The Manhattan Project

Military-Civilian Relations

Arno Roensch's Interview

Theresa Strottman: We are speaking with Arno Roensch.  We thank you for coming this morning.  To start off the interview, I was wondering if you could briefly tell me when and where you were born and something about your early education and training.

Arno Roensch: I was born in Berlin, Germany—1918. We came to this country in 1922.  I remember the boat we came on, it was called the S.S. Orbeta; it was a British vessel.  It took 21 days to cross the Atlantic.

Jay Wechsler's Interview

Jay Wechsler: Well, my mother was visiting her folks in New York when she decided that it was time, and I was the first child, and I guess she was a little surprised. So I was born in New York even though we didn’t live there. And as soon as we were able we were back in New Jersey, where she and my father lived. My father was a chemist and even at a young age he was always taking me into the plant where he worked, showing me things. And I kind of had a mechanical bend or bent.

George Cowan's Interview (2006)

George Cowan: It's weighted so heavily in favor—not in favor of—but the emphasis on number one Los Alamos, and then Oak Ridge, and then Hanford, as the three secret cities or something. But the fact is the Met Lab at Chicago was enormously important. The Stagg Field reactor was historic in ’42, and its sort of dismissed. 

V-Site

Located in a bucolic setting surrounded by tall pines, these humble wooden and asbestos-shingled buildings were where the world's first atomic device was assembled. Here scientists, engineers, and explosives experts worked around the clock on the "Gadget," the first plutonium-based atomic explosive.

T-Plant

In early 1944, DuPont, the operating contractor at Hanford, foresaw the need for four chemical separation facilities. These facilities, designated the T and U plants at location 200-West and the B and C plants at location 200-East (the C plant was never built), would be located approximately ten miles south of the reactors.

Wendover Air Field, UT

Wendover Air Field was chosen as the rear training base for the 509th Composite Group because of its isolation. It is located in the salt flats located 125 miles west of Salt Lake City. Colonel Paul Tibbets, head of the 509th, remarked upon seeing Wendover for himself: "The end of the world, perfect." Life at Wendover was primitive: the drinking water was bad, infrastructure was limited, rats invaded barracks, and there was sand in everything.

Tinian Island

Tinian Island was the launching point for the atomic bomb attacks against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. One of three islands in the Northern Marianas, Tinian is less than forty square miles in size and located approximately 1,500 miles south of Tokyo. The round-trip flight from Tinian to Tokyo took B-29s an average of twelve hours. This proximity to Japan is one reason Tinian served as the headquarters of the 509th Composite Group.

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.

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