Tom Scolman arrived in Los Alamos shortly after receiving his PhD in physics from the University of Minnesota under renowned physicist Alfred Neir. At Los Alamos, Scolman worked in the Weapons Division where and a team of physicists helped assemble and test explosives that would be used in nuclear devices. After the war, Scolman worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory and presided over hundreds of nuclear tests in the South Pacific, Nevada, and Amchitka. Scolman was also a member of a group that responded to weapons accidents; he recalls several instances where planes carrying nuclear weapons crashed but luckily did not explode.
Priscilla J. McMillan is an associate of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasiana Studies at Harvard University and a former adjunct fellow of the Center for Science and International Affairs at the Kennedy School of Government. She is the bestselling author of "The Ruin of J. Robert Oppenheimer" and "Marina and Lee." Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, where she is a member of the editorial board.
Celia Szapka Klemski was featured in Denise Kiernan’s “The Girls of Atomic City.” She grew up in a small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania. She worked as a secretary for the State Department in Washington, DC, then was transferred to Manhattan to work on the Manhattan Project, where she enjoyed sightseeing and touring the skyscrapers. Eventually she was transferred to Oak Ridge, where she settled down and married another Manhattan Project worker. She remembers receiving dictation from General Leslie Groves, who told her to call him “GG,” and the ever-present mud in Oak Ridge ruining her nicest pair of shoes.
Colleen Black was one of the many women who lived and worked in the secret cities of the Manhattan Project. In Oak Ridge, she worked in the leak-testing department, ensuring the efficiency of pipes used during experimental testing. Colleen recounts her upbringing during the Great Depression and how rationing affected life in Oak Ridge.
Thomas O. Jones volunteered to join the Army before the start of WWII. As the war began to unfold in Europe, Jones was placed in a sub-organization of the Army called the Counterintelligence Corps. Eventually, his work in the Counterintelligence Corps led him to being involved with the Manhattan Project. Jones oversaw many of the operations taking place in places like Chicago, Decatur and Ames, IA. He recounts witnessing three of the five bomb testings during his time working on the project.
Bert Tolbert joined the Manhattan Project in 1944 while completing his PhD in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. In April, Tolbert began working for the Radiation Laboratory under E.O. Lawrence and was tasked with separating and enriching small samples of uranium-235 that were used by physicists for various experiments. Tolbert and his team of chemists eventually developed a machine for separating uranium that was so efficient it was shipped down to Oak Ridge to be tested at the Y-12 Facility. Tolbert recalls staying in E.O. Lawrence’s apartment at Oak Ridge and discusses how his degree in chemistry helped guide his career after the war.
Norman Brown was just a sophomore at MIT when he left to work in the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos. There, Norman worked with transuranic elements essential in developing the atomic bomb. Norman discusses working in Los Alamos and shares his opinions about the development of nuclear weapons.
Harold Hasenfus was part of the Special Engineer Detachment during the Manhattan Project and worked at the University of Chicago's Metalurgical Laboratory and at the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge. While at Chicago, Hasenfus worked at a pilot plant that was constructed to assist in the design of the B Reactor in Hanford for the production of plutonium. Hasenfus attributes the success of the Manhattan Project to General Groves, who he described as a "tremendously dynamic individual." When Hasenfus returned to Stagg Field at the University of Chicago years later, he was surprised to find "a big open field with a beautiful green lawn and a marker about the size of a desk to show that the first sustained chan reaction had taken place there."
Ted Rockwell arrived in Oak Ridge in 1943 after graduating from Princeton with a degree in engineering. After three months, Rockwell joined the "Process Improvement Team", a group of engineers tasked with monitoring and fixing problems at various plants across the site. Rockwell recalls life at Oak Ridge, describing the secret city as "a tremendous sociological experiment" where "kids who had never used any indoor plumbing and sons of Nobel laureates all went to school together." After the war, Rockwell worked with Captain Hyman Rickover to help develop the world's first nuclear-powered submarine.
William Spindel was in the Special Engineer Detachment at Oak Ridge and Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. Spindel worked in a group that helped make coatings for the implosion bomb. He also witnessed the Trinity Test, which he describes as "the most intimidating minute of my life." Spindel also knew David Greenglass, a notorious Soviet spy, who tried to convince Spindel to become a spy.