The Manhattan Project

Civilian Life

Robert Ellingson's Interview

Robert Ellingson: My name is Robert Ellingson, and it’s spelled E-L-L-I-N-G-S-O-N. 

Kelly: Great. Now if you could just tell us where you’re from, and how you happened to end up in the Manhattan Project.

Ellingson: I am from a little town in Idaho, and Idaho is west of Wyoming if you’re not familiar with the geography of the country. Most people look quizzical and say, “Iowa, that’s north of here, isn’t it?” But this is the one in the West. 

Hanford, WA

Hanford, Washington, on the beautiful Columbia River, was the site selected for the full-scale plutonium production plant, the B Reactor. Today a popular tourist desination, the Hanford Site proved crucial to the success of the Manhattan Project. 

Los Alamos, NM

Los Alamos, New Mexico, was the site of Project Y, or the top-secret atomic weapons laboratory directed by J. Robert Oppenheimer. The site was so secret that one mailbox, PO Box 1663, served as the mailing address for the entire town. The mountains allowed the scientists ample opportunity to relax, by skiing, swimming, and hiking. But they spent most of their time in laboratories, overcoming challenge after challenge to develop the Littly Boy (gun-type) and Fat Man (implosion) atomic bombs.

Oak Ridge, TN

In 1942, General Leslie Groves approved Oak Ridge, Tennessee, as the site for the pilot plutonium plant and the uranium enrichment plant. Manhattan Project engineers had to quickly build a town to accommodate 30,000 workers--as well as build the enormously complex plants.

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