The Manhattan Project

Manhattan Project Voices

Voices of the Manhattan Project

Chicago Pile-1 scientists"Voices of the Manhattan Project" is a joint project by the Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society to create a public archive of our oral history collections of Manhattan Project veterans and their families. 

Our online collection features over 300 audio/visual interviews with Manhattan Project workers and their families, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, General Leslie R. Groves, Glenn Seaborg, Hans and Rose Bethe, George and Vera Kistiakowsky, and many more. We add new interviews every week, so check back often! 

"Voices" now includes interviews with some of the men who flew on the bombing missions.

Recent Oral Histories

J. Robert Oppenheimer's Interview

In this rare interview, J. Robert Oppenheimer talks about the organization of the Manhattan Project and some of the scientists that he helped to recruit during the earliest days of the project. Oppenheimer discusses some of the biggest challenges that scientists faced during the project, including developing a sound method for implosion and purifying plutonium, which he declares was the most difficult aspect of the project. He discusses the chronology of the project and his first conversation with General Leslie Groves. Oppenheimer recalls his daily routine at Los Alamos, including taking his son Peter to nursery school.

Alice Kimball Smith's Interview

Historian and educator Alice Kimball Smith moved to Los Alamos in 1943 after her husband Cyril, a British metallurgist, joined the Manhattan Project. Alice took a job as a schoolteacher at Los Alamos. She later became the assistant editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and wrote "A Peril and a Hope: The Scientists’ Movement in America, 1945-1947." She also co-edited a collection of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s letters. In this interview, Kimball Smith describes her impressions of Oppenheimer during the Manhattan Project. She discusses Oppenheimer and other atomic scientists’ efforts to ensure international control of the bomb after World War II, as well as her memories of other scientists such as Niels Bohr.

J. Samuel Walker's Interview

J. Samuel (“Sam”) Walker is the former historian of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the author of "Prompt and Utter Destruction: Truman and the Use of Atomic Bombs against Japan." In this interview, he describes the motivations behind President Truman’s decision to authorize the use of the atomic bombs. He explains the key differences between “traditionalist” and “revisionist” interpretations, and identifies weaknesses in each perspective’s argument. He also assesses the role of the Soviet declaration of war against Japan, whether the Japanese were ready to surrender before the bombs were dropped, and American plans for an invasion of mainland Japan. Walker concludes by recalling President Truman’s reaction to the human impact of the bomb.

Hanford 25th Anniversary Celebration

This program was recorded at the 25th anniversary of the construction of the B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, in Hanford, WA. Leading Manhattan Project scientists, including Glenn Seaborg, John Wheeler, Lombard Squires, and Norman Hilberry, as well as its military leaders, General Leslie R. Groves and Colonel Franklin Matthias, participated in the ceremony. They discussed the start of the Manhattan Project, how the reactor’s site was chosen, the challenges of building the reactor and the chemical separations plant, and the different processes that were considered to separate plutonium. They also recalled the relationship between the military and civilian scientists and why they became involved in the Manhattan Project to help win World War II. They philosophized on the significance of nuclear power and its potential for future projects, from agriculture to space exploration.