Al Zeltmann grew up in Brooklyn, New York. After being drafted into the Army during World War II, he was assigned to the Special Engineer Detachment and arrived at Los Alamos in 1944. After the war, he stayed at Los Alamos, and worked as a physical chemist at the Los Alamos laboratory for nearly 40 years. In this interview, he recalls his Manhattan Project work, including on the “RaLa” experiments with Gerhart Friedlander, and describes the relationship between the military and civilians on “The Hill.” He also remembers receiving some unusual instructions from a mail censor after his wife complained he “wasn’t very warm” in his letters.
Dr. Julia Maestas is the granddaughter of Manuel Maestas, a homesteader at Los Alamos, and daughter of Elipio Maestas, who worked as a civil guard for the Corps of Engineers at Los Alamos. In her interview, she discusses her family’s history and what it was like growing up in Los Alamos. She shares childhood memories about friends, skating, and watching movies. She also describes how her tri-cultural background and education at Los Alamos led to her career in speech pathology and educational psychology.
Vincent (“Bud”) Whitehead was a counterintelligence officer at Hanford during the Manhattan Project; his wife Clare was a secretary and a member of the Women’s Army Corps. In part two of their interview with S. L. Sanger, the Whiteheads discuss crime at Hanford and the project’s intense secrecy. Clare recalls when she was stricken with polio and how the DuPont doctors were far superior to the Army doctor. The couple also speculates on whether Bud’s subsequent health issues are related to radiation exposure. Finally, Bud recalls chasing and bringing down a Japanese balloon bomb.
Not long after completing his sophomore year at MIT, Norman Brown was recruited into the Manhattan Project. First stationed at Oak Ridge, he was deployed with the Special Engineer Detachment at Los Alamos. Brown helped process the plutonium that was used in the Trinity test and in the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. He discusses barracks life, security at Los Alamos, and his impressions of J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie Groves. He also recounts his efforts to witness the Trinity test and a visit to the memorials at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In his interview, Rex Edward Keller recalls his journey from Dexter, Missouri to Los Alamos, where he joined several of his childhood friends as well as his brother, Keaton Keller. In the summer of 1943, he arrived in New Mexico as a civilian worker, but was later drafted as a member of the Special Engineer Detachment. Keller worked in the Chemistry Division and later in Seth Neddermeyer’s implosion group, testing the explosives. He remembers the social life of the community in Los Alamos and the relationships between the civilian scientists and the military officials involved in the project.