March 2012
National Park Service Report Recommends Preserving K-25
LANL Releases Video of Los Alamos Footage
New Books on Manhattan Project History
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March has been a productive month at the Atomic Heritage Foundation. We've begun editing our scores of Manhattan Project oral history transcripts and working with the Los Alamos Historical Society to launch a new "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website. We're also revising our guidebooks to the Manhattan Project sites in New Mexico and Manhattan. In addition, we are following the progress of Congressional staff who are drafting legislation for the new national historical park. Coming soon, we hope!


Please consider making a donation to help preserve this history and make a Manhattan Project National Historical Park a reality! 


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DC is especially beautiful during cherry blossom season!

National Park Service Report Recommends Preserving K-25

The massive K-25 plant in Oak Ridge, TN

In a 26-page report released on March 30, 2012, the National Park Service argues that the nation has a vital interest in preserving a portion of the K-25 plant. The mammoth, mile-long K-25 plant is an icon of the Manhattan Project and Cold War for which there simply is "no substitute."


On November 17, 2011, the Department of Energy (DOE) convened representatives of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), Tennessee Historical Commission, and other parties to present DOE's mitigation plans for the K-25 plant. At that meeting, Oak Ridge Operations manager John Eschenberg announced DOE's intention to demolish all of the K-25 plant. Eschenberg said that saving a piece of the K-25 plant would be "imprudent" as the work would be "unsafe" and "too costly." Over half of the K-25 plant and more than 100 other Manhattan Project buildings at the K-25 site have already been demolished.

Demolishing the west wing of K-25. Photo courtesy of

In January 2012, under Section 213 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation requested that the National Park Service (NPS) assess how the plant's complete demolition could affect the interpretation of the property. The National Park Service report made its case clear. 


"Because the K-25 building has no substitute, the NPS considers it vital that the maximum practical amount of the original building and equipment be preserved to enable the best possible interpretation of this facility and its operation."


The preferred recommendation would preserve two cells of equipment, "the absolute minimum amount of equipment needed to properly illustrate and interpret the gaseous diffusion process." Under this scenario, approximately one-twelfth of the original North End Tower and less than 0.3 percent of K-25's original converters would be retained.


For members of the public, visiting this historic property will give them a unique sense of "being there." For scholars, the remaining portion will be the sole surviving facility available for hands-on historical interpretation and research of the gaseous diffusion process. In addition, the National Park Service recommends preserving the exterior wall of the North End Tower to give a sense of the mass and volume of the building.


Finally, the report calls for the design of a complete and comprehensive interpretive plan situating K-25 within the broader Oak Ridge Reservation's cultural landscape and within World War II and postwar contexts, both military and civilian. The report also recommends full documentation of K-25 and several other Oak Ridge Reservation buildings, including a written description and history, archival-quality photographs, historic photographs, and drawings.

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Female lab technicians at work in K-25 during the war

With the prospect that Congress may designate a Manhattan Project National Historical Park this year, the National Park Service's recommendation to preserve a piece of K-25 and interpret the Manhattan Project and Cold War history is compelling.


You can read the full report on AHF's website here.


 LANL Releases Video of Los Alamos Footage 

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Oppenheimer and Groves at the Trinity test site
In our February newsletter, we noted the recent discovery of unique behind-the-scenes footage of life at Los Alamos, captured by physicist Hugh Bradner on his videocamera. On March 6, the Los Alamos National Laboratory uploaded a 10-minute video from Bradner's collection online. Cameras were not forbidden at Los Alamos but were restricted to personal use. But Army officials probably didn't know that Bradner captured footage of some of the scientific experiments that took place, including the RaLa Experiment. 


From the concrete bowl to the small buildings that dotted the hillsides, Bradner's footage provides a breathtaking view of the Los Alamos laboratory during the Manhattan Project. Bradner also shot video of himself and his fellow scientists having fun on weekends. From hiking to skiing to sunbathing to swimming, Manhattan Project personnel knew how to have a good time. The film also shows the scientists leaving for the Trinity test in Alamogordo. Was that Oppenheimer in his porkpie hat among the crowd? This video is truly one of a kind.


You can view the video on AHF's website here.


 New Books on Manhattan Project History 


Nobel Prize winner Joseph Rotblat

Several fascinating books on the Manhattan Project and its legacy have recently been released. Andrew Brown, an oncologist whose biography of Sir James Chadwick, The Neutron and the Bomb, received wide acclaim, has written a biography of Polish scientist Joseph Rotblat, Keeper of the Nuclear Conscience. Rotblat spent eight months working on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, but left upon learning that the Germans had stalled in their atomic bomb project. He went on to become a leader of the anti-nuclear proliferation movement and helped found the Pugwash Conference. On March 31, The Economist reviewed Brown's book.


Gordon Fraser, a theoretical physicist and a former editor at CERN, relates the intertwined history of the Nazi persecution of the Jews and the Manhattan Project in The Quantum Exodus: Jewish Fugitives, the Atomic Bomb, and the Holocaust. Fraser profiles the Jewish scientists, many of them physicists, forced to flee Europe in the wake of Nazi terror. Hitler and the Nazis scorned modern physics, labeling it "Jewish physics" and pushing it out of the classroom. On March 30, physicist Jeremy Bernstein reviewed Keeper of the Nuclear Conscience and The Quantum Exodus in the Wall Street Journal.


The hangar at Wendover that housed the Enola Gay


On our website, we feature George Dyson's book on the development of the MANIAC at Princeton after World War II, Turing's Cathedral. We also recently profiled two photograph books highlighting the history of the nuclear age and government-induced amnesia. The Half-Life of History captures the deterioration of Wendover Airfield, where the 509th Composite Group trained to drop atomic bombs on Japan and the Enola Gay was housed. Chernobyl Zone (I) provides a wordless view of life in the shadows of Chernobyl.


Thanks very much for your interest in the Manhattan Project and preserving its history for future generations. To realize the full potential of a Manhattan Project National Historical Park, we need as strong a partnership as there was for the original Manhattan Project. Your contributions help us continue to work on preserving the Manhattan Project's historic sites and creating a national historical park. 


Thank you very much for your support!



Atomic Heritage Foundation