operator and leak-detector. She recalls Oak Ridge’s excellent bus system, the rain and mud, and the stress on secrecy.

Jim Schoke's Interview

James A. Schoke's Interview (2013)

James A. Schoke was selected to be part of the Special Engineer Detachment that worked at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago on the Manhattan Project. He worked for the instrument group, inventing instruments to detect uranium, alpha rays, and more. He went on to a successful career in nucleonics and instruments, and was featured in a 1949 Popular Mechanics article, “The Million-Dollar Baby of the Nuclear Age." He recalls playing tennis with Enrico Fermi and J. Robert Oppenheimer asking him to call him “Oppie.”

William Schneller's Interview

William Schneller's Interview

William Schneller worked for DuPont at Hanford on the Manhattan Project, and later at Oak Ridge. He recalls DuPont’s emphasis on safety, the fear that the fruit around Hanford might be contaminated with radiation, and sneaking a dog past Oak Ridge guards.

Larry O'Rourke's Interview

Lawrence S. O'Rourke's Interview

Lawrence S. O’Rourke began working on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University after he was called up from the Army Reserves in 1943. O’Rourke was among the first group of SEDs who worked at Columbia, where he helped research and develop the gaseous diffusion process for the separation of uranium. After nine months, O’Rourke’s group moved from the Pupin Physics Lab to the Nash Garage Building, where they helped develop the barrier material that would be used at the K-25 plant in Oak Ridge. In 1945, O’Rourke was transferred to Oak Ridge and continued to work on research and development of a barrier material at K-25. O’Rourke also spent time at the Houdaille-Hershey Plant in Decatur, IL where he helped install and train people on how to test the barrier material that was being developed.

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