An event at a recreation hall in Oak Ridge, TN, 1947. Photo courtesy of the 
U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge Office. Photo by Ed Westcott.

February is Black History Month. Thousands of African Americans played important, though often overlooked, roles on the Manhattan Project. Many African Americans on the project were employed as construction workers, laborers, janitors, and domestic workers at Oak Ridge and Hanford. Some worked as scientists and technicians in Chicago and New York and other sites. 

James Forde, hired as a lab assistant at the age of 17, worked at the Nash Garage Building in Manhattan, where scientists researched the gaseous diffusion process for separating uranium isotopes. He recalled being the lone African American working alongside Ph.D scientists. He remembered, "The main job I had was cleaning tubes in a sulfuric acid bath. I did not know what they were for...When I saw the headline where we had dropped the bomb, I said, 'Oh, my God. That is what I was working on!'"

The experiences of African American workers on the Manhattan Project varied by individual and by site. The project, with its relatively high wages, attracted many African Americans from around the country .  But workers including Kattie Strickland and Luzell Johnson describe being forced to live in segregated housing and experiencing discrimination and racism. For more information, read our article on  African Americans and the Manhattan Project.

WomenWorkersManhattan Project Spotlight: Women Workers
The famous poster by artist J. Howard Miller
During World War II, American women worked in a variety of jobs to contribute to the war effort. For the first time in American history, millions of women entered the workforce, motivated by a desire to help the Allies win World War II.

In 1942, artist J. Howard Miller created the now iconic poster of a woman factory worker with the slogan, "We Can Do It!" Miller designed the poster for the Westinghouse Electric Corporation to help increase morale among employees.  Then in 1943, a popular song about wartime working women was created, titled "Rosie the Riveter," and the name stuck. 

Some experts have suggested that  Naomi Parker Fraley was the inspiration for the poster, due to her resemblance to Rosie. During the war, she worked as a machinist at the Naval Air Station in Alameda, California. Fraley stated, "I did think it looked like me, but nobody ever mentioned it." Fraley died on January 20, 2018 at the age of 96.

Colleen Black
Today, "Rosie the Riveter" is associated with the millions of women who w orked in manufacturing jobs during World War II, including the thousands of women who worked on the Manhattan Project. Colleen Black was a leak detector at the K-25 plant in Oak Ridge, TN. She remembered , "We climbed around on the pipes and found the leaks and marked them and sent them back if they were leaking, and sent them on if they were not. You just did not talk about your job."

Irene LaViolette moved to Hanford with her husband Fred. "I worked at the control lab analyzing the Columbia River water. I was then given the job of checking the new Geiger counters that measured gamma rays," she recalled.

For more on Manhattan Project women, click here.
WestcottBirthdayEd Westcott Turns 96
Ed Westcott
In January, the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association organized a 96th birthday celebration for Ed Westcott. Westcott was the official US Army photographer at Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. In thousands of photographs, he documented the construction and operations of the "Secret City." He also captured the lives of Oak Ridgers, from the Y-12 "calutron girls" to young people socializing at the Wildcat Den.
 
As Oak Ridge historian and AHF Board member D. Ray Smith explains in a short documentary film he produced on Westcott, "You can read about Oak Ridge history, but words can only take you so far. Photographs bring the history to life." Thousands of Westcott's early negatives are now in the National Archives.
 
To honor Westcott, the City of Oak Ridge declared January 20 "Ed Westcott Day." According to Smith, nearly 200 people attended his birthday celebration. WBIR, the Knoxville News Sentinel, and the Oak Ridger also covered the event. To see some of Westcott's photographs, visit The Photography of Ed Westcott Tumblr.
 
Westcott's photo of workers at the Y-12 plant waiting to punch their time cards, June 23, 1945.
On January 24, the National Park Service held an open house at the Children's Museum of Oak Ridge, featuring photographs taken by local third and fourth grade girls as part of the "Parks in Focus" photography initiative. The students' photographs were inspired by Westcott's black-and-white images.

In other Oak Ridge news, the Knoxville News Sentinel reports workers are expected to finish construction on a History Center at the site of the former K-25 Plant in 2019. UCOR, the contractor overseeing the project, recently awarded $5.3 million in subcontracts to support construction, improvements to the site, and the construction and installation of exhibits.
LosAlamosHanfordHistory Initiatives at Los Alamos and Hanford
Floy Agnes Lee
A new book by oral historian Peter Malmgren and journalist Kay Matthews, Los Alamos Revisited: A Workers' History, shares the stories of northern New Mexico residents who worked at the Los Alamos laboratory during the Manhattan Project and after the war. As Malmgren writes, "The historical record is filled with accounts from scientists and pundits, but the voices of the technicians, engineers, trades people, and many others remain silent."
 
Beginning in 2000, Malmgren conducted approximately 150 interviews  touching on topics such as patriotism, discrimination, and cancer and other health problems. The book was recently featured in the Santa Fe New Mexican . AHF's October 2017 interview with Malmgren will be published on the "Voices of the Manhattan Project" website soon.
 
A new exhibit developed by the Los Alamos History Museum, "Women, Science, and Project Y," is now on display at the Los Alamos County Municipal Building. The exhibit profiles some of the women who participated in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, including scientists, "computers," technicians, nurses, and more. As the Museum notes, by the end of World War II, about 640 women were working on the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, representing about 11% of the Los Alamos staff. Explosives technician Frances Dunne, physicist Jane Hall, and hematologist Floy Agnes Lee are among the women featured in the exhibit.
African-American construction workers at Hanford

On Saturday, February 3, an open house at the Richland, WA Public Library marked the launch of an oral history project on African American history in the Hanford area. The project is a collaboration between the Hanford History Project at Washington State University-Tri Cities , AACCES (African American Community Cultural and Educational Society), the National Park Service, and the Richland Public Library.
 
This initiative will research and document the experiences of African Americans in the Tri-Cities from the Manhattan Project through the civil rights era, focusing on African American migration to Hanford during World War II, segregation, and local civil rights history. The project is seeking to interview African Americans who worked at Hanford or lived in the Tri-Cities between 1943 and the late 1960s. For more information, visit the  Hanford History Project's website. The open house was featured in the  Tri-City Herald.  
DoomsdayClockThe Doomsday Clock Ticks Forward
Cover of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists with the first "Doomsday Clock," 1947.
On January 25, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists made its annual Doomsday Clock announcement. In the words of former Bulletin Executive Director and Publisher Kennette Benedict, the clock symbolizes "how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making."

This year, the Bulletin set the clock at two minutes to midnight. It is the closest the clock has been to midnight since 1953, when both the United States and the Soviet Union had recently tested their first thermonuclear devices. In its statement, the Bulletin cited a number of factors behind its decision, including the progress of the North Korean nuclear weapons program, tense US-Russian relations, and the threat of climate change. "In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of nuclear war and climate change, making the world security situation more dangerous than it was a year ago--and as dangerous as it has been since World War II," it warned.

The Bulletin was founded after the end of World War II by Manhattan Project scientists in Chicago who were concerned about the dangers of nuclear weapons and believed they "could not remain aloof to the consequences of their work." Suzanne Langsdorf, daughter of physicist and Bulletin co-founder Alexander Langsdorf, remembers her father's concerns: "He was very upset by what was going on. He was on a lot of committees, went to a lot of meetings, and he just gave up after a while because people really stopped listening to the worriers."

Martyl Langsdorf
The Doomsday Clock first appeared on the cover of the Bulletin in 1947. The design was created by artist Martyl Langsdorf, Alexander Langsdorf's wife. As Benedict recounts, Martyl Langsdorf "came up with the idea of a clock, because she felt the urgency that the scientists were expressing... Secrecy was how the bomb was born and secrecy would keep the bomb from being understood by the broad public. This urgency is what she wanted to represent."

Martyl Langsdorf's clock has now become an iconic symbol of the nuclear age. The 2018 Doomsday Clock announcement generated headlines around the world, and the Washington Post profiled Martyl Langsdorf as part of its coverage of the announcement. For more information on the Bulletin's history, visit their website or watch AHF's "Ranger in Your Pocket" program on the University of Chicago's Metallurgical Laboratory and its legacy.
HolocaustRemembranceInternational Holocaust Remembrance Day
Albert Einstein receiving his his certificate of U.S. citizenship in 1940 from Judge Philip Forman. Photo courtesy Al Aumuller, Library of Congress.
T he United Nations has designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Countries around the world remember and honor the victims of the Nazi genocide. The Nazis murdered six million Jews in the Holocaust, and hundreds of thousands of Roma and Sinti, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the mentally and physically disabled, homosexuals, political prisoners, and others.

Beginning in the 1930s, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis actively persecuted Jews, those of part-Jewish descent, and political opponents, including those in prominent academic positions. As a result, many leading scientists, philosophers, and thinkers fled to the West. A startling proportion of the most famous names on the Manhattan Project belonged to scientists who came to England or America to flee from the Axis. (For a partial list, please click here.) The large number of refugees and immigrants working on the Manhattan Project gave the American nuclear program an international character unusual in such a top-secret program.

Joseph Rotblat
Some scientists, including Joseph Rotblat and Stanislaus Ulam, lost family members in the Holocaust. Elspeth Bobbs, a good friend of Rotblat's during the war, described his unsuccessful efforts to get his wife out of Poland: "He tried everything to get her out, but never succeeded. She died in one of those horrible camps. It was a dreadful thing."

In December 2017, AHF recorded an interview with Dr. Rebecca Erbelding, archivist and curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and author of the forthcoming book  Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America's Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe. In the interview, Dr. Erbelding discusses how the immigration quota system in the 1930s and the paperwork involved in obtaining a visa made it difficult for those who wanted to leave Europe to get to the United States.

Dr. Erbelding describes the personal challenges the refugee scientists faced while working on the Manhattan Project: "Trying to focus on very important war work, when you have loved ones that you haven't heard from in two years and you start hearing rumors that there's mass atrocities going on...No doubt, they worked even harder in the hopes of saving their loved ones." To watch Dr. Erbelding's full interview, click here.
RoundupHistory Article Roundup
Here is a roundup of some of the most interesting content published on the Manhattan Project, World War II, and nuclear history in January.

Left to right: Franco Rasetti, Enrico Fermi, and Emilio Segr√® in academic dress
A "Purely Military" Target? Truman's Changing Language about Hiroshima : Historian Alex Wellerstein examines President Harry Truman's response to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, based on drafts of a radio address Truman delivered on August 9, 1945.

A Remarkable Man among Remarkable Men and Women : Historian and AHF Board member Richard Rhodes reviews David N. Schwartz's new biography of Enrico Fermi, The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age

Chicago Pile-1: A Brick History : This Lego animation depicts the construction of Chicago Pile-1, the first artificial nuclear reactor.
Chicago Pile-1 under construction


One worked on the A-bomb. The other was a victim. How their grandsons now create art together : The Washington Post highlights a Baltimore art exhibit created by the grandson of a Hiroshima survivor and the grandson of a Manhattan Project veteran.

"The Catcher Was a Spy" is a Thinking Person's Spy Tale : The film "The Catcher Was a Spy" premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. The film tells the story of Moe Berg , a Major League Baseball player who worked as a spy for the Manhattan Project's Alsos Mission in Europe during World War II. Paul Rudd plays Moe Berg in the movie.
Here are some oral history interviews we have recently published on the  Voices of the Manhattan Project website


Elspeth Bobbs grew up in England. During World War II, she relocated to Santa Fe. There she became friends with Joseph Rotblat, a Polish-born physicist who was part of the British Mission at Los Alamos. Bobbs recalls her friendship with Rotblat, his personality, and how pleased she was to learn that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonproliferation work in 1995. She also describes her love of Santa Fe and gardening. 


Curtiss Brennan lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He and his wife Mary moved next door to Dorothy McKibbin, "the Gatekeeper to Los Alamos," in the late 1970s. In this interview, Curtiss describes how he met and became friends with Dorothy. He explains how Dorothy designed the house to her unique specifications. He also discusses the restoration project he and his wife undertook when they bought the house after Dorothy's death.


Dr. Rebecca Erbelding is a historian of American responses to the Holocaust. Erbelding is the author of the forthcoming book Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America's Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe, and an archivist and curator at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In this interview, Erbelding describes the challenges that thousands of Jews faced when trying to immigrate from Nazi-occupied Europe to the United States. She also explains how the Holocaust and U.S. immigration policies affected Manhattan Project scientists.

Richard Garwin is an American physicist. In this interview he begins by discussing his work with Enrico Fermi after the Second World War. He then discusses the development of the hydrogen bomb and the role he played in its design. He also talks about his work at IBM in the 1950s, specifically IBM's research on radar systems and Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS). Garwin concludes the interview with a discussion on nuclear security. He shares his views on nuclear arms reduction and how to create a nuclear-free world.



Dr. Jon Hunner is a Professor of History at New Mexico State University, a former director of the New Mexico History Museum, and the author of Inventing Los Alamos and J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Cold War and the Atomic West. In this interview, Hunner provides an overview of life at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, including its takeover of the Los Alamos Ranch School and its relationship with Hispanos and Pueblos in the area. He talks about the sites in Santa Fe that are linked to the project.

Suzanne Martyl Langsdorf is the daughter of Alexander Langsdorf, a Manhattan Project physicist and one of the founders of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Martyl Langsdorf, an artist who designed the iconic Doomsday Clock. In this interview, Suzanne describes her parents' personalities and interests and their family life together. She gives a closer look at the lives of her parents including how they met, their marriage, and their respective careers. Suzanne recalls her unique childhood with her thoughtful father and her independent mother. She also explains how her mother came up with the now-famous Doomsday Clock design, and her father's nuclear nonproliferation efforts.

John Ruminer is a Board Member of the Los Alamos Historical Society, a docent at the Los Alamos History Museum, and the author of 109 East Palace Avenue: A Microcosm of Santa Fe's Four Hundred Year History. He previously worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In this interview, Ruminer explains some of the fascinating history of the Plaza of Santa Fe. He provides detailed descriptions of the property's history, and the Manhattan Project's offices at 109 East Palace. Ruminer also describes how the Los Alamos Historical Society and the Historic Santa Fe Foundation are working to preserve history and to date historical buildings and sites.
We are very grateful for your continued support!  In 2018, we have a very ambitious agenda. Help us leverage the $98,000 matching grant from the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust to capture oral histories of Manhattan Project veterans. 
 
Your  donation will help us record interviews with  Manhattan Project participants living across the country and leave a valuable legacy for future generations. 

Thanks very much for your help.

Sincerely, 
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President
Atomic Heritage Foundation 
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