July 16, 2017 was the 72nd anniversary of the Trinity Test, the world's first nuclear test, in Alamogordo, NM. The test confirmed that the design for the "Fat Man" plutonium implosion bomb would work.

Dozens of Manhattan Project workers witnessed the test and were stunned by the size of the explosion. Chemist William Spindel recalled: "It was the most shocking, enormous explosion that I had ever seen." Berlyn Brixner, the head of photography at the Trinity Test, explained, "I knew immediately that the explosion had exceeded the greatest expectations and that essentially we had won the war because that bomb would soon be used on Japan." 

For more reflections by Trinity Test eyewitnesses, please see  Remembering the Trinity Test. You can also watch video of the Trinity Test and preparations for it on our YouTube channel

We are currently working on developing a "Ranger in Your Pocket" program on the Trinity Site. Please donate today to support the project! You can purchase our Trinity Site posters and notecards with the above design on our online store.

ChicagoAHF Launches "Ranger in Your Pocket: The University of Chicago"

One of 24 John Cadel paintings
recreating the CP-1 experiment
"For the first time, atomic power had been released. It had been controlled and stopped," Arthur Holly Compton declared. On December 2, 1942, Compton, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist, and 48 other Manhattan Project scientists and workers witnessed Chicago Pile-1 (CP-1) go critical. CP-1 was the first controlled, self-sustained nuclear chain reaction. The experimental reactor was built in a squash court under the stadium at Stagg Field at the University of Chicago.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of this landmark event that ushered in the Atomic Age. The Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF) has produced a new "Ranger in Your Pocket" online program on the University of Chicago's role in the Manhattan Project. The program features thirty audio/visual vignettes. First-hand accounts from Compton and many other Manhattan Project participants illuminate the history of the University's Metallurgical Laboratory, or "Met Lab," and its legacy today.

"The Manhattan Project National Historical Park was established in 2015 at three sites: Los Alamos, NM, Hanford, WA, and Oak Ridge, TN," explained Cynthia C. Kelly, President of the Atomic Heritage Foundation. "While the University of Chicago is not an official site, the work at the top-secret Metallurgical Laboratory there was critical to the Manhattan Project's success."

Chicago Met Lab scientists on the steps of Eckhart Hall

In 1942, the University of Chicago was selected for an important role: to design the world's first nuclear reactors to produce plutonium, one of the key ingredients of an atomic bomb. The Met Lab was responsible for designing a viable method for plutonium production and provided the blueprints for the pilot and full-scale reactors that were built at Oak Ridge, TN and Hanford, WA. About 2,000 people worked at the Met Lab during the war, including chemists, physicists, engineers, machinists and support staff. The scientists collaborated with the DuPont Corporation which was responsible for building the reactors at Oak Ridge and Hanford.

Ryerson Laboratory
The program highlights several buildings on campus where Manhattan Project employees worked and path-breaking scientific discoveries took place. Prominent scientists, including Compton, Enrico Fermi, and Leo Szilard, had their offices at Ryerson Laboratory and Eckhart Hall Glenn Seaborg and his colleagues synthesized plutonium at the George Herbert Jones Lab . Room 405 of Jones Laboratory, where Seaborg's team isolated and weighed a sample of plutonium for the first time in 1942, is now a National Historic Landmark.

Recollections from Chicago Pile-1 participants convey the high stakes of the historic experiment. Physicist Leona Marshall Libby, the only woman present, remembered participants' relief when the experiment was over. "Eugene Wigner showed up with a flask of Chianti. There was no toast, nothing, no remarks. Nothing very dramatic, really: the most effective kind of drama probably at that point." Today, Henry Moore's bronze sculpture "Nuclear Energy" marks the CP-1 site.

The first cover of 
the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 
Image courtesy of the Bulletin.
The program highlights the Chicago Met Lab's legacies for science and society today. After the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, several Met Lab scientists took the lead in establishing the influential journal The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Seventy years later, through its articles and iconic "Doomsday Clock," the Bulletin continues to a play an important role in warning the public about the dangers posed by nuclear weapons and other threats.

"Ranger in Your Pocket: The University of Chicago" will be available for the University of Chicago's commemoration of the 75th anniversary of CP-1 on December 2, 1942. The program also complements the "Turn Back the Clock" exhibit on the Bulletin's history currently on display at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.  AHF hopes to expand the program in the future to feature other Manhattan Project sites in Chicago, including Arthur Compton and Enrico Fermi's homes in the Hyde Park neighborhood, and address the history of the Argonne National Laboratory.

This project has been funded in part by a grant from the Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. AHF is very grateful to James Schoke and Dieter Gruen for their generous support for the program. Special thanks to the Hyde Park Historical Society and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists for their partnership in exploring the Chicago Met Lab's history and legacy today. As physicist Henry Frisch argues in one of the vignettes, "Chicago played an immensely important part in every aspect of the nuclear story. And the story is not over yet."
MPNHPManhattan Project NHP Updates
The B Reactor
This summer has been an exciting time for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park (NHP). On July 25, the Manhattan Project NHP's interim visitor center for the Hanford unit opened in Richland, WA, at 2000 Logston Blvd. The popular bus tours to the B Reactor and the prewar Manhattan Project sites will now leave from the visitor center. 

The building will also include office space for Department of Energy and National Park Service employees, and a space for souvenirs to be sold. At the center's dedication, Manhattan Project NHP Superintendent Kris Kirby noted, "The Manhattan Project is controversial and complex, but it is also incredibly compelling." The visitor center is open 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday during the tour season.

Solar eclipse poster for the Manhattan Project NHP by Tyler Nordgren.
The Oak Ridge unit is gearing up for the total solar eclipse on August 21. The Manhattan Project NHP at Oak Ridge is one of the lucky National Park Service units that will be in the path of totality. Visitors can gather at the American Museum of Science and Energy to view the eclipse. The eclipse can also be seen in totality at Big South Fork Gateway Visitor Center. Visitors at Los Alamos, NM and Hanford, WA, will be able to see a partial eclipse

On July 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended $8 million toward the K-25 History Center on the second floor of the city-owned fire station. According to Oak Ridge Today, about $20 million total is required to design and construct the K-25 History Center and the K-25 Equipment Building and Viewing Tower. This work is required by the 2012 agreement with the Department of Energy to mitigate the demolition of the historic plant.

On July 27, the Los Alamos History Museum announced that representatives of the museum, for the second year in a row, will travel to Japan for the anniversaries of the atomic bombings to attend the museum-memorial ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. 

The paper cranes folded by visitors to the Museum. Photo courtesy of the Los Alamos History Museum.
According to the Museum's press release, they "will meet with their museum counterparts, visit with several project partners, tour the museums and memorial sites, and participate in the Mayors for Peace conference held in Nagasaki." The representatives will present a gift of 1300 origami cranes, hand folded by visitors to the museum, to Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They will also deliver a Los Alamos County proclamation of friendship to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum.

The release concludes, "The Los Alamos/Japan Project is a unique intercultural initiative to create understanding through shared history, partnerships, dialogue, and collaboration. Across our shared history we intend to illuminate multiple perspectives-scientists and survivors alike. In just one year since its founding, the Los Alamos/Japan Project is already inspiring a bridge of understanding between Los Alamos, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki-and making history around the globe." 
AnniversariesAnniversaries of the Atomic Bombings
The atomic bomb's mushroom cloud over Nagasaki
This August marks the 72nd anniversary of the
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki . The 509th Composite Group of the Army Air Forces flew from Tinian Island in the Pacific to deliver the bombs, nicknamed Little Boy and Fat Man. Little Boy, a uranium gun-type bomb, exploded with approximately 15 kilotons of force over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Fat Man, a plutonium implosion bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki three days later with an estimated yield of 20 kilotons. Japan officially surrendered on August 15. For a detailed timeline of the atomic bombing missions and the aftermath, please click here.
By the end of 1945, the bombings had killed an estimated 140,000 people at Hiroshima and 74,000 at Nagasaki, including those who died from radiation poisoning. The survivors became known as hibakusha (literally "atomic bomb-affected people"). Historians, scientists, and politicians  continue to debate the decision to drop the bomb.
Colonel Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay which dropped the bomb on Hiroshima, remembered , "The whole sky lit up when it exploded. By the time we turned around to look at it, there was nothing but a black boiling mess hanging over the city. It was actually obscuring everything but something on the outskirts. You wouldn't have known that the city of Hiroshima was there unless you had seen it coming in." For more interviews with service members who flew on the atomic bomb missions, visit AHF's "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website.
Hiroshima after the atomic bombing
Norman Brown, a chemist and member of the Special Engineer Detachment,
recalled , "Most of us at Los Alamos felt that the nuclear weapon should not be used in war first, that it should be demonstrated to the Japanese before it was used. But the powers that be decided that they were going to use this weapon." 

Others, such as physicist Leona Marshall Libby, asserted , "In wartime, it was a desperate time. I think we did right and we couldn't have done differently. When you're in a war to the death, I don't think you stand around and say, 'Is it right?'" 

To read more accounts of and reflections on the bombings from Manhattan Project veterans, please see Manhattan Project Veterans on the Bombing of Hiroshima.
InternsThanks to our Interns
Simon, Kristina, and Chris
The Atomic Heritage Foundation is very grateful to our summer interns for their terrific work. Our team included Kristina Kim, a rising senior at Yale University studying the history of science; Simon Mairson, a rising senior at Georgetown University studying history; and Christopher Rudeen, who graduated from Yale University in May with degrees in chemistry and history of science and will begin a doctorate program at Harvard University in the history of science this fall.

Kristina, Simon, and Chris edited oral histories; researched and wrote articles for the AHF website; and wrote hundreds of profiles for the Manhattan Project Veterans Database

Camera work at Trinity Site
Kristina and Chris contributed articles to complement AHF's forthcoming "Ranger in Your Pocket" program on Los Alamos innovations on high-speed photography, the water boiler reactor, electronics and detonators, the human computers of Los Alamos, and health physics. They also published articles on the Manhattan Project's displacement of the local communities at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, and Hanford, and Hispanos in Los Alamos.

Simon, who has interned for AHF part-time since fall 2016, spent part of the summer in France thanks to a Georgetown University fellowship that allowed him to conduct archival research on Frederic Joliot-Curie at the Institut Curie. You can read about his research project here. Simon has written articles on the French nuclear program, the "Radium girls," and the German atomic bomb project.
RoundupHistory Article Roundup
Here is a roundup of some of the most interesting articles published on the anniversary of the Trinity test, the Manhattan Project, and World War II history this month.

Joseph Rotblat

Dr. Rotblat: Or How I Learned to Start Worrying & Fear the Bomb: Culture.Pl profiles Joseph Rotblat, the Polish-born physicist who left the Manhattan Project, ostensibly on grounds of conscience, in late 1944. Rotblat later organized the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to advance nuclear disarmament.

Newly digitized footage shows Hiroshima before A-bomb: The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum recently released historic black-and-white video footage of the city. Taken by a Hiroshima resident in 1935, the film is the only footage in the museum's collection that depicts the city's downtown before World War II.

The Long, Weird Half-Life of Trinitite: Atlas Obscura explores the history and uses of trinitite, the glass-like material created from the sand by the heat generated by the "Gadget" at the Trinity Site on July 16, 1945.
The test that changed the world: On the anniversary of the Trinity Test, AHF's Alexandra Levy published an article in the Washington Post on why the Manhattan Project was successful and why it is so difficult to prevent nations from developing nuclear weapons.

- Age of Santa Fe Plaza buildingsAlbuquerque Journal article explores the age of the wood used in 109 East Palace and nearby buildings in Santa Fe. At 109 East Palace, Dorothy McKibbin, "the Gatekeeper to Los Alamos," welcomed Manhattan Project workers.

- Legacy of first atomic test endures: CNN story by the granddaughter of a Manhattan Project veteran on the 72nd anniversary of the Trinity test.

Here are some oral history interviews we have recently published on the  Voices of the Manhattan Project website

Lionel Ames is an Army and Manhattan Project veteran. In this interview, he talks about how his brother Maurice "Maury" Shapiro, who worked as a scientist at Los Alamos, was able to get him assigned to the top-secret site. Ames recalls his work at Los Alamos in the chemistry lab, and his role as a cantor for the weekly Jewish services. He also discusses daily life at Los Alamos. He concludes by discussing his post-war life as an entertainer.

William Ginell is a physical chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project. In this interview he describes how he became interested in chemistry and his experiences working at Columbia University and Oak Ridge, TN on the gaseous diffusion process. He reflects on the Army, living conditions, and the intense secrecy and security during the project. He also discusses his life after the war, especially his work at Brookhaven, Atomics International, and Douglas Aircraft.

Nancy K. Nelson is the widow of Richard H. Nelson, who was the VHF radio operator on the Enola Gay on the Hiroshima atomic bombing mission. In this interview, Nelson discusses how she met her husband after the war. She describes his experience training to be radar operator and in the 509th Composite Group. She recalls how he and other members of the missions felt about the atomic bombings. Nelson also discusses her experiences going to 509th Composite Group reunions and her husband's friendships with General Paul Tibbets and other members of the 509th.

Ruben Salazar worked for Reynolds Electrical and Engineering Company, tasked with doing electrical distribution around Los Alamos. Starting as a laborer on the electrical line from Santa Fe to Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, he worked his way up to become an electrical lineman and foreman. In this interview, Salazar talks about what Los Alamos has meant to him, his family, and his community, and describes his work at Los Alamos from the 1940s through the 1990s. 

Jim Sanborn is an American sculptor known for works such as "Kryptos" at the CIA Headquarters in McLean, VA. In this interview, Sanborn discusses his exhibit "Critical Assembly," which is now on display at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, NM. Sanborn explains why he decided to do the project, and how he carefully created each piece of the exhibit. He describes some of the artifacts in the exhibit, including the physics package of the Trinity device and an oscilloscope, and where he found some of the materials and artifacts he used. 
We are proud to bring you new first-hand accounts from Manhattan Project participants as well as interviews with experts month after month. Please let us know if you have any good candidates for us to interview and support our efforts by sending a check or donating online

Your  donation  will enable to continue our important and time-sensitive mission to capture the recollections of Manhattan Project participants before it is too late. Thanks very much!

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