The Manhattan Project

Evelyne Litz's Interview

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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.
Manhattan Project Location(s): 
Date of Interview: 
December 28, 2012
Location of the Interview: 
Florida
Transcript: 

Alexandra Levy: We’re here on December 28, 2012 with Evelyne Litz. Please say your name and spell it.

Evelyne Litz: Evelyne Litz, E-V-E-L-Y-N-E, L-I-T-Z.

Levy: So where are you from originally?

Litz: Chicago.

Levy: And how did you become involved in the Manhattan Project?

Litz: Well after we were married we had a job in Alabama. And we decided we’d look for something else, and we came back to Chicago to be with the family. In those days a man had to be out of work for thirty days so that the draft board couldn’t catch them if they wanted him. So we were out for those thirty days and we looked for a job. In California, Larry found an old friend from the university and he asked Larry to work there.

Levy: How did you meet your husband?

Litz: Sweetheart, this is really terrible. We were seventeen at the time, just starting college. You really don’t want to know this.

Levy: Okay.

Litz: It’s such a long story.

Levy: Okay. Did you—

Litz: We were in college together.

Levy: Where did you go to college?

Litz: Wright Junior College.

Levy: What did you study there?

Litz: Art History and Language.

Levy: So you were an artist?

Litz: Right, and a librarian. I loved books all my life, always worked as a volunteer in the library.

Levy: And what kind of a job did your husband have in Chicago?

Litz: Well he started working for Fermi under the grandstand; didn’t tell me—couldn’t tell me anything about it except he was very excited and very happy about it. And then one day he came home, and I think this was at the University of Chicago, and something happened that was quite interesting. And all this physicists were betting on a certain time that something would go radioactive or whatever. And they all put money in a pile and Larry won the money.

Levy: So Larry had the most accurate guess?

Litz: Yes, he did.

Levy: So he won a lot of money then?

Litz: It wasn’t much, honey, but it was fun.

Levy: Okay. Did you ever get to meet the Enrico Fermi?

Litz: I met him at Los Alamos; yes. 

Levy: Okay. Did you know any of the other scientists at Chicago?

Litz: No.

Levy: So how did you end up—how did you and your husband end up going from Chicago to Los Alamos?

Litz: Larry was working there [at the Met Lab] only a few months and they transferred him to Los Alamos.

Levy: How did you react when he told you that you had to move to New Mexico?

Litz: Loved it.

Levy: You were excited to move?

Litz: Always an adventure; absolutely.

Levy: Did he tell you why you needed to move?

Litz: No, only it was important and that he was working for the war effort.

Levy: And you were fine with that?

Litz: Absolutely.

Levy: You came to Los Alamos on the train?

Litz: I will never forget that day. They let us off and there was no station. There was hot blazing sun and we sat there for it seemed hours. Everybody left, and we’re sitting there with our little dog and our few wedding presents and our luggage. And finally someone came up to Larry and said, “I think I remember you from the Rad Lab.” And that was the beginning of our trip up to Los Alamos.

Levy: What did you think when you first arrived in New Mexico and Los Alamos and saw the landscape?

Litz: I thought it was very dreary, and the road up to Los Alamos was disaster. It was so narrow; hardly two cars could pass by. And if one car was going down, the one closest to the inside of the hill kind of scrounged against the hill. It was a terrible road, terrible road.

Levy: What was the housing like in Los Alamos?

Litz: Well, when we first got there we had this adorable little one-bedroom house and they gave us furniture. You know what, I’m trying to remember if we paid thirty-five dollars a month rent; I’m not sure. I’ll have to check that out. Anyway, in the kitchen there was a little two-burner stove, and one burner had a big square on it so you could bake in it. And the reason I mention it is because when they found out I was pregnant, they gave us a two-bedroom house. And when we walked to the kitchen there was a wood-burning stove; one of these big old wood-burning stoves and the wood was outside. Well, for a Chicago girl this was quite a challenge, and I was working. And I remember that I had to go and see the head of the project. I want to say it might have been Parsons—I can’t remember— in order to get back my little two-burner electric thing.

Levy: And you got it back?

Litz: I got it back. 

Levy: What were other challenges of life in Los Alamos? Were there any issues with the food rations?

Litz: It seemed to be the food was rationed. I cannot remember the commissary for the life of me; I have really tried. I cannot visualize it but I think the food was rationed, but you know you lived with it. It was war time.

Levy: Did you have any job while you were at Los Alamos?

Litz: We brought up our little puppy. The first time we went down to Santa Fe, we came back, and we had someone walk him during the day, but we came back at night. And he had taken every shoe out of the closet, and he had taken the toilet paper from one room and spread it all over the living room. Later on—I don’t know whether it was a year or so later—he was such a darling little dog, he used to sit near the road in front of our house, and the WACs would come down the road to go to their barracks and everybody just loved Pal; they’d all hug him and kiss him.

And one day we were in the house and he stopped breathing; he was dead. And the—Larry grabbed him in his arms and we ran up to the hospital. And it wasn’t that far from our house, and they saw us coming and there was a nurse there with a syringe. I don’t know what they were going to do. Anyway, we had to leave the dog there and the dog had to be autopsied because it was a suspicious death. And it turned out that somebody had put rat poison outside, for what reason I don’t know, and he must have gotten the rat poison and died.

Levy: Oh that’s awful. 

Litz: Yeah.

Levy: Now did you have—you mentioned you had a child when you were at Los Alamos?

Litz: Right. It was very interesting because we were—Wednesday nights when Oppenheimer would speak, there was a group of wives who had nothing to do so eventually we gathered together. First there was two, then there was four; we must have wound up with about sixteen wives, and there were physicists, chemists, every kind of wife as you can imagine, and we all had babies. And Wednesday night became the night when you announced you were going to have a baby. So sometimes you were ready to announce and somebody got there ahead of you, you know, so you waited for the next week or so. And we did have our first daughter up there.

Levy: What was that experience like?

Litz: I cannot tell you how wonderfully we were treated. I think we were in the hospital room for twelve days. I think we dangled our legs—you know, this is hilarious considering today you’re up and out the second day. I think the third day we dangled our feet over the bed and the babies were in the room with us. We just had the most wonderful care. After the baby was born I remember somehow I had help in the house, and she was an Indian lady and she was an Indian princess. And she helped me for a week. She told me she was a princess. And when she left me we had become good friends and she left a little silver pin with a turquoise in it for my daughter.

Levy: Did you have any other interactions with Indians or Pueblos while you were in New Mexico?

Litz: No, I did not.

Levy: So did your daughter, on her birth certificate , does it have—what does it list as her birthplace?

Litz: 1663 Santa Fe County; all her life, yeah.

Levy: And that’s what—that was typical for all the children there?

Litz: Absolutely. And I have to tell you, what was really funny was the physicists all had boys and the chemists and other scientists all had girls. Out of maybe sixteen of us. It was really a joke. 

Levy: And so what other special treatment did you get once you had a child? Did you get extra food?

Litz: I don’t remember any of that.

Levy: Okay. Now, were you able to correspond with friends or relatives and tell them where you were?

Litz: No, never. Never. In fact, I know that when I called my parents to tell them I was pregnant, it was censored on the telephone.

Levy: How do you know that? What was censored?

Litz: I can’t remember, but I remember somebody said, “Don’t answer that”; so I knew it was censored. I had a wonderful time working up there.

Levy: So your family didn’t know where you were? They just—did they know that you and your husband were involved in the war effort?

Litz: No.

Levy: So you weren’t allowed to tell them anything at all?

Litz: I’m sure they surmised. You know, what other thing would keep Larry up there? Absolutely.

Levy: So were you able to write letters knowing that—but you knew that they would be censored?

Litz: No.

Levy: So you had mentioned to me before that you felt like Los Alamos was like a family, the community there.

Litz: It was definitely like a family, and when you worked there at the labs it was definitely like a family. The job I had originally was in health physics and they were primarily concerned with the health of everybody there. The scientists were given urine bottles very frequently to fill, blood tests were taken. We had badges that would show radioactivity. The men wore—everybody who entered the Laboratory D Building where we worked wore booties. I worked for an interesting man, a very dedicated man. I think his name was Dr. [Richard A.] Popham. And he was English, and every so often we’d have tea in the afternoon.

Levy: So what kind of work then did you do for health physics? Were you monitoring people?

Litz: I monitored the laboratories especially. There were special little discs that we used and we’d take dust samples and then put them on a Geiger counter. And if there was any problem we had a group of men ready and able to decontaminate.

Levy: How did you get that job?

Litz: I went and applied for it.

Levy: Even though you had an artist’s background?

Litz: Right.

Levy: They didn’t care about that?

Litz: No, I could do that and I had a very extensive library background. And one day I was replaced by two GI’s because there was a need in the catalog room, so I became head of the catalog room.

Levy: What did you do there?

Litz: Mostly filing, whatever—the way you do in the regular library, with books on the shelf. There were thousands—you cannot imagine the size of this catalog room. It was gigantic, for me; it wasn’t probably for a lot of people, but I thought at the time, for a catalog room, it was gigantic. And people came from every part of the Mesa, whatever research they needed. If they needed catalogs, I was the librarian.

Levy: So it was mostly scientific work that was in the library?

Litz: I think that every part of every—it was so extensive, so well put together that every spare part that they needed for any kind of instrument, the catalog was up on the shelf. It was very intensive. It wasn’t just for radioactive material, anything like that. It was for every type of equipment that was used anywhere. 

Levy: Did you have any especially funny or odd requests that you remember getting at the library?

Litz: Well, I remember one pretty funny one at the—at the other job at health physics. You’ll probably delete this, but one of the prettiest woman on the Mesa was Marilyn McChesney. She was young, early 20s probably, big bow in the back of her head, V-neck. She was part of health physics. And I remember one day this Nobel Prize winner—I was in the room—came in. And she was taking a blood test, and she missed it the first time, the needle in the vein. And she said, “Oh I missed it; oh I’m so sorry.” And he looked up and he said, “That’s all right honey.” That’s about the funniest. 

Levy: Do you remember which scientist it was who said that?

Litz: No, I can’t remember. I remember he was kind of short.

Levy: There were a lot of Nobel Prize-winning scientists at Los Alamos.

Litz: We had some wonderful neighbors. And I remember when the Tucks came over from England, talk about Nobel—he later became a Nobel Prize winner. We all admired her coat, but we had never met during the war someone from England, and she was telling me how terrible the rationing was in England. And she said, “Please don’t ever look at my underwear. You see this gorgeous coat you’re admiring; well this is my family rug!” And the family had made it into a coat for her to take to America. And Tuck himself was—I can’t remember his first name at all; he said he loved coming over because not only the work, but in England he couldn’t hunt and here he could hunt, so he was looking forward to that. 

Levy: And your husband mentioned that Richard Feynman was one of your neighbors?

Litz: He was, for a short time, while his wife was in the hospital. I think she died of tuberculosis there and for a short time while he was—while she was in the hospital he was our neighbor. 

Levy: So did you have much interaction with him?

Litz: Not much.

Levy: What otheroh, I’m sorry. What other scientists did you get to know well?

Litz: There’s some names I can’t remember suddenly. Do you have my notes at all?

Levy: Sure.

Litz: We were close to several, several good people.

Levy: Did you know Robert Oppenheimer at all?

Litz: He was not—Larry knew him; I did not know him. I met him several times; I did not know him. I did not know him.

Levy: I see here in the notes you say Gene Lorentz. Was he at Los Alamos?

Litz: No, he wasn’t. This is an interesting thing and I think one of the biggest things that we came away from the war was, after the war Larry would speak at different places where he was invited to speak, and he talked about the atomic bomb and our part of it. And men came up to him by the hundreds, ex-serviceman who just shook his hand and said, “Thank you, we thought we were going to die.” And Gene Lorentz is one of our great friends here and last year he brought one of the biggest doctors from Mayo Clinic here. He had told his friend—they’re both in their 50s, I guess, that he knew Larry, and this doctor told his father. And the father said to this doctor, “Please go there and give Larry a hug for me because I was leaving France and I thought I was never going to live to see the day.” So this is one of the greatest thrills that we have had. That people, not because of our work personally but our little part of it, have felt, “I would have died if that bomb hadn’t been dropped.” And wherever Larry goes, where they know that this is—he’s been a part of it, and servicemen from our area they say, “Thank you, thank you.”

Levy: So you’re very proud of your husband’s work?

Litz: Very much so.

Levy: When you were at Los Alamos, did you know what your husband was working on?

Litz: No.

Levy: You didn’t know it was a bomb?

Litz: No, I didn’t know. Even though I had the highest clearance, I did not know.

Levy: Did you have any suspicion about what he was working on?

Litz: No.

Levy: So what was your reaction when you heard about the bombs being dropped on Hiroshima?

Litz: Well, I knew something was interesting going on because when our daughter was just a few months old, Larry said, “We’re going to go to the edge of the Mesa and we’re going to watch for a flash.” So I knew something was going on at that time. And that’s when they set off the test, was Alamogordo.

Levy: So you remember that?

Litz: Vividly. And we were sitting there for hours and nothing happened. And we finally went back home and we realized later—we heard that there was rain or something and it had to be delayed. But at that moment I realized something of importance was going on.

Levy: So did you see the flash on the Mesa?

Litz: No, we didn’t—we were not up that long. We hoped to, it was supposed to have gone off earlier, but it didn’t. 

But we had many wonderful friends from up there who we saw years afterwards, you know, we caught up with them in one city or another. We lived like in seven cities since we were married, and it’s been wonderful experience. Some of our friends went on to get Nobel Prizes. 

Levy: Like who?

Litz: I can’t think of his name for the life of me. I wrote it down there. 

Levy: In the meantime then—so what was your reaction when you heard that the bomb had been dropped?

Litz: I was very solemn. I have to tell you, V-E Day I will never forget at Los Alamos. All the GI’s were out and all the jeeps, tooting horns and running up and down the hills, and people were up celebrating, and in our house suddenly there were like twenty people drinking wine. That was V-E Day. V-E Day, wonderful. The day the bomb was dropped there was no hilarity on the hill. None of our friends got together; we were very solemn. Yes.

Levy: Did you know Ed Hammel at Los Alamos?

Litz: He was one of our best friends. They were our neighbors. They moved in after we did. They moved in—Larry was already working there, and he and his wife were two of our dearest friends and we kept up the relationship all through the years. He is still up there.

Levy: And he worked on the plutonium as well?

Litz: If you give me something artistic I can tell you; something scientific it’s over my head.

Levy: Were there a lot of Jewish scientists at Los Alamos?

Litz: There were, there were, and I remember one year we had Passover there and it was a gigantic room—I can’t remember which room that it was in. It was not at the inn—gigantic room, and we had a beautiful Passover Seder and I think it was led by the Army chaplain but I’m not positive. But it was a very wonderful feeling; yes.

Levy: Were there any other Jewish celebrations at Los Alamos that you can remember?

Litz: Only personal ones, only personal ones.

Levy: So there wasn’t much of a religious life or community at the –

Litz: Well if there was we were not part of it, we were not part of it.

Levy: Now when you were in Chicago [misspoke: Los Alamos] your husband mentioned that you were the second person to see metallic plutonium.

Litz: That’s right. I’ll never forget that day.

Levy: Can you tell us a little bit about it?

Litz: I was taking down samples and I was working for Health Physics, and either I was doing Larry’s lab or he said he might have invited me in. And he said, “I want you to look down this telescope and I want you to remember this day. I cannot tell you about it, but I never want you to forget this day.”

Levy: So you knew it was something special?

Litz: Very special. I have to tell you, most of the women I know did not know what their husbands were working on. It wasn’t important. That may seem strange to you. But we knew it was secret and we went about our lives happily. In one book I read that a lot of people felt like they were—

Levy: Trapped.

Litz: Trapped at Los Alamos. Of all the people I knew, and I must have known close to one hundred, that’s not so, that’s not so. We led our lives, we were happy. 

One thing that really surprised me, I can’t remember where it—when it happened, but I think towards the end of the war we were given a little plot for a Victory Garden. Larry loved to put his hands in the ground, he loved to grow things. I think we grew tomatoes.

Levy: Now, what were you working on when you were at Chicago?

Litz: It’s funny, I was a librarian before I got married, and I ran a library. We had those things in those days, I don’t think we have them anymore. In Chicago, I got a job with the treasury. It was a nondescript kind of a job and I was only working there about three months when we left. 

Levy: But you mentioned something about taking dust samples?

Litz: That was at Los Alamos.

Levy: Oh, at Los Alamos.

Litz: Yeah, because with Health Physics—

Levy: Okay.

Litz: That was part of the Health Physics.

Levy: So was it at Los Alamos when you saw the metallic plutonium?

Litz: That’s it.

Levy: It was. Okay.

Litz: That was at Los Alamos.

Levy: Okay. Were there any other restrictions that you can remember of life at Los Alamos? Were you allowed to go to Sante Fe?

Litz: We were allowed. It was a big trip, it was a big trip. When we wanted to order something—I remember trying to get baby clothes before Barbara was born; everything was done through Sears and Montgomery Ward catalogs. I wouldn’t go to Sante Fe to shop. Sante Fe in those days was a little, like, one-lane street, you know, that’s how I remember it. I don’t remember it like the metropolis it is that I visited just a few years ago. It was just a little place.

Levy: Did you ever have any trouble getting things from catalogs?

Litz: Yes, yes everything, everything. If I ordered two dozen diapers maybe I got a dozen. I remember the thrill that I had—my mother and dad sent up a crib and a little dresser, you know, for the newborn. 

One thing I have to tell you that everybody will laugh. One—after you brought the baby home we had a little scale. Well I nursed her and I had to put her on the scale before I nursed her and after I nursed her to see how much she got. Well today that’s a scream, you know. But I remember these were part of the instructions we had in taking good care of a baby.

Levy: So your family sent you a crib, so they at least knew the P.O. Box 1663 address?

Litz: They must have. Right, because it did come to us.

Levy: Okay. What was a typical day like in Los Alamos? What time would you get up in the morning?

Litz: These things are hard for me to remember. Larry says we got up early and we had like an eight to five job, then that’s probably what we did. I—some things I can’t remember cooking but I must have cooked. I must have shopped. I know I hung out diapers; I can’t remember for the life of me where I washed those diapers. 

Levy: So did you mostly stay in—on the base at Los Alamos?

Litz: Always, always. Oh my goodness, I remember one day Larry rented horses and I think it was from the guards. And we hadn’t ridden that much back in Chicago, but this day we got these two gigantic horses, they must’ve been at least sixteen and a half hands a piece. And we’re starting out on this trail and whoever fixed my stirrups, it wasn’t tight enough, and suddenly I was saying, “Larry!” “Kerplop.” 

So he picks me up and he dusts me off and he says, “Well I don’t see any broken bones, let’s get back on.” 

So we get back on and there was a trail from the Mesa to a plateau below. I don’t know how far that plateau was down below, it was quite a distance. And the trail down the side of the Mesa was maybe two feet wide—we would never walk that. If we thought—it was too dangerous, there’s no handrails—but we’re going down and having every confidence in the horse. And we get down to the plateau below, and all the cacti were in bloom. It was so beautiful, I cannot begin to tell you the colors. Remember it was pretty monotone at Los Alamos. And suddenly here is this wonderful blaze of color and we just loved that day. And I had a kerchief on and I could only take maybe six or seven cacti blooms, you know, and I took them back to Los Alamos, and I had a bowl and I was so thrilled with it. That was a wonderful day.

Levy: What other things did you do for fun at Los Alamos?

Litz: Well, we had a friend who had a car, that was Bob and Betsy Sackheim, and I remember going to an Indian ruin. I can’t remember the name, but I remember we went to the ruin and there was an opening in the hill about this high and there was a little step ladder going up to the opening. It was ancient, ancient, ancient—very thrilling, very thrilling. 

Levy: Did you go skiing or see any movies while you were there?

Litz: I remember taking my daughter when she was in her carriage, you know, just three months old or so. There was a movie, it must have been run by the Army in a big building, I can’t remember. But I remember going to the movies that night especially, yeah.

Levy: Were there any dances or any—

Litz: Yeah, there was a dance, not very many that I was invited to, but I remember going to one.

Levy: So how much longer after the war ended did you stay at Los Alamos?

Litz: Not very long. Larry was lucky enough to be given a Battelle Fellow in Columbus, Ohio. And I think his boss put him in for that in Los Alamos and he was awarded a Battelle Fellowship and then he went on to graduate school. And I think he got out of graduate school with a doctorate about two years later.  

Levy: Do you remember who Larry’s boss was at Los Alamos?

Litz: I’m trying my best to think of his name. I can’t. He was very special.

Levy: Were you sad to leave Los Alamos?

Litz: No; I knew we were going on to a big adventure further. But when we left Los Alamos it was kind of towards sunset and I cried. I cried because it had been a wonderful experience and when I first went up there I thought, “This is so barren and everything.” When I left I felt entirely different. And I cried—not because we were going somewhere else but it was just tearful to leave. 

Levy: Did you ever return to Los Alamos?

Litz: Yes, we have.

Levy: Does it seem very different afterwards?

Litz: Oh my God; we had one little Mesa. When you go back to Los Alamos now I don’t know, is it three Mesas or four? It’s gigantic. We had a little house, all our houses faced one street that I can remember, and now it’s a city, it’s a city. It’s like Sante Fe, it’s just grown.

Levy: Do you remember the name of the street you lived on in Los Alamos?

Litz: No, I don’t know if it had a street. It was the main street, the main drag. Everybody went up and down that street going to the laboratories.

Levy: Did you ever go on Bathtub Row where the top scientists lived?

Litz: You know I never did, I never did. I heard a lot about it and I met people afterwards who had lived there.

Levy: Like who did you know afterwards?

Litz: Well several of our friends we met through the years, you know picked up—we became deep friends up in Los Alamos and maybe we’d lose touch for years and then we’d find each other in a strange city here and there. There were several that we picked up and became friends again. I can’t think—this is really bothering me that I can’t think of some of the important names. I just can’t think right now.

Levy: Did you know who General Groves was during the war?

Litz: I didn’t know him; no. 

Levy: Did you know—did you have much contact with the soldiers at Los Alamos?

Litz: Yes, we did. In fact, I think Arthur Rubinstein’s son was a GI, and he became one of our friends. And I can remember we had a couple poker games at my house with some of the soldiers. And after the war when I was waiting for Larry in Chicago with my family, a WAC came to visit. And there was an English couple that came to visit, and I can’t remember. It wasn’t the Tucks, but I can’t remember their—which ones—

Levy: Popham?

Litz: No, it wasn’t Popham; no. I can’t remember his name. He was a scientist. He and his wife came to visit me in Chicago.

Levy: You told me that one of your neighbors was an Indian trader?

Litz: One—the children; the daughter was—a daughter—Indian trader. And one day she said, “Hey, do you want some rugs? My father left four or five rugs here.” And one was a beautiful black and gray and white hand-woven rug. I think it was called “Gray Hills,” but I’m not sure. 

And I said, “Oh I’d love this one, how much?” And it was forty-five dollars. And to this day I have it. I think it’s been appraised at about fifteen hundred bucks. I’m saying “bucks” a lot; that must be a Chicago expression.

Levy: So how did the Manhattan Project affect you and your husband’s life after the war was over? Did it open up new opportunities for your husband and for yourself?

Litz: My husband is so creative and so imaginative that he has at least forty-two patents and I don’t know how many awards and so forth. And I want to put in that about forty years ago he ran a hydrogen fuel cell. Union Carbide and General Motors got together and they needed something that would work without gas, and Larry developed this hydrogen fuel cell. General Motors put it in a car—a truck, and it ran up and down Park Avenue for miles and miles and miles. And eventually that fuel cell is now in the Smithsonian. 

Our life has always been very full; Larry has always done something wonderful. We’ve lived in interesting places, we’ve met interesting people. 

Levy: Do you have any other stories about your husband’s work that you would like to share?

Litz: About his work?

Levy: He did a lot of work with semiconductors, is that right?

Litz: I can tell you, the only ones that I’m interested in are ones I can pronounce, like hydrogen fuel cells or silicone, where he is a—considered one of seven pioneers. There’s a mural down in Silicon Valley with his picture on it, and he’s considered one of seven pioneers in the field.

Levy: That’s terrific. 

Litz: Otherwise he makes wonderful daughters. 

And I think, as I say, one of the greatest things that has come out of our work has been the emotional response from people who were in the war, who saw the horrors of war, who were in the fighting, and who thought they were on troop ships going to be killed. I think this is the lasting impression I will ever have of the atomic bomb.

Levy: Do you have any other stories about the Manhattan Project that you would like to share from your time at Los Alamos or Chicago?

Litz: So many things that happened. I remember we were up in the hills somewhere, I can’t remember where it was, and I think the Rio Grande—see it’s inconceivable to me, but I crossed a creek by foot and I kept thinking, “This is – I think this is the  Rio Grande.” It can’t have been, but maybe it was, and all around were Indian arrowheads and I must have picked up two dozen Indian arrowheads. And I thought to myself, “Some day I will research this and find out what happened up here.” 

There were so many things that happened. I remember one day, maybe it was the second Christmas we were there, our neighbor and Larry—it was snow and Larry—they went to cut down a Christmas tree. And as they came back to the house I see these two men, you know, and it’s snowing and they’re carrying in this beautiful evergreen, and I’m thinking, “This is what pictures are made of.” This was a memory.

Levy: Do you remember any funny or amusing stories that you would like to share?

Litz: It seems like things that were funny were always happening. I can’t think of anything.

Levy: When did your husband tell you about what his work in the Manhattan Project had involved working on the plutonium?

Litz: The night before the bomb was dropped, he said, “Listen to Winchell tomorrow.” He was very serious; he had been working all night. He came home in the morning and he said, “Listen to Winchell, Walter Winchell.” And that was the first time we knew—I knew that he had been working on an atomic bomb. 

Levy: Was he—what was his reaction, do you remember?

Litz: He was so tired; he just wanted to go to bed. He was—he’d been working all night, and he was beat, he was beat. And as they say, V-E Day, there was tremendous jubilation on the hill. The day the bomb was dropped and after that it was somber, quiet. No people coming over to have a glass of wine. Very sober reaction from all of us. 

Levy: When did you find out that he’d worked on the plutonium?

Litz: He probably told me soon after that. 

Levy: So you’re very proud of your husband’s work throughout his career?

Litz: Whatever he worked on; yes, absolutely. It was nice to feel like pioneers. I guess I would say that afterwards, when I thought of that, it was nice feeling to be pioneers, you know, and breakthroughs.