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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Louis Turner’s Interview

Louis Turner, a metallurgical engineer, first became involved with the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago in 1943. Turner worked at the “Dairy,” a codename for the place at the University where scientists researched methods to effectively can fuel elements for the nuclear reaction. After a brief stint at Oak Ridge working around the X-10 Graphite Reactor as a health-instrument scientist, Turner was transferred to Hanford where he spent much of his career conducting site surveys to monitor radiation levels in the surrounding area. Turner discusses some of the health hazards posed by radiation and explains some of the safety precautions workers took to protect themselves. Turner also discusses living conditions at Hanford and marvels at the amazing organization and coordination of the Manhattan Project.

Jack Hefner’s Interview

Jack Hefner joined the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge in 1943. Hefner was a reactor engineer and helped supervise the construction of the X-10 Graphite Reactor. Later, he transferred to Hanford and worked as a shift engineer, where he monitored the B Reactor. Hefner also helped maintain Hanford’s sprawling facilities, including office buildings and houses in the 700 Area.

Harry Kamack’s Interview

Harry Kamack worked as a chemical engineer for the DuPont Company during the early 1940s, when he was transferred to Chicago to work at the Metallurgical Laboratory. As a chemical engineer, Kamack admits that he did not have much knowledge of nuclear physics, but he quickly learned and was soon tasked with building a Geiger counter. In 1943, Kamack was transferred to Oak Ridge, where he continued work on developing processes for the separation of plutonium at the X-10 Graphite Reactor. In October of 1944, Kamack was transferred again to Hanford, where he continued research on the chemical separations process of the T-Plant.

Max Gittler’s Interview

Max Gittler was working on his degree in mechanical engineering at NYU when he was drafted into the Army during World War II. He was sent to Oak Ridge, where he enjoyed the social activities, especially bowling. He and three other soldiers had the job of driving radioactive material from Oak Ridge to other Manhattan Project sites around the country, including Dayton, Chicago, Santa Fe (they were not allowed into Los Alamos), and the University of California-Berkeley. Although the radioactive material was encased in a small lead pot, it weighed nearly three thousand pounds. Gittler and the soldiers had to take turns driving in the truck with the material, so they would not be exposed to the radiation for too long.