Nerses “Krik” Krikorian was born in Turkey in 1921. He was brought to North America at the age of four, escaping the aftermath of the Armenian genocide. After graduating from college, Krikorian worked for Union Carbide in Niagara Falls, NY during World War II. In 1946, he was approached to work at Los Alamos to build polonium initiators for one year. He ended up staying in Los Alamos and even helped to write the charter to govern the town. In this interview, he remembers his childhood and experiences as the eldest son in an immigrant family. He also discusses his work at Los Alamos and his involvement in laboratory-to-laboratory cooperation with the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War.
Lydia Martinez grew up in El Rancho, NM, and began to work at Los Alamos when she was seventeen years old during the Manhattan Project. She worked in various jobs during the war and after it became the Los Alamos National Laboratory, including as babysitter, secretary, and technician. In this interview, she describes her forty-two years of employment of being a technician, maid, secretary and other positions. She also affectionately describes the Gordons, whom she babysat for, and other various figures of the Manhattan Project including the Tellers.
John Coster-Mullen is a photographer, truck driver, and nuclear archeologist. He has played a crucial role in establishing a public, permanent record of the creation of the bomb, and was featured in “The New Yorker.” In this interview, Coster-Mullen discusses the origins of his project and roadblocks he has encountered along the way, and addresses concerns that his work has revealed classified information. He shares a number of turning point moments and recounts important conversations with Manhattan Project veterans and government officials. He also talks about his time visiting Japan and Tinian Island. Finally, he describes some of the nuclear artifacts he has acquired over the years.
Eulalia “Eula” Quintana Newton worked at Los Alamos for a total of 53 years, beginning in 1944. She received a Distinguished Performance Award for her exceptional service to the Los Alamos laboratory. In this interview, she discusses the many jobs she held at Los Alamos. After working in the housing and secretarial departments, she eventually rose to the position of group leader in the mail and records department. Quintana Newton recalls being the first Hispanic woman without a college degree to become a group leader at the laboratory. She also describes the impact of Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project on the Española Valley community.
W. Stanley Hall was eighteen years old when he was recruited to work as a machinist on the cyclotron, first at Princeton University and later at the Los Alamos Laboratory. He worked at Los Alamos as a civilian, then later was drafted and worked as part of the Special Engineer Detachment (SED). In this interview, he describes both his work and recreational experiences during the Manhattan Project. He witnessed the Trinity Test from a location ten miles away. Hall describes hearing “The Star Spangled Banner” play over the radio at the moment of the Trinity Test and the color and the noise of the explosion. Hall also talks about taking advantage of the hiking, fishing, and horseback riding opportunities around him, including some trouble he encountered walking Kitty Oppenheimer’s horse. He provides an overview of his forty-year-long career at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he worked for the computing group.
Clay Kemper Perkins is a physicist, philanthropist, and collector of Manhattan Project artifacts and replicas. In this interview, he discusses his vast collection of weapons and how he became interested in nuclear weapons and Manhattan Project history. He describes some of the stand-out pieces in his collection, including the safety plug used in the Little Boy atomic bomb on the Hiroshima mission and a full-scale replica of Little Boy. He also explains the role of high-speed cameras in the Trinity Test and the “pin domes” that Manhattan Project scientists experimented with for the implosion bomb. Perkins also discusses his philanthropic contributions to the Los Alamos Historical Society, including his purchase and gift of the Hans Bethe House.
Russell E. Gackenbach was a navigator in the 393rd Bombardment Squadron. He flew on both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions. His crew flew aboard the Necessary Evil, which was the camera plane for the Hiroshima mission. Gackenbach photographed the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima. His crew flew again during the Nagasaki mission as the weather reconnaissance plane for the city of Kokura. In this interview, Gackenbach describes his wartime experiences, from enlisting in the service, to training in Wendover, UT and Cuba with the modified B-29s, to flying on both atomic bomb missions. He recalls the personalities of other members and leaders in the 509th, including Col. Paul Tibbets and his crew pilot, Capt. George Marquardt. He also describes his life after the war, including being honored at a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game as their “hero of the day” and participating in 509th reunions around the country.
Raemer Schreiber worked at Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project and after the war developing the hydrogen bomb and the Rover nuclear rocket program. In 1945, Schreiber was transferred to the Gadget Division and was a member of the pit assembly team for the Trinity Test, watching the explosion from base camp. He flew to Tinian Island with two plutonium hemispheres and helped assemble the Fat Man bomb used on Nagasaki. He witnessed the 1946 radiation accident that killed Louis Slotin, but was allowed to leave Los Alamos after being examined to go to Eniwetok for the Bikini test. He recalls the challenges that went into designing the hydrogen bomb, as well as the personalities of various scientists including Edward Teller and Norris Bradbury.
Tom Scolman arrived in Los Alamos shortly after receiving his PhD in physics from the University of Minnesota under renowned physicist Alfred Nier. At Los Alamos, Scolman worked in the Weapons Division where and a team of physicists helped assemble and test explosives that would be used in nuclear devices. After the war, Scolman worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory and presided over hundreds of nuclear tests in the South Pacific, Nevada, and Amchitka. Scolman was also a member of a group that responded to weapons accidents; he recalls several instances where planes carrying nuclear weapons crashed but luckily did not explode.
Dimas Chavez was a young child when he moved to Los Alamos with his family for his father to work for the Zia Company on the Manhattan Project. He recalls his struggle to learn English, and the support of his parents and members of the Los Alamos community to help him become fluent. He lived in a small house by Bathtub Row, and sold newspapers to J. Robert Oppenheimer. Social activities included watching wrestling matches, concerts, and riding inner tubes on the Rio Grande. Chavez unwittingly turned down an opportunity to watch the Trinity test.