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We hope you enjoyed the holidays and some winter fun outdoors, as these boys playing ice hockey on Los Alamos' Ashley Pond did. 


Many Manhattan Project families had to be very resourceful in celebrating the holidays. Jane Jones Hutchins couldn't get a Christmas tree at Hanford, "so some of us went out into the desert and got a big hunk of sagebrush." James Schoke, working at the Chicago Met Lab, performed a magic show for soldiers. Gwen Groves Robinson made her father laugh over her salesmanship at Garfinkel's store in Washington, DC at Christmastime. 


Enjoy these holiday anecdotes and more on our "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website

In This Issue

Crystal Trust Awards Grant for Oral Histories
Ernest Lawrence, Glenn Seaborg,  
and J. Robert Oppenheimer

Over the past decade, the Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF) has received grants from Crystal Trust, a foundation in Wilmington, DE. But we were surprised and delighted to receive a two-hundred-fifty-thousand dollar check in the mail just before Christmas. The latest grant is to digitize and make available to the public some 180 Manhattan Project interviews.


These interviews are part of three collections of Manhattan Project oral histories currently in academic and private archives: the Stephane Groueff collection at Boston University (1965), the S. L. Sanger collection at the University of Washington (1986) and Richard Rhodes' private collection (1990s).


These recordings include over five hours with General Leslie R. Groves and hundreds more with over 180 other Manhattan Project participants. Among the interviewees are Nobel Prize winners Hans Bethe, Harold Urey, and Glenn Seaborg, many DuPont workers including Walter Simon and Crawford Greenewalt, and other top Manhattan Project personnel including Dorothy McKibbin, John Dunning, George Kistiakowsky, and Col. Frank Matthias.
Crawford Greenewalt
Over the next few months, we will digitize the tapes, transcribe and edit the interviews, and add them to the Voices of the Manhattan Project website. Soon you will be able to hear the personal accounts of the Manhattan Project in the voices of General Groves, Oppenheimer, and many others. We plan to use the interviews in museum exhibits, interpretive vignettes and other programming. This treasure trove of oral histories will help bring the Manhattan Project history to life for visitors to the new park.
The grant will also support recording more interviews with Manhattan Project veterans and their families. If you are, or know, a veteran who would like to be interviewed, please contact us at


We are very grateful to Crystal Trust for their most generous and timely support. The oral history project is central to providing the public and future generations an immediate and vibrant connection with the Manhattan Project.


 Prospects for a Manhattan Project Park


We just missed having the Manhattan Project National Historical Park bill enacted at the end of the last session of Congress. The real killer was the lack of time. 


Both the House and Senate reported the bills out of Committee and on June 14, 2013, the House of Representatives passed the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), H.R. 1960. This is the "must pass" military authorization bill that provides funding for military employees, weapon systems and other national defense essentials. However, just before Thanksgiving, when the Senate began to take up their version of the NDAA, there were over 500 amendments, many of them highly contentious, to consider.


With the Thanksgiving recess looming, the Senate adjourned and leaders came up with an alternative, fast-track strategy to ensure the military was not left in the lurch for the first time in over a half century. The leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees negotiated a compromise bill that they hoped would be acceptable to both Houses. In the process, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act and hundreds of other amendments did not make it into the final version of the bill.

Sen. Martin Heinrich

 With strong bipartisan, bicameral support, we are optimistic that Congress will pass the bill this session. Sponsors in both houses have vowed to get the legislation through this year. We will be working closely with our allies in the National Parks Conservation Association, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Energy Communities Alliance to see the legislation become a reality. As Senator Martin Heinrich has said, "It is not a question of 'if' the bill will pass, but 'when.''" Get ready!


DOE Completes Demolition of K-25



On December 17, the Department of Energy completed its demolition of the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge, which produced enriched uranium during the Manhattan Project and Cold War. When the plant was completed in early 1945, after only about a year and a half of construction, it was the largest roofed building in the world. The mile-long, U-shaped plant covered forty-four acres, was four stories high and up to 400 feet wide.


K-25 North End Demolition
K-25 North End Demolition

The National Park Service urged DOE to preserve a piece of K-25 for heritage tourism, explaining in its report, "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." NPS recommended that DOE preserve two cells of equipment, "the absolute minimum amount of equipment needed to properly illustrate and interpret the gaseous diffusion process."


AHF worked in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and local historic preservation groups to preserve a sliver of the historic building. However, DOE officials announced in November 2011 that saving a portion of the building was "imprudent." 


Instead, DOE committed to recreating a portion of the K-25 facility and installing interpretive exhibits nearby. While DOE just awarded a contract for the work, there is "no money" to proceed at this time. 


We can only hope that the future Manhattan Project National Historical Park will spark greater recognition of the importance of preserving and interpreting Oak Ridge's monumental history. 

Rare Chicago Pile-1 Photographs



In December, the popular tech website Gizmodo highlighted unique Department of Energy photographs showing the Chicago Pile-1 (CP-1), the world's first controlled nuclear reactor. Arthur Compton was the director of the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago tasked with building the first nuclear reactor. Compton decided to build CP-1 under the west stands at Stagg Field without first seeking permission from UChicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins. 


"The only answer he could have given would have been 'No.' And this answer would have been wrong. So I assumed the responsibility myself." (Arthur Compton, Atomic Quest, Oxford University Press, 1956.) Photographs of CP-1 are rare and we appreciate DOE's adding them to its digital archive. 


Unfortunately, other valuable DOE online collections are disappearing. As nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein highlighted in a recent article, several top Manhattan Project digital archives run by DOE have been taken down in the last year for financial and technical reasons: the Marshall Islands Document Collection, Hanford Declassified Document Retrieval System, DOE Digital Photo Archive, and Los Alamos National Laboratory's Manhattan Project history website. These collections are unique resources for scholars and members of the public and should be reviewed and restored as quickly as possible.


Recent Additions to "Voices of the Manhttan Project"


Fay Cunningham joined the Manhattan Project in 1944 as a metallurgical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cunningham and his team of engineers helped to develop a mechanized process for producing crucibles that were used in the separation of uranium and plutonium. After the war, Cunningham served as a radiation monitor for the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads. His job was to survey the radiological damage on navy ships that were positioned around the epicenter of the nuclear explosion. Cunningham recalls climbing cargo nets dangling from the bow of a ship while trying to hold on to a fifteen-pound Geiger counter. 

Robert Cantrell joined the Manhattan Project in 1943 and worked as an architect for Dr. Walter Zinn's design group at the University of Chicago. Working from his office in Ryerson Hall, Cantrell helped design a new mechanism for inserting the control rods into the nuclear reactor. Cantrell recalls borrowing a piece of platinum from the New Chem building at Chicago and being reprimanded walking back to his office without an armed escort; he found out that the piece of platinum was "about half of all the available platinum in the country."


Bert Tolbert joined the Manhattan Project in 1944 while completing his PhD in Chemistry from the University of California at Berkeley. In April, Tolbert began working for the Radiation Laboratory under E.O. Lawrence and was tasked with separating and enriching small samples of uranium-235 that were used by physicists for various experiments. Tolbert and his team of chemists eventually developed a machine for separating uranium that was so efficient it was shipped down to Oak Ridge to be tested at the Y-12 Facility.


Harold Hasenfus was part of the Special Engineer Detachment during the Manhattan Project and worked at the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Laboratory and at the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge. While at Chicago, Hasenfus worked at a pilot plant that was constructed to assist in the design of the B Reactor in Hanford for the production of plutonium. Hasenfus attributes the success of the Manhattan Project to General Groves, who he described as a "tremendously dynamic individual." 

  With best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous New Year,


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