William Ginell is a physical chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project. In this interview he describes how he became interested in chemistry and his experiences working at Columbia University and Oak Ridge, TN on the gaseous diffusion process. He reflects on the Army, living conditions, and the intense secrecy and security during the project. He also discusses his life after the war, especially his work at Brookhaven, Atomics International, and Douglas Aircraft.
Cindy Kelly: Okay. I’m Cindy Kelly. It’s Monday, February 6, 2017, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I have James L. Smith. My first question to him is to say his full name and spell it.
Jim Smith: James Lawrence Smith, J-A-M-E-S L-A-W-R-E-N-C-E S-M-I-T-H.
Kelly: Great. Thank you. Why don’t you begin by just telling us a little bit about yourself? What your background is, what you studied and so forth, where you were born, in a nutshell.
Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, here in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is Saturday, February 4, 2017. I have with me Jay Shelton. My first question is to please say your name, full name, and spell it.
Shelton: Jay Shelton, J-A-Y S-H-E-L-T-O-N.
Kelly: Perfect. Now, Jay, why don’t you just tell a little bit about yourself and what you have been doing for the last umpteen years?
[Thanks to David Schiferl and Willie Atencio for recording this interview and providing a copy to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.]
Willie Atencio: All right. Mr. Nick Salazar, we want to interview you because we know you remember a lot of things about Los Alamos. Can you first tell us the first time you went to Los Alamos?
Nick Salazar: As an employee?
[Many thanks to Claude Lyneis for donating this footage to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.]
Narrator: About seventy-five miles northwest of Walla Walla, Washington, in an isolated expanse of open desert, civilization entered into a new age, an age from which it would never emerge the same. Here, in the home of the Wanapum Indians, the terrain is mostly scrubland, laced here and there by cheatgrass, greasewood, and Russian thistle.
Donald Ross: My name is Donald Ross, and I am about to begin my eightieth year on this planet. I was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and I left there with my parents at an early age. We moved to the southern tip of Texas, and had a little farm not too far from Edinburg, Texas, where I grew up.
Gerhart Friedlander: My name is Gerhart Friedlander.
Interviewer: What was your role in the Manhattan Project?
Friedlander: I got into the Manhattan Project very early; in fact, before there was an official Manhattan Project. I was a graduate student at Berkeley at the University of California. My thesis advisor was Glenn Seaborg, who later on got a Nobel Prize and became chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, but at that time he was just a new instructor and I was his first graduate student.
Hans Bethe: The other was M - A - D, MAD [Mutually Assured Destruction], which essentially says that nuclear weapons make sense only as a safeguard against nuclear weapons. As [Wolfgang] Panofsky has said recently, and there is actually an article by him, "It is not a doctrine. It is a fact of life. Nothing else is possible, whatever you might wish.” So I think you should not present it as something really unavoidable, without any movements in the opposite direction.
Stephane Groueff: [Enrico] Fermi had the characteristics of a real genius.
Colonel Franklin Matthias: Almost every time you would get in contact with him, something would come up that was impressive. Physically, he was a small man, unimpressive person, but he grew real large when he started talking about things he knew.
Groueff: Was he a friendly person?
Matthias: Yes, warm; very warm, very friendly, a real nice person.