Dieter Gruen worked in the Chemical Research Division at the Y-12 Plant during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, he discusses his childhood in Walldorf, Germany, and how his family’s life changed as the Nazis came to power. Gruen discusses how he came to the U.S. in 1937, and his school experiences both in Little Rock, Arkansas, and at the University of Chicago. He explains how his work at Oak Ridge led him to devote his career to science and innovation. He also spends time sharing his feelings about his involvement with the Manhattan Project. Gruen discusses his views regarding climate change, and how nations can work together to resolve it.
Clifton Truman Daniel is the grandson of President Harry Truman. In this interview, Daniel discusses what it is like to be the grandson of the president. He recalls his relationship with his grandparents and his mother, Margaret Truman Daniel, and how he learned that “Grandpa” had been president. In addition to discussing the work that he does on behalf of the Truman Presidential Library, Daniel also speaks about the more recent trips he has made to Japan and meeting with survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He describes his friendships with survivor Setsuko Thurlow and with the family of Sadako Sasaki.
Frank Settle is an analytical chemist and professor emeritus at Washington and Lee University. He is the author of “General George C. Marshall and the Atomic Bomb.” In this interview, Settle discusses General Marshall’s life before, during, and after World War II. Settle also highlights Marshall’s leadership, his involvement with the Manhattan Project, and his lack of confidence in the atomic bomb. As a chemist, Settle also talks about the importance of chemistry in the Manhattan Project and his latest work on an atomic road map, part of the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues.
John Coster-Mullen is a photographer, truck driver, and nuclear archeologist. He has played a crucial role in establishing a public, permanent record of the creation of the bomb, and was featured in “The New Yorker.” In this interview, Coster-Mullen discusses the origins of his project and roadblocks he has encountered along the way, and addresses concerns that his work has revealed classified information. He shares a number of turning point moments and recounts important conversations with Manhattan Project veterans and government officials. He also talks about his time visiting Japan and Tinian Island. Finally, he describes some of the nuclear artifacts he has acquired over the years.
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.
Norris Bradbury worked as a physicist on the Manhattan Project and served as director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1945-1970. In this interview, he recalls the challenges of running LANL and how he admired the way J. Robert Oppenheimer had managed it during the war. He explains the decision behind moving ahead with developing the hydrogen bomb, and why Oppenheimer opposed it. Bradbury recalls how the transfer of nuclear weapons control from military to civilian hands went, and how he and his staff interfaced with the Atomic Energy Commission. He also discusses the personality and legacy of Oppenheimer, General Leslie Groves, and Edward Teller.
In this lecture at Johns Hopkins University, Jacob Beser talks about his early career in the Air Corps in World War II, as well as how he was recruited to the 509th Composite Air Group. He discusses his personal feelings on the morality of the bombs, as well as the situation that lead President Truman to decide to use the atomic bombs. Beser also answers questions on Los Alamos, the targets for the atomic bombings and the idea of dropping a bomb as a warning to the Japanese government. He discusses the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions and his feelings after the fact. Beser also touches on the Japanese-American internment during World War II, which he considers to be one of the largest blots on American democracy.
Ray Gallagher and Fred Olivi were both members of the 509th Composite Group that was responsible for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Gallagher flew on both missions, on The Great Artiste, which was an observer plane on the Hiroshima mission, and then on the Bock’s Car, which dropped Fat Man. Fred Olivi was the Bock’s Car’s co-pilot during the Nagasaki mission. They are joined by historian and Truman specialist, Robert Messer. In this interview, the veterans discuss their careers after the war, Colonel Paul Tibbets, and the upkeep of the Enola Gay and Bock’s Car. The program takes callers and the veterans and Messer answer questions about a number of issues surrounding the atomic bomb missions. Olivi and Gallagher reflect on dropping the atomic bombs and state their hope that no more atomic bombs will ever be used.
Ray Gallagher and Fred Olivi were both members of the missions responsible for dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Gallagher flew on both missions, first on the Great Artiste, which was an observer plane, and then on Bockscar, which dropped Fat Man. Fred Olivi was Bockscar’s co-pilot. They are joined by historian and Truman specialist Robert Messer. In this interview, the veterans discuss how they were recruited to and trained for the 509th Composite Group. They talk about what it was like to drop the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, witnessing the mushroom cloud, and their feelings and reflections in the aftermath. Messer weighs in on the moral and practical decision to drop the bomb.
Freeman Dyson is an esteemed mathematician and theoretical physicist at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study. In this interview, Dyson discusses his work at England’s Bomber Command in World War II, tracking the position of bomber forces. He explains the importance of scientific innovation in wartime, the effectiveness of strategic bombing campaigns, and why civil defense worked better in Germany than in Britain. Dyson later worked with Manhattan Project veterans Hans Bethe, Richard Feynman, and Robert R. Wilson, and recalls how they felt about the project. He discusses Niels Bohr and J. Robert Oppenheimer’s ideas for international control of nuclear weapons, and what methods he thinks would work best to further nonproliferation efforts today. Dyson also remembers visiting Oak Ridge, and explains Oak Ridge’s important role in building innovative nuclear reactors and conducting biological experiments.