The Manhattan Project

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & HistoryNational Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Colleen Black Final Cut

Colleen Black's Interview (2013)

In a second interview, Colleen further explains what her job as a leak detector entailed. She also recounts her upbringing during the Great Depression and how rationing affected life in Oak Ridge.

Thomas O Jones youtube

Thomas O. Jones' Interview

Thomas O. Jones volunteered to join the Army before the start of WWII. As the war began to unfold in Europe, Jones was placed in a sub-organization of the Army called the Counterintelligence Corps. Eventually, his work in the Counterintelligence Corps led him to being involved with the Manhattan Project. Jones oversaw many of the operations taking place in places like Chicago, Decatur and Ames, IA. He recounts witnessing three of the five bomb testings during his time working on the nuclear weapons program.

Bert Tolbert's Interview

Bert Tolbert's Interview

Bert Tolbert joined the Manhattan Project in 1944 while completing his PhD in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. In April, Tolbert began working for the Radiation Laboratory under E.O. Lawrence and was tasked with separating and enriching small samples of uranium-235 that were used by physicists for various experiments. Tolbert and his team of chemists eventually developed a machine for separating uranium that was so efficient it was shipped down to Oak Ridge to be tested at the Y-12 Plant. Tolbert recalls staying in E.O. Lawrence’s apartment at Oak Ridge and discusses how his degree in chemistry helped guide his career after the war.

Norman Brown youtube

Norman Brown's Interview

Norman Brown was just a sophomore at MIT when he left to work in the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos. There, Norman worked with transuranic elements essential in developing the atomic bomb. Norman discusses working in Los Alamos and shares his opinions about the development of nuclear weapons.

Harold Hasenfus' Interview

Harold Hasenfus' Interview

Harold Hasenfus was part of the Special Engineer Detachment during the Manhattan Project and worked at the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Laboratory and at the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge. While at Chicago, Hasenfus worked at a pilot plant that was constructed to assist in the design of the B Reactor in Hanford for the production of plutonium. Hasenfus attributes the success of the Manhattan Project to General Groves, who he described as a "tremendously dynamic individual." When Hasenfus returned to Stagg Field at the University of Chicago years later, he was surprised to find "a big open field with a beautiful green lawn and a marker about the size of a desk to show that the first sustained chain reaction had taken place there."

Theodore Rockwell's Interview

Theodore Rockwell's Interview (2002)

Ted Rockwell arrived in Oak Ridge in 1943 after graduating from Princeton with a degree in engineering. Once settled, he joined the "Process Improvement Team", a group of engineers tasked with monitoring and fixing problems at various plants across the site. Rockwell recalls life at Oak Ridge, describing the secret city as "a tremendous sociological experiment" where "kids who had never used any indoor plumbing and sons of Nobel laureates all went to school together." After the war, Rockwell worked with Captain Hyman Rickover to help develop the world's first nuclear-powered submarine.

William Spindel's Interview

William Spindel's Interview

William Spindel was in the Special Engineer Detachments at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. Spindel worked in a group that helped make coatings for the implosion bomb. He recounts witnessing the Trinity Test, which he describes as "the most intimidating minute of my life", and meeting David Greenglass, a notorious Soviet spy.

Gwen Groves Robinson Final Cut

Gwen Groves Robinson's Interview

Gwen Groves Robinson is the daughter of General Leslie Groves, who served as the head of the Manhattan Project. A teenager during the project, she recalls visiting Gen. Groves in his office in Washington, DC, playing tennis with him, and his interactions with his trusted secretary, Jean O’Leary. Gwen explains why her family nicknamed her father “DNO,” and talks about the many games she would play with her father – including games where he was the “baby.” She discusses how her father was raised and the high standards to which he held both himself and his family. She learned about her father’s important role in the development of the atomic bomb from the radio after the bombing of Hiroshima.


Edward Doty's Interview

Ed Doty worked as a technician with the Army’s Special Engineer Detachment (SED) in Los Alamos for the Manhattan Project. He recounts what life was like working on the secret site.

Winston Dabney

Winston Dabney's Interview (1992)

Winston Dabney applied to be assigned to the Manhattan Project during his service in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He secured transfer from Camp Claiborne, Louisiana to Los Alamos in early 1944 and shortly after he arrived, Dabney was promoted to Master Sergeant. He was primarily responsible for sending military records to Oak Ridge, organizing payroll, and ordering military supplies.