Bruce Cameron Reed is a physicist and a professor at Alma College. In this interview, he discusses a course he teaches at Alma about nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project. He explains how he became interested in the physics and history of the Manhattan Project. He provides an overview of some of the challenges the Manhattan Project scientists faced and why uranium, plutonium, and polonium are so difficult to work with.
J. Robert Oppenheimer
Cindy Kelly: This is Tuesday, November 8, 2016, in New York City. My name is Cindy Kelly, and I am here with Rachel Erlanger. Now, first thing you should do is say your name and then spell it.
Rachel Erlanger: All right. R-a-c-h-e-l and Erlanger, E-r-l-a-n-g as in Gertrude, -e-r. But, I wasn’t married then, was I? I think maybe you want my maiden name.
Kelly: What was your maiden name?
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. This is Santa Fe, New Mexico, Wednesday, October 12, 2016. I have with me Julie Melton. My first question for Julie is to say her name and spell it.
Julie Melton: I’ve been widowed twice, so I’ve had a lot of last names, but my maiden name was Hawkins. My father was at Los Alamos. Now my name is Melton, Julie Melton. Just to make it complicated, I’ve written books on democratization in the developing world, and I used my pen name Fisher for that. So it does get complicated.
Martin Sherwin: In terms of the people who were invited in, I know [George] Kennan.
John Manley: That was for the Halloween meeting.
Sherwin: Yes. Do you remember anything about what Kennan said? What the impression he left was?
Louis Hempelmann: I do not think the people who came later were ever as close as the people who were there at the beginning.
Martin Sherwin: Did most of the people who came later, were they junior people? That is, younger? [Enrico] Fermi came later.
Hempelmann: [George] Kistiakowsky came later.
Sherwin: He did? When you say “earlier” and “later,” what dates are you talking about?
Martin Sherwin: Good afternoon, this is an interview with John Manley at the Red Onion restaurant, January 9th, 1985, Los Alamos, New Mexico.
John Manley: —whether you want to start that yet or not? I’m not at all sure in what way I can help you.
Sherwin: Well, I would like to write a book. [Laughter]
Manley: I would like somebody else to write a book with information I could supply.
Martin Sherwin: What was the set-up at Los Alamos, in terms of your relationship to the director [J. Robert Oppenheimer] and how you operated?
Louis Hempelmann: I was working directly under him. I started out with my wife as a half-time secretary, and the technician I brought with me from St. Louis, and Kitty worked for me.
Sherwin: What did Kitty do for you?
Hempelmann: Did blood counts.
Sherwin: Was she a good technician?
Hobson: One thing that used to happen to particularly interesting and sensitive papers was that Kitty would take them home, and then they would get lost. Lots of things went that way, including a whole batch of interesting tapes. It was very embarrassing because we had promised [Dean] Acheson that only one copy would be made, and we made two copies and we kept them. When he found out he was quite angry.
Martin Sherwin: This is an interview with Professor Carl Anderson at his home in Pasadena, California, March 31, 1983. This is Martin Sherwin. You first met him [J. Robert Oppenheimer]—
Edwin McMillan: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to start with two remarks. First, this is going to be a personal story, so if I use the first person singular, this is not pure egotism, it is simply the fact that that’s the part that I know best. Second remark is, the difficulty of establishing facts at such a late date, even of important things. During the Manhattan Project, of course, there was security impressed upon everyone, so very few people kept any notes.