The Manhattan Project

J. Robert Oppenheimer

Lawrence Litz's Interview (2007)

Justin Piel: Hi, I am Justin Piel and I am in Palm Harbor, Florida interviewing Dr. Lawrence Litz for a school biography project.

Lawrence Litz: Good afternoon. I am Dr. Litz. I am glad to be able to discuss some of the work that I did many, many years ago on the atomic energy program. And I think Justin has some questions he was interested in getting answers to.

Piel: So, what is your full name?

Jay Wechsler's Interview

Jay Wechsler: Well, my mother was visiting her folks in New York when she decided that it was time, and I was the first child, and I guess she was a little surprised. So I was born in New York even though we didn’t live there. And as soon as we were able we were back in New Jersey, where she and my father lived. My father was a chemist and even at a young age he was always taking me into the plant where he worked, showing me things. And I kind of had a mechanical bend or bent.

Ben Diven's Interview

Ben Diven: All right. I’m Ben Diven. That’s spelled D-I-V-E-N. I was born and raised in northern California, and I went to school in my hometown of Chico, and fortunately there was a state college there so I could start college in my hometown. I took the two and a half years of physics and mathematics that they taught there. And then, after a break of a couple years to save enough money to be able to go to Berkeley, I then transferred to University of California at Berkeley. 

University of California-Berkeley

The "Rad Lab" was the short name for the Radiological Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. Its director was Nobel laureate Ernest O. Lawrence. He gained recognition for his 60" cyclotron,  a type of particle accelerator first invented in the early 1930s. Known as “atom smashers,” cyclotrons accelerate atoms through a vaccuum and use electromagnets to induce collisions at speeds up to 25,000 miles per second.

S-50 Plant

With both the K-25 and Y-12 plants suffering setbacks in the spring of 1944, Oppenheimer urged Groves to approve the construction of a thermal diffusion plant. The U.S. Navy had researched this method for three years and was already building a pilot plant of 100 columns in Philadelphia.  After reviewing Oppenheimer’s suggestions, Groves decided in late June 1944 to approve construction for what would become the S-50 Thermal Diffusion Plant. 

Los Alamos, NM

Los Alamos, New Mexico, was the site of Project Y, or the top-secret atomic weapons laboratory directed by J. Robert Oppenheimer. The site was so secret that one mailbox, PO Box 1663, served as the mailing address for the entire town. The mountains allowed the scientists ample opportunity to relax, by skiing, swimming, and hiking. But they spent most of their time in laboratories, overcoming challenge after challenge to develop the Littly Boy (gun-type) and Fat Man (implosion) atomic bombs.

Trinity Site

The birth of nuclear weapons occurred on July 16, 1945 at the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in New Mexico, 230 miles south of Los Alamos. Gadget (as the bomb was known) was an implosion plutonium bomb, like the one used at Nagasaki, and detonated with 20 kilotons of force, slightly more than the Little Boy bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Originally the test was to occur at 4 a.m., but it was delayed to 5:30 after an early morning thunderstorm. At 5:29:45, Gadget exploded and the Atomic Age began.


Subscribe to J. Robert Oppenheimer