Martin J. Sherwin is a historian and professor at George Mason University, specializing in the development of atomic weapons and nuclear policy. With Kai Bird, Sherwin co-authored "American Prometheus," the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer. In this interview, Sherwin discusses Oppenheimer’s childhood, family life, and personality, including his love of the mountains of New Mexico, and his leadership at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. He also discusses why Oppenheimer did not support building the hydrogen bomb. Sherwin reflects on the decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, arguing that the atomic bombs were not necessary to end the war with Japan.
Richard "Dick" Money was a chemist. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago, where he was introduced to the Manhattan Project's Metallurgical Laboratory. He was hired by the Met Lab and sent to work for Clinton Laboratories in Oak Ridge, TN during the Manhattan Project. He went on to work for Los Alamos National Laboratory for many years and then became a science and math teacher. In his interview, Money discusses how he became involved in the Manhattan Project and his jobs and responsibilities while working in these secret labs. He describes his post-war involvement with the Bikini Atoll tests and the Rover program at Los Alamos. Money also explains various scientific and chemical innovations made during the Manhattan Project and Cold War, as well as radiation accidents and safety procedures developed in response to the lab accidents. Finally, Money shares about his personal life and his transition from the laboratory to the classroom.
John Attanas worked as a chemical engineer and supervisor for the E.I. DuPont Company during World War II. In his interview, he describes living and working on the Manhattan Project at both the Oak Ridge, TN and Hanford, WA sites. He recalls witnessing the Trinity Test and DuPont’s attention to radiation safety, as well as working for the Air Force and General Electric after the war. He shares anecdotes about his parents, family, childhood and interests in chemical engineering. He also reflects on his interactions with Jewish refugees in Manhattan, the Bataan Death March, and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Elberta Lowdermilk Honstein was the daughter of Elbert Lowdermilk, the contractor whose construction company built roads and utility lines around Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Lowdermilk Honstein describes her father’s projects, from building the first road to Los Alamos to successfully maneuvering an “atom smasher” up the hill. She discusses her life in Española and her memories of exploring Los Alamos and the Pueblos. She also describes her relationship with her father.
Jenny Kimball is the Chairman of the Board of the La Fonda on the Plaza hotel, which is the oldest hotel site in the United States. In this interview, she discusses the rich history of La Fonda, from its establishment in the 1600s through its development as part of the famous Harvey hotel chain to its award-winning status today. She describes the role of the Harvey family in branding the hotel, and the important work of Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, who designed La Fonda and other iconic Harvey hotels. She also explains her involvement in the hotel and her efforts to showcase La Fonda’s architectural and cultural history. Kimball describes the process of restoring the interior of La Fonda, and the work of artists and others to make the rooms match what they looked like in earlier decades. She concludes by talking about La Fonda’s role as a watering hole for Manhattan Project scientists working in Los Alamos.
John and Margaret Wickersham worked at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, John describes his time as a military policeman and guard at Los Alamos. He shares stories about patrolling for spies and meeting his wife. Margaret “Marge” (Hibner) Wickersham, a native of Española, discusses traveling to Los Alamos and working as a maid in the barracks and a cashier in the commissary. She also talks about growing up in Española and how Los Alamos has affected the area. The couple concludes by discussing their life in New Mexico after the Manhattan Project, including John’s construction work in the area.
Al Zelver served as a Japanese language officer in the U.S. Army during World War II. He spent a year in Japan after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In this interview, Zelver talks about becoming a Japanese language officer, his time in the China-Burma-India Theater during the war, and seeing the ruins of Hiroshima shortly after the Japanese surrender. Zelver ruminates on the decision to drop the bombs and on the surrender itself. He recalls his time in Japan both immediately after the surrender and years later when he returned to Hiroshima to speak with the Hiroshima Peace Foundation. He reflects on the atomic bombings and nuclear proliferation today, and describes a conversation with Manhattan Project scientist Felix Bloch.
Felix DePaula was an Army private stationed at the Trinity Site and Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. After the war, DePaula stayed at Los Alamos, and worked for the Zia Company there. In this interview, DePaula talks about life at Trinity Site, especially the isolation and the entertainment he and his fellow soldiers would come up with to pass the time. He describes the rodeos the military police would help set up. DePaula also witnessed the Trinity test, and talks about the feeling among the troops after seeing the detonation. He also recalls the high security at the gates to Los Alamos.
Dr. Julia Maestas is the granddaughter of Manuel Maestas, a homesteader at Los Alamos, and daughter of Elipio Maestas, who worked as a civil guard for the Corps of Engineers at Los Alamos. In her interview, she discusses her family’s history and what it was like growing up in Los Alamos. She shares childhood memories about friends, skating, and watching movies. She also describes how her tri-cultural background and education at Los Alamos led to her career in speech pathology and educational psychology.
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.