910 17th St. NW Suite 408
Washington, DC 20006
September 2014

We are pleased to announce that Owen Pagano, after graduating summa cum laude from George Washington University, has joined AHF full-time. Continuing his excellent work begun as an undergraduate, Owen will focus on our oral history project, "Ranger in Your Pocket" tours and website articles. Owen's undergraduate thesis was on Manhattan Project spy George Koval and he will continue to work on espionage. 


Can you identify which of the physicists above refused to work on the Manhattan Project for moral reasons? (Read on for the answer.) 

In This Issue
Legislative Update
The Bethe House at Los Alamos


On September 11, the Atomic Heritage Foundation, the National Trust for Historical Preservation, the National Parks Conservation Association, the Energy Communities Alliance, and representatives of the local communities met with Congressional staff to discuss how to get the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act enacted this year. 


Congressional staff remain "cautiously optimistic" that the bill will pass as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), but urged us to continue to keep the pressure on. Follow these links to easily email your House Representatives and Senators to ask them to support a Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

At the B Reactor's 70th anniversary event, Rep. Doc Hastings said, "I may have a few tricks up my sleeve...If we can preserve Gettysburg and Antietam, we can certainly preserve the Manhattan Project in the three states that won the greatest struggle of the 20th century."

Happy 70th Birthday, B Reactor!

The festivities. Photo courtesy of the Tri-City Herald.















September 26 marked the 70th anniversary of the start-up of Hanford's B Reactor. The Tri-Cities area celebrated in style with a 200-person event. Speakers included Congressman Doc Hastings, who is set to retire at the end of this term; David Klaus, DOE deputy undersecretary for management and performance, and current and former DOE Hanford managers.


Annette Cary of the Tri-Cities Herald covered the festivities: "[Attendees] walked through the reactor, listening to early Hanford workers tell stories. They heard the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers perform Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and other hits that evoked the 1940s as historic images were projected through the dark onto the outer walls.


"Visitors sipped on Plutonium Porter and Half-Life Hefeweizen from the Atomic Ale Brewpub in Richland. It was perhaps the first time that beer legally was consumed at Hanford since the workers who built B Reactor crowded into the on-site construction camp taverns to down 12,000 gallons a week." Each attendee received a copy of the Atomic Heritage Foundation booklet, B Reactor: First in the World.

Pam Brown-Larsen, Executive Director Hanford Communities, and others touring 
the B Reactor during the event. Photo courtesy of the Tri-City Herald.
Klaus said that every high school student studying history should visit the reactor - a dream that would be helped by the establishment of a Manhattan Project National Historical Park. "The work at B Reactor saved thousands of lives and cemented this country as the world's most powerful nation," Klaus said. "It led in many respects to the rest of the world embracing and finding democracy."


B Reactor was scheduled to be cocooned and demolished, but historic preservationists convinced DOE to preserve the site for tourists. The B Reactor Museum Association led the successful effort to get B Reactor declared a National Historic Landmark. Since 2009, more than 40,000 people representing all 50 states and 68 countries have toured the reactor. If you can't visit the B Reactor in person, take a virtual tour on our Ranger in Your Pocket site!


The anniversary event went more smoothly than the reactor's start-up 70 years ago. The reactor powered up successfully at 10:48 PM on September 26, 1944 but suddenly began losing power the next day and by evening had shut down completely. Crawford Greenewalt, John Wheeler, and Enrico Fermi quickly determined the shutdown was caused by neutron-absorbing xenon, a by-product of the reactions. Fortunately, DuPont engineer George Graves had insisted on providing 500 extra reactor process tubes "just in case." After inserting extra uranium fuel in the tubes, the scientists started up B Reactor again. The rest is history.


Manhattan Project Spotlight: 
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company


One of the most important companies involved in the Manhattan Project was the E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company. Founded by Eleuthère Irénée du Pont in 1802, the DuPont Company was a major chemical and munitions manufacturer with an impressive track record of innovation and safety. In the early 1900s, DuPont developed smokeless gunpowder and provided 40% of the gunpowder used by the Allies in World War I.


 Irénée du Pont, Jr
In the late 1930s, DuPont introduced nylon, the world's first synthetic polymer. Nylon dresses, stockings and other goods swept the fashion industry. "It started as an elegant piece of research in polymer chemistry," says Irenee du Pont, Jr., "and came out as the biggest moneymaker the DuPont Company has ever seen or ever thought of."


General Leslie R. Groves, who was appointed Director of the Manhattan Engineer District in 1942, was convinced that DuPont could apply the same ingenuity to the plutonium production process needed for the development of an atomic bomb. DuPont's directors were wary. "We were asked to take on a job about equivalent to perpetual motion," admitted DuPont President Walter S. Carpenter, Jr. "Recovering the power of the atom just seemed to be one of those things beyond all conceivable reach."

Crawford Greenewalt


DuPont's managers knew that mass-producing plutonium was unlike any other challenge. In 1943, DuPont selected Crawford Greenewalt to act as liaison between the physicists at Chicago and the company's engineers in Wilmington, Delaware. 


"My responsibility was to take the information from the scientific effort in Chicago and translate it into terms that our engineering and technical people could use to design and build a plant," recalled Greenewalt. "This is the important thing, because the people in Chicago had not the remotest concept of what was involved in building a plant of this sort."

Construction on the X-10 Graphite Reactor began in February 1943 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and was completed just ten months later. While X-10 was still under construction, DuPont was already moving forward with the first full-scale nuclear production reactor, B Reactor, in Hanford, Washington. The project required a massive scale-up from the pilot plant at Oak Ridge.


Eleuthère Irénée du Pont
DuPont hired more than 50,000 workers to construct the B Reactor. DuPont also designed the revolutionary chemical separations facility, known as T-Plant, used to separate plutonium from irradiated uranium. The entire project was completed without a single major accident.


The DuPont Company played a critical role in one of the largest scientific and technical undertakings in modern history.  The company's accomplishments at Hanford reflect the extraordinary determination, ingenuity and resourcefulness that are hallmarks of the Manhattan Project.


For more information about DuPont's important role in the Manhattan Project, check out these interviews with Irenee du Pont, Jr., Walter Carpenter, Crawford Greenewalt, Ray Generaux, Frank Mackie, Dale Babcock, and George Graves.


National Trust for Historic Preservation 
Awards Grants to AHF

The Oppenheimer House at Los Alamos


We are pleased to announce that the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP) has awarded the Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF) two grants to expand our Ranger in Your Pocket series with online tours of Manhattan Project sites. 


The first NTHP grant, from the Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation, is for $5,000 to support a program on Manhattan Project properties in the Scientific Laboratory National Historic Landmark District in Los Alamos, NM. This district includes Bathtub Row, where J. Robert Oppenheimer and other Manhattan Project leaders and their families lived, Fuller Lodge, Ashley Pond and other properties.

The second grant, from NTHP's Innovation Fund, is for $10,000 for "Hanford's Pioneers." Representatives of the Hanford tribes will talk about the importance of the land to their history and culture. Members of farming families will talk about the Hanford Irrigation District and the wooden pipes that carried water from the Columbia River.

We are very grateful to the National Trust for Historic Preservation for their generous and timely support. We hope that the Trust's recognition will help us leverage additional donations that we need for these projects. Please consider a contribution! 

WGN America's "Manhattan"


The WGN America television show "Manhattan" continues to hold a captive audience on Sunday nights. With just three episodes left in its first season, "Manhattan" captures the immense pressure Los Alamos scientists were under to develop an atomic bomb. 


In the 6th episode, a villainous looking Werner Heisenberg (the director of the German atomic program) walks into a laboratory filled with scientists and armed Nazi guards. The protagonist of the show, Frank Winter, is told that the Germans are several months ahead of the Manhattan Project in the race for the bomb.


At the beginning of the 8th episode, Charlie Isaacs discovers that the Thin Man plutonium bomb design will not work. The spontaneous fission rate of reactor-produced plutonium is much too high. Charlie has struggled with the moral questions of developing such a powerful bomb and debates whether to tell his boss that Thin Man is doomed. But after his wife Abby tells him that some of her Jewish family were probably murdered by the Nazis, Charlie realizes that for the Nazis to get the bomb first would be an unimaginable disaster. Instead, Charlie secretly allies himself with Frank Winter's efforts on an implosion design.


George Kistiakowsky
The next two episodes focus on the immense challenges of designing an implosion bomb. Winter is helped by Lazar, an explosives expert originally from Russia. Lazar appears to be very loosely based on George Kistiakowsky, who led the explosives division at Los Alamos.


In a 1965 interview, J. Robert Oppenheimer declared, "I think the set of problems connected with implosion was the most difficult...it was not a branch of physics which anyone was very familiar with." 


Frank Winter and his plucky, determined team help Americans today understand the long odds that the Manhattan Project faced. Whether their lives were so riddled with romance, we leave to your imagination.


Manhattan Project in the News


Several top news sites featured articles on the Manhattan Project this month. National Geographic published a piece by award-winning journalist George Johnson, 8 Places That Showcase Atomic Age Archaeology for Tourists. The highlighted places include the Chicago Pile-1 site, Los Alamos, the Trinity Site, Bikini Atoll, and the Nevada Test Site. How many Atomic Age sites have you visited?


Last month, the Department of Energy finally declassified a secret report detailing the security surrounding the Manhattan Project and the effort to develop the world's first atomic bomb. Published in December 1945, the secret report concludes that the project was "more drastically guarded than any other highly secret war development."


David Greenglass

Keeping the Manhattan Project a secret was still a challenge, says Sam Roberts, a journalist for the New York Times who discusses the report in his article, The Difficulties of Nuclear Containment. From 1943 until 1945, Army investigators recorded 1,500 leaks, 200 acts of sabotage and 100 confirmed cases of espionage during the Project. Army officials posed as "exterminators, gamblers, and hotel clerks" to uncover potential saboteurs and spies.

However, government officials were entirely unaware that one of America's biggest wartime allies, the Soviet Union, was determined to steal Manhattan Project secrets and develop its own atomic weapon. Several years after the report was published, it was revealed that several Manhattan Project employees including Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, and George Koval had stolen atomic secrets and passed them to the Soviet Union.

Recent Additions to "Voices of the Manhattan Project"

Winston Dabney applied to be assigned to the Manhattan Project and was transferred from Camp Claiborne, Louisiana to Los Alamos in early 1944. Shortly after he arrived, Dabney was promoted to Master Sergeant, where he was responsible for sending military records to Oak Ridge, organizing payroll, and ordering military supplies.




In part 6 of his interview with Stephane Groueff, General Leslie R. Groves discusses his relationship with some of the famous scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Harold Urey, Vannevar Bush, James B. Conant, and Ernest O. Lawrence. Groves also discusses the Chevalier incident and how Oppenheimer's affiliation with the Communist party raised suspicions among fellow scientists of his motivations. 


Colonel James C. Marshall set up the Manhattan Engineer District (MED), established by general order on August 13, 1942. Marshall presided over the initial stages of the Project until General Leslie R. Groves assumed control on September 17, 1942. In this interview, Marshall discusses the military's involvement in the Manhattan Project and the challenges of securing funds, choosing project sites, and collaborating with scientists and officials. Marshall also discusses navigating government bureaucracy, going back and forth between different offices, seeking approval for various actions, and dealing with superiors with whom he often disagreed.


Lawrence Myers is a chemist who worked at Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. In his interview, he discusses attending the University of Chicago, where he was invited to begin working on the Manhattan Project conducting experiments on uranium. He later moved to Oak Ridge along with a group of Chicago scientists. His wife joined him thanks to some chemistry coursework she had completed while in Chicago. Following the Project, Myers worked at Argonne National Laboratory before taking a position at the new medical school at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Herman Snyder worked on the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge as a soldier in the Special Engineer Detachment. He worked at the K-25 Plant for many years, and later at the Y-12 Plant. He discusses the many innovations that caused K-25 to run so smoothly. Snyder also reminisces about the sense of community at Oak Ridge, and recalls having to scrounge a pass to get his new bride through the gates into Oak Ridge.



In July 1945 William E. Tewes was transferred from New York, where he was working on gaseous diffusion, to Oak Ridge. He worked on the leak testing operation at K-25. He discusses the many scientific and engineering innovations of the K-25 Plant, raising a family in Oak Ridge, and the friends he made among his fellow Manhattan Project workers.




Dr. Harold Urey was an American physical chemist and winner of the 1934 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Urey worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University, overseeing the development of the gaseous diffusion method. He discusses working with numerous colleagues, including Arthur Compton, Enrico Fermi, and General Leslie Groves. He also discusses his early life, education, and work following the war.



Finally, here's the answer to our question. The three pictured at the top of the newsletter are, left to right, Franco Rasetti, Enrico Fermi and Emilio Segre. Rasetti refused to join the Manhattan Project on moral grounds, moved to Canada and became the founding chair of the physics department at Laval University in Quebec (1939-1947). If you knew the answer, give yourself an "A"! 


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