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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Roger Rasmussen’s Interview

Roger Rasmussen was an electrical engineer at Los Alamos and a member of the Special Engineer Detachment. During the Trinity test, he was assigned to evacuate local civilians if necessary. After the war, Rasmussen had a long career at Los Alamos National Laboratory. In this interview, he recounts his arrival at Los Alamos and details his memories of the Trinity test. He also discusses his postwar work at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and recalls how Manhattan Project veterans were perceived after the war.

Norman Brown’s Interview (2005)

Not long after completing his sophomore year at MIT, Norman Brown was recruited into the Manhattan Project. First stationed at Oak Ridge, he was deployed with the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos. Brown helped process the plutonium that was used in the Trinity test and in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. He discusses barracks life, security at Los Alamos, and his impressions of J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves. He also recounts his efforts to witness the Trinity test and a visit to the memorials at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Alfred Nier’s Interview – Part 2

Dr. Alfred Nier was an American physicist well-known for his work on spectrometry. Nier designed the mass spectrometers used for Manhattan Project experiments and his instruments were sent to all of the major Project sites. With his mass spectrometer, Nier helped prove that that U-235 was fissile, not the more abundant isotope U-238. Nier worked for the Kellex Corporation to design and construct the apparatuses used to monitor the separation of Uranium-235 and Uranium-238, as well as leak detectors for the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant. In this interview, Nier discusses his early involvement in the Manhattan Project in New York and the transport of uranium between Project sites. He also discusses his experiences working at both the Nash Garage Building in New York City, and the K-25 Plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Fay Cunningham’s Interview

Fay Cunningham joined the Manhattan Project in 1944 as a metallurgical engineer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Cunningham and his team of engineers helped to develop a mechanized process for producing crucibles that were used in the reduction of uranium and plutonium. After the war, Cunningham served as a radiation monitor for the nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll during Operation Crossroads. His job was to survey the radiological damage on navy ships that were positioned around the epicenter of the nuclear explosion. Cunningham recalls climbing cargo nets dangling from the bow of a ship while trying to hold on to a fifteen-pound Geiger counter. After Operation Crossroads, Cunningham returned to Michigan State and completed his degree in chemical engineering.

Ray Stein’s Interview

A member of the Special Engineer Detachment, Ray Stein participated in the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, working at the Y-12 Plant. He tells the story of security and secrecy during the project. At Y-12, he and his fellow SED members donned civilian clothes and were told to keep an eye out for possible saboteurs or spies.

Richard Shepard’s Interview

Richard Shepard joined the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, working in the K-25 Plant as a member of the Special Engineer Detachment. With many family members serving overseas in the military, he explains his personal reaction to the end of the war. He discusses his later work in nuclear science, including the Bikini Tests.