France has played a pivotal role in the nuclear age, from the discoveries of the Curie family that transformed modern physics to its pursuit of nuclear power and nuclear weapons after World War II. AHF will soon publish a new “Ranger in Your Pocket” program on France and the Atomic Age. With firsthand accounts from Manhattan Project veterans and commentary from French scientists and experts, “France and the Atomic Age” explores this complex history and its legacies today. For a sneak preview of the program, click here .

( Pictured, above: the Cattenom nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France . Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Stefan Kühn. )
  • Pearl Harbor and CP-1 Anniversaries
  • In Memoriam: Fay Cunningham
  • Manhattan Project Spotlight: Joseph Rotblat 
  • History Article Roundup
  • "Voices of the Manhattan Project"
Pearl Harbor and CP-1 Anniversaries
The first week of December included two important Manhattan Project and World War II anniversaries. December 2nd was the 76 th anniversary of Chicago Pile-1 (CP-1) going critical  at the University of Chicago. The Metallurgical Laboratory or “Met Lab” at UChicago was one of the most important branches of the Manhattan Project. Its primary role was to design a nuclear reactor. The success of the CP-1 marked the world’s first self-sustaining, controlled nuclear chain reaction.

CP-1 was designed by Enrico Fermi and his colleagues at the Chicago Met Lab (pictured). Fermi and his associates designed a production “pile” consisting of a lattice of graphite blocks and uranium slugs and built the pile under the west stands of Stagg Field. His goal was to produce a self-sustaining nuclear reaction, when the pile had a reproduction value (k) of one.

On the afternoon of December 2, 1942, CP-1 went critical. The continuous chain reaction was witnessed by Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner, Leona Woods Marshall, and DuPont engineer Crawford Greenewalt along with  dozens of others . Fermi’s basic design using a lattice of uranium slugs and graphite blocks would be expanded and built at Hanford as the B Reactor.

For more on Chicago Pile-1, the Met Lab, and their legacies for today, check out our  “Ranger in Your Pocket” program  on the University of Chicago. See the History Article Roundup below for more reflections on CP-1.
December 7th marked the 77th anniversary of Japan’s  surprise attack  against the U.S. Pacific Fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, HI on December 7, 1941. The next day, Congress declared war against Japan; a few days later, Nazi Germany and Italy declared war against the United States. 

Dorothy Wilkinson , who worked as a “Calutron girl” at the Y-12 Plant in Oak Ridge during the war, lost her brother on the USS Arizona . She recalled, “I joined the Manhattan Project when I graduated high school because I had a brother killed on the Arizona at Pearl Harbor, and I thought that I would like to do something for the war effort.”

For photographs of the Pearl Harbor attack, see this album on AHF’s Facebook page. See our article  Remembering Pearl Harbor for more reflections from Manhattan Project veterans.
In Memoriam: Fay Cunningham
On Friday, November 9, 2018,  Fay L. Cunningham  passed away in Littleton, Colorado at the age of 96. Cunningham worked on the Manhattan Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and was one of AHF’s veteran advisors.

After graduating from the Army Specialized Training Program, Cunningham was assigned to the  Special Engineer Detachment  and transferred to the metallurgical department at MIT. His team had orders to masquerade as civilians. In a 2013 interview with AHF, Cunningham  recalled his invented backstory  to counter comments from Bostonians: “It was fair game to ask us how come we weren't in the army or something. We all cooked up a story. [Mine was] I hurt my knees in football at the University of Maryland and got [a] medical discharge.”

In the spring of 1945, Cunningham was reassigned to work on enhancing the properties of beryllium for triggering nuclear reactions. “In the process I was exposed to a lot of beryllium dust and fumes when we were melting it and pouring it and grinding it and polishing it,” he explained. Cunningham’s exposure during his work at MIT caused him to contract berylliosis, a chronic lung disease, which he lived with for the rest of his life.
After the war, Cunningham served as a radiation monitor for the  Operation Crossroads nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll. (Pictured: the "Baker" shot of Operation Crossroads, July 25, 1946.) His team boarded the ships located in the fallout zones after the explosions to survey the radiological and physical damage.

Cunningham was discharged from the Army in October 1946 and finished his degree in chemical engineering at Michigan State University. He worked as a chemical engineer at the pilot plant of the Upjohn Company, and retired from Upjohn in 1988 as director of chemical production. He spent his retirement traveling the world with his wife, Geri.

For more about Fay, you can visit his  profile or watch his interview on the  Voices of the Manhattan Project oral history website. You can also read his obituary  here.
Manhattan Project Spotlight: Joseph Rotblat
I always believed that science should be used in service of mankind. The notion of utilizing my knowledge to produce an awesome weapon of destruction was abhorrent to me . – Joseph Rotblat , Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 1985

Joseph Rotblat was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1908 to a middle-class Jewish family. Rotblat entered the field of nuclear physics in 1929, after being admitted into the Free University of Poland in Warsaw. Despite his concerns about impending war, in April 1939 Rotblat accepted a year-long fellowship under the direction of James Chadwick in Liverpool, England.

The potential of creating a powerful nuclear weapon haunted Rotblat as World War II began. He remembered his dilemma in a 1989 interview with historian Martin J. Sherwin : “From the very beginning, I was afraid of the Germans. I gradually worked out this rationale of deterrence. But even then, I was not convinced that I should really work [on this research]. So, this was a tumor which had been growing. Difficult to imagine this sort of torture, the mental torture of whether I should do something about it or not.”
Rotblat (pictured) arrived in Los Alamos in January 1944 as part of the British Mission to the Manhattan Project, but struggled with the ethics of the Project throughout his time at Los Alamos. Two main factors precipitated his eventual decision to leave. According to Rotblat, General Leslie Groves declared that the true purpose of the atomic bomb was to subdue the Soviet Union. Although Rotblat was aware of the tensions between the Soviet Union and United States, he was shocked at what he considered a cavalier betrayal of an ally. Secondly, in discussions with Niels Bohr, Rotblat realized that the development of atomic weapons would likely result in a nuclear arms race. The final straw came when it became apparent that the Germans had abandoned their nuclear program. In late 1944, Rotblat requested to leave the Project and return to England.

After the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Rotblat was determined to prevent the development of future nuclear weapons. He was haunted by his own role in the creation of the atomic bombs and devoted the rest of his life to protesting nuclear testing and weapons production. He switched his scientific focus to the medical applications of nuclear physics and the viability of radiation as a treatment for cancer.
Rotblat was active in international disarmament programs and efforts to educate the public and scientific community. He helped establish organizations such as the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, which invited scientists worldwide to discuss the threat to society posed by weapons of mass destruction. The organization continues to meet internationally to inspire dialogue among scientists. In 1995, the Pugwash Conferences and Rotblat jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize for their work towards total nuclear disarmament.

For the full Spotlight, click here.
History Article Roundup
Here is a roundup of interesting content published recently related to the Manhattan Project, World War II, and nuclear history:

Governor, AG vow to fight Feds’ suit to repeal Hanford sick worker law : Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced they will defend a state law intended to help workers at the Hanford Site receive compensation claims for illnesses. The U.S. Justice Department has sued the state, arguing that the law is unconstitutional. For more background on the case, see this Seattle Times article .

Hiroshima introduces interactive map to get tourists to visit A-bomb sites off the beaten path : This The Japan Times article highlights the Hiroshima Peace Tourism project. The project includes an interactive map to help visitors find less well-known sites in the city that survived the atomic bombing. This Atlas Obscura article also features the map, but includes a critique from a museum scholar over lack of historical context regarding Japan’s role in World War II.
Innovation, Explosion, and Reckoning on Ellis Avenue : This Chicago Maroon article on the Manhattan Project at Chicago and its legacies includes commentary from Manhattan Project veteran Dieter Gruen and professors Jessica Hurley and Henry Frisch.

Robert Oppenheimer: The Myth and the Mystery : Remarks from a July lecture by author and AHF Board Member Richard Rhodes on J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Santa Fe Opera's production of Doctor Atomic . (Image: "Oppenheimer, Julius Robert," by David Wargowski).

Widespread Blurring of Satellite Images Reveals Secret Facilities : Matt Korda of the Federation of American Scientists explores how blurred satellite images on Yandex Maps (a Russian mapping site) actually reveal the locations of secret military facilities, including nuclear facilities. “By complying with requests to selectively obscure military facilities,” Korda observes, “The mapping service has actually revealed their precise locations, perimeters, and potential function to anyone curious enough to find them all.
"Voices of the Manhattan Project"
Here are some oral history interviews we have recently published on the  Voices of the Manhattan Project website
Justin Baba is a researcher and biomedical engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Born in Nigeria, he moved to the United States to attend college and has worked at ORNL since 2003. In this interview, Baba explains how he became interested in science and medical research. He also describes some of the projects he has worked on at ORNL, including efforts to create functional imaging of the brain and imaging of plants as part of research into renewable energy sources.
Budhendra Bhaduri is a Corporate Research Fellow and group leader of the Geographic Information Science and Technology Group in the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). In this interview, Dr. Bhaduri describes how his group researches global population dynamics. He also explains how Oak Ridge became involved in population research.
Julie Ezold is a nuclear engineer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. She directs a project in the Radiochemical Engineering Development Center that uses the High Flux Isotope Reactor to create californium-252. In this interview, Ezold describes the project and how the Reactor is used to create californium-252 and other elements. Ezold also explains how she became interested in science as a teenager, and what it is like to be a woman scientist working on nuclear issues.
David Holcomb is a nuclear engineer who specializes in instrumentation and controls for the molten salt reactors at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In this interview, Holcomb explains the differences between molten salt reactors and traditional light-water reactors, and advocates for increased usage of molten salt reactors in the future.
Adam Rondinone is an electrochemist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In this interview, Rondinone details his childhood interest in science and describes several of his team’s innovations in nanotechnology, including the development of new types of energy storage and conversion systems based on nanotechnology. Rondinone also explains why he believes publicly funded science benefits society as a whole.
Raymond Sheline was a chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University, Oak Ridge, and Los Alamos. In this lecture, he discusses how he joined the Manhattan Project, his work on gaseous diffusion under Nobel Prize winner Harold Urey and how he became a member of the Special Engineer Detachment. He also delves into the history of nuclear physics, providing an overview of key discoveries and personalities including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Edward Teller.
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