Happy Halloween from the Atomic Heritage Foundation!  Don't have a Halloween costume yet? No problem! Check out  these ideas  for physics-themed costumes, and go as a neutrino, dark energy, or cosmic inflation. Alternatively, just don a porkpie hat and enjoy a martini!
Oak Ridge MP Veterans Participate in HonorAir Knoxville Flight
Ed Westcott during the HonorAir program
On October 5, 2016, Atomic Heritage Foundation (AHF) staff were delighted to welcome four Manhattan Project veterans from Oak Ridge participating in an HonorAir Knoxville program. The veterans were Ed Westcott, Virginia Coleman, Christine Higgenbothom, and Peggy Stuart.

AHF's Cindy Kelly,  Alexandra Levy, and Nate Weisenberg met the veterans as they arrived at the National World War II Memorial. Members of the public applauded as they walked to the memorial to visit the Tennessee pillar.

Ed, Virginia, Christine, and Peggy were in great spirits, excited to be in Washington, DC and visit the war memorials. They talked with pride about their Manhattan Project work. Alex found it especially thrilling to take a photograph of Ed, the great photographer.

In 1942, at the age of 20, Ed Westcott became the official government photographer of the Clinton Engineer Works, the top-secret Oak Ridge site. Ed shot thousands of photos documenting the construction and operations, as well as the lives and times of Oak Ridgers. Westcott retired from the Atomic Energy Commission in 1977 after a phenomenal career as a photographer. He is regarded as a national treasure for capturing thousands of vivid images of the Manhattan Project.

L to R: Peggy Stuart, Nate Weisenberg, Virginia Coleman, Cindy Kelly, Alexandra Levy, and Christine Higgenbothom.
Peggy Stuart worked as a "Calutron girl" at the Y-12 Plant, which separated the fissile uranium-235 from uranium-238 for the atomic bombs. The Calutron girls served as operators at the electromagnetic separation plant, adjusting the knobs on their "cubicle" machine to produce enriched uranium. Although Peggy and her colleagues were not told what they were producing, they proved more adept than the Ph.D physicists at the controls and played a crucial role in the Y-12 Plant's uranium enrichment process.

Christine Higgenbothom and Virginia Coleman have been close friends for over 70 years. Christine was a lab technician during the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge. Virginia, a chemist in the Y-12 Plant, worked with uranium yellowcake during the war. She continued to work at Y-12 for many years, and met her husband Charlie, a PhD physical chemist, in the lab there. Virginia's story is featured in Denise Kiernan's bestselling book The Girls of Atomic City (2013).

For more photos from their visit, please click here. For more on the HonorAir Knoxville flight, see the WATE news article,  East Tennessee women who helped on Manhattan Project to take 22nd HonorAir flight.
AdaAda Lovelace Day
October 11, 2016 was Ada Lovelace Day, which commemorates the achievements of women scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. Many women worked on the Manhattan Project. Some worked in the production facilities as technicians, monitoring for leaks or adjusting the controls of the Calutrons at Oak Ridge; a small number of women were scientists involved at the highest levels of the project.

Here are some excerpts from "Voices of the Manhattan Project" interviews with women who were involved on various portions of the project.

Anne McKusick (Oak Ridge): When I got to Oak Ridge, it was perhaps not surprising that there were no girls who were physicists. I remember somebody saying to me once, "You consider that you're a girl who happens to be a physicist, or a physicist who happens to be a girl?" It was just that women weren't thought to be capable of learning the subject, or thought that it was strictly a man's field at that time.

Lilli Hornig (Los Alamos): I had a job in the chemistry department doing what was called "fundamental wet research," which involved working with plutonium, determining the solubility of various plutonium salts. There was essentially nothing known about plutonium chemistry at the time. There was one other woman in the division; she and I worked together and we had our little cubby hole and did our little procedures and put them under the Geiger counter. It wasn't terribly inspiring and nobody actually really spoke to us.

We clunked along there for a couple months. Then they got the first results from Hanford with the bad news about plutonium-240, which was much more active than 239. And the first response was to fire both of us instantly. I complained a bit about that. They were worried obviously about reproductive damage. I tried delicately to point out that they might be more susceptible than I was; that didn't go over well.

Colleen Black (Oak Ridge): There were many women involved. You know, the men had been drafted. There was manpower shortage. The men who were here were top brass or 4-Fs or G.I.s. The Army ran this area. Whatever they said, we did.

Women had no problem getting a job. In those days there were not any women engineers that I knew of, or any chemists, or physicists. The women usually were educated in home ec. [economics] or as teachers or nurses. T hey would train you as leak detectors or something like that.

Leona Woods Marshall (Chicago, Hanford): I worked with John Wheeler and helped solve the riddle of the Hanford xenon poisoning. Remember, this was the first big reactor in the world. Here were all these big shots, lining the walls, to watch the startup. The operators had manuals and had been through the routine X-Y-Z times. 

So here comes startup. You can see the water getting hot, the readings going up on the Brown recorders, you could hear it rushing in the tubes, you could see the control rods coming out and out and out. Later, something happened, and there was no more reactivity. The reactor went dead, just plain dead. People stood around and stared at each other. 

Wheeler had been at Oak Ridge, so he knew about the Oak Ridge reactor, which had showed signs of misbehavior, which could have been interpreted as poison, but you couldn't prove it. At Hanford, we had the time period, the time it took for the reactor to go up to power, die and come back on. I would say Wheeler solved it, no doubt.
ArticlesNew Articles on Manhattan Project & Nuclear History
Several good articles on the Manhattan Project and nuclear history were published in October.
  • Erwin Schrödinger
    How Einstein and Schrödinger Conspired to Kill a Cat: Historian David Kaiser explains how the famed "Schrödinger's cat" fable was born out of letters between Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger. The article also explains how "Schrödinger's cat served, in its day, as synecdoche for a broader world that had become too strange--and, at times, too threatening--to understand."
  • FDR and the bomb: Historian Alex Wellerstein attempts to piece together FDR's thoughts on using the atomic bomb. "Would Roosevelt have dropped the bomb on Japan, had he not died? I suspect the answer is yes. One can see...a mind warming up to the idea of the atomic bomb as not just a deterrent, but a weapon, one that might be deployed as a first-strike attack."
PearlHarborVisiting Pearl Harbor
By AHF Program Director Alexandra Levy

In September 2016, my husband and I honeymooned in Hawaii. As both of us have a keen interest in World War II history, visiting Pearl Harbor was a highlight of our trip. For my photographs of our Pearl Harbor visit, please visit our website or Facebook.

The USS Arizona Memorial from the deck of the USS Missouri
We spent a full day visiting the sites at  Pearl Harbor. We started at the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which manages the USS Arizona Memorial. The 30 minute documentary film on the attack on Pearl Harbor is excellent, with rare historic footage. Next, a ferry takes you to the USS Arizona Memorial out in the harbor. The memorial is a white bridge floating above the sunken USS Arizona. The USS Arizona is the resting place of the 1,102 of the 1,177 sailors and Marines killed aboard the ship in the attack. 

The USS Arizona Memorial
There are three parts to the memorial: the entry, assembly room, and shrine. In the assembly room, visitors can look out into the harbor and see white markers showing where the ships were anchored on that fateful day, as well as parts of the USS Arizona that rise above the water. In one area, the bottom of the memorial has been removed so you can look down on the wreck of the USS Arizona below. 

The shrine lists the name and rank of each person who died on the USS Arizona. There are also plaques listing the names of service members who survived the attack but have chosen to have their ashes interred within the sunken ship. The memorial is a very moving place, where one can contemplate the attack that brought America into World War II and reflect on the sacrifice of American service members who died that day.

Back on land, there are several exhibits you can visit to learn more about the buildup to World War II, the reasons behind Japan's decision to attack, and America's role in the war. We found these exhibits to be fascinating, with clear descriptions and intriguing artifacts, including the radar map of the attack on Pearl Harbor and a copy of FDR's famous "infamy" speech with his edits.

The USS Missouri
Next, we toured the USS Missouri, which is anchored in the harbor. The USS Missouri was commissioned in 1944 and fought in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. It was the site of the official Japanese surrender in World War II on September 2, 1945. It also fought in the Korean War and provided fire support during Operation Desert Storm in 1991. On board, you can take a group or audio tour and learn about the history and engineering of the ship. A plaque marks the exact spot where the surrender was signed, and a replica of the surrender document is on display.

We also visited the USS Bowfin, a submarine launched on December 2, 1942 that patrolled the Pacific during World War II. Walking through the submarine and listening to the audio tour, you learn a lot about what life on a submarine was like during the war and the mechanics of operating a submarine. Our final stop was the Pacific Aviation Museum, which features two hangars of historic planes, including a seaplane that survived the attack on Pearl Harbor and a P-40 fighter plane.

The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument and the other sites and exhibits at Pearl Harbor provide an affecting and educational experience. We learned a great deal and appreciated the opportunity to remember those service members and civilians who perished in the attack.
Voices"Voices of the Manhattan Project"
Here are some oral history interviews we have recently added to the  Voices of the Manhattan Project website

Lee DuBridge - Part 2: DuBridge  was the founding director of the Radiation Laboratory at MIT and later became the president of Caltech. In this interview, he discusses how the Atomic Energy Commission felt about testing the hydrogen bomb in context of the nuclear arms race, explaining why many members of the AEC's General Advisory Committee were initially against moving ahead with a crash program on the hydrogen bomb. He also explains the confusion over using nuclear weapons tactically versus strategically. DuBridge recalls his efforts to support J. Robert Oppenheimer during Oppie's security hearing. Most notably, he remarks that as early as a year before the charges were brought against Oppenheimer, people were aware of trouble brewing for Oppie. 

Esther Floth worked as a secretary for General Leslie Groves during the Manhattan Project in Washington, DC. Her job afforded her the opportunity to meet leading Manhattan Project officials and scientists, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Niels Bohr, Ernest Lawrence, and others. She went on to work for the Atomic Energy Commission after the war. In this interview, Esther recalls the secrecy of the project, including getting her top-secret clearance, and what everyday life during the war was like. She recounts General Groves's leadership qualities and how he interacted with her and other Manhattan Project staff. Floth also describes her response to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Oppenheimer's security trial.
Roy Glauber was just eighteen years old when he was selected to leave his studies at Harvard to join the work of the Los Alamos Laboratory on the Manhattan Project. After the war, he would go on to lead a distinguished academic career, receiving the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2005. In this interview, Glauber discusses his interactions with J. Robert Oppenheimer at Los Alamos and later at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He explains why Oppenheimer was so admired by the scientists at Los Alamos and the qualities that made him an excellent director of the Los Alamos laboratory. Glauber also recalls Oppenheimer's successes and challenges as director of the Institute for Advanced Study, his interactions with other scientists and mathem aticians, and how having his security clearance revoked appeared to have broken him.

Joseph Papalia is an official historian of the 509th Composite Group, the US Army Air Force unit created specifically for dropping atomic bombs. Papalia, who served in the Air Force in the 1950s, became interested in the 509th later in his life. He began attending 509th reunions, held annually, and became friends with many veterans of the group, as well as with other historians who focused on the unit. In this interview, he describes how the reunions have changed as the veterans have grown older or passed away, as well as how they view their role in the atomic bombings and their legacy. He also tells anecdotes about members of the unit, including Colonel Paul Tibbets and Captain Bob Lewis. He shares examples of the 509th memorabilia and artifacts that he has collected over the years.

Marvin Wilkening was a physicist whose work took him through the Grand Circuit of the Manhattan Project: Chicago, Oak Ridge, Hanford, Los Alamos and Trinity. He worked closely with Enrico Fermi and describes his deep respect for Fermi's intuition. In this interview with a former student, Wilkening discusses his involvement with the Manhattan Project and what his thoughts were when witnessing the Trinity Test. He explains his work during the Trinity Test to estimate what percentage of the fissionable material actually took part in the explosion. He finishes with a discussion of teaching physics.

Robert R. Wilson was an American physicist. He studied at the University of California, Berkeley, where he first met Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer recruited Wilson and his entire group at Princeton to work on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos on the cyclotron. After arriving at Los Alamos in 1944, Wilson became head of the Research Division. In this interview, Wilson reflects on his time working with Oppie, including his personality, political views, and Oppenheimer's unwillingness to engage him on the moral implications of building the bomb. He discusses Oppenheimer's controversial security hearing and recalls how it affected Oppenheimer. Wilson recalls how he and other scientists fought against Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Lewis Strauss's appointment as Secretary of Commerce in retaliation for Strauss's role in the hearing.
Thanks to all the Manhattan Project veterans, their families and many others who have supported our efforts over the past 14 years.  The "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website now contains more than 400 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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