Atomic Heritage Foundation
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September 2013

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AHF President Cindy Kelly traveled to two of the Manhattan Project sites in September. In Oak Ridge on September 7, 2013, she spoke at the memorial service for beloved Manhattan Project veteran Bill Wilcox. On September 26, thanks to veteran Watson Warriner and Bob McLean of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners, she rode a special 29-car train from Seattle to Pasco, WA. At the B Reactor, two new exhibits developed by AHF were on display. 


In October, she will be in Los Alamos, St. Louis, and Boston to collect additional interviews of Manhattan Project veterans.

In This Issue

Farewell to Manhattan Project Luminaries

Bill Wilcox and Harold Agnew 


The American people lost two of the "Greats" of America's Greatest Generation when William J. Wilcox Jr. died on Monday, September 2 and Harold Agnew passed away on Sunday, September 29. 


Bill worked at the K-25 and Y-12 plants for most of his career. In his retirement, Bill worked on the preservation of the Manhattan Project's heritage at Oak Ridge, TN.

On his 90th birthday in January, the Atomic Heritage Foundation honored Bill by posting his interview taken in 2006 on our "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website. What was most surprising to Bill was that we caught

 him on camera without one of his signature bow ties.

Bill and his wife, Jeanie 


Named the Official Historian of the City of Oak Ridge, he was an articulate and charismatic spokesman for Oak Ridge. Bill's passion for preserving the Manhattan Project history was matched by his unique ability to both present the "big picture" and explain complex technical details. No wonder he was the first person television reporters and documentary filmmakers sought to interview about the Manhattan Project. 


Bill worked closely with AHF President Cindy Kelly and staff on preserving Oak Ridge's unique history, particularly the K-25 plant. AHF and the Oak Ridge community have lost a truly great friend.


Harold Agnew with the plutonium core of the Fat Man bomb on Tinian

When Harold Agnew died on September 29, 2013 at 92, the nation lost one of the outstanding leaders from the Manhattan Project and Cold War era. Agnew worked with Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago and witnessed the Chicago Pile-I on December 2, 1942. Assigned to Los Alamos, he witnessed the Trinity Test and then flew to Tinian Island, flying on the observation planes over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, he received his PhD and returned to Los Alamos to work on weapons development.


From 1970-1979, Agnew served as the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) at a pivotal time in LANL's history. In an interview with the Los Alamos Historical Society, Agnew recalled how the leadership of J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves were critical to the Manhattan Project's success. 


Bill Wilcox and Harold Agnew epitomized the best of the Manhattan Project with their extraordinary intelligence and determination. They will be greatly missed and long remembered for their important contributions to the Manhattan Project and beyond.

Journey to Destiny 
All aboard! Warren and Betsy Dean, Darlene and Bob McLean, Cindy Kelly and Shepherd Warriner

On September 26, AHF President Cindy Kelly rode a "Journey to Destiny" train leaving Seattle for Pasco, WA. The trip was organized by Bob McLean of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners (AAPCO). The special train consisted of twenty-nine private railcars and was headed for Napa Valley and other destinations. 


The trip to Pasco to visit the B Reactor was prompted by Watson C. Warriner Sr., who helped build the chemical separation plants (or T-Plants) at Hanford. In 1995, the magazine "Trains" published an article by Watson about his "Journey to Destiny," in 1944 from Philadelphia to Pasco, WA to begin his Manhattan Project work at Hanford.


For the train trip, AHF staff developed a pamphlet on the history of the B Reactor and Watson's work at Hanford. "Trains" also gave AHF permission to include Watson's article. To download the pamphlet, please click here. To request a hard copy, please contact AHF. 


New Interactive Exhibits at Hanford

B Reactor tour guide Russ Fabre with the Columbia River model

On Thursday, September 26, 2013, Cindy Kelly visited the B Reactor and saw the two marvelous new exhibits AHF developed with support from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, City of Richland, and Clay and Dorothy Perkins. Over the past year, the Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF) has worked closely with the B Reactor Museum Association and the creative team of Lockheed Martin Services, Inc. The exhibits are accompanied by six vignettes developed by the AHF and produced by Nalezny Productions of Minneapolis, MN.


Measuring eight feet square, the model portrays the 100-B Area on a 1:450 scale, featuring the Columbia River's role in bringing 30,000 gallons of clear water each minute to cool the reactor. Visitors can press the 20 buttons on the panel below the model to light up the different facilities and follow the flow of the water. The water course begins at the river pump house on the Columbia and then goes to the reservoir, treatment plants, through the reactor and back to the river.     

The graphite model

Models of the B Reactor and more than a dozen supporting facilities were created by a 3-D plastic press so that each is exactly to scale. While the B Reactor stands alone today, in 1945 the B Reactor was dwarfed by many larger pumping and treatment facilities. 


The second new exhibit is an exquisitely machined display of graphite blocks as they are laid in the core of the reactor, interlaced with process tubes for the fuel slugs and spaces for safety and control rods. Visitors can watch three short vignettes that explain the importance of exacting execution (with .0005 inch tolerance), the need for nearly perfectly pure graphite, and why plutonium is such a tricky element to handle. To watch the vignettes, as well as other vignettes on the history of Hanford and the B Reactor, please click here.


The REACH Interpretive Center is Under Construction



The REACH Interpretive Center will be the gateway to the Hanford Reach National Monument, with some 50 miles of the Columbia River. Over the last decade the project experienced a number of setbacks and financial issues. Since taking over in January 2012, REACH Director Lisa Toomey has injected new energy into the project. 


With a revitalized REACH Board, Lisa Toomey hired local architect Terence Thornhill to downsize the original plans and adopt a phased approach to construction. Thanks to Lisa's leadership and hard work with the Tri-Cities community, she has restored confidence in the project and been able to begin construction.


A compelling new design takes advantage of the setting overlooking the Columbia River. The site is at the west end of Columbia Park on land formerly owned by the Corps of Engineers. The first phase calls for a 14,000 square feet building, an outdoor amphitheater and extensive walkways and gardens. The entrance is reminiscent of the historic B Reactor and one gallery will be dedicated to interpreting the Manhattan Project.


Toomey has vigorously reached out to the Tri-Cities community. For example, she has engaged a local welding class to create animal sculptures to line the entrance walkway. On October 4, 2013, the entire community is invited to "For Yours Eyes Only," a fundraiser featuring James Bond and the Cold War. To learn more about the REACH plans, click here.


Robert Furman and the Alsos Mission
Furman receiving the Legion of Merit from General Groves in 1945. 
Photo courtesy of the Patricia Cox Owen Collection.

While all oral histories on our "Voices of the Manhattan Project" represent unique glimpses into the life of workers on the Manhattan Project, Robert Furman's interview is especially thrilling. Robert R. Furman served as Chief of Foreign Intelligence for the Manhattan Project.


Before the war, Furman worked with General Leslie Groves to build of the Pentagon and then on the Manhattan Project. Furman coordinated the famed Alsos Mission, conducting espionage missions across Europe to interrogate Italian and German scientists, locate uranium, and determine how far the Nazis had proceeded with their atomic bomb project. Furman also helped orchestrate missions to kidnap and interrogate German scientists toward the end of the war to find out the extent of the Nazis' nuclear program.

The doomed USS Indianapolis


In late July 1945, Groves assigned Furman the special task of personally escorting half of the uranium necessary for the atomic bomb "Little Boy" to Tinian in the Mariana Islands aboard the USS Indianapolis. After dropping off Furman at Tinian, the Indianapolis was torpedoed by the Japanese and sank; hundreds of sailors perished in the shark-infested waters. 


After the war, Furman was sent on a special mission to Japan to investigate whether any efforts had been made by the Japanese to develop a nuclear weapon. Furman, who passed away in 2008, will always be remembered for his many contributions to the Manhattan Project and for his service to his country. The Atomic Heritage Foundation is pleased to be able to share Furman's truly inspirational story.


Recent Additions to "Voices of the Manhattan Project"

AHF staff are continuing to interview Manhattan Project veterans and their families around the country. If you are, or know, a veteran who would like to be interviewed, please contact us.


Before he had even graduated from college, Larry Bartell was interviewed by Glenn Seaborg to join Seaborg's plutonium team at the University of Chicago. There he tested various ways of extracting plutonium from uranium that had been irradiated in a reactor. As he was exposed to high levels of radiation while working with the plutonium, he constantly set off the radiation detectors as he left the lab and had to avoid eating food with his hands. He also recalls sneaking into the Trinity test crater site area, where he was promptly arrested by the Army for trespassing.


After studying at the University of Tennessee, Reba Holmberg went to work at the Y-12 Plant at Oak Ridge. The government evicted her family from their farm to use the land for the Manhattan Project, and she describes the situation of the people dispossessed following the government's land seizure. She discusses working at the Y-12 plant and living in the "Secret City." 



Irene LaViolette was born in the United States and raised in Greece. During the Nazi invasion of Greece, she worked as a nurse, and encouraged the nurses to strike when the Germans took over her hospital. After studying chemistry at Barnard, she began to work for the DuPont Corporation. There she met her husband, Fred. When Fred was transferred to Hanford, she went with him, and worked on analyzing the Columbia River's water and checking Geiger counters. 


J. P. Moore worked as a chemist for US Vanadium Company and then as Chief Chemist at Grand Junction, where he analyzed uranium. He worked for Union Carbide for forty years. He recalls Grand Junction's social scene, including dancing lessons, and the emphasis on secrecy. 

  Thank you for your interest in the Manhattan Project and support for our     continuing efforts. 


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