Voices of the Manhattan Project
“Voices of the Manhattan Project” is a joint project by the Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society to create a public archive of our oral history collections of Manhattan Project veterans and their families.
Our online collection features 600 audio/visual interviews with Manhattan Project workers and their families, including J. Robert Oppenheimer, General Leslie R. Groves, Glenn Seaborg, Hans and Rose Bethe, George and Vera Kistiakowsky, and many more.
“Voices” includes interviews with some of the men who flew on the atomic bombing missions. Our “Voices from Japan” section includes interviews with atomic bomb survivors, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and experts on the bombings and their impacts.
Recent Oral Histories
Liane B. Russell is a renowned geneticist. Born in Vienna, Austria, she and her family managed to flee the country after its annexation by Nazi Germany. After moving to the United States, Russell became interested in biological research. In 1947, she and her husband, William L. Russell, moved to Oak Ridge. In this interview, Russell explains her experiments on the effects of radiation at Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Mouse House,” including the discovery that the Y chromosome is sex-determining. She describes her work with the environmental movement and the efforts of Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning, which she co-founded. She also recalls winning the Enrico Fermi Award from the Department of Energy and a visit to communist East Germany in the 1980s.
Ronald E. Mickens is a physicist who currently teaches at Clark Atlanta University. He is a prominent voice in the African-American scientific community, and has written several works documenting the feats of previous black physicists. He was friendly with several African-American scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, including J. Ernest Wilkins, and describes their careers and the racism they faced. Mickens also discusses his own career, the importance of curiosity to scientific research, and the challenges African-American scientists have had to overcome to pursue their research.
Elberta Lowdermilk Honstein was the daughter of Elbert Lowdermilk, the contractor whose construction company built roads and utility lines around Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Lowdermilk Honstein describes her father’s projects, from building the first road to Los Alamos to successfully maneuvering an “atom smasher” up the hill. She discusses her life in Española and her memories of exploring Los Alamos and the Pueblos. She also describes her relationship with her father.
In this rare interview, J. Robert Oppenheimer talks about the organization of the Manhattan Project and some of the scientists that he helped to recruit during the earliest days of the project. Oppenheimer discusses some of the biggest challenges that scientists faced during the project, including developing a sound method for implosion and purifying plutonium, which he declares was the most difficult aspect of the project. He discusses the chronology of the project and his first conversation with General Leslie Groves. Oppenheimer recalls his daily routine at Los Alamos, including taking his son Peter to nursery school.