In February, AHF's Cindy Kelly and Alexandra Levy visited New Mexico to continue efforts to capture oral histories of the Manhattan Project. Frances Quintana (95) and Lydia Martinez (90) talked about working at Los Alamos and the laboratory's impact on the neighboring Hispano communities. Floy Agnes Lee (94), whose father was a member of the Santa Clara Pueblo, recalled working as a technician in the hematology lab and playing tennis with Enrico Fermi. We will be publishing these and other interesting interviews on the "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website over the next few months.

We also attended the opening of "Critical Assembly," an installation by artist Jim Sanborn at the National Museum for Nuclear Science and History (more on the exhibition below) on February 3, 2017. We interviewed the artist, museum director Jim Walther, and Clay Perkins, who generously supported the installation's move to the Albuquerque museum. 

In Los Alamos, we were delighted to see  the wonderfully renovated Los Alamos History Museum and the Harold Agnew Cold War Gallery. We met with the Los Alamos/Northern New Mexico Section of the IEEE on our collaborative project, "Los Alamos Innovations." The  New Mexico landscape in winter inspired many photos such as the one of Ashley Pond at Los Alamos (above).

Manhattan Project insignia.
Image courtesy of Alex Wellerstein
In January 2017, the National Park Service completed an important step by publishing the Manhattan Project National Historical Park's (NHP) foundation document. This document establishes a baseline for park planning and interpretive activities and provides basic guidance for planning and management decisions. 
As presented in the foundation document, NPS promises to engage visitors in learning about the "Secret Cities," assessing the Manhattan Project's scientific and engineering advances, and reflecting on the dawn of the nuclear age and its legacy for today. NPS will now begin the multiyear process of creating a general management plan that will guide the Manhattan Project NHP's operations for twenty years.  

The foundation document lists the properties that are either currently included in the Manhattan Project NHP, such as the V-Site at Los Alamos and the B Reactor at Hanford, or are eligible for inclusion, including the Alexander Guest House in Oak Ridge and the T-Plant at Hanford. The document also identifies four major interpretive themes for the Manhattan Project NHP; to learn more, please click here.

The B Reactor at Hanford
Many activities and events are underway at the Manhattan Project sites this year. In honor of Black History Month, the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce is hosting a month-long photography exhibit, "Atomic Integration," on the experiences of African-Americans during the Manhattan Project.  You can learn more about the exhibit in this  Oak Ridger article
In mid-March, the Hanford History Project is convening a "Legacies of the Manhattan Project" conference in Richland, WA. See here for more information.

National Parks Friends Alliance Meeting
Acting NPS Director Michael Reynolds. Photo courtesy NPS.
On February 14-15, the National Parks Friends Alliance held its biannual meeting in Arlington, Virginia. The meeting brought together more than 100 people from organizations dedicated to supporting America's national parks from Acadia to Yosemite to Klondike.

AHF took advantage of the Friends Alliance meeting to gather ideas for how best to support the Manhattan Project National Historical Park (NHP) at Oak Ridge, TN, Hanford, WA, and Los Alamos, NM. Despite great diversity among the parks, the Friends groups face many common challenges.
Interim NPS director Mike Reynolds emphasized that national parks must represent the stories of America's diverse communities. For the Manhattan Project, this would include the stories of women, Native Americans, Hispanos, and African-Americans.
Students enthralled by the B Reactor. Photo courtesy Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times.
In honor of the National Park Service's 2016 centennial, the National Park Foundation raised some $500 million to support the parks. According to the National Parks Conservation Association, the national parks welcomed nearly 331 million visitors, a new record, in 2016. 

NPS and the National Park Foundation plan to continue two popular initiatives. Every Kid in a Park gives every fourth-grade student in the country free access to national parks. Last year, several fourth grades classes were awed by the B Reactor.  The Find Your Park campaign encourages Americans to visit national parks and intends to highlight lesser-known national parks and historic sites.

In 2016, Congress passed the National Park Service Centennial Act, which promotes the educational role of the Park Service and creates an endowment for NPS. Due to years of funding constraints, NPS currently faces a $12 billion maintenance backlog. In addition, the funds available for new parks have been limited.  The Centennial Act is an important step in ensuring a sustainable financial future for NPS, but many challenges remain. 

Sanborn "Critical Assembly" Exhibition Opens
Sculptor Jim Sanborn with "Critical Assembly"
A magnificent exhibition, "Critical Assembly, the Secrets of Los Alamos 1944: An Installation by Jim Sanborn," recently opened at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, NM. The exhibition first opened in 2003 in Washington, DC at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and has traveled to South Korea and Ireland. Sanborn is a world-renowned sculptor. His most famous sculpture is "Kryptos" on display at the CIA headquarters in Langley, VA.

"Critical Assembly" recreates the Manhattan Project  scientists' experiments at Los Alamos to determine when plutonium would go "critical" in an atomic bomb. Sanborn spent ten years investigating the Manhattan Project and collecting artifacts from the Black Hole in Los Alamos and many other sources. The exhibition represents various experimental assemblies made from a combination of authentic electronic equipment, gadgetry and absolutely exquisite components crafted by Sanborn. 

"Bottom Half of the Disassembled Physics Package of Trinity Device" by Jim Sanborn
In 2015, Sanborn approached AHF President Cindy Kelly to help him find a permanent home for the exhibition. Kelly worked with Sanborn, Jim Walther, Executive Director at the Museum, and philanthropist Clay K. Perkins to facilitate an agreement. Perkins generously paid for the exhibition to be shipped to Albuquerque and sponsored the exhibition at the Museum, along with Lockheed Martin/Sandia National Laboratories.

On February 3, 2017, the Museum hosted a ceremony for the opening of "Critical Assembly." Sanborn and Perkins cut the red ribbon together, and Museum supporters exclaimed over the artifacts and artwork. Attendees included Kris Kirby, superintendent of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park; Heather McClenahan, Executive Director of the Los Alamos Historical Society; Hal Behl, Manhattan Project veteran and retired aeronautical engineer; and many others.

"Device for Measuring the Neutron Flux of a Uranium Core" by Jim Sanborn
Just before the opening, AHF recorded an interview with Sanborn discussing what inspired him to develop "Critical Assembly" and what he hopes the impact of the installation will be on audiences. AHF will publish the interview on the "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website this summer.

"Critical Assembly" will be on display from February 4 through October 15, 2017, and eventually be a permanent exhibit at the Museum. For more about the exhibition, please visit the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History website and the Albuquerque Journal article on the exhibition, Sculptor's exhibition focuses on secret work of Manhattan Project. You can view photos of the exhibition taken by Alexandra Levy on our website.

Abelson Manhattan Project Spotlight: Philip Abelson
Philip Abelson
From his research at the University of California, Berkeley before the war to his Manhattan Project work to his years at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, Philip Abelson made many contributions to 20th-century American science.

In 1939, after working for Ernest Lawrence and receiving his Ph.D. in nuclear physics from Berkeley, Abelson began to work at the Geophysical Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. In 1940, he and Edwin McMillan co-discovered the radioactive element neptunium.

That same year, Abelson began to develop liquid thermal diffusion, a new method to separate uranium isotopes, at the Bureau of Standards. The U.S. Navy was interested in producing nuclear-powered submarines and in 1941 recruited him to work on thermal diffusion the Naval Research Laboratory. Eventually, Abelson received authorization to build a pilot plant in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. With the U.S. now embroiled in World War II, he worked relentlessly: "I was at it more than twelve hours a day, seven days a week. I wouldn't go home to bed but would just sleep right there."

In 1944, aware of the difficulties the Manhattan Project was experiencing with the gaseous diffusion process, Abelson informed J. Robert Oppenheimer about the progress he had made using thermal diffusion. Shortly thereafter, General Leslie Groves ordered that a thermal diffusion plant be built at Oak Ridge. In an impressive 69 days, the S-50 plant (left) was completed, with 2,100 columns that all had perfectly round copper tubing inside nickel tubes. The distance between the inner and outer tubes had to be precisely 0.025 centimeters in order for the separation of the isotopes to work.

After being slightly enriched (1-2%) at the S-50 plant, uranium was then fed into the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant and then the Y-12 electromagnetic separation plant. This serial approach ensured enough uranium would be produced for the Little Boy atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Ross Gunn, William "Deak" Parsons, and
Philip Abelson

In the years following the war, Abelson began exploring biology and geology and published an important work on E. coli in 1955. In 1962, he became the editor of the journal Science, where he published his insightful editorials for 23 years. He also served as the director of the Geophysics Laboratory at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and then as the Institution's president.

For younger generations, Abelson advised, "If this country wants to have the best chance of succeeding well in the future, it better see to it that its science and technology is top-notch. Because if anything, there will be more developments."

Abelson passed away in 2004 at age 91 in Washington, DC.  For the full Spotlight article on Abelson, please click here. All quotations are drawn from an interview conducted with Abelson in 2002 by the Atomic Heritage Foundation. To listen to a 1966 interview with Abelson by journalist Stephane Groueff, please click here.

LesterTenney In Memoriam: Lester Tenney
Lester Tenney
We are sad to report the passing of World War II veteran and Bataan Death March survivor Lester Tenney at age 96 on February 24, 2017.

Tenney was serving in the Philippines when he was captured by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1942. He and his fellow soldiers were forced to trek 75 miles on the infamous Bataan Death March, in which thousands died from  starvation, dehydration, and gratuitous violence.
Tenney was then enslaved for three years in a Japanese coal mine in Omuta, across the bay from Nagasaki. In a 2013 interview with the Atomic Heritage Foundation, Tenney recalled the atomic bombing of Nagasaki: "We were in our prison camp in Omuta. We heard an explosion and we saw a tremendous cloud rise. It was the bomb at Nagasaki that we heard. I guess we were witnesses to it because we were right there. We didn't know what it was. But the war ended one week later."

 After the war, Tenney received business degrees from San Diego State University and the University of Southern California and became a college professor. He also spearheaded the post-war movement that pushed Japan to acknowledge the mistreatment of American POWs during World War II. In addition to calling for apologies from the Japanese government and Japanese mining companies, Tenney made enormous efforts to educate both Japanese schoolchildren and American society on what had happened during the war. In 1995, he published an account of his wartime experiences in a book called "My Hitch in Hell."

Tenney attended Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress in which Abe expressed "my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II." The Japanese leader later made an apology in person to Tenney. In January 2017, mining company Mitsubishi Materials Corporation sent an apology letter to Tenney. Although this was not the specific company that owned the mine where Tenney was forced to work, he expressed optimism that other companies would follow suit.

Tenney remarked that all the while he pursued these apologies, he had come to realize that he had to forgive. "I couldn't go there and talk with them if I hadn't learned to forgive and get on with my life. So, the forgiveness that I did was not for them. The forgiveness was for me," he explained in his interview. "By my forgiving, I opened up my door. I've often said that my friends who still hate, they're still prisoners. They're still prisoners. They have not been released yet."

In addition to those efforts, he also formed a company called Care Packages from Home, which sends care packages to soldiers in Afghanistan, after realizing he had never received his own package as a solider.

For more about Tenney and his life, see his obituary in the San Diego Union-Tribune. To watch AHF's full interview with Tenney, click here.
Roundup History Article Roundup
Here is a roundup of some of the best articles published on the history of science, the Manhattan Project, World War II, and the Cold War this month.
  • Trinitite in 1945 after the Trinity Test
    How Mendeleev Invented His Periodic Table in a Dream: A BrainPickings article describes how a dream helped Dmitri Mendeleev develop the Periodic Table: "I saw in a dream a table where all the elements fell into place as required. Awakening, I immediately wrote it down on a piece of paper."
Voices"Voices of the Manhattan Project"
Kennette Benedict is the Senior Advisor to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. She served as the Bulletin's Executive Director and Publisher from 2005 until her retirement in February 2015. In this interview, Benedict discusses the history of the Bulletin. She recalls the scientists and staff involved with the Bulletin over the years, and describes the role the magazine has played in providing scientists with a platform to inform the debate on nuclear policy and other global security issues.

Louis Hempelmann - Part 4: Hempelmann worked as a doctor at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project and was close friends with J. Robert Oppenheimer. In this interview, he discusses the other doctors at Los Alamos and their roles, including his own occasional role as anesthetist. He recalls visiting a radium dial plant to observe how the company protected its workers from radiation, and how they adopted similar practices at Los Alamos.

Robert I. ("Bob") Howes Jr. is an American physicist. He was a young child when his father, Robert Ingersoll Howes, was recruited to work as a scientist on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, New Mexico. In this interview, Howes shares snapshots of daily life in the Los Alamos community from the perspective of a child. He also describes some of the interactions between the Manhattan Project and local Pueblos and recalls the misadventures of the family dog.

Ruth Howes is professor emerita of physics and astronomy at Ball State University with an interest in the history of women physicists. She has researched and written on the role of female scientists in the Manhattan Project. Howes is the co-author of "Their Day in the Sun: Women of the Manhattan Project," which tells the "hidden story of the contribution of women in the effort to develop the atomic bomb."

John Manley Part 1 & Part 2: Manley was a nuclear physicist who worked for the Manhattan Project from its early days. After the war, Manley served as the Executive Secretary of the General Advisory Committee (GAC) of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), and later also became Associate Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In these interviews, Manley discusses how he came into these positions and reflects upon the relationship of the GAC and the AEC. He recalls Oppenheimer's relationship with others on the GAC, including James B. Conant, and Oppenheimer's leadership on the GAC.  He also explains the founding of Los Alamos and and reflects on Oppenheimer's transition into the "great administrator."

Julie Melton is an author and expert on civil society, development, and democratization. She is the daughter of Manhattan Project historian David Hawkins and Frances Hawkins, the founder of the nursery school at Los Alamos. During the Manhattan Project, her family lived in the same four-family house as Victor and Ellen Weisskopf, who became some of their closest friends. In this interview, she shares her childhood memories of Los Alamos and anecdotes about prominent Manhattan Project scientists. She also describes her parents' involvement in the Communist Party at Berkeley, where her father met J. Robert Oppenheimer. She concludes with a brief reflection on the frustrations of being a woman at Los Alamos.
Thanks to all the Manhattan Project veterans, their families and many others who have supported our efforts over the past 15 years.  The "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website now contains more than 430 oral history interviews. We are continuing to interview Manhattan Project veterans, family members, and experts around the country.

Your  donation will make a difference! Please consider taking a minute to support our efforts. Thanks very much!

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