The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

Evelyne Litz's Interview

Evelyne Litz's Interview

Evelyne Litz worked in health physics and as a librarian during the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. She was the second person, after her husband Lawrence Litz, to see metallic plutonium. She recalls the captivating beauty of Los Alamos; having and raising a daughter in the secret city; and the somber mood of the scientists of Los Alamos after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.

Lawrence Lit'z's Second Interview

Lawrence Litz's Interview (2012)

Lawrence Litz was a young physicist when he began working on radioactivity at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago. From there he was transferred to Los Alamos, where he worked on casting the plutonium hemispheres for the atomic bombs and became the first person to see metallic plutonium. He recalls the twenty-four hour shift he pulled to cast two more plutonium hemispheres in case a third atomic bomb was needed to force the Japanese to surrender and discusses his love of solving problems as a scientist.

Harris Harold Levee.mp4

Harris Harold Levee's Interview

Harris Harold Levee served in the Special Engineering Detachment at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago on the Manhattan Project. At the Met Lab, he worked with Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard, who he describes as “not two peas in a pod, one was a pea and one was a string bean.” Levee’s assignments included following up on patents and ensuring strict secrecy was maintained at the laboratory. Levee later worked on construction of nuclear submarines.

Bob Porton

Bob Porton's Interview

Bob Porton worked in the recreation division at Los Alamos. A soldier in first the Provisional Engineer Detachment and then the Special Engineer Detachment, he discusses military-civilian relations on the top-secret base, his arrival in Santa Fe, and the importance of keeping up morale at Los Alamos.

Lawrence Litz's 2007 Interview

Lawrence Litz's Interview (2007)

Lawrence Litz was a young physicist when he began working on radioactivity at the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago. From there he was transferred to Los Alamos, where he worked on casting the plutonium hemispheres for the atomic bombs and became the first person to see metallic plutonium. He recalls the twenty-four hour shift he pulled to cast two more plutonium hemispheres in case a third atomic bomb was needed to force the Japanese to surrender.

Ben Bederson's Interview

Benjamin Bederson's Interview

Benjamin Bederson, a New York native, was selected to serve in the Special Engineering Detachment during the Manhattan Project. A physicist, he was first sent to Oak Ridge, and then to Los Alamos, where he worked for Donald Hornig on designing the ignition switches for the implosion bomb. At Los Alamos, he knew Ted Hall and David Greenglass, who were secretly sending atomic bomb secrets to the USSR. Bederson instructed the 509th Composite Group at Wendover and was sent to Tinian to help wire the switches for the bomb. He recalls the feeling of expectation just before the bombing of Hiroshima and his jubilation at Japan’s surrender.

Bill Wilcox

William J. Wilcox, Jr.'s Interview

Bill Wilcox, the late Official Historian for the City of Oak Ridge, discusses the origins of Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. A chemistry graduate from Washington & Lee University in 1943, he was hired by Tennessee Eastman on a "Secret, secret, secret!" project in an unknown location he and his friends nicknamed "Dogpatch." He recalls the amazing construction activity going on at Oak Ridge when he arrived at the site in October 1943. He worked with uranium, which was referred to only by its codename "Tuballoy," under threat of imprisonment. Wilcox worked at Y-12 for five years and then at K-25 for 20 years, retiring as Technical Director for Union Carbide Nuclear Division. Wilcox has actively promoted preservation of the "Secret City" history through the Oak Ridge Heritage & Preservation Association and by founding the Partnership for K-25 Preservation. He also published several books on Oak Ridge, including a history of Y-12 and "Opening the Gates of the Secret City."

Gordon Knobeloch

Gordon Knobeloch's Interview

Gordon Knobeloch worked on the RaLa Experiment at Los Alamos, which was crucial to developing the spherical implosion necessary for the plutonium bomb. He recalls arriving by train in Lamy, the low average age of the scientists at Los Alamos, and presents a defense of the use of the atomic bomb in World War II.

Larry Denton F9 480p 16x9

Lawrence Denton's Interview

A native of Northern Idaho, Larry Denton was recruited by his father to work on the B Reactor in Hanford, Washington. At the age of twenty-one, Denton served as a shipping clerk, where he received and issued welding gases. Later on, Denton worked as a reactor operator at B Reactor. In his interview, Denton discusses everything from safety measures to recreation activities to segregation, and offers his opinion on the decision to drop the atomic bomb.

Veronica Taylor

Veronica Taylor's Interview

Veronica Taylor is a member of the Nez Perce Tribe and grew up along the Columbia River near the Manhattan Project site at Hanford. Taylor discusses some of the unique aspects of Nez Perce life and describes some of the customs practiced by the tribe. She also discusses some of the side-effects that have resulted from the radiation in the area, including its impact on wildlife and also the Indian people themselves. Taylor describes some of the programs designed to help future generations rediscover some of the land and cultural traditions that were lost as a result of the Manhattan Project.

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