The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

Watson C. Warriner's Interview

Watson C. Warriner, Sr.'s Interview

Watson C. Warriner, Sr., a trained chemical engineer, worked for DuPont on the Manhattan Project. During the war he worked on building ordnance plants and acid plants, and helped design and build the chemical separation plants at Hanford (also known as the 221 T-plant or "Queen Marys"). He discusses the trains and cask car system used at Hanford and life in the dormitories on the secret site. He recalls going to New York City with his wife to celebrate V-J Day with thousands of other people crowded into the streets.

Lilli Hornig's Interview

Lilli Hornig's Interview

Born in Czechoslovakia, Lilli Hornig and her family immigrated to the United States from Berlin after her father was threatened with imprisonment in a concentration camp. She was a young chemist when her husband, Don Hornig, was personally asked by George Kistiakowsky to come to Los Alamos to work on a secret project. At first she worked on plutonium chemistry, but after concern was raised that plutonium could cause “reproductive damage” for women, she began working for the explosives group. A witness to the Trinity test, she recalls the vivid colors of the blast. Lilli signed the Los Alamos scientists’ petition to have a demonstration of the bomb’s destruction rather than dropping it on Japan.

Max Gittler's Interview

Max Gittler's Interview

Max Gittler was working on his degree in mechanical engineering at NYU when he was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was sent to Oak Ridge, where he enjoyed the social activities, especially bowling. He and three other soldiers had the job of driving radioactive material from Oak Ridge to other Manhattan Project sites around the country, including Dayton, Chicago, Santa Fe (they were not allowed into Los Alamos), and the University of California-Berkeley. Although the radioactive material was encased in a small lead pot, it weighed nearly three thousand pounds. Gittler and the soldiers had to take turns driving in the truck with the material, so they would not be exposed to the radiation for too long.

Evelyne Litz's Interview

Evelyne Litz's Interview

Evelyne Litz worked in health physics and as a librarian during the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. She was the second person, after her husband Lawrence Litz, to see metallic plutonium. She recalls the captivating beauty of Los Alamos; having and raising a daughter in the secret city; and the somber mood of the scientists of Los Alamos after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.

Lawrence Lit'z's Second Interview

Lawrence Litz's Interview (2012)

Lawrence Litz was a young physicist when he began working on radioactivity at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago. From there he was transferred to Los Alamos, where he worked on casting the plutonium hemispheres for the atomic bombs and became the first person to see metallic plutonium. He recalls the twenty-four hour shift he pulled to cast two more plutonium hemispheres in case a third atomic bomb was needed to force the Japanese to surrender and discusses his love of solving problems as a scientist.

AnnaMaeGillespie

Anna Mae Gillespie's Interview

Anna Mae Gillespie worked as a matron in the married couples’ dorm at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, and her husband worked as an electrician. She recalls life in the secret city during the war.

Harris Harold Levee.mp4

Harris Harold Levee's Interview

Harris Harold Levee served in the Special Engineering Detachment at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago on the Manhattan Project. At the Met Lab, he worked with Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard, who he describes as “not two peas in a pod, one was a pea and one was a string bean.” Levee’s assignments included following up on patents and ensuring strict secrecy was maintained at the laboratory. Levee later worked on construction of nuclear submarines.

Bob Porton

Bob Porton's Interview

Bob Porton worked in the recreation division at Los Alamos. A soldier in first the Provisional Engineer Detachment and then the Special Engineer Detachment, he discusses military-civilian relations on the top-secret base, his arrival in Santa Fe, and the importance of keeping up morale at Los Alamos.

Lawrence Litz's 2007 Interview

Lawrence Litz's Interview (2007)

Lawrence Litz was a young physicist when he began working on radioactivity at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago. From there he was transferred to Los Alamos, where he worked on casting the plutonium hemispheres for the atomic bombs and became the first person to see metallic plutonium. He recalls the twenty-four hour shift he pulled to cast two more plutonium hemispheres in case a third atomic bomb was needed to force the Japanese to surrender.

Ben Bederson's Interview

Benjamin Bederson's Interview

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. He recalls the feeling of expectation just before the bombing of Hiroshima and his jubilation at Japan’s surrender.

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