Small experiments studying the effects of radioactive isotopes, including plutonium, uranium, and polonium, on humans were conducted in the Manhattan Annex of the Strong Memorial Hospital located at the University of Rochester. The purpose of these studies was to examine the safety of small amounts of radiation on those working at other Manhattan Project sites.
[Many thanks to Claude Lyneis for donating this footage to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.]
Narrator: About seventy-five miles northwest of Walla Walla, Washington, in an isolated expanse of open desert, civilization entered into a new age, an age from which it would never emerge the same. Here, in the home of the Wanapum Indians, the terrain is mostly scrubland, laced here and there by cheatgrass, greasewood, and Russian thistle.
Isabella Karle: Isabella Karle. I-S-A-B-E-L-L-A K-A-R-L-E
Cindy Kelly: Terrific. Could you tell us how you happened to become part of the Manhattan Project?
Jerome Karle: My name is Jerome Karle. And it is J-E-R-O-M-E K-A-R-L-E.
Cindy Kelly: Great. Dr. Karle, can you tell me about what you were doing in the early 1940s and how you happened to become part of the Manhattan Project?
Karle: Well, I had just finished my work in 1943, for my graduation on my degree.
Isabella Karle: Your PhD.
Stephane Groueff: Hello. Colonel Matthias, if you can tell me the story of how the plutonium was shipped.
Colonel Franklin Matthias: Is this good enough.
Groueff: Yeah, it is good enough. The plutonium was shipped from Hanford to—?
Matthias: To Los Alamos.
Groueff: To Los Alamos.
Charles Critchfield was a mathematical physicist assigned to work on the development of gun-type fission weapons, and eventually implosion-type weapons, at Los Alamos. He returned to Los Alamos in 1952 to work on the development of the hydrogen bomb.
Norman Brown: My name is Norman L. Brown. Brown is spelled as Brown is usually spelled, without an E.
Cindy Kelly: Great, okay. Why don’t you start by telling us how you became part of the Manhattan Project?
Richard Baker: The first plutonium that, other than the cyclotron that produced plutonium, was made at what was called the Clinton Piles at old X10 down in Oak Ridge. The Chicago Met Lab worked on the micro scale reduction of the metal. This produced rather small quantities but never enough quantities to study its properties in any accurate manner.
Joseph Katz: Now it was recognized that plutonium would have a chemistry that would be quite similar to that of uranium. And developing procedures for the separation of plutonium from irradiated uranium. The assumption that was most commonly made was that the chemistry of plutonium would be similar, if not identical to that of uranium and this, of course was an entirely reasonable assumption to make.
Tell us your name.
Roger Rohrbacher: I'm Roger Rohrbacher. That’s R-O-H-R-B-A-C-H-E-R.
How did you come to Hanford?
Rohrbacher: In 1942 and '43, I was working for DuPont in an acid plant in Illinois and my buddies were disappearing. They ended up in Richland, so I got the map out and Richland, Pasco weren't even recorded on the map. I contacted them and I said, “What are you guys doing?”
They said, “We don't know.”