March 2015

With the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park, soon people around the country will gain easier access to historic sites such as the X-10 Graphite Reactor in Oak Ridge (above). In the meantime, use our Ranger in Your Pocket program to take an online tour of Hanford's B Reactor or learn about innovations of the Manhattan Project. Accessible on smartphones and tablets, the Ranger series will let visitors take self-guided tours of the Manhattan Project sites. More coming soon!
In This Issue
Manhattan Project Park Update

The Chapel on the Hill in Oak Ridge

National Park Service and Department of Energy officials have begun touring the Manhattan Project sites to be included in the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park. In March the officials visited Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge Today reported, "Stops included the Alexander Inn, Chapel on the Hill, the former K-25 Building site, the Graphite Reactor at ORNL, and two buildings at Y-12: Building 9731, a pilot plant, and Building 9204-3, also known as Beta 3."


"Several of those sites are just amazing," said Vic Knox, associate director of park planning, facilities, and lands for the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. "They seem like they are just the way they were in 1943. It seems like they take you back in time." The officials held an open house at the Oak Ridge Civic Center, and were "blown away" by the number of people who attended.


The legislation requires the Departments of Energy and Interior to work out an agreement by December 2015. The agreement will define their respective roles in providing enhanced public access, management, interpretation, and historic preservation of the sites. The NPS and DOE officials will be visiting Hanford in mid-April and Los Alamos in early June.


With the National Park Service (NPS) celebrating its centennial in 2016, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park could become a "poster child" for NPS's second century. The National Park Service plans to focus more on America's science, technology and industrial history which were underrepresented in the park's first century. 


As part of its centennial campaign, NPS and the National Park Foundation have launched Find Your Park, encouraging Americans to visit national parks and historic sites around the country. It is an exciting time to become part of the National Park system!


Register Now for 70th Anniversary Events


Sign up now to attend our events commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Manhattan Project on June 2-3, 2015 in Washington, DC. A reunion and reception for Manhattan Project veterans and their families will be held on Tuesday, June 2 and a symposium will be held on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. All events will be held at the Carnegie Institution for Science at 1530 P St. NW, Washington, DC 20005. A number of Manhattan Project veterans and children of veterans have already registered. It should be a wonderful event, and we hope to see you there! Visit our website to learn more.


NHK Visit

NHK cameramen filming AHF's oral history collection

On Wednesday, March 11, several producers from Japan's national public broadcasting organization, NHK, visited the Atomic Heritage Foundation's office in Washington, DC to learn more about our extensive oral history collection and interview AHF President Cindy Kelly about our ongoing effort to preserve Manhattan Project history.


With the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki less than four months away, NHK has been working to collect and preserve bomb survivors' testimonies and share them with the public. The station's Culture and Welfare Programs Division is also working on a number of documentaries that explore the Manhattan Project and its legacy for the twenty-first century.


In Memoriam: Evelyne and Larry Litz and Colleen Black


We are sad to report the passing of two good friends in March. On March 11, Evelyne Litz, who worked on the Manhattan Project at Chicago and Los Alamos, passed away at age 93. Her husband, Larry, passed away at the age of 92 on October 4, 2014. On March 19, Colleen Black, a veteran of the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, died at age 89.


Larry and Evelyne Litz with AHF Program Director Alexandra Levy

Evelyne and Larry met in college. After World War II broke out, they were hired to work on the Manhattan Project. Larry worked on the Chicago Pile-1 and plutonium at Chicago, while Evelyne worked in health physics. Later they were transferred to Los Alamos, where Larry continued to work in plutonium. Evelyne worked in the library, and had her first daughter while at Los Alamos. 


The two of them were the first people to ever see metallic plutonium. Larry cast a third plutonium core in 24 hours to be used in case Japan still refused to surrender after the bombing of Nagasaki. This core was not used in World War II but later became known as the demon core.


Evelyne grew to love Los Alamos and its close-knit community. She recalled, "When we left Los Alamos it was towards sunset, and I cried. I cried because it had been a wonderful experience. When I first went up there I thought, "This is so barren." When I left I felt entirely different." To read more about Evelyne and Larry, please click here. Watch interviews with Evelyne and Larry on the "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website.


Colleen Black with AHF President Cindy Kelly and author Denise Kiernan


Colleen was a veteran of the Manhattan Project who loved to share her story. She was one of the women author Denise Kiernan profiled in her bestselling The Girls of Atomic City. She was always ready to contribute by leading a tour, speaking on a panel or answering students' questions about the Manhattan Project.


When Colleen's brother was drafted into the Army in 1942, she and her family decided to move to Oak Ridge to contribute to the war effort. Black's family joined 13,000 other workers and their families in Happy Valley, the construction camp for the mile-long K-25 gaseous diffusion plant. Black worked in the leak-testing department, ensuring the pipes carrying volatile uranium hexafluoride gas were hermetically sealed. After the war, Colleen (nee Rowan) married Clifford Black, a member of the Special Engineer Detachment during the Manhattan Project, and stayed in Oak Ridge.


The Atomic Heritage Foundation recorded two interviews with Colleen, which can be watched on our "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website here and here. Colleen explained, "I am proud to have been a part of the Manhattan Project. That is why we want to get a National Park." For more on Colleen, click here.


To Demonstrate, or not to Demonstrate?


The bombing of Hiroshima

Historian Alex Wellerstein published a thought-provoking article in March on To Demonstrate, Or Not to Demonstrate? Wellerstein explores the history and motivations behind some Manhattan Project scientists' belief that the atomic bomb should first be demonstrated before being used on a city. 


President Truman was never told of the demonstration option. The scientists' petition promoting a demonstration was suppressed by the military and never shown to him. For the Japanese, the Soviet Union's declaration of war at midnight on August 8 triggered a much more decisive response than the bombing of Hiroshima on August 6. Within six hours after the declaration, Japan's Supreme Council was convened to address surrender terms. 


Wellerstein explains, "If an atomic bomb dropped on an actual city was not, by itself, entirely enough, what good would seeing a bomb detonated without destruction do? One cannot know, but I suspect it would not have done the trick." 


Historians and scientists continue to debate whether a demonstration would have influenced the Japanese to surrender. Wellerstein's article provides interesting insight into both the scientists' and the Japanese military's considerations during the war.


Recent Additions to "Voices of the Manhattan Project"


Eugene Wigner was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist and mathematician and 1963 Nobel Prize winner in Physics. During the Manhattan Project, Wigner led a group responsible for the design of Hanford's B Reactor. In this interview, Wigner discusses his upbringing and education. He elaborates on his involvement with Einstein's letter of August 1939 urging President Franklin Roosevelt to begin work on an atomic bomb. Wigner also discusses the personalities of Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi, and other scientists.


Dieter Gruen joined the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge in September of 1944, shortly after his graduation from Northwestern University. His work primarily focused on the chemical problems related to the separation of uranium isotopes. Immediately after the war, he helped form Oak Ridge Scientists and Engineers, a group dedicated to preventing the future use of nuclear weapons in war. In this interview, Gruen discusses the secrecy related to the project, the relatively lax safety standards of the period, and the differences between government support for science in the 1950s and government support today.


Lew Kowarski Part 1: Lew Kowarski was a Russian-born French physicist who helped discover that neutrons were emitted in the fission of uranium-235 in the 1930s, setting the groundwork for the use of nuclear chain reactions in the design of the atomic bomb. After World War II, Kowarski supervised the first French nuclear reactors and joined the staff of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, in 1953. 


John Mench was assigned to the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos where he worked as a pattern maker, creating wooden casts for metal work at the site's foundry. Mench discusses everything from housing and recreation to security and secrecy. He was a gifted actor and directed numerous plays at the Los Alamos Little Theater.



Seth Wheatley worked on the Beta calutrons at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. He talks about African-American segregation, an often forgotten aspect of life in the city during the project. He discusses worker safety at Y-12 and raising a baby in the secret city of Oak Ridge.






Richard Yalman was a member of the Special Engineer Detachment and worked on polonium separation at the top-secret laboratories in Dayton, Ohio during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Yalman discusses his undergraduate work at Harvard University and how he became part of the Manhattan Project. He elaborates on the degree of secrecy at Dayton, stressing the separation of the four units there and how no one talked about their work. Yalman also describes his personal life, the scientists he worked with, how he met his wife, and his work after the war.