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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Roger Fulling’s Interview (1986) – Part 2

Roger Fulling served as a division superintendent in DuPont’s War Construction Program. In this interview, he discusses the priority that the Manhattan Project received in the industrial sector, especially with materials like aluminum. He talks about coordinating production with the armed forces, including General Douglas MacArthur. He explains how General Leslie R. Groves would intervene if a company was having difficulty acquiring materials or producing products to certain specifications. Fulling also mentions meeting some of the top scientists, including Eugene Wigner, who thought that scientists alone, not DuPont and their engineers, should work on the project, and how DuPont persuaded them otherwise. He remembers his interactions with General Groves after the war, and explains why Groves chose DuPont to work on the Manhattan Project.

Hanford 25th Anniversary Celebration

This program was recorded at the 25th anniversary of the construction of the B Reactor, the world’s first full-scale nuclear reactor, in Hanford, WA. Leading Manhattan Project scientists, including Glenn Seaborg, John Wheeler, Lombard Squires, and Norman Hilberry, as well as its military leaders, General Leslie R. Groves and Colonel Franklin Matthias, participated in the ceremony. They discussed the start of the Manhattan Project, how the reactor’s site was chosen, the challenges of building the reactor and the chemical separations plant, and the different processes that were considered to separate plutonium. They also recalled the relationship between the military and civilian scientists and why they became involved in the Manhattan Project to help win World War II. They philosophized on the significance of nuclear power and its potential for future projects, from agriculture to space exploration.

Alexander Langsdorf’s Interview

Dr. Alexander Langsdorf was an American physicist who worked under Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago. He helped design the nuclear reactor Chicago Pile-2, following the success of Chicago Pile-1. After the war, Langsdorf become an outspoken opponent of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and helped found the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. In this conversation with author Stephane Groueff, Langsdorf describes how he became involved in the Manhattan Project, his decision to stay in Chicago rather than go to Los Alamos, the genius of Enrico Fermi, and the process of designing and building a heavy water nuclear reactor. He discusses the personalities of many of his superiors, including Walter Zinn, Arthur Compton, Norman Hilberry, Samuel Allison, and Fermi.

20th Anniversary of the Atomic Age

In this radio segment, notable physicists who were present during the first nuclear chain reaction of the Chicago Pile-1 on December 2, 1942 recall the events of that day. The historic occasion, which took place under Stagg Field at the University of Chicago, ushered in the atomic age.

Warren Nyer’s Interview

Warren Nyer is one of very few physicists who worked at all four main sites – Chicago, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and Hanford – of the Manhattan Project. He began working on the classified project at the young age of nineteen. He discusses his interactions with Oppenheimer and Fermi, along with the excitement of viewing the world’s first nuclear test at Trinity. Nyer also describes his living situation at Hanford, from the dormitories to the houses. Finally, he offers his justification for the use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.