The Manhattan Project

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

Oral Histories

Winston Dabney's Interview

Winston Dabney's Interview (2003)

In this interview, Dabney discusses what it was like to live and work at Los Alamos. He describes working conditions, recreational activities, and housing for military members, briefly touching upon religion and the quality of food. Dabney also discusses how he met his wife, Jean, and shares several amusing anecdotes involving the scientists who worked at Los Alamos.

Irénée Du Pont

Irénée du Pont, Jr.'s Interview (2014)

Irénée du Pont, Jr. is a member of the storied du Pont family and the son of the President (1919 to 1925) of the E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company. The DuPont Company played a crucial role in the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Irénée discusses the history of the DuPont Company, from its early work making gunpowder to the invention of nylon. He describes how the company became one of the key civilian contractors for the Manhattan Project and how DuPont evolved after the war's end.

Colonel James C. Marshall's Interview

Colonel James C. Marshall set up the Manhattan Engineer District (MED), established by general order on August 13, 1942. Marshall presided over the initial stages of the Project until General Leslie R. Groves assumed control on September 17, 1942. In this interview, Marshall discusses the military's involvement in the Manhattan Project and the challenges of securing funds, choosing project sites, and collaborating with scientists and officials. Marshall also discusses navigating government bureaucracy, going back and forth between different offices, seeking approval for various actions, and dealing with superiors with whom he often disagreed.

Larry Myers

Lawrence S. Myers, Jr.'s Interview

Lawrence Myers was a chemist who worked at the Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. In his interview, he discusses attending the University of Chicago, where he was invited to begin working on the Manhattan Project conducting experiments on uranium. He later moved to Oak Ridge along with a group of Chicago scientists. His wife joined him thanks to some chemistry coursework she had completed while in Chicago. Following the Project, Myers worked at Argonne National Laboratory before taking a position at the new medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Denise Kiernan's Interview

Denise Kiernan's Interview

Denise Kiernan has worked as a journalist and producer. She is best known for "The Girls of Atomic City," which came out in March 2013 and immediately shot to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list. "The Girls of Atomic City" tells the story of the women who worked at Oak Ridge on the Manhattan Project. She has appeared on the Daily Show and NPR to talk about her book and the women who worked on the Manhattan Project.

Crawford Greenewalt's Interview

Crawford Greenewalt was an American chemical engineer for the Dupont Company who acted as the liaison between the physicists at the Chicago Met Lab and the company's engineers in Wilmington, Delaware during the Manhattan Project. The challenge was to translate the scientists’ theoretical ideas into workable blueprints for the production of plutonium on a massive scale at the B Reactor being built in Hanford, WA. In this interview, Greenewalt discusses his role as a member of DuPont's review committee, which evaluated the different methods of fissile material production. Greenewalt, who was present at the University of Chicago when the first artificial self-sustaining nuclear reaction was set off, recalls the relatively calm atmosphere in the laboratory that day.

General Leslie Groves's Interview - Part 6

In this interview, General Groves discusses his relationship with some of the famous scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Harold Urey, Vannevar Bush, James B. Conant, and Ernest O. Lawrence. Groves also discusses the Chevalier incident and how Oppenheimer’s affiliation with the Communist party raised suspicions among fellow scientists of his motivations. He explains why he respected Oppenheimer and selected him to direct Project Y.

Walter S. Carpenter's Interview

Walter Samuel Carpenter, Jr. was a corporate executive at DuPont who oversaw the company's involvement in the Manhattan Project. In 1919, at the age of thirty-one, Carpenter was elected to DuPont's board of directors, the first member who was not from the du Pont family. Carpenter discusses how DuPont came to be involved in the Manhattan Project, and how Groves' initial request seemed to be an almost impossible task. He also discusses the expansion of the American chemical business and the corporate structure of DuPont. Additionally, he touches upon his early life and how he initially got involved with the company after quitting school in the fall of his senior year at Cornell University to manage DuPont's Chilean nitrate interests.

John Arnold's Interview

John Arnold joined the Manhattan Project in 1943 when the MED tasked his employer, the Kellogg Corporation, with developing a special barrier for the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge. Arnold discusses his role as director of research and development and process engineering at the plant, where he supervised the assembly and testing of what would become the K-25 plant. In his interview, Arnold describes the challenges of creating a suitable barrier that could withstand the corrosive effects of uranium hexafluoride gas while remaining porous enough to allow smaller atoms of uranium-235 to pass through.

Harold Urey's Interview

Dr. Harold Urey was an American physical chemist and winner of the 1934 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on deuterium and heavy water. Urey worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University, overseeing the development of the gaseous diffusion method and the production of a suitable barrier for the separation of uranium isotopes. He discusses working with numerous colleagues, including Arthur Compton, Enrico Fermi, and General Leslie Groves. He also discusses his early life, his education, and his work following the war.