The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

Elspeth Bobbs's Interview

Elspeth Bobbs's Interview

Elspeth Bobbs grew up in England. During World War II, she relocated to Santa Fe. There she became friends with Joseph Rotblat, a Polish-born physicist who was part of the British Mission at Los Alamos. Bobbs recalls her friendship with Rotblat, his personality, and how pleased she was to learn that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonproliferation work in 1995. She also describes her love of Santa Fe and gardening.

Al Zeltmann's Interview

Alfred Zeltmann's Interview

Al Zeltmann grew up in Brooklyn, New York. After being drafted into the Army during World War II, he was assigned to the Special Engineer Detachment and arrived at Los Alamos in 1944. After the war, he stayed at Los Alamos, and worked as a physical chemist at the Los Alamos laboratory for nearly 40 years. In this interview, he recalls his Manhattan Project work, including on the “RaLa” experiments with Gerhart Friedlander, and describes the relationship between the military and civilians on “The Hill.” He also remembers receiving some unusual instructions from a mail censor after his wife complained he “wasn’t very warm” in his letters.

Charles Yulish's Interview

Charles Yulish's Interview

Charles Yulish has devoted his career to nuclear and environmental science. From an early age, Yulish fell in love with nuclear energy and set up a lab that received radioisotopes from the Atomic Energy Commission—who did not initially realize their samples were being sent to a high school student and his classroom lab. In this interview, Yulish remembers his teacher, who instilled in him a curiosity towards all things nuclear. He talks about his career in nuclear research—both public and private—throughout his 50 year career. He worked for many years for the United States Enrichment Corporation and its “Megatons to Megawatts” program. He also consulted with the Mescalero Apache Tribe in New Mexico, who wanted to set up a nuclear storage waste site on its land in the 1990s when the US government was considering such a program.

Margaret Norman's Interview

Margaret Norman's Interview

Margaret Norman is the eldest daughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ernest O. Lawrence. In this interview, Norman describes her father’s childhood, including the importance of her father’s Norwegian heritage and values, and how her parents met. She recalls what it was like to grow up as the eldest daughter of six children, and how Ernest passed his values on to them. She describes visiting the laboratory at Berkeley where her father worked, and finding out about the atomic bombs and Ernest’s involvement. Margaret also recalls her father’s friendship with J. Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, and other scientists, and explains that he could never really relax because he was always thinking about science.

Jennet Conant's Interview

Jennet Conant's Interview

Jennet Conant is an author who has written extensively on the Manhattan Project and some of its most prominent figures. Some of her books include "The Irregulars: Roald Dahl and the British Spy Ring in Wartime Washington" and "Man of the Hour: James B. Conant, Warrior Scientist." In this interview, Conant describes some of the stories she writes about in her book "109 East Palace: Robert Oppenheimer and the Secret City of Los Alamos." Specifically, she focuses on the life of Dorothy McKibbin, the “Gatekeeper to Los Alamos,” and her contributions to the Los Alamos laboratory during the war. She also discusses the Trinity Site, Klaus Fuchs’s espionage, and the stresses the Manhattan Project put on relationships between scientists and their families.

Frank Settle's Interview

Frank Settle's Interview

Frank Settle is an analytical chemist and professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University. He is the author of "General George C. Marshall and the Atomic Bomb." In this interview, Settle discusses General Marshall’s life before, during, and after World War II. Settle also highlights Marshall’s leadership, his involvement with the Manhattan Project, and his lack of confidence in the atomic bomb. As a chemist, Settle also talks about the importance of chemistry in the Manhattan Project and his latest work on an atomic road map, part of the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues.

Abe Krash's Interview

Abe Krash's Interview

Abe Krash is an American attorney. He was the editor of The Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper, at the University of Chicago during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, he recalls how he ran afoul of Manhattan Project security regulations after the Maroon published an article about physicist and Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory director Arthur Compton. Krash discusses the impact Robert Maynard Hutchins had as the president of the University of Chicago and his interactions with Lawrence Kimpton, the Chicago Met Lab’s chief administrative officer. He concludes by discussing his career as an attorney with the firm Arnold and Porter.

John Earl Haynes's Interview

John Earl Haynes's Interview

John Earl Haynes is an American historian. He specializes in twentieth-century political and intelligence history. For most of his career, he worked in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. In this interview, he provides an in-depth summary of Soviet espionage in the Manhattan Project. He addresses the history surrounding well-known spies, including Julius Rosenberg, David Greenglass, and Klaus Fuchs, as well as lesser-known agents like Jacob Goros, Elizabeth Bentley, and Clarence Hiskey. Haynes also explains how the Soviet agencies the GRU and the KGB operated in the US in the 1930s-40s. He analyzes the successful and failed Soviet attempts to uncover American industrial and military secrets about the atomic bomb during World War II and the Cold War.

Martin Sherwin's Interview

Martin J. Sherwin's Interview

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 Money's Interview

Richard Money's Interview

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.

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