The Manhattan Project

Lawrence Antos' Interview

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Lawrence Antos

Lawrence Antos was a member of the Military Police at Los Alamos. He checked the passes of civilians entering and exiting Los Alamos. He talks about the sports team Los Alamos residents played on for fun, and recalls the reaction of the soldiers to the Trinity Test and the atomic bombings of Japan.
Manhattan Project Location(s): 
Date of Interview: 
January 11, 1992
Location of the Interview: 
Los Alamos
Transcript: 

Yvonne Delamater: We are interviewing Lawrence Antos for the Manhattan Project video and we thank you for coming here today all the way from Albuquerque. Briefly tell me when and where you were born and something about your education and training.

Lawrence Antos: I was born in Berlin, Illinois just outside of Chicago. I went to high school. Then I was drafted into the Army in 1942, December. My high school education is the only one I have.

Delamater: Could you tell us a little bit about when and how you came to Los Alamos?

Antos: Well, I was drafted into the Army and they told me to come to Los Alamos. Our first Military Police Detachment was sent to Camp Wolters, Texas and a group of us was detached from this group at Ft. Worth, Texas and sent directly to Los Alamos to set up whatever we were supposed to do here.

Delamater: Did they tell you what you would be doing here?

Antos: No, they didn’t tell us, we were just the Military Police guard. When we first came here, we thought we’d have a Japanese camp, they were going to capture all these Japanese and send them to Los Alamos.

Delamater: I’ve heard of the internment camps. What did you tell your family and friends?

Antos: I really didn’t say anything, I only had my mother. My brothers were in the Army and we never did say anything to them.

Delamater: How old were you when you came?

Antos: Around twenty or twenty-one years old.

Delamater: When you first came up here, can you remember some of your first impressions of this place, either in Santa Fe or when you first came up on the hill?

Antos: Well, not traveling very much and not seeing much of the country, it was all very new and it was just wonderful. I was just amazed, and I just loved it. When we came to Los Alamos, I loved it more. In fact, I didn’t want to go back to Chicago. I don’t think anybody would after living in Los Alamos.

Delamater: What did you do when you got up here?

Antos: The Military Police was our main object in 1943. I was discharged in March 1946.

Delamater: What did you guard?

Antos: The perimeter and some of the buildings that they had fenced off. Quite a few of us rode horses around the perimeter of the Tech Area, what they called. That didn’t work out so well.  And they changed from horses to jeeps. That worked a lot better. Then it was sealed off, the perimeter of Los Alamos was sealed off, and I didn’t really have much to do with the outer perimeter of Los Alamos. My main job was checking guard gates, the main gate, and the main gate at the Tech Area, and there was a main gate at the back portion of Los Alamos.

Delamater: So you were actually one of the persons who checked people in and out?

Antos: Yes.

Delamater: Did they give you any trouble?

Antos: No, it was very good. The people were very agreeable and they’d do what they were told.

Delamater: Is there anything in particular you remember about that assignment, any people?

Antos: Well the first person I met was Captain Carlisle Smith, and we met him in the Lodge when we first came here the first couple of days. Then I didn’t see him very much more because he worked in the Tech Area. Really at that time, we were more interested in doing guard duty and living our lives and not paying too attention to what was going on.

Delamater: Did you work in shifts?

Antos: Yes, we worked in two on and four off shifts in the military. There was quite a few of us here. There was something like 350 when the whole group came to Los Alamos.

Delamater: When did you realize what the goal of the Manhattan Project was?

Antos: They never really told us the goal of the Manhattan Project, they just said it would help end the war. But then we did later find out, when they detonated one of the bombs at Trinity.

Delamater: What did you think of all this? What did you think was going on? You thought at first it might have been an internment camp. And then what did you think?

Antos: Well after we found out that it wasn’t a camp of that type, we just went along. Of course there were rumors flying about what it was. They were making submarines with windshield wipers, and all of kind of rumors and so on.

Delamater: Who were your commanding officers?

Antos: I came to Los Alamos with Lieutenant Healey and Lieutenant Bush, and our company commander was Lieutenant Day. There were several other officers—Lieutenant Wills and Lieutenant Cassidy. And there were several others, but I don’t remember their names.

Delamater: Did they have any differences in the way they handled civilian/military relationships?

Antos: The only connections we had with civilians was at the pass gate, letting them in or out if they had a pass. Outside of that there was no connection. I didn’t have any connections with civilians.

Delamater: Did they ever invite you to Thanksgiving Dinner?

Antos: Some of the fellows did. They met a lot of the families here in Los Alamos, and were invited out to spend holidays with them and dinners.

Delamater: Did you think that what you observed of relationships of people coming and going, did you think they were good? Or do you think there were many conflicts?”

Antos: No, there was never any conflict. The only conflicts we had was on the ball field, baseball field. We had a little baseball league here in Los Alamos. And they had the Bombers, which we were called, the Military Police Bombers, and the civilians and the SEDs [Special Engineering Detachment] and the PEDs [Provisional Engineering Detachment]. There was a group of PED’s here also. Those were heavy equipment engineer department.

Delamater: What do you remember about these baseball games?

Antos: Oh, they were fun. That was our life when we lived here. We’d pull our guard duty and it was baseball after that.

Delamater: There were some really good players?

Antos: Yes, we had some very good players. We also played basketball during the season, basketball season.

Delamater: Who were some of your star players?

Antos: Andy Andrew was one of them. Harry Allen was a baseball player from the civilians that I can remember. I just can’t remember all of them.

Delamater: After the games, did they get together and socialize?

Antos: Oh yes, there was always a nice social event. Either we went to the PX [Post Exchange] or some place like that, or to the cafeteria. There was a cafeteria here in Los Alamos.”

Delamater: Both the civilian and the military?

Antos: Yes.

Delamater: To further talk about how and with whom did you spend your free time—you told us about the baseball games. What were some of the other things you did in your leisure time?

Antos: Well, basketball, and I was a bowler. We used to drive to Santa Fe to do our bowling. They had a bowling alley in Santa Fe. Then they got a bowling alley in Los Alamos, and we started bowling in Los Alamos.

Delamater: During the war years, you would go to Santa Fe?

Antos: Yes, we drove to Santa Fe. We had a bowling team from the military.

Delamater: Did you have to get a special pass?

Antos: Well we could get a pass to go bowling, yes. We came back the same night, it wasn’t an overnight pass. We left early in the evening and came back later that night.”

Delamater: Did you have a lot of family you were writing to?

Antos: Just my mother and that was just—I don’t think I ever wrote to my brothers.

Delamater: The censorship that was here, was that a problem in your letter writing?

Antos: Not for me because I never wrote any secret stuff down, and never knew any secret stuff.

Delamater: Did your Mom ever say, “What are you doing there?”

Antos: I just told her I was in the Army, doing Army work.

Delamater: Did you feel isolated up here, being so far away from Santa Fe?

Antos: No, because we could go to Santa Fe on passes on our days off. But it was really nice to pull our Army life here, instead of in the foreign countries that some of the fellows did.

Delamater: Do you have any special memories of the times in Santa Fe, or any impressions of your times in Santa Fe?

Antos: Well they were all special. And the only special memory I have is that I met my wife here in Los Alamos. She was a nurse in the old hospital that they built here for the Army. I met here in 1949 and we got married in 1950. We’ve been married ever since.

Delamater: Could you tell me where you lived? How was it?

Antos: I can’t remember the first. It was the Hanford house, that first house we lived in, just in back of the community center.

Delamater: This was during the war?

Antos: During the war. Well it was after the war ended.

Delamater: During the war, could you tell me about your living quarters?

Antos: We had barrack. They were located just below McDonald’s restaurant on Central—on Trinity Drive, rather.  

Delamater: So you’re coming off work and you are off your shift. You get back to the Barracks. What was it like? What was going on there?

Antos: Oh, it was fun. Everybody talked, they would play cards, read, write letters, or things like that. We had an activity room where they’d play ping pong and a pool table.

Delamater: Discuss strategy to beat the civilians.

Antos: We’d do that, and practiced. Baseball or basketball.

Delamater: What did you think of the barracks? How comfortable was it?

Antos: They were barracks. They were a lot better than the ones in Ft. Riley. In the wintertime they were warmer, that I can remember they were. Being young you don’t mind the cold as much as you do when you get older.

Delamater: Did you go to Trinity Site?

Antos: No, I didn’t. They selected several of the Military Police from our group to go there. But I wasn’t one of them selected to go there.

Delamater: Do you remember wondering why they were going there, what was going on?

Antos: Well, the rumors that went through, they were just going to make a test of some type. And that was the only knowledge we had, until after the big explosion happened.

Delamater: Where were you when you heard about the Trinity Test?

Antos: I think I was in the barracks and everybody was talking about it. They didn’t know what to think about it. They said, “Well, of course bomb the Japanese right away so we could end the war.” There wasn’t too much said. Fellows never did talk too much about what went on. Occasionally, they would stop, but it was just everyday talk about what happened and what we were going to do and guard duty and going to parties and dances and things of that nature. That young people talk about today.

Delamater: We’ve heard about some of the parties. Did you attend any of them? What were they like?

Antos: Just parties and dances. At the Theater No. 2, they had most of the dances. Snd they had a band, I’ll try and remember the name of the band, I’ve been trying to remember it, but I can’t. The Keynotes, yes. That was the name of the band. Harold Fishbein played in the band at that time. He’s an old timer that also lives in Los Alamos.

Delamater: Where were you when you heard of the bombing of Hiroshima and what was your immediate reaction to the news?

Antos: I probably was on guard duty or in the barracks. And we were very glad because the war was going to end and we were going to get to go home. So, we were just worried about how soon we were going to be able to go home at that time.

Delamater: And Nagasaki?

Antos: The same way. We were just wondering, “Well this ought to cap it and we ought to be going home pretty soon,” because at that time we were all wanting to go home anyway by then.

Delamater: What about V-J Day? What was the reaction then?

Antos: We were really thrilled then, because we knew then we would be going home soon.

Delamater: Did you have any relatives or friends that were in the war overseas?

Antos: My brother was a prisoner of war in Germany and my other brother was in Italy.  I don’t know just exactly where they went. My brother, Jim, he’s the older one, he got captured in South Africa and they took him to Germany in the prison camp. He got released from there when the Russians took over Germany.

Delamater: Did working in Los Alamos alter the direction of your life?

Antos: Oh, yes, I just stayed in New Mexico, I had become a citizen of New Mexico. For the time I left, for about six or eight months since 1943, I’ve lived in New Mexico since then.

Delamater: I remember you said when you first got here, you really loved it. What did you like about it?

Antos: Oh, yes. Well, the humidity here in New Mexico is very low in the summertime and the fall and most of the spring, except when you have thundershowers. But outside of that, Chicago was damp most of the time and the humidity got to you. More so then it did out here. And it was just much more pleasant to live out here.

Delamater: When you came out here, you were introduced to some different cultures. Did you take advantage? Did you have any contact with any of those cultures on your visits to Santa Fe?

Antos: Well I was just interested to see what was going on, and I never did study any of the cultures. I had a lot of Spanish friends. I worked with a lot of Spanish friends in working for the Laboratory, but outside of that, there’s just day to day going on.

Delamater: Given similar circumstances, would you do this again? Would you come to Los Alamos?

Antos: Oh yes, I would very much so.

Delamater: What is your most vivid memory of the Manhattan Project?

Antos: I think Trinity.