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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

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.

Colonel James C. Marshall’s Interview

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.

Vincent and Clare Whitehead’s Interview – Part 1

Vincent (“Bud”) Whitehead and Clare Whitehead met during their time at the Hanford site. Bud was a counterintelligence officer assigned to Hanford to prevent the intrusion of any spies; Clare was a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and worked as a secretary at Hanford and Richland. In this interview with S. L. Sanger, the Whiteheads talk about meeting and living in Hanford. Bud describes his experience as a counterintelligence agent and how he was recruited. He also talks about encounters with suspected KGB agents and a German skilled laborer. Clare Whitehead discusses how she came to be posted in Hanford.