The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

Lydia Martinez's Interview (2017)

Lydia Martinez's Interview (2017)

Lydia Martinez grew up in El Rancho, NM, and began to work Los Alamos when she was seventeen years old during the Manhattan Project. She worked in various jobs during the war and after it became the Los Alamos National Laboratory, including as babysitter, secretary, and technician. In this interview, she describes her forty-two years of employment of being a technician, maid, secretary and other positions. She also affectionately describes the Gordons, whom she babysat for, and other various figures of the Manhattan Project including the Tellers.

Virginia Montoya Archuleta's Interview

Virginia Montoya Archuleta's Interview

Virginia Montoya Archuleta is the youngest daughter of Adolfo and Elaisa Montoya. Her father Adolfo was the head gardener at the Los Alamos Ranch School. In this interview, she describes her father’s work at the school and her memories of living in Los Alamos. She also shares information about her family’s connection to Santa Cruz de la Cañada. Finally, she discusses her family’s role in a lawsuit seeking compensation for homesteaders displaced by the Manhattan Project.

Esequiel Salazar's Interview

Esequiel Salazar's Interview

Esequiel Salazar worked at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project as a carpenter and a rod-man assisting surveyors for the Robert E. McKee Company. After the war, Salazar deployed as a soldier to occupied Japan and had a long career with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Combined, he and his wife contributed 100 years of service to the Los Alamos laboratory. In this interview, Salazar highlights the essential work of Hispano workers and other laboratory employees during and after the Manhattan Project. He touches on the politics surrounding contractors and labor during Los Alamos’s early years, and shares his thoughts on the Trinity Test and bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He also discusses his sons’ work at LANL and Sandia National Laboratories.

The Element Hunters: The Discovery of Mendelevium

The Element Hunters: The Discovery of Mendelevium

Using footage found in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, former Director of Operations and Development at the 88-Inch Cyclotron Claude Lyneis put together a video describing the discovery of element 101, mendelevium. Narrated by Lyneis, the video shows the tools and techniques used in the discovery of heavy elements after the war, and provides a brief history of the search for mendelevium. This dramatically indicates the speed and skill necessary to perform these groundbreaking experiments. The discovery of mendelevium involved a team from the Rad Lab including Glenn Seaborg and Albert Ghiorso. Seaborg and Ghiorso helped discover over a dozen elements in addition to mendelevium, helping to further our understanding of the nature of matter.

Jim Walther's Interview

Jim Walther's Interview

Jim Walther is the director of the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, NM. He begins this interview by discussing his working relationship with Jim Sanborn, the sculptor behind the renowned exhibits “Atomic Time” and “Critical Assembly.” He continues with a discussion of health physics, the history of nuclear reactors, and other innovations from the Manhattan Project. Walther also talks about the portrayal of nuclear issues in popular culture. He concludes by asserting the importance of studying the Manhattan Project and other nuclear issues.

Rosario Martinez Fiorillo's Interview

Rosario Martinez Fiorillo's Interview

Rosario Martinez Fiorillo grew up in northern New Mexico during the Manhattan Project. Her ancestors were Hispano homesteaders who built the Romero Cabin, an important pre-Manhattan Project structure at Los Alamos. In this interview, she reflects on her experiences living in the village of Guachupangue, and recalls an Army convoy passing by her house before the Trinity Test. She describes the history of the Romero Cabin and how her grandparents were evicted by the U.S. government for the Manhattan Project. Martinez Fiorillo explains why she decided not to work at Los Alamos, and concludes by talking about her life as a bilingual education teacher in California and New Mexico.

John Coster-Mullen's Interview

John Coster-Mullen's Interview

John Coster-Mullen is a photographer, truck-driver, and nuclear archeologist. He has played a crucial role in establishing a public, permanent record of the creation of the bomb, and was featured in “The New Yorker.” In this interview, Coster-Mullen discusses the origins of his project and roadblocks he has encountered along the way, and addresses concerns that his works has revealed classified information. He shares a number of turning point moments and recounts important conversations with Manhattan Project veterans and government officials. He also talks about his time visiting Japan and Tinian Island. Finally, he describes some of the nuclear artifacts he has acquired over the years.

Floy Agnes Lee's Interview

Floy Agnes Lee's Interview

Floy Agnes Lee was one of the few Pueblo Indians to work as a technician at the Los Alamos laboratory during the Manhattan Project. As a hematologist, she collected blood from Manhattan Project scientists, including from Louis Slotin and Alvin Graves after the criticality accident that exposed Slotin to a fatal amount of radiation. After working at Los Alamos, she transferred to the Chicago Met Lab, and later Argonne National Laboratory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While working and caring for her daughter Patricia as a single mother, she earned her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. Over the course of her long career, she conducted research on the impact of radiation on chromosomes. In this interview, Lee recalls her interactions with Slotin and Graves after the accident and playing tennis with Enrico Fermi. Her parents were Pueblo and White, and she discusses how that has shaped her life. She also describes visiting her family at the Santa Clara Pueblo and her ancestors’ involvement in the politics of the Pueblo.

Matias A. Zamora's Interview

Matias A. Zamora's Interview

Matias A. Zamora is a retired attorney and judge, and a U.S. Army veteran. In this interview, he reflects on his experiences working as a server at Fuller Lodge at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. He describes his duties at the lodge and remembers seeing famous scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller. He also recalls how he heard about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Eulalia Quintana Newton's Interview

Eulalia Quintana Newton's Interview

Eulalia “Eula” Quintana Newton worked at Los Alamos for a total of 53 years, beginning in 1944. She received a Distinguished Performance Award for her exceptional service to the Los Alamos laboratory. In this interview, she discusses the many jobs she held at Los Alamos. After working in the housing and secretarial departments, she eventually rose to the position of group leader in the mail and records department. Quintana Newton recalls being the first Hispanic woman without a college degree to become a group leader at the laboratory. She also describes the impact of Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project on the Española Valley community.

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