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.
[Thanks to David Schiferl and Willie Atencio for recording this interview and providing a copy to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.]
Willie Atencio: Mr. Salazar, the [Los Alamos National] Laboratory is very interested in getting information of the people that were at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. Can you tell us when you first went to work at Los Alamos? What year?
Ruben Salazar: 1945, I guess. Or late ’44.
Atencio: Okay. What was your first job at Los Alamos?
Kelly: Today is Friday, February 3rd, 2017. I’m Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’m here in an installation called “Atomic Time” with its creator, the sculptor and artist Jim Sanborn. My first question to Sanborn is to please say his name and spell it.
Sanborn: All right. I’m Jim Sanborn, S-A-N-B-O-R-N. I’m the maker of this installation that I began sometime in 1998 and concluded in 2004, although I added pieces over the years, added more stuff over the years.
Jim Sanborn is an American sculptor known for works such as “Kryptos” at the CIA Headquarters in McLean, VA.
In this interview, Sanborn discusses his exhibit “Atomic Time,” which is now on display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, NM. The installation recreates the Manhattan Project scientists’ experiments at Los Alamos to determine when plutonium would go “critical” in an atomic bomb. Sanborn explains why he decided to do the project, and how he carefully created each piece of the exhibit.
[Thanks to David Schiferl and Willie Atencio for recording this interview and providing a copy to the Atomic Heritage Foundation. Please note that approximately the first three minutes of the interview are audio only.]
Willie Atencio: Your name?
Esequiel Salazar: Esequiel Salazar.
Atencio: Born where?
Salazar: In Pojoaque.
Atencio: Pojoaque. What was your first experience with the Manhattan Project?
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. I’m in Santa Fe. This is Monday, February 6, 2017, and I’m with Floy Agnes Lee, better known as “Aggie.” I’d like to start by asking Aggie to say her full name and spell it.
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation, and we are in Los Alamos, New Mexico. It’s February 2, 2017. I have with me W. Stanley Hall.
Hall: I was born in 1924 on Broadway in Manhattan. I was there until the third grade. In the fourth grade, I went to the Bronx and was there one year, and then went to Princeton, New Jersey, and stayed there until graduation from Princeton High School. Actually, we lived in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Across the street was Princeton, but I went to Princeton High School.
Cindy Kelly: Okay. I’m Cindy Kelly, I’m in Alexandria, Virginia. It is January 9th, 2017. I have with me Milton Levenson. My first question to him is to please say his name and then spell it.
Levenson: My name is Milton Levenson. No middle name. M-i-l-t-o-n, and Levenson is L-e-v-e-n-s-o-n.
Kelly: Terrific. At any rate, let’s begin with the beginning. Tell us, if you would, when you were born and where, and something about your childhood.
Alexandra Levy: We are here on December 27th, 2016, in Florida, with Russell Gackenbach. My first question for you is to please say your name and spell it.
Russell Gackenbach: My name is Russell E. Gackenbach. G-A-C-K-E-N-B-A-C-H.
Levy: Please tell us your place and date of birth.
Gackenbach: I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, March 1923, on March 23.
Russell E. Gackenbach was a navigator in the 393rd Bombardment Squadron and 509th composite group. He flew on both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions. His crew flew aboard the Necessary Evil, which was the camera plane for the Hiroshima mission. Gackenbach photographed the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. His crew flew again during the Nagasaki mission as the weather reconnaissance plane for the city of Kokura.