We are working on a variety of projects to help support the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park. We recently launched a new Ranger in Your Pocket program on Los Alamos - see the article below for more information. We are also adding thousands of more profiles to our Manhattan Project Veterans Database, and continuing to interview Manhattan Project veterans, family members, and experts around the country.

To support our efforts, please consider making a donation today. Thank you!
RangerLos Alamos "Ranger" Tour Launches
The Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF) and the Los Alamos Historical Society (LAHS) have launched an online Ranger in Your Pocket program on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, NM. As AHF President Cynthia Kelly explained, "We have collected over 500 oral histories of Manhattan Project participants. Now we are taking excerpts from these firsthand accounts to help visitors to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park appreciate what it meant to live and work on the project."
 
The Los Alamos tour features fifteen audio/visual vignettes focusing on several key Manhattan Project properties. The Los Alamos tour will eventually encompass all of the Bathtub Row houses, Fuller Lodge, Ashley Pond, the Romero Cabin and other properties that are on the Los Alamos Historical Society's walking tour.
 
"The Los Alamos Historical Society is pleased to partner with the Atomic Heritage Foundation on this innovative project," stated Heather McClenahan, Executive Director of the Los Alamos Historical Society. "With the establishment of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, this will be another tool to help visitors understand the depth, breadth and complexity of Los Alamos history.
 
J. Robert Oppenheimer
"Remember, General Leslie R. Groves never intended Los Alamos to be permanent. As a result, we have just a handful of wartime buildings left. 'Ranger in Your Pocket' is a wonderful way for visitors to get more information about these precious historic buildings, especially those that are privately owned and not open to the public."
 
Visitors can listen to Manhattan Project lab director J. Robert Oppenheimer explain why he suggested the site in November 1942 as the perfect location for the top-secret weapons lab: "My feeling was that if you are going to ask people to be essentially confined, you must not put them in the bottom of a canyon. You have to put them on the top of a mesa. It was not a place where you felt locked up."
 
The Manhattan Engineer District quickly arranged to purchase the Los Alamos Ranch School, an exclusive private school for boys whose notable students included future authors Gore Vidal and William Burroughs. The Ranch School buildings were turned into homes for top-echelon scientists and military leaders. Nondescript apartment buildings, huts, trailers, dormitories and barracks were quickly built to accommodate hundreds of others who worked on the bomb.
 
The Stone Power House
The "Ranger in Your Pocket" tour highlights the important role
Fuller Lodge has played at Los Alamos since the days of the school, when it was the dining and recreation hall. Other vignettes focus on two homes on Bathtub Row, the Stone Power House and the Baker House. Explosives expert George Kistiakowsky and his teenaged daughter Vera lived in the Stone Power House during the project. While her father was solving the implosion problem for the Fat Man bomb, Vera was often riding horseback alone over the mesa.

Some of the wives thought that Vera should find some companions to ride with, such as the twin daughters of Sir James Chadwick. Discoverer of the neutron, Chadwick led the scientists who were part of the British Mission at Los Alamos and played an important role in the atomic bomb project. The Chadwicks lived in the Baker House, across the street from the Kistiakowskys.
 
Sir James Chadwick
Richard Baker, a physical chemist, remembers being recruited by Oppenheimer, who showed him a picture of Ashley Pond from the 1930s. "It had two swans floating around on it and a canoe. Well, it looked pretty good." Unfortunately, "By the time I arrived here, Ashley Pond--due to construction--had been reduced to just one great big mud hole!" But Baker grew to love Los Alamos and lived in the former Chadwick house for thirty-six years.
 
AHF plans to develop a full suite of Manhattan Project tours on the responsive Ranger in Your Pocket website. Visitors to the new park can use their smartphones and tablets to access these self-guided tours. There are now nearly 100 vignettes that include a tour of the B Reactor, feature life at Hanford, WA, and describe the pre-war history of Hanford's pioneers. AHF hopes to complete the current Los Alamos tour and produce a tour of Oak Ridge, TN next.
 
For the Los Alamos program, AHF is very grateful for grants from the Los Alamos Historical Society, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the Kerr Foundation. Thanks to Craig Martin for his help with supplying historic photos for the production.
 
ScholarsManhattan Project Park Scholars' Forum Report
On November 9 and 10, 2015, the National Park Service (NPS) organized a Manhattan Project Scholars' Forum to explore major themes for interpreting the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park. NPS has recently released a report on the scholars' ideas for the Manhattan Project Park at Hanford, WA, Los Alamos, NM, and Oak Ridge, TN.

Atomic Heritage Foundation President Cynthia C. Kelly participated in the workshop along with nearly 20 other experts from across the country and Japan. The workshop identified high-level themes, topics and subtopics for interpreting the Manhattan Project. This session will contribute to the foundation document that will be developed to provide basic guidance for planning and management decisions.

Every park has a foundation document that addresses the park's purpose, significance, resources and values, interpretive themes, and special mandates or commitments. The document establishes a baseline for park planning and interpretive activities. Maps identify park boundaries, geographical elements, and historical facilities and provide a framework for the park management. 

In addition to working on a foundational document for the Manhattan Project Park, the NPS is working to update and complete foundation documents for all 409 park units in 2016, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

Participants in the Manhattan Project forum identified many potential themes for interpretive planning. These include the leadership of General Leslie Groves and J. Robert Oppenheimer, the science and technology behind the atomic bomb, and the human and environmental consequences of the development of nuclear weapons. The experts also highlighted the need to explore the unique history of each site, such as Oak Ridge's role in developing peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the contributions of refugee scientists at Los Alamos, and the plutonium production process at Hanford.

"The Manhattan Project has a complex and controversial place in American and world history," Cindy Kelly commented. "With many deeply held and polarized views, the interpretation of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be challenging. The new park should present the larger historical context, offer multiple perspectives including from the participants, and promote critical reflection."

Next, the National Park Service will hold public meetings at each of the three sites. The Oak Ridge meeting will be held on February 1 at 5:30 PM at the Oak Ridge High School (in the food court). The Hanford session will be held on February 4 at 5:30 PM in the Richland Library Gallery. The Los Alamos meeting will be held on February 8 at 5 PM at the Los Alamos County Council Chamber in the Municipal Building. 

Ed Westcott at the Oak Ridge volunteer information session. Photo by Ray Smith.
These meetings will be the public's first chance to provide input since the park was officially established on November 10, 2015. Tracy Atkins, project manager for the new park, promises that there will be many other opportunities over the next few years.The National Park Service estimates that it will take two more years to complete the planning for the park, and another three to five years after that to prepare the sites for public access.

On January 26, Oak Ridge held an information session on volunteer opportunities at the park. More than 120 people attended, including Manhattan Project photographer Ed Westcott, who recently celebrated his 94th birthday. For photographs from the session, see Oak Ridge historian Ray Smith's wonderful photos here.

BohrNiels Bohr Announces Discovery of Fission
Niels Bohr
On January 26, 1939, during the Fifth Washington Conference on Theoretical Physics at the George Washington University, Nobel Laureate Niels Bohr publicly announced the splitting of the uranium atom. The resulting "fission," with its release of two hundred million electron volts of energy, heralded the beginning of the atomic age.

The conference was supposed to be centered on the subject of low-temperature physics and superconductivity, but the importance of such a revolutionary event could not be ignored.

But the discussion that followed his announcement was remarkably subdued. After a few minutes of general comments, Edward Teller recalled his neighbor whispering in his ear, "Perhaps we should not discuss this." It did not take long before physicists realized that the fission of uranium could be used to create a nuclear chain reaction and weapons of mass destruction.

Lise Meitner
The announcement came just weeks after Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann, two of Bohr's colleagues at Copenhagen, reported that they had discovered the element barium after bombarding uranium with neutrons. After receiving the news in a letter, physicist Lise Meitner and her nephew, Otto Frisch, correctly interpreted the results as evidence of nuclear fission. Frisch confirmed this experimentally on January 13, 1939.

John Wheeler, a theoretical physicist at Princeton who completed a fellowship with Bohr in Copenhagen, remembers Bohr's excitement when he arrived in the United States on January 16.

"Frisch and Meitner had not wanted to tell Bohr until he got on the boat because they knew that he would be unable to keep the secret," recalls Wheeler. "All this pent up thought of his from the trip on the boat was discharged on me when I was there at the pier to meet him in New York."
RefugeesScientist Refugees & the Manhattan Project
Albert Einstein receiving his
certificate of US citizenship in 1940
The United Nations has designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Countries around the world remember and honor the victims of the Nazi genocide. The Nazis murdered six million Jews in the Holocaust, and tens of thousands of Roma and Sinti, Jehovah's Witnesses, the mentally and physically disabled, homosexuals, political prisoners, and others. For more information on the Holocaust, visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC or online.

Beginning in the 1930s, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis actively persecuted Jews, those of part-Jewish descent, and political opponents, including those in prominent academic positions. As a result, many leading scientists, philosphers, and thinkers fled to the West. 

Many refugees later joined the Manhattan Project in England and America. Among the scientists who fled Europe were Albert Einstein, Hans Bethe, Lilli Hornig, John von Neumann, Leo Szilard, James Franck, Edward Teller, Rudolf Peierls, and Klaus Fuchs. Enrico Fermi's wife Laura was Jewish; after the 1938 Nobel Prize ceremony, he and his family left for the United States. Joseph Rotblat left Poland days before the outbreak of World War II. Tragically, his wife was unable to accompany him and later died during the Holocaust in a concentration camp.

Lilli Hornig's Los Alamos ID badge photo
Lilli Hornig was born in the Czech Republic and moved to Berlin with her family when she was eight. "We lived there for four years. After Hitler came to power, my father was actually being threatened with being taken off to a concentration camp. He spent several weeks sleeping at friends' houses so he wouldn't be found, and he left for America. My mother and I had to wait for several months to follow him."

A startling proportion of the top scientists on the project had fled from Nazi-dominated Europe in the 1930s and early 1940s. The large number of refugees working on the Manhattan Project gave the American nuclear program a unique international character. Among other things, the rich cultural diversity and relative youth of its population made Los Alamos a particularly lively place during the war. 

ElementsThe Search for New Elements
Glenn Seaborg and Edwin McMillan
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry recently confirmed the discovery of four new elements. These elements, with atomic numbers 113, 115, 117, and 118, will soon be officially named and will complete the seventh row of the periodic table. The newly discovered elements are all extremely unstable, with half-lives ranging from 50 milliseconds to 20 seconds.
 
In an article for The Conversation, scientist Dr. James Tickner traces the roots of the search for new, heavier elements back to the race for the atomic bomb. In particular, the discovery of plutonium, which was first produced and isolated by Glenn T. Seaborg, Joseph W. Kennedy, Edwin M. McMillan, and Arthur C. Wahl at the University of California, Berkeley, on December 14, 1940, was essential to the success of the Manhattan Project.
 
As Manhattan Project scientists developed ways to generate plutonium on an unprecedented scale (which Seaborg called  "the biggest scale up in the history of chemical engineering"), they also continued the effort to produce new elements.

Seaborg and a group of other Manhattan Project scientists, including McMillan and Albert Ghiorso, synthesized americium and curium in 1944. These discoveries were kept classified until the end of the war. The group then resumed its work at the Radiation Laboratory at Berkeley (today Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). Ghiorso ultimately contributed to the discovery of 12 different elements, more than any other scientist.
 
Plutonium
American and Soviet competition during the Cold War extended to the effort to produce new elements. In the fallout from the test of Ivy Mike, the world's first hydrogen bomb, American researchers detected two new elements, which they named "einsteinium" and "fermium" in honor of Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi. For decades, scientists at Berkeley and Russian scientists at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (JINR) disputed who had discovered elements 104-106 in the "Transfermium Wars."
 
In recent years, researchers have used particle accelerators to produce heavier and heavier elements. Japanese researchers at RIKEN have been credited with discovering element 113. Working in collaboration rather than in competition, American scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Russian scientists at JINR created elements 115, 117, and 118. The search for new elements triggered by the Manhattan Project continues.

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

Robert Christy studied under J. Robert Oppenheimer at the University of California, Berkeley while earning his PhD in theoretical physics. He joined the Manhattan Project in February 1942 at the University of Chicago, and later relocated to Los Alamos when Oppenheimer personally recruited him on a visit to Chicago. At Los Alamos, Christy worked on the design of the water-boiler reactor. He was then recruited into the implosion group, where he designed the Christy gadget, the solid-core design of the plutonium bomb. He also witnessed the Trinity test. In this interview, he recalls what Oppenheimer was like as a professor and lecturer, his love for martinis, and his relations with graduate students. Christy discusses Oppenheimer's role in the field of physics as a stimulator of ideas, and how it changed after his security trial. 

Lee DuBridge was the founding director of the Radiation Laboratory at MIT and later became the president of Caltech. In this interview, he describes his relationship with J. Robert Oppenheimer, beginning with the summer symposiums on theoretical physics at Ann Arbor, MI in the 1930s, where Oppenheimer lectured. DuBridge recalls the symposiums' important role in facilitating fluid exchange of ideas in the tight-knit physicist community. During the war, DuBridge was asked by Oppenheimer to troubleshoot issues at Los Alamos, because of his experience with the Rad Lab. After the war, DuBridge and Oppenheimer both served on the General Advisory Committee of the Atomic Energy Commission. DuBridge remembers Oppenheimer's great grasp of detail, his ability to quickly absorb technical papers, and his ability as a lecturer.

Walt Grisham grew up on a farm at Hanford in the 1930s. He was serving in the Air Force in England during World War II when his parents were informed that they would need to leave the farm - the site was being requisitioned for the Manhattan Project. Grisham recalls what life was like growing up on a farm during the Great Depression. He remembers picking fruit at the orchards, how neighbor helped neighbor, and the challenges of getting the fruit and produce to market. He talks about what the area and the Columbia River continues to mean to the people who were kicked off the land.

Bill Hudgins joined the Manhattan Project after writing a letter to Dorothy McKibbin. After briefly being called away for Army training, he returned to Los Alamos as a member of the Special Engineer Detachment. In this interview, he recalls interviewing for a job with McKibbin (who asked, "Where did you hear about me?") and shares his memories of other Manhattan Project figures, including scientist Rebecca Bradford Diven and project historian David Hawkins. He also describes growing up in Santa Fe.

Isabella Karle had received her Bachelor's, Master's, and PhD degrees in physical chemistry from the University of Michigan by the time she was 22 in 1943. With her husband, Jerome Karle, a fellow student and scientist whom she married in 1942, Isabella became a pioneer in the field of science, starting with her work on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago in 1943. After the war, Isabella and Jerome began work on crystallography at the US Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC, where they were employed for over sixty years until their retirement in 2009. In this interview, Isabella discusses the career path she took after high school to become a chemist. She also explains how she came to work for the Manhattan Project in 1943, how she met her husband at the University of Michigan, and the successful careers of other scientists she worked with during the Manhattan Project.

Jerome Karle worked on plutonium chemistry at the Chicago Met Laboratory during the Manhattan Project, along with his wife, Isabella. After the war, Jerome and Isabella worked for the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory for almost seventy years. Jerome was awarded a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1985. In this interview, Karle explains his chemistry work in the Manhattan Project. He recalls his friendship with Glenn Seaborg, and discusses his opinion on dropping the bombs on Japan.


Ralph Lapp was completing his PhD in physics at the University of Chicago when he joined the Manhattan Project. After the war, he worked for the War Department and served as a scientific advisor there before leaving the government to start his own firm. Lapp went on to write several books and advocate for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. In this interview, he discusses how he stumbled upon Enrico Fermi's team working under Stagg Field in December of 1942, and was hired on the spot to work on the development of the atomic bomb. Lapp recalls witnessing the 1946 Bikini nuclear tests, and discusses the controversy over the Lucky Dragon boat, caught in the fallout of the Castle Bravo hydrogen bomb test on March 1,1954. He examines how nuclear weapons have changed the course of human history.

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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