Voices of the Manhattan Project Resonate Nationwide
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Voices of the Manhattan Project Resonate Nationwide

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Larry O'Rourke of the SED eating dinner with friendsLarry O'Rourke of the SED eating dinner with friendsOn November 28, the Department of Energy released a news flash—Atomic Bombs, Winning the War and Women in Pants. This title captures the potpourri of recollections from Manhattan Project veterans whose oral histories were included in the initial launch of the website, Voices of the Manhattan Project.

On November 16, 2012, the Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society launched the “Voices of the Manhattan Project” website with an initial 26 entries.  Already media outlets around the country have promoted the site to their readers and listeners. The Associated Press article Manhattan Project 'Voices' retelling story of bomb appeared in newspapers all over the country, from Washington to Connecticut to South Carolina. On November 27, the Tri-City Herald summarized several of the Hanford interviews, including veterans Lawrence Denton and Paul Vinther who describe working on B Reactor.  Also featured were Rex Buck, Jr. of the Wanapum and Veronica Taylor of the Nez Perce, who talk about how their ways of life were disrupted by Hanford. the site has received hundreds of unique visitors. George Cowan's interview alone has received 112 views.

Frank Munger, blogger of “Atomic City Underground” for the Knoxville News Sentinel, highlighted the Oak Ridgers interviewed, including Joseph Dykstra and Donald Trauger. Oak Ridge Today explained, “Oak Ridge played a key role in the Manhattan Project, a top-secret program to build the world’s first nuclear weapons during World War II, and the website includes interviews with several people who worked in Oak Ridge during the war.”The website The Sociable published a long article, What Was It Like to Work for the Manhattan Project? The piece explains, “In total, 130,000 people were involved in the project which cost over $2 billion (about $26 billion today). In spite of these huge numbers some fear that the personal history of the project would be lost. The Atomic Heritage Foundation and the Los Alamos Historical Society’s “Voices of the Manhattan Project” hopes to combat this loss by conducting and collecting interviews with those involved in the research and those still affected by it.” The article notes, “Along with the interviews the site also contains details about key locations, including information about test sites and research centers across the United States.”

Manhattan Project veteran Ralph Gates and friends enjoying a Christmas dinner in 1945Manhattan Project veteran Ralph Gates and friends enjoying a Christmas dinner in 1945

The Santa Fe radio station KSFR did a story on “Voices of the Manhattan Project” and used excerpts from the interview with Jack Aeby, who took the only color photograph of the Trinity test. The Los Alamos Daily Post listed some of the oral histories on their website. The Santa Fe New Mexican noted, “Each month, new interviews will be added to the collection to ‘provide a rich tapestry of perspectives on the top-secret project that gave birth to the Atomic Age.’

Thanks to the M. J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Kerr Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services for funding this project. We are very pleased to see such enthusiasm for the initial oral histories and plan to add over 200 oral histories from our collections. Eventually, many more now scattered across the country will be included in or linked to the site.

While we have lost most of the physical properties of the Manhattan Project, we can still preserve the spirit of the Manhattan Project through these accounts. While we hope to capture more, we are in a race against time.


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