The Manhattan Project

Oral Histories

Roger Hultgren's Interview

Roger Hultgren's Interview

Minnesota native Roger Hultgren worked for the DuPont Company as a chemist during the early 1940s, when he was suddenly transferred to Hanford to work on the Manhattan Project in the spring of 1944. Hultgren discusses the secrecy at Hanford and recalls not being allowed to share information with other scientists even though they were working on the same project. Hultgren also explains the importance of safety and recalls Du Pont’s strong commitment to its employees and their health.

Darragh Nagle

Darragh Nagle's Interview

Darragh Nagle graduated from Columbia University and worked with Enrico Fermi and Herbert Anderson at the Chicago Pile during the early years of the Manhattan Project. Nagle then transferred to Los Alamos, where he joined the Omega Team and conducted criticality experiments. Nagle was also responsible for collecting soil samples after the atomic bomb test at the Trinity Site. Nagle discusses his friendship with Joan Hinton, one of the few female scientists at Los Alamos, and also shares stories about some of the other famous scientists who worked on the Manhattan project.

BerlynBrixner

Berlyn Brixner's Interview

Berlyn Brixner worked as a photographer and camera engineer at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. He filmed the Trinity test on motion capture cameras, and recalls the anxious setup of cameras around the site and remembers being "amazed" and "dumbfounded" by the enormous explosion. His work using cameras to photograph the implosion method showed the physicists that they were off track in their calculations, and he captured photographs and films other explosions and the dropping of dummy bombs to help the scientists better understand the science and physics behind them.

HaroldAgnew

Harold Agnew's Interview (1992)

Harold Agnew worked on the Manhattan Project at various locations and served as the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1970-1979. Agnew was flying above Hiroshima as a scientific observer when the bomb was dropped, and remembers “having the blast hit the airplane after the flash, the very bright flash.” He worked on the Chicago Pile-1 with Enrico Fermi, whom he calls “absolutely amazing.” He recalls how Oppenheimer’s penchant for treating everyone equally and General Leslie Groves’ incredible managing skills influenced camaraderie and the speed of the project. He defends dropping the bombs on Japan as saving many American, Japanese, and Chinese lives.

Anne McKusick's Interview

Anne McKusick's Interview

Anne McKusick worked at the Y-12 Plant for Tennessee Eastman. She remembers dancing with Ernest Lawrence at one of Oak Ridge’s dances. Because of the pervasive emphasis on secrecy, she nearly got in trouble for carrying around a book on Russian. She considered becoming a physicist after the war, but decided to go to medical school.

Watson C. Warriner's Interview

Watson C. Warriner, Sr.'s Interview

Watson C. Warriner, Sr., a trained chemical engineer, worked for DuPont on the Manhattan Project. During the war he worked on building ordnance plants and acid plants, and helped design and build the chemical separation plants at Hanford (also known as the 221 T-plant or "Queen Marys"). He discusses the trains and cask car system used at Hanford and life in the dormitories on the secret site. He recalls going to New York City with his wife to celebrate V-J Day with thousands of other people crowded into the streets.

Lilli Hornig's Interview

Lilli Hornig's Interview

Born in Czechoslovakia, Lilli Hornig and her family immigrated to the United States from Berlin after her father was threatened with imprisonment in a concentration camp. She was a young chemist when her husband, Don Hornig, was personally asked by George Kistiakowsky to come to Los Alamos to work on a secret project. At first she worked on plutonium chemistry, but after concern was raised that plutonium could cause “reproductive damage” for women, she began working for the explosives group. A witness to the Trinity test, she recalls the vivid colors of the blast. Lilli signed the Los Alamos scientists’ petition to have a demonstration of the bomb’s destruction rather than dropping it on Japan.

Max Gittler's Interview

Max Gittler's Interview

Max Gittler was working on his degree in mechanical engineering at NYU when he was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was sent to Oak Ridge, where he enjoyed the social activities, especially bowling. He and three other soldiers had the job of driving radioactive material from Oak Ridge to other Manhattan Project sites around the country, including Dayton, Chicago, Santa Fe (they were not allowed into Los Alamos), and the University of California-Berkeley. Although the radioactive material was encased in a small lead pot, it weighed nearly three thousand pounds. Gittler and the soldiers had to take turns driving in the truck with the material, so they would not be exposed to the radiation for too long.

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.

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