June 2013 Newsletter
House Passes Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act
Working on the Bomb
Google Hangout: The Manhattan Project: Our Next National Park?
Congress, don't ban the bomb's national park
New Additions to "Voices of the Manhattan Project"
The Faces of Project Y
Quick Links


On June 14, 2013, Congress took a key step towards establishing a Manhattan Project National Historical Park by passing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act as an amendment to the House National Defense Authorization Act. While it is not clear yet how the legislative process will unfold, we are increasingly optimistic that Congress will find a way to make the park a reality. 

A historic photo of the US Capitol from 1846

House Passes Manhattan Project 

National Historical Park Act


On June 14, 2013, the House of Representatives voted to include the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), H.R. 1960. A few hours later, the House passed the NDAA and, along with it, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act. The Manhattan Project Park Act, and the NDAA amendment, was sponsored by Representatives Doc Hastings (R-WA), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), and Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN). For more information about the proposed park, click here

Rep. Ben Ray Lujan
Rep. Doc Hastings
Rep. Chuck Fleischmann

The same day, the Senate Committee on Armed Services completed its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2014. Next, the full Senate must pass the bill. Once the Senate acts, a House-Senate conference committee will be appointed to reconcile differences between the two versions of the NDAA.  


Assuming that the Manhattan Project National Historical Park bill stays as a part of the final NDAA, the next step is for the House and Senate to pass the NDAA and send it to the President for his signature. At that point, the legislation becomes law. 


Please contact your Senators to urge their support of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act! To easily email your Congressmen in support, please click here.


Working on the Bomb  


In 1986, Seattle journalist Stephen L. Sanger took leave of his newspaper job to travel the country and interview dozens of men and women who worked at the Hanford site in World War II. Recently, Sanger graciously agreed to allow the Atomic Heritage Foundation to incorporate his work into our Voices of the Manhattan Project website. Soon our Voices website will feature fifty-six new oral histories, all compiled by Sanger and originally published in 1989 as Hanford and the Bomb and again in 1995 as Working on the Bomb: An Oral History of WWII Hanford.  
Historic Hanford

Sanger cast a wide net, and came up with a rich, varied compendium of experiences of World War II Hanford. His subjects include construction workers, DuPont executives, cooks, secretaries, pre-war residents displaced by the government, camp security guards, and Nobel laureate Eugene Wigner. They speak of everything from tricky metallurgical problems to rowdy dormitory craps games.

A cook making pies at Hanford


One recurring theme is the intense compartmentalization and code of secrecy surrounding work at Hanford. Secretary Betsy Stuart recalls, "The paper I took out of my typewriter I would have to put in a flat box and lock it. I would put the flat box in an inner tray and lock that. You locked the file drawer, then you locked your typewriter, and when I left, I locked the door to my office. That was five keys. You also had to do all that to go to the bathroom. I didn't go to the bathroom very often."


The Hanford Site was a massive operation, and for it to run smoothly there had to be creativity and innovation at every level. Harry Petcher oversaw the massive box lunch program that enabled tens of thousands of workers to eat on the job. He recalls an example of production line optimization--using a spray gun filled with margarine to quickly butter bread for sandwiches.  

The B Reactor under construction

Though most of the men and women whom Sanger interviewed speak with fondness, pride, and nostalgia, Hanford had problems like any other city. Plant protection supervisor Bob Bubenezer says, "Drunkenness was prevalent. And depression was quite a deal, and this was a big reason for people leaving there. Homesickness too, it was a depressing sort of a place. It was almost like being in prison. Wired in, barb wire. Men separated from the women, even husbands and wives were separated sometimes. We had a number of nervous breakdowns of personnel. It was loneliness and depression and they hit the booze very hard."

These are only several among the many stories collected by Sanger and soon to be featured on the "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website. Sanger took great care to find diverse people with diverse experiences, and we are hopeful that sharing them more widely will enrich understanding of the Hanford site and the Manhattan Project.


Google Hangout: The Manhattan Project: 

Our Next National Park? 


Manhattan Project: Our Next National Park?
Manhattan Project: Our Next National Park?
On June 11, AHF President Cindy Kelly joined The Girls of Atomic City bestselling author Denise Kiernan and National Parks Conservation Association Senior Vice President for Policy Ron Tipton in a Google Hangout On Air. The topic was "The Manhattan Project: Our Next National Park?"
AHF President Cindy Kelly with author Denise Kiernan and Manhattan Project veteran Rosemary Lane, who is featured in "The Girls of Atomic City"

The panel discussed the history of the Manhattan Project; the thousands of people who worked at the sites under much secrecy and mystery; and how the public can support efforts to protect these important places for future generations. They discussed the legislation to establish a Manhattan Project National Historical Park; the sites that will be included in the park as well as possible affiliated sites; and more.


"Congress, don't ban the 

bomb's national park" 


On June 7, 2013, the Los Angeles Times published an eloquent op-ed by Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in support of creating a Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Preserving the History of the Manhattan Project.

Stephanie Meeks


In her editorial, Meeks explains the importance of creating the new park: "Few events have affected as many aspects of American life as deeply as the Manhattan Project...A new national park, managed by the Department of Energy and the National Park Service, would encourage visitors to consider the Manhattan Project's many ethical, cultural and scientific implications."


On June 11, the LA Times followed up with a terrific op-ed by Opinion Copy Chief Paul Whitefield, Congress, don't ban the bomb's national parkWhitefield explained that Congress is concerned the park "'would inappropriately celebrate the atomic bomb'...Which is, in a word, dumb. And it fails to give the American people -- heck, people everywhere -- enough credit."

J. Robert Oppenheimer. Biographies of Manhattan Project scientists and their complicated attitude to the atomic bomb would likely be included in the park's interpretation.


"A national park for the Manhattan Project wouldn't be about celebrating the bomb. It would be about history -- ours and mankind's -- as well as anger, and fear, and sadness and, yes, probably some darker feelings best not shared aloud."


"And that's exactly what a Manhattan Project National Park would be. We built the bomb. We used the bomb. We certainly should be able to build a park to deal with the bomb."



New Additions to 

"Voices of the Manhattan Project"


We are continuing to add more oral histories to our Voices of the Manhattan Project website and to conduct more interviews of Manhattan Project veterans. Here are some recent additions to the website.


William E. Tewes worked on the gaseous diffusion process at the Nash Garage Building under Dr. Francis Slack, testing the barrier material. He recalls the Nazi invasion of Poland and how the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the country together.


A member of the Special Engineer Detachment, Ray Stein participated in the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, working at the Y-12 Plant. He tells the story of security and secrecy during the project. At Y-12, he and his fellow SED members donned civilian clothes and were told to keep an eye out for possible saboteurs or spies.


Carolyn Stelzman worked at the K-25 Plant in Oak Ridge as an operator and leak-detector. She recalls Oak Ridge's excellent bus system, the rain and mud, and the stress of the secrecy regime.






William Schneller worked for DuPont at Hanford on the Manhattan Project, and later at Oak Ridge. He recalls DuPont's emphasis on safety, the fear that the fruit around Hanford might be contaminated with radiation, and sneaking a dog past Oak Ridge guards.


The Faces of Project Y


Historian Alex Wellerstein recently contributed a slideshow of Los Alamos ID badges to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists website. Every one of the thousands of Los Alamos personnel was required to wear a badge, which was color-coded according to differing levels of clearance. Guards wore yellow badges, for example, which meant access to secure areas but not classified information, while project leaders like General Leslie Groves and J. Robert Oppenheimer donned complete-access white badges.


Wellerstein's slideshow features both a massive collage and individual badges; he pairs the latter with description of the lives behind the photographs. Some of the workers profiled include Charlotte Serber, head technical librarian at Los Alamos and wife of bomb designer Robert Serber; Richard Feynman, the only person smiling in his ID photo, capturing his joking nature; Berlyn Brixner, Trinity test photographer; and Ramon Gomez, who cleaned contaminated tools at the lab with his four brothers. All the brothers later died of cancer; the Gomez brothers' family and friends believe their deaths were linked to their work on the Manhattan Project.


Wellerstein's blog post about these images, including a comprehensive collage, can be found here.


Thank you for your interest in the Manhattan Project and for contributing to our efforts.



Atomic Heritage Foundation