The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

K.T. Keller's Interview - Part 2

KT Keller was appointed President of the Chrysler Corporation in 1935, having served as Vice President since 1926. Keller entered the automotive field as an apprentice without any previous education in engineering or mechanics. His intelligence, hard work, and mechanical skills enabled him to advance all the way to the top of Chrysler, where he guided the company through World War II. In Part 2 of his interview, Keller discusses Chrysler’s role in the Manhattan Project, including how the company solved the problem of electroplating tubes with nickel in order to prevent corrosion during the gaseous diffusion process. He also discusses his relationship with General Leslie Groves and his deputy, Col. Kenneth Nichols.

James C. Hobbs' Interview - Part 1

J.C. Hobbs was an American inventor and engineer who created a key part of the valves used in the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He was a prominent graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and was vice-president of the Diamond Alkali Company. Hobbs was brought on to the Manhattan Project by the head of the Kellex Corporation, Percival Keith, to improve the piping system in the K-25 plant. In Part 1 of his interview, Hobbs discuss his early career in industrial engineering and his role at Diamond Alkali, where he helped design innovative steam boilers for power plants across the country.

Gale Kenney's Interview

Gale Kenney was a member of the Special Engineering Detachment at Oak Ridge, where he worked inside the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion plant. With his engineering background, Kenney led a predominantly female team to test the miles of piping used in the gaseous diffusion process. In this interview, Kenney discusses his experience at K-25, the social life in Oak Ridge, and the workers’ reaction to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

General Leslie Groves' Interview - Part 9

In this interview, General Leslie Groves discusses his relationship with Secretary of War Henry Stimson. Groves recalls several meetings with the Secretary, including one which required Groves' advice on how to prevent a congressman from visiting Oak Ridge and threatening to unveil the top-secret Manhattan Project site to the Senate. Groves also recalls the day that President Roosevelt died and how it affected members of the War Department.

James A. Schoke's Interview (2014)

James A. Schoke was a member of the Special Engineer Detachment at the University of Chicago during the Manhattan Project. He worked for the instrument group, inventing instruments to detect uranium and alpha emitters and travelled around the country to train scientists to use and maintain his instruments. In this interview, Schoke discusses his encounter with George Koval, a health physicist and Soviet Spy who infiltrated the Manhattan Project's top secret facility in Dayton, Ohio. Schoke recalls meeting with Koval several times at Dayton to help train him on instruments that were used to detect radiation at laboratory facilities.

Tom Forkner's Interview

Tom Forkner was a US Army lieutenant and logistics officer who held positions in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and the Manhattan Engineer District headquarters in New York. Prior to joining the Manhattan Project, Forkner was an Army counter-intelligence agent, frequently going undercover to investigate questionable elements within the military. His primary responsibility while at Oak Ridge was to transport valuable products from the Tennessee facility to Los Alamos via a 53-hour drive. After the war, Forkner left the military and co-founded the immensely successful restaurant chain Waffle House. In this interview, Forkner discusses his undercover work, his meeting with General Leslie Groves, and the long drive between the Manhattan Project’s primary scientific sites.

20th Anniversary of the Atomic Age

In this short radio segment, several notable physicists who were present during the first nuclear chain reaction at the University of Chicago on December 2, 1942 recall the events of that day. The historic occasion ushered in the atomic age.

K.T. Keller's Interview - Part 1

KT Keller was appointed President of the Chrysler Corporation in 1935, having served as Vice President since 1926. Keller entered the automotive field as an apprentice without any previous education in engineering or mechanics. His intelligence, hard work, and mechanical skills enabled him to advance all the way to the top of Chrysler, where he guided the company through World War II. In Part 1 of his interview, Keller discusses his childhood and how he became involved in the automotive industry. He also discusses Chrysler’s involvement in the war effort and recounts a visit from President Roosevelt, who took a tour of the company’s tank facility.

Kenneth Nichols' Interview - Part 1

General Kenneth David Nichols was a US Army Engineer who served as Manhattan District Engineer in the Manhattan Project, overseeing the uranium and plutonium production at Oak Ridge and Hanford. He worked underneath and alongside General Groves, and collaborated with a number of well-known scientists. He discusses what it was like to work with scientists like Eugene Wigner, Leo Szilard, Arthur Compton, and others, as well as some of the project’s conflicts among scientists. He also discusses the complex administration of the Manhattan Project, and why he get along better with scientists than General Groves did.

Emilio Segrè's Interview

Emilio Segrè was an Italian-American scientist who won the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to the discovery of antiprotons, a subatomic particle. Earlier in his career, he was an integral member of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos as head of the P-5 Group, which focused on radioactivity. It was Segrè’s discovery of the high rate of spontaneous fission in plutonium—a discovery that he discusses in this interview—that forced the Project to abandon a plutonium-fueled, gun-type bomb. In this extended discussion, author Richard Rhodes asks Segrè about his close relationship with Enrico Fermi, his decision to return to academia rather than work on a thermonuclear weapon, and his opinion on the storied career of Edward Teller.

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