Nuclear Museum Logo
Nuclear Museum Logo

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Hal Behl’s Interview

Hal Behl and his wife, Reggie, an art teacher, arrived in Oak Ridge in 1945. A member of the Special Engineer Detachment, Behl served as Assistant Supervisor in an Engineering Department laboratory at the K-25 plant. He focused mainly on designing and building laboratory, process, health physics, and quality assurance equipment. In this interview, Behl describes everyday life at Oak Ridge and his experiences renting various rooms around the “Secret City.” He also discusses how his Manhattan Project work helped lead to his postwar career in aerospace and weapon system technology.

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.

Arthur Squires’s Interview – Part 1

Arthur Squires was born in Kansas and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from the University of Missouri, and went on to Cornell University for his graduate degree. He was a chemical engineer and participated in the design, construction, and operation of the K-25 diffusion plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, working under Percival Keith and Manson Benedict. In this interview, Squires recounts how he contributed to the scientific research and problem-solving that helped make the K-25 plant possible. In the discussion, Stephane Groueff asks Squires about his relationships with the other scientists, developers, and academic teams.

James C. Stowers’s Interview

Lt. Col. James C. Stowers was an engineer in the Army Corps of Engineers and became the unit chief for the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant. Stowers and his staff of officers were headquartered in the Woolworth Building in New York. Stowers negotiated the divide between civilian and military contributors, and worked intimately with the Kellex Corporation, Union Carbide Company, and the Houdaille-Hershey Company to produce a suitable barrier for the gaseous diffusion project. In this interview, Stowers describes in great detail the many trials and tribulations that challenged the creation of the gaseous diffusion plant.

K.T. Keller’s Interview – Part 2

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.

John Arnold’s Interview

John Arnold joined the Manhattan Project in 1943 when the MED tasked his employer, the Kellogg Corporation, with developing a special barrier for the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge. Arnold discusses his role as director of research and development and process engineering at the plant, where he supervised the assembly and testing of what would become the K-25 plant. In his interview, Arnold describes the challenges of creating a suitable barrier that could withstand the corrosive effects of uranium hexafluoride gas while remaining porous enough to allow smaller atoms of uranium-235 to pass through.

General Leslie Groves’s Interview – Part 4

In this interview, General Groves talks about his responsibilities as the director of the Manhattan Project as well as the responsibilities of his subordinates, including Colonel Kenneth D. Nichols and General Thomas Farrell. Groves also discusses the relationship that he had with Vannevar Bush and James B. Conant and their role in the Project as administrators and science advisors.

Elliot Charney’s Interview

In this interview, Elliot Charney discusses his involvement in developing the barrier material for the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge, TN. Charney worked with Norris and Adler at Columbia University to develop a barrier that would be suitable for the separation of U-235 from U-238. Charney describes some of the problems that arose during the project and explains the urgency of his work.

Robert Kupp’s Interview

Robert Kupp received mysterious orders to report to Knoxville, Tennessee just before he was shipped out to the Pacific Theater, and joined the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge. He was assigned to work as a supervisor in the Line Recorder Department at the K-25 Plant. He discusses life at Oak Ridge and the security and secrecy involved in working on the project. Kupp went on to a prestigious career as a nuclear engineer.

Helen Jernigan’s Interview

Helen Jernigan was a young woman when she was offered a job working in the recreational facilities in Oak Ridge. Eventually, she moved on to become editor of the local newspaper, Carbide Courier. Jernigan recalls the nightlife young men and women were encouraged to participate in as a break from life in the secret city.