The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

Jim Walther's Interview

Jim Walther's Interview

Jim Walther is the director of the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, NM. He begins this interview by discussing his working relationship with Jim Sanborn, the sculptor behind the renowned exhibits “Atomic Time” and “Critical Assembly.” He continues with a discussion of health physics, the history of nuclear reactors, and other innovations from the Manhattan Project. Walther also talks about the portrayal of nuclear issues in popular culture. He concludes by asserting the importance of studying the Manhattan Project and other nuclear issues.

Rosario Martinez Fiorillo's Interview

Rosario Martinez Fiorillo's Interview

Rosario Martinez Fiorillo grew up in northern New Mexico during the Manhattan Project. Her ancestors were Hispano homesteaders who built the Romero Cabin, an important pre-Manhattan Project structure at Los Alamos. In this interview, she reflects on her experiences living in the village of Guachupangue, and recalls an Army convoy passing by her house before the Trinity Test. She describes the history of the Romero Cabin and how her grandparents were evicted by the U.S. government for the Manhattan Project. Martinez Fiorillo explains why she decided not to work at Los Alamos, and concludes by talking about her life as a bilingual education teacher in California and New Mexico.

John Coster-Mullen's Interview

John Coster-Mullen's Interview

John Coster-Mullen is a photographer, truck driver, and nuclear archeologist. He has played a crucial role in establishing a public, permanent record of the creation of the bomb, and was featured in “The New Yorker.” In this interview, Coster-Mullen discusses the origins of his project and roadblocks he has encountered along the way, and addresses concerns that his work has revealed classified information. He shares a number of turning point moments and recounts important conversations with Manhattan Project veterans and government officials. He also talks about his time visiting Japan and Tinian Island. Finally, he describes some of the nuclear artifacts he has acquired over the years.

Floy Agnes Lee's Interview

Floy Agnes Lee's Interview

Floy Agnes Lee was one of the few Pueblo Indians to work as a technician at the Los Alamos laboratory during the Manhattan Project. As a hematologist, she collected blood from Manhattan Project scientists, including from Louis Slotin and Alvin Graves after the criticality accident that exposed Slotin to a fatal amount of radiation. After working at Los Alamos, she transferred to the Chicago Met Lab, and later Argonne National Laboratory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While working and caring for her daughter Patricia as a single mother, she earned her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. Over the course of her long career, she conducted research on the impact of radiation on chromosomes. In this interview, Lee recalls her interactions with Slotin and Graves after the accident and playing tennis with Enrico Fermi. Her parents were Pueblo and White, and she discusses how that has shaped her life. She also describes visiting her family at the Santa Clara Pueblo and her ancestors’ involvement in the politics of the Pueblo.

Matias A. Zamora's Interview

Matias A. Zamora's Interview

Matias A. Zamora is a retired attorney and judge, and a U.S. Army veteran. In this interview, he reflects on his experiences working as a server at Fuller Lodge at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. He describes his duties at the lodge and remembers seeing famous scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller. He also recalls how he heard about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Eulalia Quintana Newton's Interview

Eulalia Quintana Newton's Interview

Eulalia “Eula” Quintana Newton worked at Los Alamos for a total of 53 years, beginning in 1944. She received a Distinguished Performance Award for her exceptional service to the Los Alamos laboratory. In this interview, she discusses the many jobs she held at Los Alamos. After working in the housing and secretarial departments, she eventually rose to the position of group leader in the mail and records department. Quintana Newton recalls being the first Hispanic woman without a college degree to become a group leader at the laboratory. She also describes the impact of Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project on the Española Valley community.

Stanley Hall's Interview

Stanley Hall's Interview

W. Stanley Hall was eighteen years old when he was recruited to work as a machinist on the cyclotron, first at Princeton University and later at the Los Alamos Laboratory. He worked at Los Alamos as a civilian, then later was drafted and worked as part of the Special Engineer Detachment (SED). In this interview, he describes both his work and recreational experiences during the Manhattan Project. He witnessed the Trinity Test from a location ten miles away. Hall describes hearing “The Star Spangled Banner” play over the radio at the moment of the Trinity Test and the color and the noise of the explosion. Hall also talks about taking advantage of the hiking, fishing, and horseback riding opportunities around him, including some trouble he encountered walking Kitty Oppenheimer’s horse. He provides an overview of his forty-year-long career at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he worked for the computing group.

Jay Shelton's Interview

Jay Shelton's Interview

Jay Shelton is an American physicist and science and math teacher. In this interview, he recalls his experiences from nearly three decades as a high school teacher in Northern New Mexico. He provides an overview of how radiation works and how alpha, beta, and gamma rays differ. Shelton explains the health risks associated with radiation and stresses the importance of quantitative analyses of risks from certain radiation sources. He argues that the general public often overplays many of these risks. He also goes over changes in public perception towards radiation. For example, he points out that radiation was believed to have health benefits prior to the 1930s. Throughout the interview, Shelton describes how a variety of scientific instruments work, including Geiger counters and oscilloscopes, and expounds on the importance of a hands-on approach in science education. He also discusses his personal collection of scientific artifacts, including Revigators and other nuclear-related objects.

Clay Perkins' Interview

Clay Kemper Perkins' Interview

Clay Kemper Perkins is a physicist, philanthropist, and collector of Manhattan Project artifacts and replicas. In this interview, he discusses his vast collection of weapons and how he became interested in nuclear weapons and Manhattan Project history. He describes some of the stand-out pieces in his collection, including the safety plug used in the Little Boy atomic bomb on the Hiroshima mission and a full-scale replica of Little Boy. He also explains the role of high-speed cameras in the Trinity Test and the “pin domes” that Manhattan Project scientists experimented with for the implosion bomb. Perkins also discusses his philanthropic contributions to the Los Alamos Historical Society, including his purchase and gift of the Hans Bethe House.

Bruce Cameron Reed's Interview

Bruce Cameron Reed's Interview

Bruce Cameron Reed is a physicist and a professor at Alma College. In this interview, he discusses a course he teaches at Alma about nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project. He explains how he became interested in the physics and history of the Manhattan Project. He provides an overview of some of the challenges the Manhattan Project scientists faced and why uranium, plutonium, and polonium are so difficult to work with. Reed describes some of the innovations of the project, including the implosion design and lenses, the tamper, and the polonium initiator. He concludes by sharing his thoughts on some of the ethical issues related to nuclear weapons.

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