A welder at Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. Photo courtesy of Ed Westcott.



Happy New Year from the Atomic Heritage Foundation! We had a terrific year in 2015. The Manhattan Project National Historical Park was officially established; we hosted events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Manhattan Project, bringing together nearly 20 veterans from the around the country; and made significant progress with many projects. 

In 2016, we hope to further expand our Voices of the Manhattan Project oral history collection, create Ranger in Your Pocket online programs for Los Alamos and Oak Ridge, and develop other innovative projects to interpret this fascinating history. Thanks for your support!

In This Issue 

TNGuideGuide to Manhattan Project in Tennessee Redux
The Atomic Heritage Foundation has released a new, expanded edition of A Guide to the Manhattan Project in Tennessee to raise public interest in the recently created Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Oak Ridge, TN. The guidebook can be purchased on our online store or through Amazon.

The guide opens with the story of John Hendrix. Known as the "Prophet of Oak Ridge," in 1900 he predicted that a city would be built on Black Oak Ridge and help win a great war. On September 19, 1942, General Leslie Groves approved the selection of Oak Ridge as the enriched uranium production site, just two days after accepting his role as director of the Manhattan Project. During the Manhattan Project, Groves never allowed himself more than an hour to make a decision.

"Clinton Engineer Works," the code name for the Oak Ridge operation, offers readers an overview of life in the top-secret world of Oak Ridge. "Production Plants" brings readers to the main production facilities used for enriching uranium, including the Y-12 electromagnetic separation plant, the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant, and the S-50 liquid thermal diffusion plant. By translating complicated processes to concise descriptions and diagrams, the book helps readers appreciate the scientific and engineering innovations involved. "Life in the Secret City" and "Oak Ridge Community" provide a glimpse into daily life in Oak Ridge. 

Bill Wilcox
The guidebook features a tribute to the late William J. "Bill" Wilcox, Jr., a Manhattan Project veteran who worked in the Y-12 and later in the K-25 plant. Recognized by the City of Oak Ridge as their official historian, Bill was a tireless supporter of preserving the Manhattan Project history of the Secret City. Stories feature Philip Abelson, Robert Dyer, Donald Trauger, Colleen Black, Rosemary Lane, Ted and Mary Rockwell, Bill Tewes, Larry O'Rourke, Dieter Gruen and many others.

A new section explores secrecy in the "Secret City." Oak Ridge workers had to wear a badge at all times, and it was difficult for family members to get passes to visit. All mail was checked and censored. Despite rigorous security procedures, however, at least one Soviet spy, George Koval, succeeded in passing project secrets to the USSR.

The expanded guidebook features the establishment of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in 2015. The guidebook is perfect for students, teachers, tourists, and anyone who is interested in Oak Ridge's complex history and legacy for today. Filled with colorful photographs and engaging stories from Manhattan Project veterans, the book is an excellent introduction to Oak Ridge's fascinating history.

Publication of A Guide to the Manhattan Project in Tennessee was funded thanks to contributions from Ellen Abelson Cherniavsky, Dieter Gruen, Lawrence S. O'Rourke, James A. Schoke, and Byron and Thomas Trauger.

SpotlightManhattan Project Spotlight: Chrysler Corp.
To accomplish the enormous, complex task of building the world's first atomic bombs, the U.S. government forged partnerships with major American corporations. Cooperation between the military, scientists, and private industry was especially important in solving one of the Manhattan Project's most daunting challenges: how to separate fissile uranium-235 from its much more abundant relative, uranium-238.
  
Manhattan Project leader General Leslie Groves authorized the construction of the K-25 plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee to produce enriched uranium using gaseous diffusion. For gaseous diffusion to succeed, engineers had to construct thousands of large, cylindrical metal containers, or diffusers, to enclose the barrier material that separated the uranium isotopes. To build the diffusers, General Groves turned to a manufacturing powerhouse: the Chrysler Corporation.
 
K.T. Keller
On April 2, 1943, Groves and his top aides met with Chrysler president K.T. Keller in Detroit. The company agreed to take on the project even without knowing what the barrier material would be. "To laymen, the thing [the Manhattan Project] sounded almost incredibly fantastic," Chrysler's 1947 official history of its Manhattan Project work, appropriately titled "Secret," recounted. "But if the United States government thought it practicable," Mr. Keller said, "this was all that the Corporation needed to know." Chrysler was awarded a $75 million contract.
 
Chrysler established offices at 1525 Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit to oversee the top-secret "Project X-100." Only the company's highest executives knew the true nature of the project. Dr. Carl Heussner, director of Chrysler's plating laboratory, was tasked with designing plating that would prevent the uranium hexafluoride gas used in the gaseous diffusion process from corroding the diffusers.
 
Using solid nickel, a metal that uranium hexafluoride does not corrode, for the diffusers at K-25 would have exhausted the entire U.S. nickel supply. Instead, Chrysler proposed to use thin, electroplated nickel on steel, which would use approximately 1,000 times less nickel. 
 
The K-25 Plant
By the end of the war, the company had delivered a thousand carloads with 3,500 diffusers to Oak Ridge. Chrysler's work was instrumental in producing enough enriched uranium to build the "Little Boy" uranium bomb, which was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. These diffusers would successfully operate at K-25 until the 1980s.
 
Chrysler's work exemplifies how cooperation between the government and private industry was essential to the development of the atomic bomb and the end of World War II. The development of new technologies and the growth of the defense industry are legacies of the Manhattan Project that continue to influence our world today.
 
For the full article on Chrysler's role in the Manhattan Project, please click here. You can find more information about Chrysler's role in the Manhattan Project on AHF's Voices of the Manhattan Project website, which includes two interviews with Keller.

MemoriamIn Memoriam: George Mahfouz
We are sad to report the passing of Manhattan Project veteran George Mahfouz on November 26, 2015 at the age of 95.

Mahfouz, an engineer, joined the Manhattan Project in 1943 when he was offered a job at the Houdaille-Hershey nickel plant in Decatur, Illinois. He helped produce material for the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge. He then joined the Monsanto Chemical Company in Dayton, Ohio, which separated and purified polonium-210 to be used as the initiator for the plutonium bomb. He described the importance of Dayton's role in the Manhattan Project: "No trigger, no bomb. Just that simple."


The Runnymede Playhouse
Mahfouz joined the Process Engineering Group at Runnymede Playhouse, a leisure facility that was converted into a top-secret laboratory in early 1944. After the war, Mahfouz was tasked with cleaning up the Playhouse, which had become so radioactive that it had to be dismantled and buried in 1950. Mahfouz spent the rest of his career with Monsanto at Mound Laboratories in Miamisburg, Ohio. 

He recalled, "I spent forty years here at Mound, with the exception of three years. It was a great thirty-seven years. We had a wonderful organization here, I thought. I was very happy."

For more about Mahfouz and his Manhattan Project work and career, you can watch two interviews with him on our "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website: George Mahfouz's Interview and Mound Laboratory Panel Discussion.

ManhattanTV"Manhattan" Season Two Concludes
The WGN America television show "Manhattan" ended its second season in an explosive manner, with a depiction of the Trinity test. From a spy ring to murder to the tension leading up to the Trinity test, this season was a very dramatic one! You can find our recaps of each episode here. The show has yet to be renewed for a third season, so it's possible this season was the last.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, which worked with the Atomic Heritage Foundation and other partners to establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, has continued to highlight Manhattan Project history. In light of season two of "Manhattan" coming to an end, the Trust asked AHF staff to respond to a few questions about the show: Trinity Test, Gadget, Spies: What's True in Season 2 of Manhattan?

AHF Program Director Alexandra Levy and Program Manager Nathaniel Weisenberg reflect on the show's historical accuracy, how '"Manhattan" has boosted public interest in the Manhattan Project, and how Los Alamos is portrayed. Levy and Weisenberg explain how the show captured the scientists' tension leading up to the test and the fear that it would fail, while ramping up the drama by adding spies into the mix. 

Historian Dr. Alex Wellerstein, who is the historical consultant on "Manhattan," also has written a number of fascinating articles examining the history behind the show: The curious death of Oppenheimer's mistressWhy Spy?; Women, Minorities, and the Manhattan Project; and Here be Dragons.

VoicesMP"Voices of the Manhattan Project"
Here are some oral history interviews we have recently added to Voices of the Manhattan Project website

Philip Abelson first became involved in uranium enrichment while a graduate student at the University of California-Berkeley, working with cyclotrons under Ernest O. Lawrence. He explains how he came up with the idea that liquid thermal diffusion could enrich uranium-238 to U-235, how this process was implemented first at a factory at the Philadelphia Navy Yard and later at the S-50 Plant in Oak Ridge, and the important role the S-50 Plant played in the uranium enrichment process. He recalls his encounters with Lawrence, J. Robert Oppenheimer, William "Deak" Parsons, Edwin McMillan, Luis Alvarez, and other Manhattan Project leaders.


Gabriel Bohnee is a Nez Perce tribal member and an environmental specialist at the Nez Perce Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Office. Bohnee became involved with the effort to clean up the Hanford site after learning about the site as an intern in 1993. Bohnee discusses his tribe's connection with the land surrounding the Hanford site and the importance of the Columbia River and its resources for the Native Americans indigenous to the area. Bohnee also explains the importance of cleaning up the Hanford area so that future generations of Nez Perce can use the land and resources like they had in the past.

After graduating Washington State University in 1950, Carl Higby was recruited to work at Hanford as an operations supervisor for the reactors. Higby discusses some of the problems that arose when the reactor was online, and explains how impurities in the coolant water could plug some of the sensor tubes and force them to shut the reactor down. Higby also discusses the innovation of the Ball-3X System, a safety method that included a hopper of small boron steel balls that would be dropped into the reactor and fill up the vertical rod safety channel, shutting the reactor down and preventing a critical meltdown.

Walter Goodman was recruited into the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos in 1943. Goodman worked as an electrical engineer on the implosion bomb and helped design equipment to measure the efficiency of an atomic blast. In July 1945, after witnessing the Trinity test, Goodman deployed to Tinian Island to help prepare the Fat Man bomb to be dropped on Japan. On August 9, 1945, he witnessed the bombing of Nagasaki from the instrumentation aircraft The Great Artiste and took motion pictures of the mushroom cloud above the city.

Jack Keen is the son of Lester Orlan Keen, an engineering draftsman at Hanford during the Manhattan Project. He was three when his father took the job at Hanford and spent a couple years at the Hanford site as a young child. In this interview, Keen talks about his childhood memories of Hanford and his family's living situation at the site. He discusses his father's work and dedication to secrecy. Keen also reminisces about visiting the Hanford site as an adult and learning about the environmental impact.

Colonel Franklin Matthias was the officer-in-charge at the Hanford site. In this interview, Matthias discusses his early life and his placement as the officer-in-charge at Hanford. He also talks about the relationships between DuPont and the military and the scientists, as well as how cooperation was essential. Matthias remembers the various problems that plagued the Hanford site and how he and his colleagues overcame them.


Roger Rasmussen was an electrical engineer at Los Alamos and a member of the Special Engineer Detachment. During the Trinity test, he was assigned to evacuate local civilians if necessary. After the war, Rasmussen had a long career at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In this interview, he recounts his arrival at Los Alamos and details his memories of the Trinity test. He also discusses his postwar work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and recalls how Manhattan Project veterans were perceived after the war.



Theodore Rockwell was born in Chicago in 1923. As a graduate student at Princeton University, Rockwell was recruited to work as an engineer at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge, TN in late 1943. He was assigned to the "Tiger Team" at Oak Ridge, which responded to problems that arose in the Y-12 Plant. After the war, Rockwell continued his career in nuclear technology, becoming Technical Director for Admiral Hyman Rickover. In this interview, Rockwell explains how the electromagnetic separation process of the calutrons worked at the Y-12 Plant and how the gaseous diffusion process at the K-25 Plant worked. He discusses his duties in the Manhattan Project and his work with Admiral Rickover. He also explains why he thinks health and safety concerns over nuclear reactors, nuclear waste, and radiation are usually blown out of proportion.

Thanks to all the Manhattan Project veterans, their families and many others who have supported our efforts over the past 14 years. We are very pleased to see the creation of the new park. Please keep in touch and consider making a donation to support our continued efforts. Thank you!

Sincerely, 
sig
President
Atomic Heritage Foundation 
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