The Manhattan Project

Life in the Secret Cities

Sheila Rowan and Jo-Ellen Iacovino's Interview

Interviewer 1: Why did your family come to Oak Ridge? When did that happen?

Rowan: Well, we actually came to Oak Ridge in 1945. We left Nashville in early 1945. Because there was no housing available onsite in Oak Ridge, we had to stay in South Harriman, which is about twenty miles away. In the summertime of 1945, we moved into—

Iacovino: No, no, that was ’44. It was ’44. Because we went through the winter, because then the war was over.

Rowan:  We should have gotten our story together. [Laughter.]

Sheila Rowan

After her brother was drafted, Sheila Rowan's family moved to Happy Valley, Tennessee to support the war effort. Although Rowan and her sister, Jo-Ellen Iacovino, were too young to participate in the construction of the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant, their older sister, Colleen Black, and their parents worked to support the Manhattan Project. When the war ended, Rowan left Happy Valley.

Louis Rosen's Interview

Rosen: Well, my name is Louis Rosen. I was born in New York City, not the best part of the city. I’m now almost eighty-five years old. My parents were immigrants from Poland.  They were escaping from the pogroms, which were taking place with the Russian Cossacks coming in and raiding villages, especially where Jews where plentiful. My father came over here in about 1909. My mother—they were girl and boyfriends in the old country—came over two years later.

Louis Rosen

Louis Rosen, a native New Yorker and the son of Polish immigrants, was personally selected to work on the Manhattan project in Los Alamos while a graduate student in physics. Once in Los Alamos, Rosen was assigned to Edwin McMillan’s group, where he worked on implosion technology. Rosen remained in Los Alamos after the war ended and was considered the father of the Los Alamos Meson Physics Facility. 

Helene Suydam's Interview

Helene Suydam: I find this story of how Norris Bradbury came to Los Alamos rather interesting.  He was a graduate student at the University of California in the ‘30s and every student who was a graduate student of Professor [Leonard] Loeb had to join the Navy reserve.  So when the war started all these scientists were activated into the Navy, and about four PhDs ended up at the naval proving ground in Virginia. And the commandant of the proving ground was a retired naval officer who had been passed over and had been called back because of the war.

Gordon Steele's Interview

Mary Kalbert: My name is Mary Kalbert and I am in Friday Harbor, Washington, interviewing Gordon Steele on June 16, 2014 for the Atomic Heritage Foundation Manhattan Voices Project. Gordon?

Gordon Steele: My name is Gordon, and you want me to spell my name?

Kalbert: Please spell your name for me.

Steele: Gordon. G-O-R-D-O-N. Steele. S-T-E-E-L-E.

Richard Yalman's Interview

Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. It is January 27, 2015. I am in Santa Fe with Richard Yalman, and the first question I have for you is to say your name and spell it.

Richard Yalman: My name is Richard George Yalman, that’s Y-A-L-M-A-N.

Kelly: Perfect. Very good. Richard has a very interesting story to tell about his days in the Manhattan Project, but to put it in context, we want him to start with his birthday, where he was born and something about his childhood.

John Mench's Interview

Mench: I am John Mench and sixty years ago I was a young man with a wife and a baby girl, a good job in industrial deferment, a brand new home and a mortgage. Inside of a week or two, I had in my hand a ticket to a camp, an Army camp, an industrial deferment that was cancelled. I still had a wife and a baby daughter but they were now living with my wife’s sister, and my home was rented. The only thing that hadn’t changed was the mortgage.

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