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Washington, DC 20006
May 2014

The World War II Memorial in Washington, DC is just a few blocks from our office. This Memorial Day weekend, the Atomic Heritage Foundation gratefully remembered the men and women who served our country in World War II and other wars.
In This Issue
Manhattan Project Park Progress


On May 22, the House of Representatives approved the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2015, which includes a bipartisan provision to establish a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The new park will have units at Los Alamos, NM, Oak Ridge, TN, and Hanford, WA.


Representative Doc Hastings, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, has led efforts in the House and said, "This is a positive step towards establishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.  There is strong, bipartisan support for this measure and it enjoys broad support from local communities and national advocates for historic preservation and parks.  The goal is to enact this into law before the end of this year and today's action demonstrates real progress towards achieving it." 


We are grateful to Rep. Hastings and his colleagues Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) and Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN) for moving the legislation through the House.


Now it is up to the Senate to approve the NDAA. Last year, the House approved the NDAA with an amendment for the park but the Senate version did not include it. 


We are hopeful that this year the Senate version will include the provision to establish the park. While the Senate could vote on the NDAA in August, it is more likely to consider it after the November elections. Stay tuned!

Sneak Peak at New AHF Website



Here is a screen shot of the front page of our completely redesigned website which we plan to launch in mid-June. The new website will include easy to navigate articles on the history of the Manhattan Project and preservation of its sites; news updates; "Ranger in Your Pocket" tours; a colorful timeline of nuclear history; and a new online store and donation platform.

The highlight of the new website will be a database of Manhattan Project veterans, drawing on our work and the former Manhattan Project Heritage Preservation Association (MPHPA) website. The veterans' profiles will have biographies, descriptions of their Manhattan Project work, photographs and links to recorded interviews, as available. Based on our current lists, we expect to have around 10,000 names in the database. This should be the largest database of Manhattan Project veterans online and a great resource for visitors to Manhattan Project sites, students, scholars and family members.

Adding 10,000 names to the database is a big undertaking and we are seeking contributions. If you would like to support our efforts, please consider making a donation. Thank you!  

Oral History Collections Update

Thanks to a generous grant from Crystal Trust, we are working on digitizing and transcribing some 200 interviews with Manhattan Project veterans from three outstanding collections: the Stephane Groueff Collection (1965), the S. L. Sanger Collection (1985), and the Richard Rhodes Collection (early 1990s). We hope to get the first batch of interviews up on our "Voices of the Manhattan Project" this summer.


There have been some happy surprises as we've been going through the collection. We knew that Groueff had interviewed General Leslie Groves, head of the Manhattan Project, for his 1967 book The Manhattan Project - but we did not expect twelve full hours of high quality audio of Groves expounding on the project! Groves covers the inner workings of the Manhattan Project in exhaustive and eloquent detail. Here are a few excerpts from some of the oral histories: 


J. Robert Oppenheimer
General Groves on Oppenheimer:

"He had a wide experience in theoretical physics and it showed in everything he said. Oppenheimer's great mental capacity impressed me when he told me that he had learned Sanskrit just for the fun of it.  Every contact I had with Oppenheimer increased my respect for his intelligence. The only way that we were alike was mentally in our ability to grasp things quickly. While his mental capacity was in other lines than mine, you might say, still we were equally astute." 

J. Robert Oppenheimer:

"I was more worried about the campaign in Africa and the campaign in Russia when I went to New Mexico than I was about the Germans making a bomb. I thought they might very well be winning the war." 

Klaus Fuchs

Nicholas Metropolis:

"Klaus Fuchs had his office next to mine. Whenever I walked in, and I would walk in early, like 8:00, he was always there. When I left at night, at 5:00, 5:30, he was still in his office working away. He was so careful about pointing out all kinds of things. And yet, he was not a spy in the usual sense of the word. He was an idealist, I think. That's the way I would describe him, that he was an idealist and that he just wanted more than one nation to know the secrets of the atomic bomb." 

Edward Teller:

Edward Teller
"If you had the choice that something that simply was in the long term unavoidable should be first done by the United States or by the Nazis or by the Soviets or by someone else, would you have regrets to make sure that we did it first?" 

Elliott Charney:

"I can remember one occasion when we were sitting around discussing various aspects of the barrier problem. [Harold] Urey, as he frequently did, would try to inject some new idea. On this particular occasion, he proposed about three or four different things. To each one of them, [Edward] Norris and I would say, 'Well, this was something we had just tried.' Finally, after about the fourth one, he looked at us and said, 'The trouble with you is that you have every bright idea before I do!'"  


Nuclear History in Film


It's been a big month for nuclear history in film. The Washington Times gave a very positive review of Michael Pack's documentary, "Rickover: Father of the Nuclear Navy." The review explains, "Mr. Pack uses a mix of on-camera interviews, newsreels and dramatizations to capture the uniquely combative bantamweight." The documentary will appear on PBS this fall.


"Godzilla" got nuclear historians and scientists talking about the monster's relationship to nuclear testing and radiation. In the original 1954 movie, nuclear tests in the Pacific turned the giant lizard radioactive. In the 2014 movie, the 1950s nuclear tests were meant to kill Godzilla - but they failed. The 2014 remake's opening credits use scenes from nuclear history, from the Bikini Atoll tests to an image of the Trinity test plaque. Paul Guinnessy of Physics Today examines the 1954 and 2014 movies, their historical contexts, and their scientific accuracy.


May was also the 50 year anniversary of Stanley Kubrick's black humor "Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." The New Yorker discusses Kubrick's motivations in making the movie and why he chose to make the movie a satire: "My idea of doing it as a nightmare comedy came in the early weeks of working on the screenplay. I found that in trying to put meat on the bones and to imagine the scenes fully, one had to keep leaving out of it things which were either absurd or paradoxical, in order to keep it from being funny; and these things seemed to be close to the heart of the scenes in question.... The things you laugh at were really the heart of the paradoxical practices that make a nuclear war possible." 50 years later, "Dr. Strangelove" and its message still resonates. 

Manhattan Project Miniseries Premier Date

WGN America has announced that its new miniseries, "Manhattan," will premier on July 27 at 10 PM.  Jónsi, frontman of Icelandic art-pop band Sigur Rós, and partner Alex Somers will score the show. According to a USA Today article on the show, "The characters are fictional, but combine elements of real people. Historical figures are referenced, but the series isn't trying to be a docudrama," says executive producer Thomas Schlamme (The West Wing), who is directing three of the 13 episodes. Be sure to tune into the "Manhattan" series!




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