Martin Moeller is the Senior Curator at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., where the exhibition “Secret Cities: The Architecture and Planning of the Manhattan Project” opened in 2018. In this interview, Moeller describes the history behind the exhibition and its key themes. He focuses in particular on the role of the firm of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill in designing Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He also discusses how segregation was built into the Manhattan Project’s secret cities and the Manhattan Project’s legacies for American architecture.
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.
Robert JS Brown was a member of the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos. He worked under Don Hornig on the electrical aspects of detonation for the plutonium bomb. In this interview, Brown discusses how he was recruited into the SED and his experience as an army member at Los Alamos. He also talks about the friends he made at Los Alamos as well as his encounters with famous spies. Brown also gives his opinion on the necessity of having Oppenheimer and Groves run the Manhattan Project.
In this interview, Dabney discusses what it was like to live and work at Los Alamos. He describes working conditions, recreational activities, and housing for military members, briefly touching upon religion and the quality of food. Dabney also discusses how he met his wife, Jean, and shares several amusing anecdotes involving the scientists who worked at Los Alamos.
Ellen Bradbury Reid moved to Los Alamos in the summer of 1944 when her father was hired by Norris Bradbury to work in the high explosives division. Reid recalls what it was like growing up as a child at Los Alamos and shares stories about her adventures into the Los Alamos hillside with her younger brother. She also shares memories of attending school in Los Alamos and discusses the diversity of the student body. On occasion, Reid even encountered famous scientists working on the atomic bomb, including J. Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller.