Bruce Cameron Reed is a physicist and a professor at Alma College. In this interview, he discusses a course he teaches at Alma about nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project. He explains how he became interested in the physics and history of the Manhattan Project. He provides an overview of some of the challenges the Manhattan Project scientists faced and why uranium, plutonium, and polonium are so difficult to work with.
Reflections on the Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Alexandra Levy: We are here on December 27th, 2016, in Florida, with Russell Gackenbach. My first question for you is to please say your name and spell it.
Russell Gackenbach: My name is Russell E. Gackenbach. G-A-C-K-E-N-B-A-C-H.
Levy: Please tell us your place and date of birth.
Gackenbach: I was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, March 1923, on March 23.
Russell E. Gackenbach was a navigator in the 393rd Bombardment Squadron and 509th composite group. He flew on both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions. His crew flew aboard the Necessary Evil, which was the camera plane for the Hiroshima mission. Gackenbach photographed the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. His crew flew again during the Nagasaki mission as the weather reconnaissance plane for the city of Kokura.
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly, November 17, 2016, Chicago, Illinois. I have with me Henry Frisch. My first question for him is to say your name and spell it, please.
Henry Frisch: Okay. It’s Henry Frisch, F-r-i-s-c-h.
Kelly: Why don’t you tell us who you are?
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. This is November 17, 2016, in Chicago, Illinois. I have with me Kennette Benedict, and the first thing I’m going to ask her is to say her name and spell it.
Kennette Benedict: Kennette Benedict. K-e-n-n-e-t-t-e, Benedict, B-e-n-e-d-i-c-t.
Kelly: Great. Thank you, Kennette, for being here. Why don’t we start with just a little something about who you are and why we’ve invited you here today.
Cindy Kelly: I’m Cindy Kelly. This is Santa Fe, New Mexico, Wednesday, October 12, 2016. I have with me Julie Melton. My first question for Julie is to say her name and spell it.
Julie Melton: I’ve been widowed twice, so I’ve had a lot of last names, but my maiden name was Hawkins. My father was at Los Alamos. Now my name is Melton, Julie Melton. Just to make it complicated, I’ve written books on democratization in the developing world, and I used my pen name Fisher for that. So it does get complicated.
Louis Hempelmann: I do not think the people who came later were ever as close as the people who were there at the beginning.
Martin Sherwin: Did most of the people who came later, were they junior people? That is, younger? [Enrico] Fermi came later.
Hempelmann: [George] Kistiakowsky came later.
Sherwin: He did? When you say “earlier” and “later,” what dates are you talking about?
Cindy Kelly: Okay. I am Cindy Kelly. I’m here in Albuquerque. It is Wednesday, October 12.
Hal Behl: Okay. I’m Harold Behl. B as in boy, e-h-l. Known as Hal.
Kelly: Okay. I just want to have you tell us when and where you were born and a little about your childhood.