Next week on July 16 will be the 73 rd anniversary of the Trinity Test, the world’s first nuclear weapons test. At 5:29 AM, the “Gadget” exploded with a yield of about 15-20 kilotons of TNT.

Manhattan Project veterans recall their reactions to the explosion. For example, chemist Lilli Hornig describes the mushroom cloud: “I remember these boiling clouds and vivid colors like violet, purple, orange, yellow, red, just everything. It was fantastic. We were all shaken up.”

For more on the Trinity Test, please see: Veterans Remember the Trinity Test , Trinity Test Eyewitnesses and Trinity Test – 1945 on the Atomic Heritage Foundation’s website.
  • "Doctor Atomic" Opera
  • AHF Launches "Doctor Atomic Trail"
  • Manhattan Project Sites News
  • History Article Roundup
  • "Voices of the Manhattan Project"
"Doctor Atomic" Opera
The opera “Doctor Atomic” opens this weekend at the Santa Fe Opera. Composed by John Adams with a libretto by Peter Sellars, the opera takes place in the weeks leading up to the Trinity Test. J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, is the central character of the opera. Other historical figures involved in the Manhattan Project, including General Leslie Groves, Edward Teller, Robert R. Wilson, and Kitty Oppenheimer, are also represented. (Pictured: the opera during a performance at The Metropolitan Opera.)

Rather than writing original material, Sellars made the unconventional decision to assemble a libretto from a variety of sources. The libretto mixed direct quotations of Manhattan Project figures—as recorded in letters, declassified documents, and memoirs—with passages from various other texts, including the Bhagavad Gita, a Tewa Pueblo lullaby, and poetry by the likes of John Donne, Charles Baudelaire, and Muriel Rukeyser. 
The opera begins in June of 1945, a few weeks before the Trinity Test. Since Germany’s surrender in May, a group of scientists working on the bomb have begun to harbor misgivings about the planned use of the bomb against Japan. Robert Wilson circulates a petition intended for President Truman. Oppenheimer (pictured ) stops them, having recently returned from Washington with the news that the decision has been made to use the bomb.

In the next scene, Kitty and Robert reflect in their home on their love for each other and the moral nature of war. For the third scene, we move forward in time to July 15, 1945: the eve of the Trinity Test. An apprehensive air hangs about the stage as an electrical storm rages and General Groves grows increasingly frustrated. Act I ends with Oppenheimer reflecting on what is to come the next morning, and his role in the development of the bomb.
Act II starts back in the Oppenheimers’ home in Los Alamos, where Kitty and her Pueblo maid Pasqualita anxiously wait for signs of the explosion two hundred miles away. The second scene moves back to the test site around midnight before the test. Despite concerns over the escalating weather, General Groves orders that the test commence as scheduled. (Pictured : Norris Bradbury with the "Gadget" before the Trinity Test.)

The men nervously wait in the storm until the sky clears ten minutes before the test. Time seems to stretch as suspense grows in the final moments leading up to the bomb. Once the countdown has finished, there is, according to the stage directions, “a mournful silence and the beginning of a new era.”
To complement the opera, the New Mexico History Museum has created a new exhibition called “Atomic Histories.” The Santa Fe Opera is also coordinating a “Tech and the West” symposium this weekend featuring Richard Rhodes, Rachel Bronson, James Nolan, Hugh Gusterson, and other Manhattan Project and nuclear history experts. (Pictured : the Trinity Test's mushroom cloud.)

For more about the opera, please read our full article on “Doctor Atomic ,” listen to a 2006 lecture by composer John Adams , and visit the Santa Fe Opera’s website . The New York Times also has an article on Bringing ‘Doctor Atomic’ to the Birthplace of the Bomb .
AHF Launches "Doctor Atomic Trail"
To complement the “Doctor Atomic” opera, the Atomic Heritage Foundation has launched an online interpretive program, “Doctor Atomic Trail.” The program features over 30 audio/visual vignettes on Manhattan Project sites in New Mexico, with firsthand accounts from Manhattan Project participants and commentary from historians. (Pictured : Lamy train station.)

The program is available online on AHF’s “Ranger in Your Pocket” website . Users can watch “Doctor Atomic Trail” on personal devices such as smartphones and tablets, or on computers at home. Vignettes from the program are also featured in the new “Atomic Histories” exhibition at the New Mexico History Museum. 

Cindy Kelly, president of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, comments, "The program should be a valuable resource for opera fans coming to see Doctor Atomic and thousands of other tourists to Santa Fe and New Mexico this summer. Listening to the voices of the participants makes a human connection and provides new insights into the making of the atomic bomb.”
“Doctor Atomic Trail” includes the train station in Lamy , where weary Manhattan Project recruits arrived after days of travel. Army personnel picked them up for the ten-mile trip to Santa Fe, where they then faced a 40-mile trip to Los Alamos. The program also features 109 East Palace Avenue in Santa Fe , where Dorothy McKibbin, the “Gatekeeper to Los Alamos,” oriented scientists and workers who reported to her offices. McKibbin (pictured ) reassured them, issued passes, assigned housing, and provided transportation to Los Alamos.

The Santa Fe section includes the La Fonda on the Plaza hotel , whose bar became a favorite watering hole for Manhattan Project participants seeking a respite from the stress of the project. Another destination for Manhattan Project employees was the house at Otowi Bridge on the land of the San Ildefonso Pueblo, where Edith Warner and her companion, Atilano “Tilano” Montoya, lived. Their teahouse became a popular retreat, featuring homemade meals and especially memorable chocolate cake.
The program describes “Bathtub Row” at Los Alamos , where top-echelon scientists resided during the Manhattan Project. In one vignette about the Oppenheimer House (pictured ), laboratory director J. Robert Oppenheimer recalled, “We lived about a third of a mile from the laboratory. I would try to get to the laboratory on normal days about eight, and take our son to the nursery school on the way.”

The Manhattan Project had a profound impact on northern New Mexico . The arrival of the Los Alamos laboratory displaced the Los Alamos Ranch School and local residents including homesteading families, and transformed the area economy. Many members of local Pueblo and Hispano communities worked at Los Alamos from its inception in early 1943. The Army Corps of Engineers recruited them to help build and maintain the laboratory and residences. Hundreds served as construction workers, janitors, housekeepers, technicians, clerks, mess hall staff, mail couriers, maids, and in other roles. 
The "Doctor Atomic Trail" includes excerpts from Willie Atencio and David Schiferl’s collection of oral history interviews with northern New Mexico residents. Some workers welcomed steady, well-paying jobs at the laboratory. Others expressed concerns over environmental contamination, health effects, and disruptions to traditional ways of life. (Pictured : Workers heading on a bus to Los Alamos National Laboratory. Photo courtesy of the Los Alamos History Museum Archives.)

The Atomic Heritage Foundation thanks the Los Alamos Historical Society , the New Mexico History Museum , and La Fonda on the Plaza for their partnership on the project. AHF looks forward to working with our local partners to develop additional educational resources and programming on the Manhattan Project and its legacies today. For the full article on the "Doctor Atomic Trail," please click here .
Manhattan Project Sites News
Changes are underway at Manhattan Project sites. In Oak Ridge, the popular American Museum of Science and Energy will close its South Tulane Avenue location later this month, with plans to reopen in its new location on Main Street this fall. The current building is about 54,000 square feet and attracts about 65,000 visitors per year. The new location will be about 18,000 square feet.

According to Oak Ridge Today, “There will be four major categories featured in the museum, [manager of the DOE Oak Ridge Office Ken] Tarcza said: energy leadership, 'big science,' national security, and environmental restoration. Many of the exhibits at the current AMSE need to be refreshed, and the majority of the exhibits at the new location will have a brand-new design, Tarcza said." For more about the move, please see AMSE: Current museum could close this month, with new home open this fall. Julia Bussinger has also been named the new director of AMSE. Dr. Bussinger holds a doctorate in conservation and was most recently the executive director of the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum in Palm Springs, California.

On Friday, July 13, a program on secrecy, security, and spies will be presented by the Manhattan Project National Historical Park from 3:30-4:30 PM. The program will take place at the Turnpike Gatehouse in west Oak Ridge. For more, please see the Oak Ridge Today article Learn about secrecy, security, spies during Manhattan Project.
Los Alamos ScienceFest (July 11-15) will include a variety of events and speakers on science and the history of the Manhattan Project and Los Alamos. There will be a free showing of the documentary "The Half Life of Genius: Physicist Raemer Schreiber" at the Reel Deal Theater on July 14 at 10 AM. The documentary focuses on Raemer Schreiber, his contributions to the Manhattan Project, and 20th century physics.

As part of ScienceFest, public tours will allow visitors access to three Manhattan Project sites – Pond Cabin, Battleship Bunker, and the Slotin Building – that are on property managed by the Department of Energy. For more about sites and the tours, please visit Manhattan Project sites to be opened for tours during ScienceFest.

At Los Alamos, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will offer Ranger Programs at the visitor center every Saturday and Sunday at 1 PM from June 23 through July 22. According to the press release, “These programs will provide visitors an opportunity to understand and connect with the story of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. The Ranger Programs will incorporate the big picture of how the Project Y lab and community fit in with the complex events of World War II.” Josh Nelson, the Los Alamos unit’s on-site ranger, will lead the program along with volunteers.

Thom Mason has been named the director designate of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and president of Triad National Security, which has been awarded LANL’s contract. Mason previously served as the director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). AHF’s Cindy Kelly recently interviewed Dr. Mason about Oak Ridge’s legacy of innovation and ORNL today. The interview should be available on the “Voices of the Manhattan Project” website in the next month.
The Bruggemann Warehouse (pictured) at Hanford, WA, has been selected as one of Washington State’s five most endangered places. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation develops its annual list based on a site’s historical significance and the urgency of the threat to it.

The warehouse was used by the Bruggemann family for their farm before they were forced to leave their land in 1943, when the Manhattan Project requisitioned the area. Today, you can visit the warehouse as part of the pre-Manhattan Project historic sites tours
History Article Roundup
The batty, explosive history of bats in the military — and why this new idea just might work: During World War II, the U.S. Army explored the idea of attaching small bombs to bats to use against the Japanese in the Pacific.

Here Are More Than 250 Newly Released Videos of Nuclear Bomb Blasts: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is continuing to digitize and publish videos of U.S. nuclear weapons tests. (Pictured: the mushroom cloud from the Plumbbob-Hood nuclear test.)
J. Robert Oppenheimer Made Famous Martinis: Heather McClenahan describes Oppenheimer's very alcoholic martinis.

Kickstarter to support Atomic Ed / A photobook by Janire Najera: Photographer and curator Janire Najera is raising funds to publish a photobook on Ed Grothus (pictured), who ran the Black Hole in Los Alamos. Grothus sold surplus items from the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the military.

Trinity Site ‘downwinders’ get congressional hearing: Advocates for New Mexican families whose health was impacted by nuclear testing, including the Trinity Test, and uranium mining testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of legislation to expand the Radiation Exposure and Compensation Act of 1990.

The Story of How France Built Nuclear Weapons: Provides an overview of how France developed nuclear weapons.
"Voices of the Manhattan Project"
Here are some oral history interviews we have recently published on the  Voices of the Manhattan Project website
John Adams is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer of contemporary classical music. Adams discusses "Doctor Atomic," his opera set in Los Alamos and the Trinity Site in the weeks leading up to the Trinity Test. He describes the creation of the work and why he was initially hesitant to develop an opera around J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project. He explains its unusual libretto, which uses only material drawn from historical documents or poetry.
Sam Beall is an nuclear engineer. During the Manhattan Project, he worked for the DuPont Company at the Chicago Met Lab, Oak Ridge, TN, and Hanford, WA. After the war, he stayed at Oak Ridge and ultimately became head of the Reactor Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). In this interview, Beall discusses his involvement with various nuclear reactors at Oak Ridge and recalls his friendship with former ORNL director Alvin Weinberg.
Benjamin Bederson worked at Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, Wendover, and Tinian on the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Bederson describes his childhood in New York and in Russia, where he witnessed the impact of the famine in Ukraine, and his relief upon returning to the United States. He discusses his wartime work, including conducting experiments relating to Jumbo and the X unit switches for the Fat Man atomic bomb. He recalls some of the friends he made, including Peter Lax and William Spindel. During his time on the Manhattan Project, he also met Soviet spies Ted Hall and David Greenglass.
William “Bill” K. Coors ensured the success of the calutrons at the Y-12 plant in Oak Ridge by producing hundreds of high-quality ceramic insulators in just five days. After graduating from Princeton, he took over the Coors Porcelain Company. One day, he received a mysterious phone call from the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, asking Coors if he could quickly produce insulators that would withstand very high electric voltage. Coors also introduced the revolutionary practice of using recyclable aluminum cans for beer, a process which he helped pioneer in the 1960s.
Dieter Gruen worked in the Chemical Research Division at the Y-12 Plant during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, he discusses his childhood in Walldorf, Germany, and how his family’s life changed as the Nazis came to power. Gruen discusses how he came to the U.S. in 1937, and his school experiences both in Little Rock, Arkansas, and at the University of Chicago. He explains how his Manhattan Project work at Oak Ridge led him to devote his career to science and innovation. He also spends time sharing his feelings about his involvement with the Manhattan Project.
Michael Joseloff is an award-winning television producer and author of the book “Chasing Heisenberg.” In this interview, Joseloff discusses the life and career of German physicist Werner Heisenberg and the German atomic bomb program during World War II. Joseloff describes the Alsos Mission, the Manhattan Project’s counterintelligence operation to determine how far along the German atomic bomb project was, and the people involved including Samuel Goudsmit and Boris Pash.
Ted Petry was recruited for the Manhattan Project after graduating from high school. He worked as a lab assistant at the Chicago Met Lab and witnessed the Chicago Pile-1 going critical for the first time. In this interview, Petry discusses his experience at the Met Lab, and working under Enrico Fermi. He explains how the crew planed graphite blocks, and worked on the Chicago Pile operations. He reflects back on the twentieth anniversary celebrations of the Chicago Pile-1 when he met President John F. Kennedy at the White House.
Astro Teller, co-founder of Alphabet subsidiary “X,” is the grandson of Edward Teller, the famous physicist often considered the father of the hydrogen bomb. In this interview, Astro recalls how Edward loved to read him fairy tales and play bridge. He discusses Edward’s love of answering big scientific questions, his family life, and time at Los Alamos. Astro also explores parallels between Edward’s work, the Manhattan Project, and his own work at X, and talks about the importance of applied research.
Joanna McClelland Glass is a playwright best known for her play "Trying," based on her relationship with Francis Biddle, who was the United States Attorney General under FDR and chief American judge at the 1945-46 Nuremberg Trials. Glass worked for Biddle from 1967 until his death in 1968. Glass is the author of two novels, including "Woman Wanted," which was turned into a film. In this interview, she discusses her childhood and work as a playwright, before turning to her employment with Francis Biddle.
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