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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

John Mench’s Interview

John Mench was assigned to the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos where he worked as a pattern maker, creating wooden casts for metal work at the site’s foundry. Mench describes what it was like to live in the barracks at Los Alamos and discusses everything from housing and recreation to security and secrecy, including his daughter’s birth certificate, which was marked P.O. Box 1663. Mench also discusses the founding of the Los Alamos Little Theater, where he directed numerous plays that were attended by some of the most famous scientists on the site. He jokingly recounts a date with one of the young WACs, who never invited him to dinner again because he spent the entire date talking about his wife and child. On a more serious note, Mench offers his opinion on the use of the atomic bomb against Japan and the importance of the Manhattan Project in ending the war.

Winston Dabney’s Interview (2003)

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.

Pat Krikorian’s Interview

Pat Krikorian arrived at Los Alamos in August of 1943, where she worked as a secretary for the Women’s Army Corps. Krikorian also worked with other WACs selling tickets and ushering patrons at Los Alamos’ movie theater. Krikorian describes some of the security measures at Los Alamos, including a run-in with a commanding officer who became suspicious about the content of letters she received from her brother who was serving overseas. Though Krikorian admits most WACs had no knowledge of what was going on at Los Alamos, she witnessed the flash from the Trinity Test and describes the celebrations after the Trinity test and after the first bomb was dropped on Japan.

Rebecca Bradford Diven’s Interview

Becky Diven began her work for the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos in 1944, where she developed a quartz fiber microbalance to weigh extremely small amounts of plutonium. Diven discusses what it was like for women working at the Manhattan Project and talks about workers’ relations with the Pueblos, most of whom worked as maids or janitors.