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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

William J. Nicholson’s Interview

William J. Nicholson grew up in Chicago, with a strong interest in aviation and aeronautics. During the Manhattan Project he worked as an assistant at the Met Lab. He then served in the Army Air Force. In this interview, Nicholson discusses his childhood and school years spent in Chicago. He then explains how he joined the Manhattan Project out of high school. He recalls the secrecy of the work, and describes working with and machining uranium and other metals. Nicholson remembers Edward Creutz, Enrico Fermi, Walter Zinn, and other scientists he worked with. He explains why he wanted to leave Manhattan Project work to join the Air Force, and describes flying bombers over Europe and being shot down by the Germans. He ends by discussing his life and career after the war.

Abe Krash’s Interview

Abe Krash is an American attorney. He was the editor of The Chicago Maroon, the student newspaper, at the University of Chicago during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, he recalls how he ran afoul of Manhattan Project security regulations after the Maroon published an article about physicist and Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory director Arthur Compton. Krash discusses the impact Robert Maynard Hutchins had as the president of the University of Chicago and his interactions with Lawrence Kimpton, the Chicago Met Lab’s chief administrative officer. He concludes by discussing his career as an attorney with the firm Arnold and Porter.

Richard Money’s Interview

Richard “Dick” Money was a chemist. He received his undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago, where he was introduced to the Manhattan Project’s Metallurgical Laboratory. He was hired by the Met Lab and sent to work for Clinton Laboratories in Oak Ridge, TN during the Manhattan Project. He went on to work for Los Alamos National Laboratory for many years and then became a science and math teacher. In his interview, Money discusses how he became involved in the Manhattan Project and his jobs and responsibilities while working in these secret labs. He describes his post-war involvement with the Bikini Atoll tests and the Rover program at Los Alamos. Money also explains various scientific and chemical innovations made during the Manhattan Project and Cold War, as well as radiation accidents and safety procedures developed in response to the lab accidents. Finally, Money shares about his personal life and his transition from the laboratory to the classroom.

Harold Hasenfus’ Interview

Harold Hasenfus was part of the Special Engineer Detachment during the Manhattan Project and worked at the University of Chicago’s Metallurgical Laboratory and at the gaseous diffusion plant in Oak Ridge. While at Chicago, Hasenfus worked at a pilot plant that was constructed to assist in the design of the B Reactor in Hanford for the production of plutonium. Hasenfus attributes the success of the Manhattan Project to General Groves, who he described as a “tremendously dynamic individual.” When Hasenfus returned to Stagg Field at the University of Chicago years later, he was surprised to find “a big open field with a beautiful green lawn and a marker about the size of a desk to show that the first sustained chain reaction had taken place there.”

John Tepe’s Interview

Louisville native John Tepe began working for the DuPont Company in 1939 after he received his bachelor’s degree and his master’s degree in chemical engineering from the University of Louisville. In 1942, Tepe was transferred to the University of Chicago where he worked on a wide variety of problems in areas such as synthesis and chemical separation that proved integral to the design and construction of the plants at Hanford. Tepe recounts the remarkable cooperation among top Manhattan Project scientists, many of whom he saw nearly every day in the halls at the University of Chicago. Tepe describes some of the chemical experiments that were conducted in the west stands under Stagg Field and alludes to the famous chain reaction that took place in the doubles squash court under Stagg Field. Tepe explains the enormous scale-up required at Hanford and describes the Manhattan Project’s revolutionary impact on industry. Finally, Tepe acknowledges the link between The Manhattan Project, private corporations (such as DuPont), and academia whose efforts combined to make the development of an atomic bomb successful.