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2015 New Year

Happy New Year!  Looking back, 2014 was a landmark year with the enactment of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act. We also launched a new "Ranger in Your Pocket" series and greatly enhanced our online oral history collection, "Voices of the Manhattan Project." With best wishes to all, here's to continued success in 2015!
In This Issue
AHF Launches "Manhattan Project Innovations"


We are pleased announce a new Ranger in Your Pocket program on Manhattan Project Innovations with over two dozen vignettes addressing the extraordinary scientific and engineering innovations that came out of the Manhattan Project and their legacy for today.



You can now listen to first-hand accounts of scientists and engineers who worked on the Project and developed revolutionary innovations to solve complex, first-of-a-kind problems. The tour, which features several different stops such as Thinkers & Tinkerers, Overcoming the Odds, and Health and Safety Monitoring, highlights the ingenuity and resourcefulness of Manhattan Project scientists well beyond the creation of an atomic bomb.


In one vignette, nuclear physicist Philip Abelson explains his unique liquid thermal diffusion process for separating uranium isotopes. In The Colloquium, Manhattan Project veteran Ben Diven remembers how Laboratory Director J. Robert Oppenheimer inspired innovation through weekly colloquia in Los Alamos: "The colloquia were one of the most important things...Oppenheimer insisted that everything could be discussed there. Very frequently then it would turn out that somebody who had not associated with them at all would come up with an idea of something that would actually be important."



We plan to develop additional Manhattan Project tours on the "Ranger in Your Pocket" site. One tour will focus on Bathtub Row, Fuller Lodge and the former Technical Area in downtown Los Alamos, NM. Another will focus on espionage and the role that spies played during the Manhattan Project.


For the Innovations program, AHF is very grateful for the support of the Crystal Trust, M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and Manhattan Project veteran James Schoke. 


National Park Update


Join us in celebrating the passage of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act!  We are looking forward to working with the National Park Service, the Department of Energy, the Manhattan Project communities, and others as the new park takes shape. 


The first step is for the Departments of Energy and Interior to enter into an agreement within a year (by December 2015). The agreement will define their respective roles: DOE will administer its properties included in the park, and DOI will interpret the history.


Our first major initiative will be to hold a symposium in Washington, DC, on June 2-3 at the Carnegie Institute of Washington. The symposium will include a roll out of the new park, a reunion of Manhattan Project veterans, and program of speakers including Richard Rhodes, Robert S. Norris, and Denise Kiernan. For more information about the event, please contact us.


The media has been very interested in the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. The New York Times, NPR's "All Things Considered," LA Times, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Albuquerque Journal, Knoxville News Sentinel and the Tri-City Herald are among those reporting on the new park. For a full roundup of news articles on the park, click here

"Voices of the Manhattan Project" Featured in Tri-City Herald


African-American construction workers at Hanford
African-American construction workers at Hanford


Earlier this month, the Atomic Heritage Foundation's Voices of the Manhattan Project website  was featured in Washington's Tri-City Herald, Hear first-hand accounts of the Manhattan Project on oral history website.


Phil Gardner, who was in charge of labor recruitment at the Hanford Site for the War Manpower Commission, travelled more than 100,000 miles to recruit workers for the Project, having no knowledge of what was being built there. Willie Daniels, a construction worker from Texas, described the tough working and living conditions there and recalled the segregated barracks where black workers were housed.


The oral histories are part of public and private collections taken by three enterprising authors who conducted interviews with many of the luminaries. In 1965, Stephane Groueff interviewed dozens of Manhattan Project principals for his book, "The Manhattan Project," the first comprehensive history of the project written for the general public. In 1985, journalist S. L. Sanger spent his sabbatical from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer travelling 11,000 miles to interview dozens of former Hanford workers. In the 1980s-90s, Richard Rhodes recorded in-depth interviews for his nuclear history works.

Manhattan Project veteran 
Rosemary Lane


Since the launch of the "Voices" website in September 2012, the Atomic Heritage Foundation has posted 230 interviews. AHF continues to conduct interviews with Manhattan Project veterans. In Atlanta in September, we interviewed Tom Forknerwho worked as a security guard at Oak Ridge and helped transport valuable products from the Tennessee facility to Los Alamos via a 53-hour drive. Forkner recalled his commanding officer telling him: "Lose it, and you'd better be dead." After the war, Forkner co-founded the immensely successful restaurant chain Waffle House. 

If you are, or know, a Manhattan Project veteran who would like to be interviewed, please contact us. We add new interviews to Voices of the Manhattan Project every week, so visit often!

AHF Receives Oral History Grants

Norman Brown, Gwen Groves Robinson, and Bill Wilcox, participants in our oral history project

We are pleased to announce that AHF was awarded two large grants at the end of 2014 from Crystal Trust and the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Both foundations have been among AHF's leading funders, and we are very grateful for their continued support.

Crystal Trust awarded AHF $200,000 for oral history work. This grant will allow us to continue to record interviews with Manhattan Project veterans and family members around the country. We will be able to post more interviws from our archival collections on the "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website. Each interview is rigorously edited to ensure that technical terms, names, and other information is correct.

The M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust grant for $150,000 will also contribute to the oral history project and enable us to expand our "Ranger in Your Pocket" programs on the Hanford site. 

Thanks, too, to the many individual donors who contributed to our mission in 2014. Your support is greatly appreciated!
A Nazi Nuclear Bunker?

Michael Perrin, John Lansdale Jr., Samuel Goudsmit, and Eric Welsh search for uranium in a field in Haigerloch, Germany

Over the past few weeks, a story about a recently discovered "Nazi nuclear bunker" has been circulating in various newspapers. An Austrian filmmaker, Andreas Sulzer, wants to make a film about a bunker he claims was used in nuclear research. Historian Alex Wellerstein, a professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology, debunks the bunker's nuclear connection in an article, When bad history meets bad journalism


Wellerstein notes, "Public understanding of the German nuclear program is indeed a confused and often incorrect thing, owing to a history of the politicization of the topic." He explains that while the German scientists did make significant progress in atomic bomb theory, they were not close to developing an atomic bomb during the war.


How close the Germans were to successfully developing the bomb - and whether some German physicists really tried to sabotage the program - are questions that have long intrigued historians. Wellerstein points out, "As historians, we need to be open to the idea that there are still mysteries to be solved, secrets to be unearthed, even about ground that superficially looks well-trodden." Scholarly debate over the German atomic bomb project will likely continue for many decades to come. 


Recent Additions to "Voices of the Manhattan Project"

Tom Forkner was a US Army lieutenant and logistics officer who held positions in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and the Manhattan Engineer District headquarters in New York. Prior to joining the Manhattan Project, Forkner was an Army counter-intelligence agent, frequently going undercover to investigate questionable elements within the military. His primary responsibility while at Oak Ridge was to transport valuable products from the Tennessee facility to Los Alamos via a 53-hour drive. After the war, Forkner left the military and co-founded the immensely successful restaurant chain Waffle House. In this interview, Forkner discusses his undercover work, his meeting with General Leslie Groves, and the long drive between the Manhattan Project's primary scientific sites.

General Leslie Groves' Interview - Part 9: In this interview, General Leslie Groves discusses his relationship with Secretary of War Henry Stimson. Groves recalls several meetings with the Secretary, including one which required Groves' advice on how to prevent a congressman from visiting Oak Ridge and threatening to unveil the top-secret Manhattan Project site to the Senate. Groves also recalls the day that President Roosevelt died and how it affected members of the War Department.


K.T. Keller's Interview - Part 2: 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 2 of his interview, Keller discusses Chrysler's role in the Manhattan Project, including how the company solved the problem of electroplating tubes with nickel in order to prevent corrosion during the gaseous diffusion process. He also discusses his relationship with General Leslie Groves and his deputy, Col. Kenneth Nichols.


Gale Kenney was a member of the Special Engineering Detachment at Oak Ridge, where he worked inside the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion plant. With his engineering background, Kenney led a predominantly female team to test the miles of piping used in the gaseous diffusion process. In this interview, Kenney discusses his experience at K-25, the social life in Oak Ridge, and the workers' reaction to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.





James A. Schoke was a member of the Special Engineer Detachment at the University of Chicago during the Manhattan Project. He worked for the instrument group, inventing instruments to detect uranium and alpha emitters and travelled around the country to train scientists to use and maintain his instruments. In this interview, Schoke discusses his encounter with George Koval, a health physicist and Soviet Spy who infiltrated the Manhattan Project's top secret facility in Dayton, Ohio. Schoke recalls meeting with Koval several times at Dayton to help train him on instruments that were used to detect radiation at laboratory facilities.




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