The Manhattan Project

Esther Floth's Interview

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Esther Floth worked as a secretary for General Leslie Groves during the Manhattan Project in Washington, DC. Her job afforded her the opportunity to meet leading Manhattan Project officials and scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Niels Bohr, Ernest Lawrence, and others. She went on to work for the Atomic Energy Commission after the war. In this interview, Esther recalls the secrecy of the project, including getting her top-secret clearance, and what everyday life during the war was like. She recounts General Groves’s leadership qualities and how he interacted with her and other Manhattan Project staff. Floth also describes her response to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Oppenheimer’s security trial.
Manhattan Project Location(s): 
Date of Interview: 
August 9, 2016
Location of the Interview: 
Berkeley
Transcript: 

Cindy Kelly: Okay, I am Cindy Kelly, Atomic Heritage Foundation. It’s August 9, 2016 and we are in Berkeley, California. I have with me Esther Floth. Our first question I want to ask is for her to tell us your name and to spell it.

Esther Floth: My name is Esther Marie Green Floth. It’s E-S-T-H-E-R; last name F as in “friendly,” L-O-T-H.

Kelly: Great. Esther, tell us something about your beginnings. When were you born and where were you born, and something about your childhood.

Floth: Okay, I was born as Esther Marie Green in Watkins Glen, New York, June 9, 1922. I was the only child of Marla Louise and James Green.

Kelly: What did your parents do in Watkins Glen?

Floth: My dad started out as a mechanic. My mother lost her father very, very young, and was farmed out to an aunt. She went to work at fourteen with Shepard Crane and Hoist, where my dad worked as a mechanic. They sent her to school to be a bookkeeper. She became a bookkeeper and a purchasing agent with Shepard Crane and Hoist in Montour Falls, New York. 

When the Depression came, my dad went to work just on weekends for the Market Basket Corporation, a grocery store, owned by Mr. [Harry] Hovey in Geneva, New York. He worked just weekends. I believe it was only $8, something like that, on the weekends. They liked him so much, they gave him a grocery store in Burdett, New York, which was a little town of 95 people, but we got our business from the farmers surrounding.

We rented our house in Watkins Glen. The house in Watkins was a two-story home that was built in the late 1700s. I loved the old house. Then we went and moved to Burdett. My dad had the grocery business, and Mom helped him with all the bookkeeping and so forth. What else would you like?

Kelly: So a pretty hard working family that you came from?

Floth: Yes. I started work at seven years old, helping in the store. I could hardly get up to the counters. All of the farmers came in with their jugs to have molasses pumped. I pumped molasses. I put up sugar. I put up flour. Everything was in bulk those days. All of the cookies were in bulk. We got our cheese from Wisconsin, the big round cheeses that you cut off just whatever anybody wanted. All of the so-called homemade, and you had to slice with a knife.

The cash register was the old-fashioned that you punched. So I learned to figure out on a brown bag, to put down all the farmer’s things in a brown bag and figure it up. So I learned to figure. I loved figures. I learned to figure very, very young in life. It was very easy for me. I didn’t have a calculator for years and years. 

Across from the store was—it really wasn’t called a pond, because it was too big and it went way, way back. In the wintertime, it would freeze over so I would—well, I was never good at ice skating. I had weak ankles, but the kids would always put me on the end and then whip me off. They thought it was very funny to whip me off.

I went to country school for a while, one teacher in two grades. I hate snakes terribly, because in those days, they had not a house and a path, but they had a building. When you went to the bathroom, you came in it where the boys waited—I was very bashful. Nobody believes that I was ever bashful, because I have such a motor mouth now. I was very bashful, and they put a snake down my back. I screamed some bloody murder. To this day, I can’t look at a picture of a snake without just cringing.

Then later on, I got in junior high. We went back to Watkins to school, Watkins Glen High School. Then after the ’35 flood, he saved the store, so they gave him the big store in Watkins. We moved back home to Watkins. I went to high school in Watkins Glen, in [inaudible]. Our school, our teachers—if you had a problem or if you were sick, they always sent your schoolwork to you, because Watkins is a very small town. Maybe around 3,000. But it is a summer resort town, beautiful I think, in the beautiful Finger Lake area, the Seneca Lake, and of course, the beautiful glen.

The Grand Prix is raced there now. In the early days, when my dad would have this store, we had to bank it with hay, because it came down the vault road very fast. It went through a bar one time, someone’s car from the Grand Prix. When I went away to school in Washington, they had a race and one of the cars went into the crowd and killed a child. So that’s when they built the racetrack up in the Glen. 

I graduated from Watkins Glen High School. We had both local exams and then we had exams from the state of New York, Albany, that’s called the Board of Regents. The teacher did not know what those exams would be like at all. I have two diplomas. I had mine from the Board of Regents in Albany, and then a local diploma from my teachers from Watkins Glen. I was seventeen when I graduated.

My Aunt Esther Marie, whom I am named after—she really isn’t truly my aunt, but she was raised with my mom so we called her Aunt Esther. She went to work in Washington when she was eighteen, right after World War I, worked for the Internal Revenue Service.

I had first wanted to be a nurse. But then the doctor told me I have too much compassion and I would never make it as a nurse, because I would take everybody to heart. Then I decided to be a secretary. I was going to live with Esther Matheson in Washington, DC. So I went to school at Strayer Business College in Washington.

While we were there, my typing teacher saw how shy I was. I did not know how to talk to kids my own age, other than I had four girlfriends. We called ourselves “The Women in School.” I could talk to them. My dad always had had the Rotary and all these people at home. I could talk to any older person, but not my age. When I went away to school in Strayer, I hid in the bathroom at lunchtime when they had what they called “the bullpen.” The bullpen was where they danced and sang and talked. I just couldn’t do it, so I would either would go for a walk or hide in the bathroom.

The typing teacher was the youngest one. We always called the younger teachers “The old bitties,” because they had the big hair in the back and all. [Inaudible] and she was the youngest one. I guess she saw the way I was, so she said, “You are going to be pledged to the sorority.”

I said, “No, I am not.”

She said, “Oh, yes, you are. I want you to call your mom and dad tonight and tell them, and tell them that a lifetime membership of Alpha Iota’s International Honorary Business Sorority is going to be $25.”

So I did. My mom and dad were very thrilled about that. I will tell you, the sorority did wonders for me that completely changed my life. I would never, ever ended up in General [Leslie] Groves’s office if it wasn’t for them, because they really pulled me out of all this. It was a wonderful experience.

While we were in Strayer, they sent us to take a test, a civil service exam. That was 1940. That was World War II. After I had been to school, I think it was a year or so, they had us take this test.

I got a telegram asking me to come to work for the Office of Chief of Engineers. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I called my mom and dad. They said, “You are old enough to decide. So you have to decide.”

I thought, “Well, I can go to school at night,” and that’s what I decided that I would do.

I took this job with the Office of Chief of Engineers. I worked for a man by the name of Major Tracy. I will never forget him. He smoked big box cigars. My desk was pushed together with his. He had his tray of old butts of the cigars, and the smell was horrible.

Unfortunately, at my age, I was a pretty good looking chick when I was young. He was constantly after me, and wanted me to stay over at night. I always was able to get away. I would tell him, “My aunt is picking me up,” which was true, although I did walk down to her office. We lived in Falls Church, Virginia. I kept thinking, “I am not going to make it one of these days.”

Mrs. Evans was our supervisor of all of the secretaries. I went and told her the story that I thought that something was going to happen to me if I didn’t get away from Major Tracy. She said, “Well, this has happened before, Esther. But if I turn and give him information on him, you will lose your job. He won’t lose his job.” So she said, “I heard there is a top-secret job in a place.” She said, “I don’t know what it is, but it’s called the Manhattan Project. I am going to talk to the Chief of Personnel and tell them about you. I want you to go down there and I want you get an interview. I really think you will get the job.”

I did have nerve enough, because of my sorority. I went downstairs and they said, “Yes, I was to be interviewed by Mrs. [Jean] O’Leary.” I was, and I was hired for the job with General Groves.

At that time, we were in the older building. My desk was right by the door. The General would go by day after day, and I would say hello, but he just would maybe smile. I am not sure of that. I was so shy, I am not sure. At that time, I was the only secretary in the office. Mrs. O’Leary, of course, was his administrative assistant. Later we moved to 21st and Virginia Avenue. There, he had a bigger office with his big, overstuffed chairs.

One day, Mrs. O’Leary was away. I don’t remember why now. The buzzer rang. He said, “Ms. Green, will you please come in?” I went in with my notebook, and I was shaking so bad. He had big, overstuffed chairs, and I was very thin in those days. I sat down, I felt like I was swallowed up in the chair.

He said, “Ms. Green, do you have any intention of getting married?”

I thought, “What is he asking me this for? Why would he be asking me?” I mean, all in my mind this was going on. I said, “I don’t have any prospects at the moment.”

He didn’t laugh, but he had beautiful eyes and they really twinkled. He said, “Well, the reason I am asking you these questions, we are going to give you a top secret clearance. We are going to have to do such a lot of work, and it costs a lot of money. We just don’t want you to leave right away.”

I said, “Oh, I understand.”

Then he said, “Ms. Green, I want you to get Secretary [Henry] Stimson.” Of course then he was called Secretary of War, and now they call him Secretary of Defense.

I gulped. I said, “I don’t know. I’m sorry, sir, I don’t know his phone number.”

He said, “Well, if you stop shaking long enough, I will tell you.” So anyway, I got the phone and made the phone call for him.

As time went on, my mother was the most wonderful cook in the world. She made the most delicious chocolate fudge cake that you could die for. The first time I gave the General a piece, I never knew—I gave it to Mrs. O’Leary to give to him. Then my mother sent him a whole pan. It was 9 x 12. I heard later—I don’t even know if Mrs. O’Leary got a piece—I heard he put it in his top secret safe and ate it all himself.

One day, the phone rang and it was Mrs. [Grace] Groves. She said, “Ms. Green, I just don’t understand this. I have got the General on a diet and he is not losing any weight.”

I thought to myself, “Uh-oh, no more chocolate cake from my mom.”

After that, I had to tell him, “Oh, Mom was so busy,” which was really true. “She doesn’t make chocolate cake anymore and send it to me.” Because at that time, I had moved into Washington, which had been an old embassy, and had roommates.

I never did tell him, of course, that Mrs. Groves had called and told me that he wasn’t losing weight, because he was a very big man. So anyway, I thought, “No more chocolate cake for the General.”

There were so many things I think about and I want to tell everybody, but these are all things that are very, very personal to me. One of the stories that I do love is that we had a lieutenant. I believe he was a first lieutenant. Very short, really cute. He was Italian and very funny.

When the General went to see [J. Robert] Oppenheimer in Los Alamos, they usually stopped off in Chicago to see [Enrico] Fermi and usually stayed at the Palmer House. He always took the train, because he could lock the compartment and look at all of the top secret [documents]. When we got ready for him to go on one of his trips, I was typing as fast you could. Everything last minute, hurry, hurry, hurry.

Anyway, he always sent a courier, and the briefcase was always attached to his arm. He selected this young man. I can’t remember his name anymore. They stopped off at the Palmer House. I have stayed there in later years, too. They had music in the dining room.

My story is what I was told, that there was a beautiful blonde there, and so this lieutenant asked her to dance. Here he is out on the dance floor with a briefcase attached to his wrist. The General came down. He was yanked off the dance floor, and we never saw him again. It was funny, but it wasn’t funny. He should not have done something like this. But we used to laugh about it. We don’t know whatever happened to him. We figured he was sent the farthest away and he probably lost his commission. We always thought that was very sad, if he did.

Another story. Colonel Schuler was with him. I cannot remember why he made the General so mad. Anyway, he wasn’t allowed into the office. He had to see the General. He had some important papers. So what he did, he took a coat hanger and attached papers to that. He reached it around the door where my desk was to Mrs. O’Leary. I heard the General did laugh at that. He did let him come in and talk.

When they made the movie The Beginning or the End, I got an engraved invitation to go to the premier, who was wonderful, all the lights flashing and all. I got to sit in the front row, where the Congressmen and Senators had to sit up in the balcony. I thought that was amusing. Hume Cronyn played Oppenheimer. I guess it didn’t become a great movie. 

Donna Reed’s husband at that time was the director. They came into the office. He offered me to go to Hollywood for a bit part in the movie. I was so excited. He asked the General, and he said, “No, Ms. Green cannot go.” I probably would have ended up on the cutting room floor anyway. I would have loved to have seen how it was made and all of that.

Going back to Dr. Oppenheimer, I adored him. Behind his back, of course, we called him “Oppie.” When he used to come in the office, if I did something for him—he was such an intelligent man. But if I did something, he would bring me candy or flowers. He was such a sweet man.

One day, Mom and Dad were visiting me. We were ready to go out to lunch. He couldn’t get a cab. So I told him, “We will take you to your hotel.” Talk about nervous. Of course, he smoked constantly. I think it was Lucky Strike, but I can’t be sure, but he smoked them right to the end. He sat in the front seat. He would go frontwards, backwards, frontwards, backwards, he was such a nervous person. But we got him to the hotel fine.

Then one other time, when we were at 21st and Virginia Avenue, they all had code names for Oppenheimer and for Dr. [Ernest] Lawrence and all of the scientists that came. I wasn’t privileged—I don’t ever remember Dr. Fermi coming actually to our office. All of the others, oh, I loved Dr. [Richard] Tolman. He was like a grandpa to me. I really loved him. He was such a nice man. I do have somewhere at home, but I can’t find it, a matchbook that he autographed for me. He was just a neat person.

Another time, Mom and Dad were picking me up for lunch. We had gotten back from lunch. Dr. Lawrence was coming into the office. I got out of the car. He said, “Come on, honey, let’s get back to work.” He put his arms around me, and we went back into the office. He was really a neat man. Of course, he developed the cyclotron at Berkeley. A very nice person, too, very down to earth.

I got to meet Niels Bohr, who was the man who brought the—we smuggled him from his country. He came into the office. I didn’t get that autograph either, because they didn’t allow such things. But he shook hands with everybody who was so glad he was in the United States. He was kind of a chubby man, a really nice man though.

Also used to come into the office, the General [Anthony McAuliffe] that said, “Nuts” to the Germans [at the Battle of the Bulge]—oh my, don’t tell me that’s gone from me, too. But everytime, he would come in, and he would order his coffee [inaudible] and sweet. 

After I went to the General’s retirement party, all of the scientists were so wonderful to me, as if I really was important. I talked to everybody, Sir James Chadwick, all of the different ones, Colonel [William A.] Consodine that worked for us. He went to see [Albert] Einstein, and he told me that Einstein was always cold. He had a fire going and he had a sweater that was all full of holes. He said, “Esther, he wasn’t the cleanest man in the world, either.” But he said, “He was certainly brilliant. There is no doubt about that.”

I went to the General’s retirement party, and he left. After that, I did work for General [Kenneth] Nichols for a while. The Armed Forces Special Weapons Project was the military end of the atomic bomb. Then they formed the Atomic Energy Commission.

My roommate, she went to work for Commissioner [Sumner] Pike. After that, I had the chance to go to Alaska. That’s when I went to Fairbanks, Alaska and worked for the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project.

Kelly: Do you have more memories of Mrs. O’Leary? What was she like?

Floth: I liked her very much. I thought she was a very serious person, but I had no problem with her and talking with her. I didn’t know whatever happened after the General retired, I didn’t what happened to her. I lost track of her. I do know that she was going with a General from Canada for a while. So I don’t know.

Mrs. O’Leary, everything went through her. When we did all of the work and anything that was done was reviewed by her. She was very important to the General, I know. I am sure she knows so much more than we did.

That was another thing, with my working there. If you or anybody else had walked over to my desk, everything had to be turned over, because you did not know what the person next to you did at all. Nobody knew, in our particular field. Later on, we did have a WAC [Women’s Army Corps] with us for a very short time, but I do not recall her name. She was with us a short time.

Then later on, Donnie Mask worked with me. I believe she worked in Oak Ridge. She became my roommate later on. As I said, she went to work for Commissioner Pike on the Atomic Energy Commission that was started after the bombs were dropped.

I heard the words “Hiroshima, Nagasaki.” I knew it was something very important, but not knowing what it was—and also all the words “Uranium, plutonium, U-235,” all that was in my dictation and all. I didn’t know, because they never told us. Each person had just a certain part that they did. Nobody knew what the next person was doing, other than probably Mrs. O’Leary and naturally Oppenheimer and some of the scientists. 

Oppenheimer had a very Communistic friend, a very close friend—I do not recall his name—but I do know that we followed him all the time when he would go to see his friend. I always never believed that he was a communist. I had heard, and I do not know if this is true, that Mrs. Kitty, Mrs. Oppenheimer, and his brother were communist, but he was not. But they did watch him because of his friend. 

I was so furious when he became a professor at Princeton and he lost his top secret clearance. Even though I know he died with cancer, I still thought it hurt him because he lost his top secret clearance. Of course, now I know that it’s proved that he was not a communist, and it’s all been changed. But he died, and people didn’t tell him before that they had found out.

I am sorry and probably maybe you all will not want to hear this, but I was not a friend of Dr. [Edward] Teller. I couldn’t understand him, because he was supposed to be a friend of Oppenheimer. He was so jealous of him, so he testified against him when they did the clearance [hearing]. That hurt me so bad. But the General said, “No matter what, Dr. Oppenheimer was the only man that could ever have run our [project] and made this atomic bomb. He was just the person. He was so brilliant and he was the only person that could have possibly done this job.” He stuck to him until the end.

I was home at one time, I do not know why—I was sick, I do not remember this. But I have a note from the General that I had sent him a cartoon about him. He sent me a note, because I had asked for a leave of absence for a short time. He said he found it very amusing, the cartoon I sent him. He said, “I am not going to show it to Mrs. Groves.”  Then he said, “I have sent your request to the [Manhattan Engineer] District. We know you are going to get your leave.” He said, “We want you to get back as soon as we can, but we want you to be healthy.”

Another time, after he retired, I had read an article that he was asked to do some discount work in Washington. I am not sure of what. He also sent me another note saying that it was not going to be a paid job, but he was going to do it in Washington.

I have a program from the movie The Beginning of the End. I have the note I wrote to Mrs. Groves when I found out that he had passed away. I have a note from her thanking me so much for sending my note of regret of the loss of the General. I thought so much of him. Even though he was a very, very serious man, he had so much on his mind. I also had been told that he did not want this job at all, that he wanted to go to war, but he was told he had to take the job to being in charge of the Manhattan Project.

Every officer who came to the door, no matter how high their rank was, their knees would shake when they would go in to see the General. Even Dick [Groves], who was his son, he would stand there and have to wait to go in. His knees would shake, too.

When he became in charge of the [inaudible] group, which was to build a new canal in Colombia, I worked for him at the Livermore Lab in Livermore, California. He didn’t remember me, it was so long. He was a Brigadier General then. I haven’t known what had happened to him since.

Also, I have a clipping of when his wife had their first child. Mrs. Groves said that they hadn’t named the baby yet, but they were going to. She was going to go when they had the baptism of the first baby. I don’t know if they had other children. I didn’t find that out, but I do know I have a clipping of that, too. There are many newspaper clippings of everything that happened with the atom bomb.

Now, my parents had no idea what I was doing. I had to tell them that I was working for the Office of Chief of Engineers. I had all of the CIA and the FBI came in to check on me at home. First, Mr. Biers, who was a principal of our school, came to see my father. He said, “Jimmy, what in the world is happening to Esther? The FBI has come, the CIA [misspoke] has come.”

He said, “I don’t know. She works for the Office of Chief of Engineers. I have no idea.” Then the president of the bank came and told, “Jimmy, what is happening with Esther? We are all getting all of this, the FBI, the CIA, has come here and asking all these questions about her.”

Well, it turned out later that my great-grandma’s name, my mother’s maiden name, was Cranz. They thought it was German. It was CRA and it was not K, and we were checking because they saw it was German. I mean, they were checking on me anyway, but that was the big thing that they were worried about with the clearance. They thought that she was German, but she was Dutch. My mom and dad were Dutch on both sides. That was one of the funny things.

After the bombs were dropped, they sent information to every newspaper of your hometown. I believe that my dad—well, I know he did. He carried that clipping around. It must have disintegrated. He died in his sixties with a massive heart attack, but I never found the clipping. I figured he had it pulled out so much, he embarrassed me. He was so proud of me.

The General’s retirement I think was at the Statler. I think it was at the Statler. That’s where Dr. Oppenheimer was staying too, that time when we took him back there. 

Kelly: Did you live in Falls Church while you were working for Groves?

Floth: When I went to school, I was living at Falls Church, Virginia, with my aunt. Her husband, my uncle, had died, so she took care of her mom. She worked for the government for forty-five years for the Internal Revenue [Service]. She became secretary to the director and traveled with him some. She lost her husband very young. They didn’t marry very young, but he when he was very young.

After my dad died and after she retired, she came out to live with my mom in Pleasanton, and also in Springtown and Livermore. They rented a house there. She died before my mom. She was a year older than my mom, but she had a massive heart attack, too, and passed away. My mother lived to be ninety-three. I took care of her for thirteen years. 

I went back to work for the VA Hospital in Livermore in later years. I didn’t tell you that after I went to Alaska, I had a roommate, a schoolteacher was my roommate and we traveled all over. We met a bush pilot, Red Williams, and we got to travel all over Alaska. I worked in Fairbanks.

Then, I got back home. I was home a short time. [Fred Burnett] “Dusty” Rhodes, who was a captain—he may have been higher later on—but he was in the Manhattan Project. He called me. He said, “Esther, do you want a job with Senator [Bourke] Hickenlooper up on the Hill, or do you want to go to San Francisco and work for the manager of the Atomic Energy Commission?” I said I would take San Francisco and the manager of the Atomic Energy Commission. So in 1951, November 17, 1951, I flew into San Francisco and went to work for John Flaherty as manager of the Atomic Energy Commission. Then when he went back to Chicago, I worked for Dr. Harold Fidler. I later went to the Berkeley Lab to work.

When I met my husband Edward in 1953, he wanted to take the job in Santa Rosa, California, so I had to give up my job with the Atomic Energy Commission. We went to Santa Rosa. But the work was so bad, I couldn’t stand it. It was such a low pay. We had a half acre in the Valley. There were only 15,000 people in Santa Rosa. Now, there is way in the millions. So I called a friend that I worked with in security as the Atomic Energy Commission and said, “Any jobs at the lab?” He said, “Oh yes, plenty. Send Ed right down.” So my husband worked for thirty-one years for the lab out at Site 300, which is where they did the work with the bomb out there.

As I said, I worked for Dick Groves in nuclear cratering when we thought we were going to build this canal, which never happened. Then my dad died so suddenly, and they wouldn’t give me a leave of absence. So I took off when I knew I had to help my mom, because in those days they didn’t have 401(k)’s and stuff.

In between, I had also worked for the Atomic Energy Commission. We had a small office at Sandia Corporation across the street from the lab. So I worked for Mr. Leonard. We had a small office. I was top secret control officer. I was there and the people from the lab came over and got information from us. Later on, when he had to leave and go back to Albuquerque, their main office, I worked for the Sandia Corporation for a while. 

When my dad died so suddenly, I knew that I needed more money and stuff, so I went to work for the VA Hospital in Livermore. I never expected to be in any medical. I never knew a thing about medical. All I knew was the research type things. So I had to study and study. I worked for the chiefs of surgery for ten years. I had ten different chiefs of surgery.

My husband just died February 15th of this year. We had been married sixty-two years. We didn’t have children. I am an animal lover. We had dogs for my children. I did research. I saved dogs, many, many hundreds of dogs. I set up the dog program for the Valley, Humane Society in Pleasanton, California. It’s still going strong. I still have two dogs that are rescue dogs. One is 15 ½ now. She is a little Maltese. I still love my animals. They are my children.

I love people. I love to be around and hear more and more about the Manhattan Project. When Cynthia told me that there was such a thing, “Voices of the Manhattan Project”—well, she didn’t tell me. She first gave me her iPad. She went into Costco. She said “Listen to this.”

I started listening. I said, “Ah, that’s General Groves!”

So when she came back, “Do you know who that is?” 

I said, “That’s General Groves!”

Then she told me about the program. I was so excited. I haven’t listened to a lot, because I am losing my sight. I don’t have an iPad, which I would love, but I got to hear more and more of this. I have to. I would be able to hear hours and hours of different people that I know, because there are so many there that I do know. It would be so interesting for me to see what all you have done with the program. There is so much history there.

With all of the things that I have—the Smyth report that I typed on, and Dr. [Henry DeWolf] Smyth autographed it for me. Then, I have many, many autographs of Oppenheimer and the General and General Nichols and Sir James Chadwick. Then I have the book with all of the pictures of Hiroshima and Nagasaki of the bombings there. I have an autographed book from General Groves, Now It Can Be Told. Many, as I said, many notes that came from him and many, many clippings on everything that I kept, could keep of the Manhattan Project. I never, never thought that I would end up with something like that.

I am sure he died, too—General [Thomas] Farrell who was his aide to him in the office. He was the nicest man. He reminded me of a young Will Rogers. I did have a picture of him. He and his wife were wonderful.

Many people ask me, “Are you very sorry that you worked for something like that?” I say no, I am not, because even though I know many Japanese people died and were injured very seriously, but also we saved a lot of lives, both our American soldiers and also a lot of Japanese people. That was going to be the big, big part of the war that was really—my husband was on the way over to join that part of the war. When the bombs were blown up, they dropped them off in the Philippines where he spent two years there, instead of being probably killed in Japan area. 

No, I am not sorry. I am sorry we had to build such an instrument. I am sorry we have nuclear warheads. But I can’t say I am sorry that we did it, because there was war.

Unfortunately, war is continuing, which is a terrible, terrible thing. If the nuclear bombs are dropped over here or anywhere else again, it’s going to be much more destruction than we ever did.

Last year was my 75th year with Alpha Iota sorority. Cynthia and I went back to Des Moines, Iowa, where it was founded by Mrs. Fenton ninety years ago. I got an award for my service with the Atomic Energy [Commission]. They didn’t know until then that I had worked for them. I made a speech. They didn’t know, most any of them. I don’t think any—well, yes one of my sorority sisters did, but nobody else knew that I worked for the Manhattan Project. Cynthia said—I didn’t see—but she said that when I said that, they went, “Oh! No!” So then afterwards they kept saying, “Why didn’t you tell us?”

I said, “Well, we didn’t talk about what we did. We were in a sorority and we didn’t talk about those things.” They wanted me to write a book, but I told them I am too old to write the book.

Well, thank you so much. It’s such a pleasure meeting you. I am so excited about what you have been doing, too, and more and more. I just hope this keeps up and that you can find more people that are alive that can tell you—I know there’s not many people that didn’t work in the office that must be still alive that you can get information from. But with me, I am the last one that was there when the bomb was dropped, I mean, a civilian like me.