This December will be the 75th anniversary of the Chicago Pile-1 (CP-1), the world's first artificial nuclear reactor, going critical. The above photo shows  some of the CP-1 scientists on the steps of Eckhart Hall at the University of Chicago in 1946. To commemorate the anniversary, the Museum of Science and Industry has recently opened an exhibit developed in partnership with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on nuclear history and current nuclear weapons issues called   "Turn Back the Clock." The exhibit opened on May 26 and will run through early 2018.

The Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF) will launch a "Ranger in Your Pocket" program on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago this fall. The program has been developed in coordination with the Bulletin, the Hyde Park Historical Society, and the University of Chicago. Later this year, AHF will produce "Ranger" programs on the innovations at Los Alamos during and after the war and launch a "Ranger" program on the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge. 

The Manhattan Project National Historical Park (NHP) is making progress in its second full year of operation. The National Park Service and the local sites continue to develop exciting initiatives at the park's three units: Oak Ridge, TN, Hanford, WA, and Los Alamos, NM.

LAHS Executive Director Heather McClenahan, Senator Martin Heinrich, MPNHP Superintendent Kris Kirby, LAHS Board President Michael Wheeler, and County Councilor Rick Reiss. 
Photo by Carol A. Clark, Los Alamos Daily Post.
Los Alamos: On May 27, the Los Alamos Historical Society (LAHS) received $10,000 from the National Park Service's Heritage Partnerships Program. The Heritage Partnerships Program supports efforts to preserve, interpret, and protect National Historic Landmarks. 

With these funds, LAHS will develop an interpretive plan for historic Fuller Lodge , where scientists and workers dined during the Manhattan Project.  A longtime center for the community, Fuller Lodge has been called the "heart and soul of Los Alamos." U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Manhattan Project NHP Superintendent Kris Kirby announced the award at an event in Los Alamos.

The Los Alamos History Museum is also fostering a dialogue between Los Alamos and the two Japanese cities devastated by the atomic bombs during World War II.  An exhibit called "Culture and Collaboration: The Los Alamos/Japan Project," open through July, discusses multiple perspectives on the Manhattan Project and ways to build understanding between the U.S. and Japan. Visitors to the exhibit can create paper cranes that will be donated to Hiroshima and Nagasaki when two representatives of the Museum attend the annual commemorations of the atomic bombings on August 6 and August 9. The following month, Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum Director Dr. Kenji Shiga will visit Los Alamos for the first time.

Sec. Perry, Sen. Alexander, and Rep. Fleischmann at ORNL. Photo courtesy of Sen. Alexander.
Oak Ridge:  Secretary of Energy Rick Perry recently visited Oak Ridge and Los Alamos as part of a trip to several national laboratories. He toured Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Y-12 National Security Complex. Secretary Perry touted ORNL's innovative work in fields such as supercomputing and 3D printing. His visit was covered by Oak Ridge Today and numerous other media outlets.

Oak Ridge kicked off its annual Secret City Festival on June 2. The festival runs through June 10. Highlights include tours of Y-12 and the X-10 Graphite Reactor, exhibits on Oak Ridge's history, World War II reenactments, concerts, and much more. More information is available online.

The Manhattan Project NHP at Oak Ridge is continuing several popular events, including Ranger-led bike rides around Oak Ridge and programs on secrecy and espionage during the Manhattan Project. On June 15, a photography exhibit called "Natural Synergy" will open at the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce. The exhibit will highlight the Manhattan Project contributions of naturalized American citizens. The following day, June 16, the National Park Service and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service will host a naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens at the American Museum of Science and Energy (AMSE). All are welcome to attend.

Hanford: Bus tours of B Reactor and pre-war Manhattan Project sites, organized by the Department of Energy, are well underway at the Hanford unit of the Manhattan Project NHP. The B Reactor tour takes visitors through the world's first full-scale plutonium production reactor. 

The Bruggemann Warehouse
The pre-war sites tour includes the Bruggemann Warehouse, Hanford High School, the First Bank of White Bluffs, and other locations from the communities that were evicted by the government for the Manhattan Project.

Before you go, be sure to check out AHF's "Ranger in Your Pocket" online tours of Hanford, as well as AHF and the B Reactor Museum Association's "Know Before You Go" program. These "Ranger in Your Pocket" tours use firsthand accounts to share stories of the agricultural communities evicted by the Manhattan Project, working on the plutonium production facilities, and living in Hanford Camp and Richland communities.

After completing the Manhattan Project NHP's foundation document earlier this year, the National Park Service will now develop an interpretive plan, collections management plan, and introductory film. The Atomic Heritage Foundation is working on a variety of educational resources to help support the Manhattan Project NHP. Our Manhattan Project Veterans Database currently features more than 13,500 profiles of Manhattan Project veterans. The "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website now includes more than 450 interviews.
MemoriamIn Memoriam: Roger Rasmussen
AHF is sad to announce the passing of Roger L. Rasmussen in Los Alamos on May 4, 2017, at the age of 96. He was a member of the Special Engineer Detachment, otherwise known as the SED, at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project.

Rasmussen was born in 1920 in Mason City, Iowa. He studied at Illinois Wesleyan University before enlisting in the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. As Rasmussen remembered, "December 7, 1941. It was at that moment my life totally changed. I enlisted in 1942 having turned the corner."

Rasmussen was sent for training at Lafayette College and at the University of West Virginia. He studied "electrical engineering, including an unusual amount of physics." In 1944, he was sent to Los Alamos as part of the Special Engineer Detachment and worked alongside many prominent Manhattan Project scientists. 

SED emblem
Rasmussen was also present at the Trinity Test on July 16, 1945, observing it from a distance of six miles. He later recalled, "Shortly thereafter, the brightest light came that I had ever observed with my eyes closed...There was this beautiful color of the bomb, gorgeous...There we stood gawking at this."

After the war, Rasmussen stayed on to work at the Los Alamos Laboratory, where he would remain for more than 40 years. He worked in electronics and physics, before later becoming a consultant. He was a founding member of the Los Alamos Council of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the American Legion.

To listen to Rasmussen's oral history on AHF's Voices of the Manhattan Project site, please click here.
BooksNew Books on Manhattan Project History
Two recently published books highlight the Manhattan Project.

"Polonium in the Playhouse: The Manhattan Project's Secret Chemistry work in Dayton, OH" by Linda Carrick Thomas focuses on the Dayton Project. At the behest of the Manhattan Project, the Monsanto Chemical Company separated and purified the radioactive element Polonium (Po-210) for the initiator for the atomic bombs. 

To lead the Project, General Leslie R. Groves selected Dr. Charles A. Thomas, Monsanto's research director and the grandfather of author Linda Thomas. Monsanto's subsequent polonium research, development, and production activities occurred at several sites in the city of Dayton, including in the recreational Runnymede Playhouse that had belonged to Thomas's mother-in-law.

"Polonium in the Playhouse" sheds light on this important aspect of the Manhattan Project. The Dayton Project has remained relatively unknown because its records were among the most highly classified of the Manhattan Project. Thomas also explores the life of her grandfather, a highly accomplished scientist and industrial leader. The book includes many diagrams and historic photographs to illustrate this fascinating and well told story.

"The Neutron's Long Shadow: Legacies of Nuclear Explosives Production in the Manhattan Project" is a beautifully composed book of high-resolution photographs captured by physicist and photographer Martin Miller. 

After retiring from the US Army Research Laboratory, Miller traveled to Hanford, WA and Oak Ridge, TN photographing the production facilities of the Manhattan Project. His photographs include key properties of the Manhattan Project including the B Reactor, the T Plant, the K-25 Plant before its demolition, the X-10 Graphite Reactor, and others. The book also features historic Manhattan Project photographs and discussion of the science and history of the project. 
SpotlightSpotlight: Why Join the Manhattan Project?
By some estimates, over 600,000 people worked on the Manhattan Project. Workers joined the project for very different reasons. The vast majority of the Manhattan Project workers were not aware of what it was trying to accomplish. It was only project officials and top scientists who were aware of the Manhattan Project's true objective. 

Bill Wilcox, who worked at Oak Ridge, recalled that when he asked in his job interview what he would be working on, he was only told, "No, can't tell you. Secret! Secret, secret, secret!" It is impossible to pinpoint all the determining factors for wanting to work on the Manhattan Project, but our "Spotlight" article highlights some of the main reasons why so many people were willing to work on a top secret wartime project. For the full article, please click here
Job Opportunities: Many people joined the Manhattan Project simply because it offered lucrative wages. Jerry Saucier, a reactor operator at Hanford, remembered, "Wages were better than average. They had to try to hold them at Hanford. That was the only incentive." The Manhattan Project also offered numerous job opportunities to African-Americans. While African-Americans experienced segregation and discrimination, having a steady paid job was a welcome change for most.

Patriotism: For other Manhattan Project workers, patriotism was a motivating factor, particularly for members of the armed forces such as the Special Engineer Detachment (SED). Herman Snyder, an SED at Oak Ridge, noted that "youngsters my age, when their country gets blasted like we were in Pearl Harbor, we get angry. We want to fight."

Scientific Curiosity: For the top scientists and engineers, the challenges of harnessing the energy of the atom were compelling. John Wheeler, the leading physicist in residence at Hanford, remembered, "There was a sense of adventure about it. I associate it with pioneering. I would think it was like the first steamship, that must have been exciting. The first airplane was exciting, the first locomotive was exciting."

Fear of Germany: For the scientists who had fled anti-Semitism in Europe, the fear that Nazi Germany might develop an atomic bomb before the United States was a driving factor. It was not until Allied troops liberated Italy, France and Germany in 1945 that the Alsos Mission discovered that the German atomic bomb project had not progressed very far.
The German experimental pile at Haigerloch
Leona Marshall Libby, who worked at Chicago and Hanford and who was arguably the most influential woman scientist to work on the Manhattan Project, remembered the atmosphere at the time: "I think everyone was terrified that we were wrong [in our way of developing the bomb] and the Germans were ahead of us...Germany led in the field of physics, in every respect, at the time war set in, when Hitler lowered the boom. It was a very frightening time."

The motivations of Manhattan Project workers provide a sense of the historical wartime context for the project that is sometimes hard to imagine 75 years later. 
HistRoundUpHistory Article Roundup
Here is a roundup of some of the most interesting articles published on the history of science, the Manhattan Project, and nuclear history this month.


"Krik" Krikorian. Photo courtesy of LANL.
Harry S. Truman's grandson speaks out against nuclear weapons: Public Radio International's The World interviews Clifton Truman Daniel, President Harry S. Truman's grandson, about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Nerses 'Krik' Krikorian reflects on his career as a scientist and intelligence analyst: Wonderful article about "Krik" Krikorian, who fled the Armenian genocide with his family. He went on to work on the Manhattan Project and had a long and prestigious career at Los Alamos National Laboratory.


-Survivors of America's first atomic bomb test want their place in history: Technology writer Kelsey D. Atherton of Popular Science visited Trinity Site in April and spoke with downwinders protesting there.


The Mysterious Case of the Radioactive Toothpaste: Atlas Obscura describes how the Manhattan Project's Alsos Mission sought to find a German supply of the radioactive element thorium. The Alsos Mission feared the thorium was being used for the German atomic program. Instead, it turned out it was being hoarded for something else entirely: toothpaste.


U.S. Nuclear History Offers Clues to North Korea's Progress: Science journalist William J. Broad of the New York Times looks at the history of the United States' development of nuclear weapons to assess North Korea's nuclear program.

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

Bruce Cameron Reed is a physicist and a professor at Alma College. In this interview, he discusses a course he teaches at Alma about nuclear weapons and the Manhattan Project. He explains how he became interested in the physics and history of the Manhattan Project. He provides an overview of some of the challenges the Manhattan Project scientists faced and why uranium, plutonium, and polonium are so difficult to work with. Reed describes some of the innovations of the project, including the implosion design and lenses, the tamper, and the polonium initiator. 

Clay Kemper Perkins is a physicist, philanthropist, and collector of Manhattan Project artifacts and replicas. In this interview, he discusses his vast collection of weapons and how he became interested in nuclear weapons and Manhattan Project history. He describes some of the stand-out pieces in his collection, including the safety plug used in the Little Boy bomb on the Hiroshima mission and a full-scale replica of Little Boy. Perkins discusses his philanthropic contributions to the Los Alamos Historical Society, including his purchase and gift of the Hans Bethe House.

Eulalia "Eula" Quintana Newton worked at Los Alamos for a total of 53 years, beginning in 1944. She received a Distinguished Performance Award for her exceptional service to the Los Alamos laboratory. In this interview, she discusses the many jobs she held at Los Alamos. After working in the housing and secretarial departments, she eventually rose to the position of group leader in the mail and records department. Quintana Newton recalls being the first Hispanic woman without a college degree to become a group leader at the laboratory. She also describes the impact of Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project on the Española Valley community.

Floy Agnes Lee was one of the few Pueblo Indians to work as a technician at the Los Alamos laboratory during the Manhattan Project. As a hematologist, she collected blood from Manhattan Project scientists, including from Louis Slotin and Alvin Graves after the criticality accident that exposed Slotin to a fatal amount of radiation. Over the course of her long career, she conducted research on the impact of radiation on chromosomes. In this interview, Lee recalls her interactions with Slotin and Graves after the accident and playing tennis with Enrico Fermi.

Jay Shelton is a physicist and science and math teacher. In this interview, he recalls his experiences from nearly three decades as a high school teacher in Northern New Mexico. Shelton explains the health risks associated with radiation and stresses the importance of quantitative analyses of risks from certain radiation sources. He also goes over changes in public perception towards radiation. Throughout the interview, Shelton describes how a variety of scientific instruments work, including Geiger counters and oscilloscopes, and expounds on the importance of a hands-on approach in science education. He also discusses his personal collection of scientific artifacts, including Revigators and other nuclear-related objects.

Matias A. Zamora is a retired attorney and judge, and a U.S. Army veteran. In this interview, he reflects on his experiences working as a server at Fuller Lodge at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. He describes his duties at the lodge and remembers seeing famous scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller. He also recalls how he heard about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

W. Stanley Hall was eighteen years old when he was recruited to work as a machinist on the cyclotron, first at Princeton University and later at the Los Alamos Laboratory. He worked at Los Alamos as a civilian, then later was drafted and worked as part of the Special Engineer Detachment (SED). In this interview, he describes both his work and recreational experiences during the Manhattan Project. He witnessed the Trinity Test from a location ten miles away. He also talks about taking advantage of the hiking, fishing, and horseback riding opportunities around him, including some trouble he encountered walking Kitty Oppenheimer's horse. He provides an overview of his forty-year-long career at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
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