This July marks the 71st anniversary of the Trinity test. After Don Hornig (above) spent the night babysitting the bomb, on July 16, 1945, at 5:29 AM MT, the Manhattan Project conducted the world's first nuclear test at the Trinity Site near Alamogordo, New Mexico. This inaugural test ushered in the nuclear era.

Roger Rasmussen , a member of the Special Engineer Detachment who witnessed the test, remembered, "The brightest light came that I had ever observed with my eyes closed. That was the detonation, but there was no noise and no sound and nothing to see until our troop master said we could look up. We stood up and looked into this black abyss ahead of us. There was this beautiful color of the bomb, gorgeous. The colors were roving in and out of our visual range. There we stood, gawking at this."

For more Trinity test reminiscences from Manhattan Project veterans, click here or visit the " Voices of the Manhattan Project" website. You can also view numerous photographs of the preparations for the test and the test itself on AHF's website, and watch more than an hour of historic footage on our YouTube channel.

SherwinCollectionPresenting the Martin J. Sherwin Collection
J. Robert Oppenheimer
The Atomic Heritage Foundation is pleased to present the Martin J. Sherwin Collection, focusing on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, on the "Voices of the Manhattan Project" oral history website . The collection is courtesy of historian and George Mason University Professor Martin J. Sherwin. 

Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist, proved to be an extraordinary choice to direct the Los Alamos laboratory, the center for scientific research on the atomic bomb during the Manhattan Project in World War II. Like many of his peers, physicist Robert Christy joined the Manhattan Project because of one man: J. Robert Oppenheimer. "Oppenheimer asked if I would join him in Los Alamos. I said I would be delighted because like most of his students, I would more or less follow him to the ends of the earth."

Sherwin recorded audio interviews with dozens of Manhattan Project veterans and friends of Oppenheimer in the 1970s-80s, as he was preparing to write a biography of Oppenheimer, American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Sherwin wrote the book with historian and journalist Kai Bird. The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2006 and is considered the premier Oppenheimer biography. Now for the first time, the interviews that Sherwin conducted are available to the public. Each interview includes an audio recording and transcript. The "Voices" website currently features 17 interviews from the Sherwin Collection; AHF plans to upload the remaining interviews over the next year or so as funding is available.
The interviews cover much of Oppenheimer's life, from his graduate school days to his death. They trace Oppenheimer's transformation from a magnetically brilliant professor, often deep in thought surrounded by young physicists, to a focused wartime laboratory director. Some interviewees recall the 1954 Atomic Energy Commission hearing that stripped Oppenheimer of his security clearance. The verdict ended his influence on nuclear weapons policy and profoundly affected him and his family. The Sherwin Collection interviews provide a kaleidoscope of reflections on the many facets of Oppenheimer's personality, career, and his relationship with his family. 

Oppenheimer with Dorothy McKibbin
and Victor Weisskopf (right)
Oppenheimer has long been recognized as a complicated man who provoked complicated emotions. Some of the interviewees fondly recall Oppenheimer's ability to inspire his students and his leadership during the Manhattan Project. Alice Kimball Smith joined her husband, metallurgist Cyril Smith, at Los Alamos. Smith found Oppenheimer "helpful, thoughtful, and extraordinarily kind and pleasant." After the war, Smith edited a volume of Oppenheimer's letters. 

But not everyone shared such a rosy view of Oppenheimer's character or abilities. Marvin Goldberger, who worked on the Manhattan Project at Chicago and later became president of Caltech, found Oppenheimer to be a very challenging person when they met after the war. "He was a difficult person to be with under any circumstances. It was almost as though he were acting continuously. In spite of having been very close to him for ten years, I never felt that I was really close to him, that I really understood him. He took great pleasure in putting people down." 

J. Robert Oppenheimer's character and career continue to fascinate historians and the general public. The Sherwin Collection will inform historical scholarship on Oppenheimer's life, and many other issues, for decades to come.

The Atomic Heritage Foundation thanks Martin J. Sherwin and the Library of Congress for their support in publishing the Sherwin Collection on the "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website. AHF is grateful to Crystal Trust and the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust for their financial support of AHF's oral history project.

To read more about the Sherwin Collection, please click here.
AlexanderAlexander Guest House Preservation Project Receives ACHP Award
Sue Cange (left) and Kim Trent (right) accept the Chairman's Award. From left, Robert S. Norris, Eric Boyle, Milford Wayne Donaldson, John Fowler, Robert Stanton, and David Klaus.
On July 13, the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance (ETPA), the Department of Energy (DOE) in Oak Ridge, and Dover Development received the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation Chairman's Award for Achievement in Historic Preservation for their efforts to preserve and restore the historic Alexander Inn in Oak Ridge. Built to accommodate visiting dignitaries during the Manhattan Project, the property was formerly known as the "Guest House." Today it is called the Alexander Guest House.

Kim Trent, Executive Director of the ETPA, and Sue Cange, Manager of DOE's Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, accepted the award on behalf of their organizations and Dover Development. AHF co-sponsored the award ceremony. The ACHP introduced the award with  a presentation on the history of the Guest House/Alexander Inn with photographs of the property before and after its restoration. Robert S. Norris, a member of AHF's Board of Directors, spoke at the reception about the Inn's ties to the Manhattan Project.

When General Leslie R. Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project, came on one of his frequent visits to Oak Ridge during the war, he usually stayed at the Guest House. He had a special suite reserved for him at the Guest House throughout the duration of the war. In addition to General Groves, key Manhattan Project figures, including Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Enrico Fermi, J. Robert Oppenheimer, James B. Conant and Vannevar Bush, stayed there on their trips to Oak Ridge.
The Alexander Guest House today, after its restoration. Photo courtesy of Ray Smith.
Over the last 15 years, AHF worked with the community to preserve the Inn, which had fallen into disrepair. The Alexander Guest House opened in November 2015 as an assisted senior living facility. Dover Development saved as much as they could of the original building, including the original floors and structure. The lobby features exhibits on Manhattan Project history developed by the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association. The Inn is now part of the heritage tourism tours sponsored by the Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

It is wonderful to see such an important historic building preserved and restored. The Alexander Guest House will continue to be a center of Oak Ridge's community for decades to come.

For the full article about the award and the restoration of the Guest House, click here.
Crossroads70th Anniversary of Operation Crossroads
The Baker shot of Operation Crossroads
This July marks the 70th anniversary of Operation Crossroads, a series of nuclear weapons tests conducted by the United States at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The purpose of the operation, which included two shots, "Able" and "Baker," was to investigate the effect of nuclear weapons on naval warships. The tests were the first nuclear detonations conducted after the end of World War II, and the first to be publicly announced. An invited audience, including a large press corps and international observers, witnessed the explosions.

Several websites have covered the anniversary of the operation. On Atlas Obscura, Sarah Laskow describes the Baker shot, the first underwater nuclear test. The detonation generated a column of radioactive water that severely contaminated the target ships that were not otherwise destroyed by the explosion. She details how the test "instilled new awe for the power of the bomb."
In an article on the New Yorker website, historian Alex Wellerstein reflects on the significance of the tests. 1946, he writes, "was a year of choices about the character of the postwar, newly nuclear world...Crossroads marked a moment of giddy abandon, when weapons of mass destruction became a form of consumer entertainment." Wellerstein also mentions the impact of Operation Crossroads on the people of Bikini Atoll - who were evacuated to nearby atolls before the tests began - and the legacies of U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands.

The Bikini tests are also known for inspiring the eponymous swimsuit. Historian Jennifer Le Zotte has a fascinating article on the history of the bikini swimsuit and its Cold War connections.

For more information about the operation and its legacy, click here. AHF's " Voices of the Manhattan Project" website also contains numerous interviews with veterans who participated in Operation Crossroads.
LoweIn Memoriam: William Lowe
William Lowe in 2014
AHF is sad to report the passing of Manhattan Project veteran William Lowe on July 4, 2016. He was 95 years old.

In an interview with AHF in February 2014, Lowe recalled his introduction to the Manhattan Project as a member of the Special Engineer Detachment in March 1944: "I was given sealed orders that I was to be put on a train. I was in charge of seventeen soldiers that were all engineers. I was to take them to the place that my sealed orders would tell me to take them after we got on the train, got going, and hit a certain place on the route."  Eventually they found themselves at 109 East Palace in Santa Fe, NM, and were taken to Los Alamos. 

He was assigned to work with chemist Arthur Wahl on the process for purifying the plutonium for the Gadget and the bombs. Wahl handled the chemistry, while Lowe managed the equipment team. 

After the war, Lowe was selected as the Chief of the Nuclear Engineering Section of the Hanford office of the Atomic Energy Commission. He oversaw the building of new reactors, laboratories, and other support facilities at Hanford. He worked in the nuclear power industry for many years and was in the control room during the Three Mile Island incident, where he helped to ascertain the severity of the problem and find ways to stabilize the reactor. 

Looking back on his life, Lowe recalled, "I would say that my 93 years have been dominated by atomic bombs, war-in particular, World War II-and later by peaceful uses of atomic energy."
Commander"Commander in Chief: FDR's Battle with Churchill, 1943"
A great deal has already been written about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, one of the United States' most beloved presidents. Nigel Hamilton's new book hones in on a very specific subject. Commander in Chief: FDR's Battle with Churchill, 1943 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) focuses on Roosevelt as a military leader, and specifically on the year 1943, from the planning of the Casablanca Conference to the Allied invasion of mainland Italy. 

Commander in Chief weaves together compelling storylines, backed by a wealth of primary source material, on Roosevelt's handling of the war. The focus is often on his clashes with advisers and fellow Allied leaders, especially with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The problem with portraying World War II and FDR through these clashes is that Commander in Chief often slips from biography into hagiography. In each case, Hamilton is unambiguously on Roosevelt's side. Frustratingly, he often presents a flimsy case for why, exactly, Roosevelt was right and everyone else was wrong.
The book is well-suited for World War II buffs, but perhaps not so much for presidency buffs. The discussion of military strategy certainly seems comprehensive (though the Manhattan Project only merits a few passing mentions), but the discussion of FDR is not. He is portrayed as conflicted and even flawed, but never as fallible.
Click here to read a full review of Commander in Chief.
Voices"Voices of the Manhattan Project"
Here are some oral history interviews we have recently added to the  Voices of the Manhattan Project website

Marvin Goldberger was President of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and a friend of J. Robert Oppenheimer's from his days at Princeton, after World War II. In this interview, he talks about his and his wife's relationships with Robert and Kitty Oppenheimer. He also discusses Oppenheimer's reputation as a physicist and personality, as well as how Oppenheimer fit into the social scene in post-war Princeton. Goldberger recounts how he first met Oppenheimer, and gives his impressions of other Manhattan Project figures including Robert Serber and Edward Teller.

Ed Hammel was a young physicist at Princeton University when he signed on to work for the Manhattan Project. Stationed at Los Alamos, he became involved with the site's production of plutonium. He stayed at Los Alamos after the war and worked in the hydrogen bomb program. In this interview, he discusses the early efforts to design the hydrogen bomb, the scientific innovations he and his colleagues developed at LANL, and why he decided not to work on the Ivy Mike shot.

Verna Hobson worked for J. Robert Oppenheimer as a secretary at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University. In this interview, she discusses life in Princeton during the mid-'50s, including the social scene and her personal relationships with the Oppenheimer family. She worked for Oppenheimer during his security hearing, and explains why she felt the legal strategy was flawed and recalls the strain the Oppenheimer family was put under. She also discusses the personalities of Robert, Kitty, and Peter Oppenheimer, and Robert and Kitty's relationship.

Edward Purcell was an eminent physicist at Harvard who won the 1952 Nobel Prize in Physics. He worked on microwave radiation at the MIT Rad Lab during World War II, and was involved in some of the Trinity test preparations. In this interview, he discusses his time with J. Robert Oppenheimer at Harvard University after the war, and the problems some tenured professors ran into after being accused of being communists. He also mentions Manhattan Project physicist Herbert York, whom he praises for his own efforts to chronicle the same period as well as his work on the early American space program. Purcell recalls talking about Eisenhower's election and the first successful hydrogen bomb test with Oppenheimer.

Joseph Rotblat was a British-naturalized Polish physicist,1995 Nobel Peace Prize winner, and founder of the Pugwash Conferences. Rotblat and his friend James Chadwick, discoverer of the neutron, conducted early research on the atomic bomb in England, and both joined the British Mission at Los Alamos working on the Manhattan Project. Rotblat left the Manhattan Project on grounds of conscience in late 1944 when it became clear Germany was not close to developing an atomic bomb, the only scientist to leave the project for moral reasons. In this interview, he discusses his personal and professional relationships with J. Robert Oppenheimer, Niels Bohr, and the Chadwick family. He also provides insight into the intense security measures in place at Los Alamos, as well as the nature of British involvement at the site. Perhaps most intriguing is Rotblat's discussion of his decision to leave Los Alamos, spurred on by his growing concern that the nuclear weapons being created were also meant for the Soviet Union, and his anxiety over a postwar arms race. In a lighter vein, Rotblat also recalls his work as a technical advisor on the 1980 miniseries "Oppenheimer."
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, the three Manhattan Project National Historical Park sites and other important project sites such as the University of Chicago and University of California-Berkeley. 

Please make a  donation to support our continued efforts. Thank you very much!

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