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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Virginia Ballard’s Interview

Virginia Ballard was born in Charleston, West Virginia. Her parents immigrated to the US from Scotland. In 1944, Ballard’s family moved to Richland, Washington where her father worked for DuPont. After attending college, Ballard went to work for GE and Exxon Nuclear. Her last job before retirement was as executive secretary to the manager for Siemens. Ballard had two children – Bruce and Diane – with her husband Del. In this interview, Ballard discusses her family’s relocation to Richland and her experience living there as a teenager. In particular, she talks about the high school she attended and recreational activities for teenagers at the time. Ballard also describes the town of Richland and its economy. She explains social and economic changes that occurred before, during, and after the war. Commenting on the secrecy of the scientific activity going on at Richland, Ballard shares that the dropping of the bomb came as a surprise to residents of Richland, but their reactions were positive and they expressed great pride in the work of their fellow residents. She hopes that the Hanford area and B Reactor will be preserved as an important historical site.

Masao Tomonaga’s Interview

Masao Tomonaga is the honorary director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Hospital and a hibakusha, an atomic bomb survivor. He studied internal medicine and hematology at the Nagasaki University Medical School. Currently, he runs a retirement home for older hibakusha. In this interview, Dr. Tomonaga discusses his experience surviving the bombing of Nagasaki. He outlines the immediate physical impacts the bomb had on people’s bodies, the long-term physical impacts, such as cancer, and the psychological harm. He also discusses the simulation Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs conducted to see what a one-megaton nuclear detonation would look like in a modern city today.

Richard Rhodes’ Interview (2018)

Richard Rhodes is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” “The Twilight of the Bombs,” “Dark Sun,” and “Energy: A Human History,” as well as more than twenty other books. In this interview, Rhodes expounds on the character of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the inevitability of discovering nuclear fission, the development of the hydrogen bomb, nuclear proliferation and the Cold War arms race, and the relationship between the Soviet Union and United States. He also discusses his play “Reykjavik,” based on the 1986 meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.

Nancy K. Nelson’s Interview (2018)

Nancy Nelson is the widow of Richard H. Nelson, who served as the radio operator on the Enola Gay on the Hiroshima atomic bombing mission. In this interview, she reminisces about her life with Dick, their involvement with the 509th Reunions, and her recent experiences speaking with veterans’ groups.

Philip S. Anderson, Jr.’s Interview

Philip S. Anderson, Jr. lived in Oak Ridge from his second-grade year through his junior year of high school. His father, an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was responsible for housing at Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project; his mother was active in the Oak Ridge community. In this interview, Anderson remembers his childhood in Oak Ridge, describing the level of secrecy in the city and hikes with his friends. He also recounts his reaction to the bombing of Hiroshima and his fond memories of being a Boy Scout in Oak Ridge.

Raymond Sheline’s Lecture

Raymond Sheline was a chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project at Columbia University, Oak Ridge, and Los Alamos. Sheline received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1949 and was a professor at Florida State University for 48 years. Among other accomplishments, he helped establish a nuclear chemistry lab at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen and published more than 400 scientific papers. In this lecture, Sheline discusses how he initially joined the Manhattan Project, his work on gaseous diffusion at Columbia University under Nobel Prize winner Harold Urey and how he became a member of the Special Engineer Detachment. He also delves into the history of nuclear physics, providing an overview of key discoveries and personalities including J. Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, and Edward Teller.

Robert Krauss’s Interview

Robert “Bob” Krauss is the Official Historian of the 509th Composite Group. He and his wife, Amelia Krauss, published The 509th Remembered, which profiles the service members of the 509th Composite Group and the events that surrounded the group and its role in dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In this interview, Krauss discusses how he became interested in collecting and preserving the history of the 509th and became the official historian for the 509th CG. He also narrates the stories of airmen from the 509th Composite Group and recounts his relationship with some of the airmen, including Donald Albury, Ray Gallagher, Fred Olivi, Paul Tibbets, and others. He reflects on the atomic bombings, the legacy of the Manhattan Project, and visiting some of the Manhattan Project sites today.

Norris Jernigan’s Interview

Norris Jernigan served in the 509th Composite Group at Wendover, UT, and Tinian Island during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Jernigan describes being assigned to the Intelligence Office of the 393rd Bomb Squadron. As a clerk, he prepared information for briefing missions and typed subsequent reports. He recalls his surprise at being transferred to Wendover and learning that the 393rd had been selected to be part of a top-secret project. Jernigan discusses what it was like serving on Tinian, the relationships between the different squadrons, and the atmosphere of the island during and between the atomic bombings of Japan. He remembers the intense secrecy surrounding the work at Wendover, the friendships he made, and the shock of spending time in sunny Cuba for training after the cold Utah winter. He also describes seeing the Enola Gay in pieces in 1980 before it was restored by the Smithsonian, and reflects on the atomic bombings and the Manhattan Project’s legacy for today.

Shigeko Uppuluri’s Interview

Shigeko Uppuluri was born in Kyoto, Japan and lived in Shanghai, China during World War II. She came to the United States for graduate school, where she met her husband, mathematician Ram Uppuluri. The couple moved to Oak Ridge, TN in 1963. In this interview, Uppuluri tells the story of the Oak Ridge International Friendship Bell, a symbol of peace and reconciliation between Japan and the United States. She describes how she and her husband launched the effort to build the Bell, the opposition they faced, and the new Peace Pavilion for the Bell in Oak Ridge’s Bissell Park.

Patricia Postma’s Interview

Patricia “Pat” Postma arrived in Oak Ridge in 1943 when her father was recruited to join the Manhattan Project. She grew up in Oak Ridge and was a professor in the College of Business at the University of Tennessee. In this interview, she discusses her involvement in the effort to build Oak Ridge’s International Friendship Bell, a symbol of peace and reconciliation between the US and Japan. She discusses what the bell represents and some of the initial opposition to it. She also reflects on how living in Oak Ridge has shaped her and how she believes the “bell speaks to the values of this town.”