The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

Mary Kennedy's Interview

Mary Kennedy's Interview

Mary Whittlesey Kennedy moved to Oak Ridge as a teenager in 1943 when her mother took a job there. In this interview, Mary discusses her years at Oak Ridge including her high school, school dances, and her involvement in clubs such as “the Penguin Club.” She fondly recalls her time in Oak Ridge. She also remembers her mixed reaction to the news of the atomic bomb and how her opinion has changed over the years.

Jim Eckles' Interview

Jim Eckles' Interview

Jim Eckles worked for decades for the White Sands Missile Range Public Affairs Office, managing open houses and tours of the Trinity site, where the world’s first nuclear test took place. In this interview, Eckles describes the history of Trinity site. He discusses the ranchers who lived on it before the Manhattan Project took over, the buildings used by the scientists, and what it was like to live on the site before and during the war. He provides an overview of the Trinity Test and the “Gadget,” 100 ton TNT test, and the making of “Jumbo.” Eckles also discusses some of the key workers at Trinity site, including scientists, technicians, photographers, and MPs. He also explains some of the controversy around the site, including radiation levels, concerns over fallout from the test, and the atomic bombings of Japan.

Valeria Steele Roberson's Interview

Valeria Steele Roberson's Interview

Valeria Steele Roberson is the granddaughter of Kattie Strickland, an African American who moved to Oak Ridge from Alabama with her husband to work on the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Roberson discusses her family's experience at Oak Ridge. Roberson comments on how Oak Ridge presented African Americans with higher-paying jobs and an opportunity for a better future with the prospect of social and economic advancement, despite pervasive segregation, discrimination, and continued inequality. She tells of how the African American community viewed themselves as equal citizens and wanted to contribute to the war effort. Roberson situates this discussion within the broader context of ongoing wartime politics in the United States. Roberson also discusses housing accommodations for African Americans, recreational activities, and the day-to-day life of residents at Oak Ridge.

Nancy Bartlit's Interview (2005)

Nancy Bartlit's Interview (2005)

Nancy Bartlit is the former president of the Los Alamos Historical Society and the author of "Silent Voices of World War II: When Sons of the Land of Enchantment Met Sons of the Land of the Rising Sun." In this interview, she describes the Historical Society's efforts to preserve properties at Los Alamos. She also explains her support for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and her vision for the park.

Jon Hunner

Jon Hunner's Interview

Dr. Jon Hunner is a Professor of History at New Mexico State University, the author of "Inventing Los Alamos" and "J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Cold War and the Atomic West," and a former director of the New Mexico History Museum. In this interview, Hunner provides an overview of life at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, including its takeover of the Los Alamos Ranch School and its relationship with Hispanos and Pueblos in the area. He talks about how Manhattan Project scientists and their family members would arrive in Santa Fe, and the sites in Santa Fe that are linked to the project. Hunner also discusses J. Robert Oppenheimer and his family, and Oppenheimer’s security hearing that revoked his security clearance. He describes the devastating effects of the atomic bombs on the Japanese who lived in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and discusses his thoughts on the influence of the atomic bombs on Japan’s decision to surrender.

Suzanne Langsdorf's Interview

Suzanne Langsdorf's Interview

Suzanne Martyl Langsdorf is the daughter of Alexander Langsdorf, a Manhattan Project physicist and one of the founders of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Martyl Langsdorf, an artist who designed the iconic Doomsday Clock. In this interview, Suzanne describes her parents’ personalities and interests, their family life together, and the homes they lived in during her childhood. She gives a closer look at the lives of her parents including how they met, their marriage, and their respective careers. Suzanne recalls her unique childhood with her thoughtful father and her independent mother. She also explains how her mother came up with the now-famous Doomsday Clock design, and her father’s nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

Curtiss Brennan's Interview

Curtiss Brennan's Interview

Curtiss Brennan lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He and his wife Mary moved next door to Dorothy McKibbin, "the Gatekeeper to Los Alamos," in the late 1970s. In this interview, Curtiss describes how he met and became friends with Dorothy. He explains how Dorothy designed the house to her unique specifications. He also discusses the restoration project he and his wife undertook when they bought the house after Dorothy's death.

Rebecca Erbelding

Rebecca Erbelding's Interview

Dr. Rebecca Erbelding is a historian of American responses to the Holocaust. Erbelding is the author of the book, "Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America’s Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe," and currently an archivist and curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In this interview, Erbelding describes in great detail the challenges and difficult decisions that thousands of Jews faced when trying to immigrate from Nazi-occupied Europe to the United States, such as U.S. immigration laws and quotas, as well as financial and wartime barriers. She describes the similarities and differences between American immigration debates during World War II and in America today. She also explains the experiences and challenges of Jews living in wartime France, and how the Holocaust and immigration processes and policies affected Manhattan Project scientists.

Richard Garwin's Interview

Richard Garwin's Interview

Richard Garwin is an American physicist. In this interview he begins by discussing his work with Enrico Fermi after the Second World War. He then discusses the development of the hydrogen bomb and the role he played in its design. He also talks about his work at IBM in the 1950s, specifically IBM's research on radar systems and Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS). Garwin concludes the interview with a discussion on nuclear security. He shares his views on nuclear arms reduction and how to create a nuclear-free world.

John Ruminer's Interview

John Ruminer's Interview

John Ruminer is a Board Member of the Los Alamos Historical Society, a docent at the Los Alamos History Museum, and the author of 109 East Palace Avenue: A Microcosm of Santa Fe’s Four Hundred Year History. He previously worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In this interview, Ruminer explains some of the fascinating history of the Plaza of Santa Fe. He provides detailed descriptions of the property’s history, and the Manhattan Project’s offices at 109 East Palace. Ruminer also describes how the Los Alamos Historical Society and the Historic Santa Fe Foundation are working to preserve history and to date historical buildings and sites.

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