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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

William Ginell’s Interview

William Ginell is a physical chemist who worked on the Manhattan Project. In this interview he describes how he became interested in chemistry and his experiences working at Columbia University and Oak Ridge, TN on the gaseous diffusion process. He reflects on the Army, living conditions, and the intense secrecy and security during the project. He also discusses his life after the war, especially his work at Brookhaven, Atomics International, and Douglas Aircraft.

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.

William E. Tewes’ Interview (April 2013)

William E. Tewes worked on the gaseous diffusion process at the Nash Garage Building under Dr. Francis Slack, testing the barrier material. He recalls the Nazi invasion of Poland and how the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the country together.

James Forde’s Interview

James Forde was a lab assistant in the Nash Garage Building, where scientists worked on developing the gaseous diffusion process. Seventeen year-old Forde was the lone African-American in the midst of PhD scientists. When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, he immediately realized that his job cleaning pipes was related to the bomb.

Donald Trauger’s Interview

Donald Trauger became involved in the Manhattan Project at Columbia University, working on the gaseous diffusion process. He discusses the science of isotope separation and also the decision to use the atomic bomb.