The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

John Manley's Interview (1985) - Part 2

John Manley was a nuclear physicist who worked for the Manhattan Project from its early days. In this interview with Martin Sherwin, Manley recalls being impressed by George Kennan and Omar Bradley’s testimony before the Atomic Energy Commission. He also discusses the contributions to the project and personalities of General Kenneth Nichols, General Leslie Groves, and Peer de Silva. He also explains the founding of Los Alamos and and reflects on Oppenheimer’s transition into the “great administrator.”

Louis Hempelmann's Interview - Part 4

Louis Hempelmann worked as a doctor at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project and was close friends with J. Robert Oppenheimer. In this interview, he discusses the other doctors at Los Alamos and their roles, including his own occasional role as anesthetist. He recalls visiting a radium dial plant in Boston to observe how the company protected its workers from radiation, and how they adopted similar practices at Los Alamos.

John Manley's Interview (1985) - Part 1

John Manley was a nuclear physicist who worked for the Manhattan Project from its early days. After the war, Manley served as the Executive Secretary of the General Advisory Committee (GAC) of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), and later also became Associate Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In this interview, Manley discusses how he came into these positions and reflects upon the relationship of the GAC and the AEC. He recalls Oppenheimer’s relationship with others on the GAC, including James B. Conant, and Oppenheimer’s leadership on the GAC.

Louis Hempelmann's Interview - Part 3

Louis Hempelmann was J. Robert Oppenheimer’s physician and close friend. In this interview, he discusses the hierarchy at Los Alamos, what it was like to work with Kitty Oppenheimer, and Kitty and Robert’s relationship. He recalls his interactions with Oppie, Enrico and Laura Fermi, and Edward Teller, and the parties that Oppenheimer and others used to throw at Los Alamos. Hempelmann remembers driving to Trinity Site with George Kistiakowsky and the high explosives—on Friday the 13th.

Roger Fulling's Interview (1985)

Roger Fulling was the Division Superintendent of Construction at DuPont during the Manhattan Project, which meant that he coordinated and expedited the construction projects at Hanford and Oak Ridge. He was also the main liaison with General Leslie R. Groves on the Hanford construction project. In this interview, Fulling discusses DuPont’s procurement issues and the support of American industry for the Manhattan Project. He also recalls visiting Hanford and the early days of working with General Groves. He explains the fate of Hanford's orchards and farms after the Manhattan Project requisitioned the land, and his sadness at witnessing the orchards fall into ruin.

Roger Fulling's Interview (1986) - Part 3

In this interview, Roger Fulling discusses the various positions he held at DuPont during and after the war. He recalls a special request from the Australian government for smokeless powder that DuPont had to fulfill, as well as outlining the structure and history of the DuPont Company. He explains the other wartime work of the DuPont Company and how DuPont had to balance its Manhattan Project work with its other military contracts.

Verna Hobson's Interview - Part 3

Verna Hobson worked as a secretary for J. Robert Oppenheimer at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. Her tenure as his secretary coincided with Oppenheimer's investigation by the Atomic Energy Commission. In this interview, she shares her interactions with the Oppenheimer family. As Robert Oppenheimer’s personal secretary, she maintained close relationships with him, his wife, and his children. She provides insight into Kitty Oppenheimer’s personality, and how Kitty and Robert interacted with each other and their children, Peter and Toni. She recalls what Peter and Toni were like as children, and how she cared for Peter when Kitty and Robert were abroad. Hobson gives particular insight to her relationship with Kitty Oppenheimer, whose struggles with alcoholism and depression were exacerbated by Robert’s death. She recalls some of the stories that Kitty shared with her during this period, as well as her own personal recollections about Robert’s bout with cancer.

Carl D. Anderson's Interview

Carl D. Anderson was a physicist who won a Nobel Prize for the discovery of the positron. He studied and taught at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he took a class with a young professor named J. Robert Oppenheimer. In this interview, he discusses his impressions of Oppenheimer, including Oppenheimer’s early struggles as a teacher. Anderson describes the research that was going on at Caltech during the 1930s, including the groundwork that went into his Nobel-winning discovery. He also details why he turned down a role on the Manhattan Project, and the work he did on rockets during World War II instead.

Roger Fulling's Interview (1986) - Part 2

Roger Fulling served as a division superintendent in DuPont's War Construction Program. In this interview, he discusses the priority that the Manhattan Project received in the industrial sector, especially with materials like aluminum. He talks about coordinating production with the armed forces, including General Douglas MacArthur. He explains how General Leslie R. Groves would intervene if a company was having difficulty acquiring materials or producing products to certain specifications. Fulling also mentions meeting some of the top scientists, including Eugene Wigner, who thought that scientists alone, not DuPont and their engineers, should work on the project, and how DuPont persuaded them otherwise. He remembers his interactions with General Groves after the war, and explains why Groves chose DuPont to work on the Manhattan Project.

Vincent and Clare Whitehead's Interview - Part 2

Vincent (“Bud”) Whitehead was a counterintelligence officer at Hanford during the Manhattan Project; his wife Clare was a secretary and a member of the Women’s Army Corps. In part two of their interview with S. L. Sanger, the Whiteheads discuss crime at Hanford and the project’s intense secrecy. Clare recalls when she was stricken with polio and how the DuPont doctors were far superior to the Army doctor. The couple also speculates on whether Bud’s subsequent health issues are related to radiation exposure. Finally, Bud recalls chasing and bringing down a Japanese balloon bomb.