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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

In Memoriam: Ralph Gates


We are sad to report the passing of our friend Ralph Gates. Gates passed away on Monday, May 7, 2018 at the age of 93.

Gates was born on January 24, 1925 and raised in Nashville, Tennessee. After beginning a college career studying chemical engineering, Gates enlisted in the Army on his 18th birthday. He completed three years of engineering before the Army called him up for basic training.

Gates arrived in Los Alamos shortly after V-E Day (May 8, 1945). In an interview with AHF, Gates remembered passing through the Los Alamos gates: “When I got inside that, being checked in, I didn’t get out until the war was over. That was the first time I’d ever heard of the Los Alamos ranch, and it was the next day that I was rushed in at 8:00 to the tech area and was given a complete story on what we were there for.”

During his time in Los Alamos, Gates’ primary job was casting shape charges for the plutonium bombs. Although he was happy, Gates remembered his time at Los Alamos with mixed feelings and even wrote a poem describing his sentiments about missing out on the war. Despite these sentiments, in his AHF interview, Gates described being elated at hearing news of the end of the war: “We were exuberant. Where I lived in Nashville, there were gold star mothers in houses all around us. My mother, with four kids, did not have a gold star at the window, which means somebody had died.”

In 1990, Gates moved to Park City, Utah. Since then, Gates interviewed more than one hundred Park City locals in the hopes of recording the unique stories of a diverse population.

For more information on Gates, see his “Voices of the Manhattan Project” interview


Bill Stumb, Ralph Gates and Bruce Crabtree at Vanderbilt

Lt. Anderson, Dolly Fisher, Lucille Hamer and Ralph Gates (Christmas 1945)