Larry DeCuir served in the 509th Composite Group during World War II. In this interview, he discusses his experience being stationed on Tinian Island during the war and working on the X unit of the Fat Man bomb, which was designed to trigger the bomb. He also reflects on the level of secrecy involved in the Manhattan Project. DeCuir describes the housing on Tinian, and recalls witnessing the B-29 planes take off from Tinian airfield for missions over Japan.
Nancy K. Nelson is the widow of Richard H. Nelson, who was the VHF radio operator 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 a radar operator and in the 509th Composite Group. She recalls how he and other members of the missions felt about the atomic bombings. Nelson also discusses her experiences going to 509th Composite Group reunions and her husband’s friendships with General Paul Tibbets and other members of the 509th including Tom Ferebee, Dutch Van Kirk, and others. She also describes her husband’s visit to Japan and other reunions and events where he shared his wartime experience.
Lionel Ames is an Army and Manhattan Project veteran. In this interview, he talks about how his brother Maurice "Maury" Shapiro, who worked as a scientist at Los Alamos, was able to get him assigned to the top-secret site. Ames recalls his work at Los Alamos in the chemistry lab, and his role as a cantor for the weekly Jewish services. He also discusses daily life at Los Alamos. He concludes by discussing his post-war life as an entertainer.
William Ginell is a physical chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project. In this interview he describes how he became interested in chemistry and his experiences working at Columbia University and Oak Ridge, TN on the gaseous diffusion process. He reflects on the Army, living conditions, and the intense secrecy and security during the project. He also discusses his life after the war, especially his work at Brookhaven, Atomics International, and Douglas Aircraft.
Ruben Salazar was an employee with Reynolds Electrical and Engineering Company, tasked with doing electrical distribution around Los Alamos. Starting as a laborer on the electrical line from Santa Fe to Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, he worked his way up to become an electrical lineman and foreman. For years, he was an expert on power in the area. In this interview, Salazar talks about what Los Alamos has meant to him, his family, and his community, and describes his work at Los Alamos from the 1940s through the 1990s. He also recalls witnessing a fatal accident where another worker was electrocuted.
Jim Sanborn is an American sculptor known for works such as “Kryptos” at the CIA Headquarters in McLean, VA. In this interview, Sanborn discusses his exhibit “Critical Assembly,” which is now on display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, NM. The installation recreates the Manhattan Project scientists’ experiments at Los Alamos to determine when plutonium would go “critical” in an atomic bomb. Sanborn explains why he decided to do the project, and how he carefully created each piece of the exhibit. He describes some of the artifacts in the exhibit, including the physics package of the Trinity device and an oscilloscope, and where he found some of the materials and artifacts he used. Sanborn also discusses the Slotin accident, the urchin initiator, and other key scientific and engineering devices from the Manhattan Project.
James L. Smith is a physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). In this interview, Smith recalls his more than forty-year career at LANL. He describes some of the history of the Manhattan Project and LANL’s innovative work during the war through today, including work on the human genome, computing, and radiation detection. He emphasizes the importance of having multidisciplinary national laboratories to produce pioneering innovations and scientific discoveries. Smith also recalls his friendship with Edward Teller, who he was assigned to teach about superconductivity, and other Manhattan Project scientists including Nicholas Metropolis. He discusses Teller’s relationship with Oppenheimer and other scientists.
Frances Quintana grew up in El Rancho, NM, and her family’s farm at Los Alamos was requisitioned when the Manhattan Project took over the site. Frances became one of the many Hispanos who were bused up to work at Los Alamos. Her first job was baby-sitting Julie Hawkins, the daughter of David and Frances Hawkins. She maintained a close relationship with the family, and with Julie through today. In this interview, Frances discusses her various jobs at Los Alamos, both during and after the war, such as baby-sitting for the Oppenheimers and McMillans, as well as being a confidential mail-sorter and administrative assistant to lawyers. She also discusses her relationship with famous figures at Los Alamos like Edith Warner and Dorothy McKibbin.
Lydia Martinez grew up in El Rancho, NM, and began to work at Los Alamos when she was seventeen years old during the Manhattan Project. She worked in various jobs during the war and after it became the Los Alamos National Laboratory, including as babysitter, secretary, and technician. In this interview, she describes her forty-two years of employment of being a technician, maid, secretary and other positions. She also affectionately describes the Gordons, whom she babysat for, and other various figures of the Manhattan Project including the Tellers.
Virginia Montoya Archuleta is the youngest daughter of Adolfo and Elaisa Montoya. Her father Adolfo was the head gardener at the Los Alamos Ranch School. In this interview, she describes her father’s work at the school and her memories of living in Los Alamos. She also shares information about her family’s connection to Santa Cruz de la Cañada. Finally, she discusses her family’s role in a lawsuit seeking compensation for homesteaders displaced by the Manhattan Project.