Bill Wilcox was an original resident of Oak Ridge, TN, and served as the Official Historian for the City of Oak Ridge, TN. A chemistry graduate from Washington & Lee University in 1943, he was hired by the Tennessee Eastman Company on a secret project in an unknown location he and his friends nicknamed “Dogpatch.” He worked with uranium, which was referred to only by its codename “Tuballoy.” Wilcox worked at Y-12 for five years and then at K-25 for 20 years, retiring as Technical Director for Union Carbide Nuclear Division. Wilcox actively promoted preservation of the “Secret City” history through the Oak Ridge Heritage & Preservation Association and by founding the Partnership for K-25 Preservation. He also published several books on Oak Ridge, including a history of Y-12 and “Opening the Gates of the Secret City.”
KT Keller was appointed President of the Chrysler Corporation in 1935, having served as Vice President since 1926. Keller entered the automotive field as an apprentice without any previous education in engineering or mechanics. His intelligence, hard work, and mechanical skills enabled him to advance all the way to the top of Chrysler, where he guided the company through World War II. In Part 2 of his interview, Keller discusses Chrysler’s role in the Manhattan Project, including how the company solved the problem of electroplating tubes with nickel in order to prevent corrosion during the gaseous diffusion process. He also discusses his relationship with General Leslie Groves and his deputy, Col. Kenneth Nichols.
Colonel James C. Marshall set up the Manhattan Engineer District (MED), established by general order on August 13, 1942. Marshall presided over the initial stages of the Project until General Leslie R. Groves assumed control on September 17, 1942. In this interview, Marshall discusses the military’s involvement in the Manhattan Project and the challenges of securing funds, choosing project sites, and collaborating with scientists and officials. Marshall also discusses navigating government bureaucracy, going back and forth between different offices, seeking approval for various actions, and dealing with superiors with whom he often disagreed.
In this interview, General Groves describes his first few weeks as the director of the Manhattan Project. He discusses his visits to the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Chicago, and Columbia University to meet with some of the top scientists who would be working on the project, including Arthur Compton and Dobie Keith.
Dr. Philip Abelson was a physicist on the path to discovering fission when Otto Hahn and Lisa Meitner discovered this process first. Abelson worked at the Navy Research Laboratory in Philadelphia, where he designed pipes to enrich uranium. He discusses how he was also the first in the United States to manufacture large quantities of uranium hexafluoride. Abelson’s technology was reviewed by General Leslie R. Groves, Edward Teller, and J. Robert Oppenheimer. His research led to the rapid construction of the S-50 Plant in Oak Ridge, the liquid thermal diffusion plant. He recalls the challenges of designing pipes for uranium enrichment.