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November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving from the Atomic Heritage Foundation! We hope that you enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving feast but without quite as much prep as in the kitchen at Camp Hanford!
In This Issue
Thanksgiving in the Manhattan Project

Manhattan Project workers around the country were usually not allowed to travel home for vacation - even for Thanksgiving. Top scientists had important meetings on Thanksgiving, preventing them from spending the holiday with family. The communities banded together to celebrate Thanksgiving. New traditions were begun, new friends made, and a good meal was had by all. In these stories, Manhattan Project veterans and family members recalls the unique Thanksgivings they shared during World War II.

Crawford Greenewalt


Irénée Du Pont: I was a senior in college and I came home to my parents' place in Delaware from Massachusetts to have Thanksgiving with the family. Someone said, "Where's Crawford [Greenewalt]?" This was the fall of 1942, when the Du Pont Company had just been called upon to investigate and work with the Manhattan Engineer District.


My father said something that he certainly shouldn't have, but he didn't know any better. He said, "Crawford is out working on a bomb so terrible that it will end the war." There was silence. My sister Margaretta [Crawford's wife] didn't react, but the subject wasn't discussed.

John Wheeler: My first experience [with the Manhattan Project] was Thanksgiving Day, 1942. We were meeting to decide what site should be picked. We had a collection of sites from hither and yon around the country, and it was my function to bring in all kinds of factors that might otherwise be overlooked. For example, how many thunderstorm days per year the given locality has. There are of course obvious ones about security. There were ones about water purity. You name it, I had to think of it.
Bill Tewes and his wife, Olive

William E. Tewes (Oak Ridge): I was a part of the Special Engineer Detachment. There were 1,247 of us working here at all of the plants and the Castle on the Hill [headquarters]. A number of us stayed here after the war. And one of the great attractions that kept us here was the fact that we had all those beautiful women. I can speak personally of this, because on Thanksgiving Day of 1945, I met Olive Littleton of Grayson, Kentucky. We dated continuously until we got married.


Bob Porton (Los Alamos): There were certain people who were so good to the GI's at Thanksgiving and Christmas and Sundays, you'd be invited to a Sunday dinner. My first Christmas here and couple of Thanksgivings, there were certain kinds of civilians that just went out of their way to invite GI's into their homes for a dinner.

Legislative Update

The V Site at Los Alamos

We remain "cautiously optimistic" that the Senate will pass the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act as part of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The Senate is expected to consider and pass the NDAA in the next month. 

We need to make sure Congress knows that the Manhattan Project park is a priority for constituents across the country. Please follow this link to easily email your Congressmen to ask for their support to establish a Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee sent an articulate, passionate letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources urging their support for the park. In the letter, Inslee said, "Currently, there is tremendous interest in these Manhattan Project historical sites as the public recognizes the profound impact these places had on our nation's history...The Manhattan Project National Historical Park will appropriately recognize the important but somber history of the work that occurred at these sites."

With any luck, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will soon be a reality, preserving these historic sites for future generations. Keep your fingers crossed and we will keep you updated with any developments! 

Rare Dorothy McKibbin Interview Now Online

We are pleased to announce the release of a never-before-heard audio interview with Dorothy Scarritt McKibbin taken in 1965 on the Voices of the Manhattan Project website. Known as the "Gatekeeper to Los Alamos," Mrs. McKibbin was the first reassuring face that fatigued Manhattan Project recruits saw upon arriving in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The rare, hour-long interview provides novel insight into the mind of the woman who became one of the most beloved figures on "The Hill." 


McKibbin, a recent widow, decided to move to Santa Fe with her young son Kevin in 1931. She recalled her first encounter with the director of the Los Alamos laboratory, J. Robert Oppenheimer, in the lobby of La Fonda: "He had on a trench coat and a pork-pie hat," she remembers. "He walked sort of on the balls of his feet. I think that he had a pipe in his mouth." When he introduced himself, McKibbin was mesmerized. "I did not get the name; I wouldn't have known anything about it if I had," she admits. "He said about five words and then he turned and went on. I turned to Joe Stevenson [Oppenheimer's aide] and said, 'I'll take the job.'"


On March 27, 1943 McKibbin moved into her new office at 109 East Palace Avenue in Santa Fe. The building, constructed as a Spanish hacienda in the 1600s, became the administrative hub of the Manhattan Project. As the Project continued to grow in the final months of 1943, 109 East Palace was flooded with new recruits from across the country. "We averaged about sixty-seven people in there per day and 110 telephone calls per day," explains McKibbin. "We were really very busy." Her warm smile and engaging personality reassured new recruits that they would be taken care of. She also gained the confidence and respect of Oppenheimer, who invited her to attend private parties at his house on Bathtub Row.

Dorothy (left) with Oppenheimer

McKibbin could not help but notice Oppenheimer's special relationship with Los Alamos. "He was much more at home out there in those deserts spots than any of the other men who were with him," she recalls. "He loved this country. He's a part of it. Everybody here loves him. The Indians love him! The natives love him! They feel that they can have access to him. They can talk to him."


For many Manhattan Project veterans, it was McKibbin's friendliness and reassurance that made her one of the most beloved people on the Hill. "She was a very warm, generous, smiling woman who immediately put you at ease," recalled Rebecca Bradford Diven, a chemist who worked on the Project. "She became a lifelong friend of everybody who ever went through her office."


Remembering Manhattan Project Military Veterans

Every November 11th, America celebrates the service and sacrifice of the millions of veterans who have defended the country throughout its history. While the Manhattan Project is typically remembered for its pantheon of brilliant scientists, the creation and delivery of the atomic bomb would not have been possible without the work of thousands of enlisted soldiers and airmen.


Led by Brigadier General Leslie R. Groves, the United States Army Corps of Engineers oversaw the administration and direction of the top-secret effort to build the world's first atomic bomb. In addition, men and women from the 509th Composite Group and the Special Engineering Detachment (SED) provided critical technical support to Manhattan Project installations in Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Wendover Airfield in Utah, Tinian Island, and other sites around the country. Members of the SED were selected from the Army ranks for their outstanding aptitude and training in science, math or engineering and quickly became indispensable to the project's success. 

SEDers Kirby, Frohman, Henry Linschitz, & Frank Holden at Los Alamos
Others groups such as the Military Police and Provisional Engineering Detachment also provided vital services to the project.  Although most were thousands of miles from the front lines, the military veterans of the Manhattan Project made a major impact on the outcome of the war.


The Manhattan Project remains a testament to scientific ingenuity and innovation in engineering, but without the contributions of its soldiers, sailors, and airmen, it would have never been possible. The Atomic Heritage Foundation is proud to honor the military veterans of the Manhattan Project and all veterans who have served the United States. 

For more information on the contributions of the military members of the Manhattan Project, read the full article by AHF Research Assistant Taylor Jaszewski.


Get an Early Start on Holiday Shopping

Looking for a present for the history lover in your life, or for a good book to read for yourself? Check out our new online store, which includes our Manhattan Project anthology, guidebooks on the Manhattan Project in New Mexico, Washington, Tennessee, and Manhattan, a book on J. Robert Oppenheimer, and more! We also sell documentary films about Hanford, Los Alamos, General Leslie Groves, and other topics.

From now through December 5th, use the coupon code Y12PLANT at checkout to get 10% off of your order! 

Also, if you're shopping online at Amazon.com, when you do your holiday shopping at AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Atomic Heritage Foundation. Bookmark this link and support us every time you shop. Thank you!

Little Boy and Fat Man Photos Go Viral

Louis Slotin and Herb Lehr at the assembly of the Trinity "Gadget." 
The uranium tamper is on the box in front of Lehr.

The New York Times (NYT) published an article this month on the public's recent interest in photographs of the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs. As the NYT's William Broad notes, some of the photographs have been online for years but only recently went "viral," attracting the interest of tens of thousands of people. The website AlternateWars published images from the National Archives of Little Boy and Fat Man being loaded into the B-29s before the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

The Los Alamos National Laboratory has hundreds of historic photos online,
 including the one (above) that so amazed John Coster-Mullen, showing the uranium tamper for "Gadget." Historian Alex Wellerstein explains, "There was uranium inside both the "Gadget" and Fat Man devices - in the tamper. The tamper was a sphere of uranium that encased the plutonium pit, which itself encased a polonium-beryllium neutron source, Russian-doll style...Its purpose was to hold together the core while the core did its best to try and explode. (It also helped reflect neutrons back into the core, which also worked to improve the efficiency.)" Wellerstein goes on, "There's only one picture that shows it...and it is one of those things that you don't even usually notice about that picture until someone points it out to you."

There are lots of great hidden details in many of these photographs. Check them out and see for yourself!

Recent Additions to "Voices of the Manhattan Project"

General Leslie Groves' Interview - Part 8: In this interview, General Groves discusses his relationship with Vannevar Bush, the head of the Office of Scientific Research and Development [OSRD], and James B. Conant, the President of Harvard and a member of the National Defense Research Committee [NDRC]. Bush and Conant both played key roles during the Manhattan Project, acting as liaisons between Groves, the physicists, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.


KT Keller was appointed President of the Chrysler Corporation in 1935, having served as Vice President since 1926. Keller entered the automotive field as an apprentice without any previous education in engineering or mechanics. His intelligence, hard work, and mechanical skills enabled him to advance all the way to the top of Chrysler, where he guided the company through World War II. In Part I of his interview, Keller discusses his childhood and how he became involved in the automotive industry. He also discusses Chrysler's involvement in the war effort and recounts a visit from President Roosevelt, who took a tour of the company's tank facility.


General Kenneth Nichols was a US Army Engineer who served as Manhattan District Engineer in the Manhattan Project, overseeing the uranium enrichment at Oak Ridge and plutonium production at Hanford. He worked underneath and alongside General Groves, and collaborated with a number of well-known scientists. He discusses what it was like to work with scientists like Eugene Wigner, Leo Szilard, Arthur Compton, and others, as well as some of the project's conflicts among scientists. He also discusses the complex administration of the Manhattan Project, and why he got along better with scientists than General Groves did.


Emilio Segre was an Italian-American scientist who won the 1959 Nobel Prize in Physics for his contribution to the discovery of antiprotons, a subatomic particle. He was an integral member of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos as head of the P-5 Group, which focused on radioactivity. It was Segrè's discovery of the high rate of spontaneous fission in plutonium (a discovery that he discusses in this interview) that forced the Project to abandon a plutonium-fueled, gun-type bomb. In this extended discussion, author Richard Rhodes asks Segrè about his close relationship with Enrico Fermi, his decision to return to academia rather than work on a thermonuclear weapon, and his opinion of the storied career of Edward Teller.



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