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 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.
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, 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 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.
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 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.
Arno Roensch, a glass blower in the Army, worked at Los Alamos. He met his wife after catching her eye while playing in the band at a dance. He talks about military-civilian relations and the time he helped Enrico Fermi change a tire.
Eleanor Roensch worked as a telephone operator in Los Alamos. She remembers a fire breaking out in one of the technical buildings and the concern over coded telegrams, sent by scientists like Rudolf Peierls.
Kay Manley’s husband was personally called by Leo Szilard and asked to move from the Met Lab at Chicago to Los Alamos. She herself worked on calculations at Los Alamos, although she left after six months to focus on raising her children. She talks about how Pearl Harbor galvanized the nation and the responses she and her husband received after the war from soldiers who would have been involved in the invasion of Japan if the atomic bombs had not been dropped.