The big news this month has been President Obama's visit to Hiroshima, which has caused a flurry of interest in the Manhattan Project and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In response, the Atomic Heritage Foundation has been working on developing new history articles for our website. Our goal is to present a balanced narrative of Japan and the US in World War II, and to present information in a thoughtful and evenhanded manner so readers can consider and develop informed opinions.

Please consider donating today to support our work to develop additional educational resources to clarify these complex and controversial events that changed the course of world history, politics, culture and society.
ObamaPresident Obama Visits Hiroshima
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Photo by Doug Mills/The New York Times

Today, President Barack Obama became the first sitting US President to visit Hiroshima and pay his respects at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. 
AHF President Cynthia C. Kelly commented, "Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui and Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue met last year with the Atomic Heritage Foundation to express their concerns that the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park include 'what happened under the mushroom cloud.' The President's visit reinforces the National Park Service's commitment to include the Japanese perspective as part of the Manhattan Project story.
"At the same time, the President did not apologize for Truman's decision to drop the atomic bombs. The decision must be considered in the context of World War II and Truman's determination to end the long and costly war--with some 60 million lives lost--as soon as possible."
Reflections on President Obama's Visit
The bombing of Hiroshima
Richard Rhodes, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book
The Making of the Atomic Bomb and a member of AHF's Board of Directors, reflected on the historic significance of Obama's trip. "A visit of an American President to the site of the world's first atomic bombing has been long overdue, not to apologize--war is cruel and America's World War II leadership sincerely believed this new weapon would decisively end the cruelest war in human history--but to contribute to turning a place of tragedy into a place of inspiration. That inspiration, as the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have appealed repeatedly across these past 71 years, must be to eliminate weapons of mass destruction from the arsenals of the world."
Manhattan Project veterans who are still alive today recalled the race to end World War II and the project's goal of bringing the war to a speedy conclusion. Many also expressed fervent hope that nuclear weapons will never be used again.
Physicist Benjamin Bederson, who helped wire the switches for the Fat Man bomb on Tinian Island, stated, "We remain convinced that dropping the bomb helped end the war and helped save many lives, Japanese and American. At the time, that was the only consideration that counted."
Lilli Hornig
In an interview for Yahoo Japan, chemist Lilli Hornig, who worked on the Manhattan Project along with her husband Don Hornig at Los Alamos, reinforced those feelings: "I think it was too bad, but we were at war. Those are the things that happen in war. I think there would have been enormous casualties if we had tried to invade Japan...Would Japan apologize for Pearl Harbor, to start with? Or any number of other attacks? No. It's what you buy into when you are at war. But that's why you should stop having wars." 

For more thoughts and reflections by Manhattan Project veterans and experts, please visit our website.
President Obama's Speech
Obama began the day in Hiroshima with a short visit to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. He and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe then each laid a wreath at the cenotaph commemorating the victims of the atomic bombing at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. Later, Obama signed the Park's guestbook with the message, "We have known the agony of war. Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons."
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
In his speech, Obama discussed why we must remember the bombing of Hiroshima. "Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner." South Koreans have praised Obama for recognizing the Korean victims of the atomic bomb.  

Recalling the horrors of World War II, Obama recounted: "In the span of a few years, some 60 million people would die. Men, women, children, no different than us. Shot, beaten, marched, bombed, jailed, starved, gassed to death." Technology, he noted, can be a double-edged sword. "Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us." He called for a world without nuclear weapons: "We may not be able to eliminate man's capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves. But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them."
The memorial to Korean atomic bomb victims at Hiroshima
He concluded his speech with hope for a peaceful future. "The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening."
A number of hibakusha, or atomic bomb survivors, attended the speech. Obama exchanged a hug with Shigeaki Mori, a hibakusha and historian who is especially known for his work to recognize the twelve US airmen who were POWs in Hiroshima and died in the bombing. Among the survivors who attended the speech was Tsugio Ito, whose son died on September 11, 2001, in the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Thousands of Japanese lined the streets to witness President Obama's historic visit and hear his speech, and much of Japan watched the moment on television. Many of the bystanders expressed gratitude that Obama had chosen to visit their city.

For the full text of President Obama's remarks, please click here. For a roundup of news articles on Obama's visit, please click here.
Future Initiatives
President Obama's visit should inspire closer cooperation between the United States and Japan, and may encourage Prime Minister Abe to make a similar visit to Pearl Harbor. The Washington Post reported, "The White House has said it would welcome Abe to Pearl Harbor, where plans are underway to mark the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Dec. 7. One senior U.S. official said he would be surprised if Abe did not come, though the prime minister said at a news conference this week that he had no such plans at this time."

NewArticlesNew Articles on Hiroshima & Nagasaki Bombings
Jesse Kupferberg in The Great Artiste
With President Obama's visit to Hiroshima, interest in the atomic bombings and the debate over them has spiked in the past month. The Atomic Heritage Foundation is currently developing new articles on the Manhattan Project and World War II to educate students, scholars, and members of the general public. The new content will provide historical context on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and information about the men who flew the missions.

You can now read the following on our website:
A pocket watch from Hiroshima stopped at time the bomb detonated
Other articles to be written this summer will focus on Japan in World War II and the militarism espoused by Imperial Japan; Japanese treatment of Allied POWs, including the Bataan Death March; and Japanese atrocities in Asia and the Pacific. Another focus will be the role of the 509th Composite Group, and the Manhattan Project at Wendover Airfield. We also plan to write articles on the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent in camps, the racism that existed on both sides during the war, and more on the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the lasting impact on the survivors.

We are grateful to Clay Perkins and Joseph Papalia for their support of this project and for fact-checking some of the articles. Thanks also to retired scientist and artist David Wargowski for helping to develop the Hiroshima bombing timeline. Wargowski has created over fifty sculptures for his atomic art portfolio, including "The Pit Assembly," and participated in two exhibitions, most recently at the Hiroshima Bank, to mark the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings.
Manhattan Project Spotlight: Hanford 25th Anniversary Video
The B Reactor at Hanford
The Atomic Heritage Foundation recently received a donation of a historic video of the 25th anniversary celebration of the construction of the B Reactor at Hanford, WA. The video provides a fascinating retrospective of the Manhattan Project, and shows how the project's leaders grappled with its legacy.

On June 7, 1968, twenty-five years after construction began on the B Reactor, Manhattan Project and Hanford Site leaders gathered at the reactor. The ceremony commemorated the important role B Reactor played in the Manhattan Project, and honored the scientists, administrators, and workers who designed, built, and operated it. Click here to watch the video on the "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website.

The program opens with historic video and photographs of Hanford, while a narrator describes the history and significance of the Hanford Site. Then the program switches to the ceremony. Top Manhattan Project and Hanford Site leaders participated in the event, including General Leslie R. Groves, who directed the Manhattan Project; Colonel Franklin Matthias, who served as officer-in-charge at Hanford; and Nobel Prize winner Glenn Seaborg, co-discoverer of plutonium and other elements and who was then the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. For part of the ceremony, the panel spoke in front of the massive front face of the B Reactor.

General Leslie R. Groves, Glenn Seaborg, and others at the ceremony

Seaborg opened the ceremony: "It's a pleasure to be back here for this 25th anniversary reunion and see so many of my old friends, the people that were instrumental in making this project such a success." He went on to recall the sense of urgency he and his fellow scientists felt while working on the Manhattan Project: "I felt that this was the only thing to do at the time. We sincerely thought that we were in a race with the Nazis. A nuclear station had been discovered in Germany. We thought that we were therefore in a race for survival. Whoever got the atomic bomb first would certainly have the upper hand." General Groves agreed: "We would stop and think once in a while, 'This is a terrible thing,' but after all, an awful lot of American lives were involved."

The T Plant under construction
Groves also elaborated on the reasons why Hanford was selected as the reactor site. "One was power, one was the Columbia River, and we were more fortunate in that than we realized when we made the choice. The other thing--which was all-important--was an ability to construct year round. Despite all the venomous remarks that have been made about the dust storms, you could work out there."

Later on in the ceremony, scientists including Norman Hilberry, Lombard Squires, and Seaborg gave a technical overview of B Reactor. They also explained how the T Plant worked, and how they settled on the bismuth phosphate process that was used in chemically separating the plutonium from the irradiated fuel rods.

The Hanford 25th anniversary video was donated by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Claude Lyneis. The Atomic Heritage Foundation is grateful to Lyneis for sharing this program about the people who, as the narrator intones, "went into the desert and wrenched the energy from the heart of the atom."
InMemoriamIn Memoriam: Irene LaViolette
We are sad to report the passing of our friend, Manhattan Project veteran Irene LaViolette. She died on May 20, 2016. From defying the Nazis in occupied Greece to her work at Hanford Site, LaViolette had many exciting stories to share about her World War II experiences.

Irene LaViolette (born Irene Voutsas) was born in New York City. After she finished kindergarten, her family moved to Greece, where her grandparents lived, due to diminishing economic prospects in the United States. She grew up in Athens and was enrolled in chemistry school when Italy attacked Greece in 1940. With the universities closed due to the war, she became a volunteer nurse at a military hospital.

Working at the hospital was difficult. "It was a very pitiful sight to see the streets of Athens full of wounded soldiers," LaViolette recalled in an interview in 2013. "So many of my wounded were amputated. I was there receiving wounded directly from the front. And many times, I wouldn't even have a day off." After the German invasion in April 1941, she arranged to return to the United States.

She graduated in 1943 from Barnard College with a degree in chemistry, and took a job with DuPont's Electric Chemicals Department Research Lab at Niagara Falls, New York. There, she met her husband Fred, a DuPont physicist and chemist about to be assigned to the Manhattan Project at Hanford. Irene decided to accompany him. The two were married on May 28, 1944. A few days later, they boarded a train, headed west.

LaViolette donated her collection of Hanford newspapers "The Sage Sentinel" to AHF
At Hanford, Irene and her husband initially lived in separate barracks until they were assigned a one-bedroom prefab house. She worked in the 300 Area, and was responsible for analyzing water from the Columbia River as well as checking new Geiger counters. Fred worked in the 200 Area on the chemical separation process, helping sealing uranium slugs that were then fed into the production reactors. After Fred completed his work at Hanford, the couple returned to Niagara Falls in March of 1945.

Hanford "was really desert," Irene remembered, but "we didn't get bored at all. We would entertain among ourselves, we'd play games of charades, progressive dinners. They would organize square dances and other dances and lectures, mainly on topics of safety and health." After the war, LaViolette and her husband started a family. They had two children: a son, Paul, and a daughter, Mary.

Fred LaViolette passed away in 2008. In June of 2015, Irene attended and spoke at AHF's Manhattan Project Veterans Reunion and Symposium in Washington, DC. You can view video of her remarks on AHF's YouTube channel (she begins speaking at about 16:30 of the video).
LouisSlotinThe Death of Louis Slotin
Slotin (L) and Herb Lehr with
Gadget before the Trinity test
For the anniversary of Manhattan Project scientist Louis Slotin's fatal criticality accident, historian Alex Wellerstein has a discerning article in The New Yorker, The Demon Core and the Strange Death of Louis Slotin. He also published an article on his blog, The Blue Flash, with additional information he uncovered while researching the piece.

On May 21, 1946, Slotin was performing an experiment he had done several times before. He was demonstrating to his colleagues how to bring a two hemispheres of a plutonium core nearly to criticality, a dangerous experiment called "tickling the dragon's tail." Slotin was using a screwdriver to separate the two halves of the core - but the screwdriver slipped. For a brief but fatal moment, the two halves touched and went critical.

Slotin instantly received a lethal dose of radiation, and the other people in the room received high doses. Slotin died nine days later, after enduring the agonizing symptoms of radiation sickness. Some of the other scientists in the room suffered ill health effects from the accident, both short and long-term; in a few cases, the radiation exposure may have caused or contributed to their deaths years later.

A mockup of the Slotin accident
A few months earlier, the core had claimed its first victim, Harry Daghlian, in a similar criticality accident. After Slotin's death, the core was given a macabre nickname: the "demon core." Wellerstein traces the fate of the demon core. Previously it been thought that the core was used in one of the nuclear tests at Operation Crossroads. However, Wellerstein uncovered documents that show the demon core "ultimately met with an anticlimactic fate: in the summer of 1946, it was melted down and recast into a new weapon." He also notes, "After Slotin's botched demonstration, Los Alamos halted all further criticality work."
NewBooksNew Books on Manhattan Project History
Two recently published books provide unique perspectives on the Manhattan Project. General George C. Marshall on the Bomb by Frank A. Settle, Jr. chronicles Gen. Marshall's influence during the Manhattan Project and the Cold War on the nuclear weapons program. As Chief of Staff for the Army during World War II and Secretary of State after the war, Marshall's role in the project has often been overshadowed by his other important work. 

Settle, professor emeritus of chemistry at Washington and Lee University and director of the ALSOS Digital Library on Nuclear Issues, has taught and written extensively on nuclear history. This book is the first full-length exploration of General Marshall's impact on the Manhattan Project and postwar nuclear policy.

Keep Your Ducks in a Row! by C. E. Anderson is the story of Hester Moore, who helped supervise the communication department at Hanford, WA during the Manhattan Project, overseeing the telephone system for DuPont. 

Anderson is Moore's niece and wrote the book based on the extensive journals and notes her aunt had saved from her time on the project. The book follows Moore as she overcomes challenges at work and enjoys social life at Hanford, including Kay Kyser's performance in 1944. Thanks to Herb Depke - who grew up in Hanford and is a friend of Anderson's - for bringing this book to AHF's attention.
Voices"Voices of the Manhattan Project"
Here are some oral history interviews we have recently added to the Voices of the Manhattan Project website

Historian and educator Alice Kimball Smith moved to Los Alamos in 1943 after her husband Cyril, a British metallurgist, joined the Manhattan Project. Alice took a job as a schoolteacher at Los Alamos. She later became the assistant editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and wrote "A Peril and a Hope: The Scientists' Movement in America, 1945-1947." She also co-edited a collection of J. Robert Oppenheimer's letters. In this interview, Kimball Smith describes her impressions of Oppenheimer during the Manhattan Project. She discusses Oppenheimer and other atomic scientists' efforts to ensure international control of the bomb after World War II, as well as her memories of other scientists such as Niels Bohr.

Crawford Greenewalt, Jr., was an archaeologist and the son of Crawford Greenewalt, a chemical engineer for the DuPont Company. The elder Greenewalt was assigned to act as a liaison between the physicists at the Met Lab and engineers at Hanford, who were constructing the B Reactor. He went on to become president of DuPont, and was renowned for his interest in photography and birds. Crawford Jr. discusses his family's lineage, his father's education and career, and his father's busy schedule during the war. He also recalls the comfortable family breakfasts and his parents' love for music and dancing.

Nancy Greenewalt Frederick is the oldest child of Crawford Greenewalt, a chemical engineer for the DuPont Company who served as a liaison between the physicists at the Chicago Met Lab and the engineers at Hanford. Frederick discusses her father's wide-ranging interests, his passion for his job, and the activities he enjoyed pursuing with his wife, family, and friends. Above all, Greenewalt was a great storyteller, blaming his delays returning home on a devious witch who caused havoc for the cross-country train.

Siegfried Hecker - Part 3: Sig Hecker is an American scientist who served as the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1986 to 1997. He is currently Professor (Research) of Management Science and Engineering and Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University. In this interview, Hecker discusses the 1990s debate over the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and how it affected his responsibilities as Los Alamos Lab director. He analyzes the results of the treaty, which calls for zero yield from nuclear weapons and no testing, and reflects on the global impact of the treaty.

Ted Taylor - Part 3: In this interview, physicist Ted Taylor discusses how technology developments today will impact agriculture and energy in the future. He elaborates on his time working at Los Alamos on the hydrogen bomb, recalling Los Alamos National Laboratory's Norris Bradbury's emotional response to the first successful hydrogen bomb test. He recalls the social life at the laboratory and the scientists he worked with, including Darol Froman, Robert Serber, and George Gamow, and how secrecy impacted their work.

Thanks to all the Manhattan Project veterans, their families and many others who have supported our efforts over the past 14 years. We look forward to working with the National Park Service and the three sites of the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Please make a donation to support our continued efforts. Thank you!

Atomic Heritage Foundation 
Like us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter   View our videos on YouTube   
Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.