Bob Cook is a nuclear engineer. In this interview, Cook discusses his long career with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and his work as a consultant for the Yakama Nation. He describes the problems he identified with the Basalt Waste Isolation Project. He also shares his opinions on the ethics of governmental decision making and risk assessments related to the health of Hanford-area residents.
Jackie Peterson is an independent curator and exhibit developer in Seattle, Washington. She curated an exhibition called “The Atomic Frontier: Black Life at Hanford” at the Northwest African American Museum from October 2015-March 2016. In this interview, Peterson describes the exhibition and what she learned about African American experiences at Hanford during the Manhattan Project. She explains how African Americans came to the Tri-Cities, the kinds of work they were able to obtain, and the (largely informal) segregation they faced. She also contrasts how African Americans and Japanese Americans were treated by the federal government during World War II.
Thomas E. Marceau is an archaeologist and cultural resources specialist at the Hanford site. In this interview, he discusses the geological history of the Hanford area and the Native American tribes that have lived in the area for thousands of years. He also highlights how the displacement of Native Americans has resulted in a cultural and historical crisis for these tribes, because their identities, lives, and communities revolve around the lands their ancestors inhabited. He emphasizes the importance of risk assessments of the Hanford land that include the perspective and concerns of Native American tribes.
John Adams is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer of contemporary classical music. Known for his operas Nixon in China and The Death of Klinghoffer, as well as for multiple orchestral works, Adams speaks here about Doctor Atomic, his 2005 opera set at Los Alamos in the weeks leading up to the Trinity Test. He describes the creation of the work and why he was initially hesitant to develop an opera around J. Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project. He discusses its unusual libretto, which uses only words actually spoken or written by the people depicted in the opera, such as J. Robert Oppenheimer, General Leslie Groves, Leo Szilard, and Edward Teller.
Nancy Bartlit is the former president of the Los Alamos Historical Society and the author of “Silent Voices of World War II: When Sons of the Land of Enchantment Met Sons of the Land of the Rising Sun.” In this interview, she describes the Historical Society’s efforts to preserve properties at Los Alamos. She also explains her support for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park and her vision for the park.
Jenny Kimball is the Chairman of the Board of the La Fonda on the Plaza hotel, which is the oldest hotel site in the United States. In this interview, she discusses the rich history of La Fonda, from its establishment in the 1600s through its development as part of the famous Harvey hotel chain to its award-winning status today. She describes the role of the Harvey family in branding the hotel, and the important work of Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, who designed La Fonda and other iconic Harvey hotels. She also explains her involvement in the hotel and her efforts to showcase La Fonda’s architectural and cultural history. Kimball describes the process of restoring the interior of La Fonda, and the work of artists and others to make the rooms match what they looked like in earlier decades. She concludes by talking about La Fonda’s role as a watering hole for Manhattan Project scientists working in Los Alamos.
Rosario Martinez Fiorillo grew up in northern New Mexico during the Manhattan Project. Her ancestors were Hispano homesteaders who built the Romero Cabin, an important pre-Manhattan Project structure at Los Alamos. In this interview, she reflects on her experiences living in the village of Guachupangue, and recalls an Army convoy passing by her house before the Trinity Test. She describes the history of the Romero Cabin and how her grandparents were evicted by the U.S. government for the Manhattan Project. Martinez Fiorillo explains why she decided not to work at Los Alamos, and concludes by talking about her life as a bilingual education teacher in California and New Mexico.
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. After working at Los Alamos, she transferred to the Chicago Met Lab, and later Argonne National Laboratory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While working and caring for her daughter Patricia as a single mother, she earned her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. 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. Her parents were Pueblo and White, and she discusses how that has shaped her life. She also describes visiting her family at the Santa Clara Pueblo and her ancestors’ involvement in the politics of the Pueblo.
William G. (“Bill”) Hudgins spent most of his childhood years in New Mexico. He first heard about a secret wartime laboratory at Los Alamos in 1943, when he was a student at the University of New Mexico. Hudgins joined the Manhattan Project after writing a letter to Dorothy McKibbin. After briefly being called away for Army training, he returned to Los Alamos as a member of the Special Engineer Detachment. In this interview, he recalls interviewing for a job with McKibbin (who asked, “Where did you hear about me?”) and shares his memories of other Manhattan Project figures, including scientist Rebecca Bradford Diven and project historian David Hawkins. He also describes growing up in Santa Fe, and details the geologic and Native American history of the region.
Gabriel Bohnee is a Nez Perce tribal member and an environmental specialist at the Nez Perce Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Office. Bohnee became involved with the effort to clean up the Hanford site after learning about the site as an intern in 1993. Bohnee discusses his tribe’s connection with the land surrounding the Hanford site and the importance of the Columbia River and its resources for the Native Americans indigenous to the area. Bohnee also explains the importance of cleaning up the Hanford area so that future generations of Nez Perce can use the land and resources like they had in the past.