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The conclusion of our two part story on the Manhattan Project.
Video courtesy of the Department of Energy
U.S. Department of Energy


“In answer to the question, “was the development of the atomic bomb by the United States necessary? I reply unequivocally, ‘Yes.’ To the question, ‘Is atomic energy a force for good or for evil?’ I can only say, ‘As mankind wills it.’”

~Brigadier General Leslie Groves


(Direct Current Show Theme)

NARRATOR: Previously on Direct Current. (clip review of part 1)

EDELMAN: In order for all the work to come together, they’d have to get the uranium from Oak Ridge and the plutonium from Hanford out to New Mexico. Ray Smith tells us how it was done.

SMITH: They’d take it out of those collectors put them in small gold line coffee cup containers put two of them in a briefcase, strap it to an Army Lt., dress him up to look like a salesman, put him on a passenger train up through Chicago and out to Los Alamos. That’s how every bit of the uranium for Little Boy got transported from Y-12 to Los Alamos.

NARRATOR: February 2nd, 1945

LANTERO: Los Alamos finally receives its first batch of plutonium. But none of it came easy.  Los Alamos historians Alan Carr and Ellen McGehee help us tell this part of the story.

ALAN CARR : Groves was extremely concerned with not wanting to lose any of this material and so they routed it all over the place. These were supposed to be secret facilities so you didn’t want materials being directly sent from Washington state to New Mexico because at that time people would’ve asked what’s going on? What’s all this activity? Why are these two sites communicating and shipping things back and forth? The same thing happened with the general material we used the University New Mexico in Albuquerque as a sort of mail stop, kind of a drop box, for a lot of the scientific equipment that had to go up to Los Alamos. So it was part of University New Mexico’s role in World War II to funnel equipment so that it would look like it was going to university setting and not to Los Alamos. 

LANTERO: And none of the facilities Alan mentioned were as secret as the Los Alamos Laboratory, also known as Project Y. Project Y was the last phase in the Manhattan Project - their mission, to design and build the first atomic bombs.

When the plutonium arrived, scientists quickly got to work to make the plutonium useable for the bomb.  

NARRATOR: April 12, 1945

LANTERO: After a long battle in declining physical health, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died at the age of 63.  Vice President Harry S. Truman took the oath of office as President and is quickly briefed on the classified project known as Manhattan.


NEWSREEL AUDIO: Throughout the world throngs of people hail the end of the war in Europe. It’s five years or more since Hitler marched into Poland. Years full of suffering and death and sacrifice. Now the war against Germany is won.

LANTERO: But the war against Japan continued in the Pacific.

NARRATOR: Summer 1945 

EDELMAN: At Project Y, scientists and staff were preparing to conduct the “Trinity” test which was to ensure that all the testing, breakthroughs, and labor to create a bomb would actually work.  

The exact origin of the code name "Trinity" is unknown, but in 1962, General Lesley Groves wrote to Oppenheimer about the origin of the name, asking if he had chosen it because it was a name common to rivers and peaks in the West and would not attract attention. Oppenheimer replied: 

OPPENHEIMER NARRATOR: “I did suggest it, but not on that ground ... Why I chose the name is not clear, but I know what thoughts were in my mind. There is a poem of John Donne, written just before his death, which I know and love.    

        What shall my West hurt me? As West and East

        In all flat maps (and I am one) are one,

        So death doth touch the resurrection.


NARRATOR: Friday, July 13, 1945

EDELMAN: The pitch-black curtain of night draped over the New Mexico sky. A small caravan of scientists saw the stars reflected in the glass of their synchronized watches that all struck one minute past midnight.

ELLEN: They were basically saying that they weren’t superstitious and this was sort of their way to send it down there on Friday the 13th.

EDELMAN: The codename for the plutonium core and the non-nuclear components they carried was “the gadget.” A specially designed Army sedan began the journey from Los Alamos across winding mountain roads that were all dim and quiet. Through the stillness of night, down into the Rio Grande Valley they traveled 7,000 feet in elevation through Santa Fe, past Albuquerque until finally arriving in Alamogordo to the Trinity Site.

ELLEN: A couple hundred miles or so which would’ve taken them pretty much all day back then. It would’ve been a long long trip. 26:20

EDELMAN: The Trinity site was set up with 100 foot steel tower at ground zero, there were three observation bunkers located 10,000 yards north, west, and south of the tower. And the reason they put the device on top of a tower? It was actually for photography.

ALAN: Now back then there wasn’t a whole lot of photography just for sightseeing. It was for historical purposes and things like that. They needed good photographs of the fireball so they could measure it and get a pretty good calculation of the yield of the bomb. So if you set the bomb off on the ground, you immediately have a bunch of dust. If you set it off on top of a tower, in the milliseconds and early milliseconds when the bomb goes off, you can get some great photos of the fireball expanding.

NARRATOR: Saturday, July 14, 1945

EDELMAN: On Saturday, the “gadget” was assembled with the plutonium into the high explosives. They left off the detonators at that time. Then it was raised to the top of the tower. But when they first attempted to do that... it didn’t work. A moment of crisis.

ALAN: You can imagine what it felt like for the first couple of seconds there, when they try to put the plutonium and it didn’t go in. The issue was that the plutonium had warmed up and had been in the hot sun. The high explosives were in the tent underneath the tower and so realizing that the plutonium had slightly expanded they let it cool off and they, made another attempt, they were able to put the bomb together.  So that was the first thing they overcame. 

NARRATOR: Monday, July 16, 1945

EDELMAN: Hours before dawn, General Groves (the orchestrator), Ernest Lawrence (inventor of the cyclotron), J. Robert Oppenheimer (director of Los Alamos), and a few select others arrived at the Trinity test area. Everyone on hand was restricted in the bunkers. (sound effects of countdown) The sounds of nervous chatter were drowned out by the countdown over the PA system. At precisely 5:30 that morning, the atomic age began.

(sound effects of blast)

EDELMAN: Seconds after the detonation came a huge blast, sending searing heat across the desert and knocking some observers to the ground. A steel container weighing over 200 tons, standing a half-mile from ground zero, was knocked over. The bomb vaporized the tower that was holding it. When the fireball came in contact with the ground, it absorbed the sand. The sand melted in the fireball, rained back down to earth, and hardened on the desert floor turning the sand around the base to green glass. That glass would later be named Trinitite, after the Trinity Test.

EDELMAN: The device released approximately 18.6 kilotons of power, which is equivalent to about 20,000 tons of TNT. That was higher than anybody had predicted. The New Mexico sky was suddenly brighter than many suns. Some observers suffered temporary blindness even though they looked at the brilliant light through smoked glass. As the orange and yellow fireball stretched up and spread, a second column, narrower than the first, rose and flattened into a mushroom shape, thus providing the atomic age with a visual image that has become imprinted on the human consciousness as a symbol of power and staggering destruction.

OPPENHEIMER AUDIO: We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." I suppose we all thought that one way or another.

EDELMAN: Those chilling and infamous words belong to J. Robert Oppenheimer. The quote has become synonymous with nuclear weapons it was spoken years later on a documentary about making the atomic bomb.

Now, with a new card in his hand, President Truman confidently traveled to Berlin.

NARRATOR: July 17,1945

EDELMAN: President Truman, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin convened in Berlin at the Potsdam Conference. The conference was the last of the World War II meetings held by the “Big Three” heads of state and started the day after the Trinity test. That’s one of the reasons why they wanted to conduct the Trinity test on July 16 or earlier was so the president knew going into the meeting that he had a bomb in his back pocket.

NARRATOR: August 6, 1945

EDELMAN: 9,700-pound uranium bomb, nicknamed Little Boy is loaded onto the B-29 airplane called Enola Gay. Navy captain and Los Alamos weaponeer Williams “Deke” Parsons keeps a progress log of the mission during flight.

CAPTAIN NARRATOR: 02:45 Take off

EDELMAN: From Tinian Island the Enola Gay heads north by northwest toward the Japanese Islands over 1,500 miles away.

CAPTAIN NARRATOR: 03:00 Started final loading of gun. 03:15 Finished loading.

EDELMAN: Three hours later

CAPTAIN NARRATOR: 06:05 Headed for Empire from Iwo. 07:30 Red plugs in

EDELMAN: The red plugs arm the bomb so it would detonate if released.

CAPTAIN NARRATOR 07:41: Started climb

EDELMAN: They flew at low altitude before climbing to 31,000 feet

CAPTAIN NARRATOR: 08:38 Leveled off at 32,700 feet

EDELMAN: The primary target, Hiroshima, a military city with a population of nearly 300,000.

CAPTAIN NARRATOR:09:09 Target (hiroshima) in sight. 09:15 ½ Dropped bomb

EDELMAN: Forty-three seconds later a huge explosion lights the morning sky as Little Boy detonated  1900 feet above the city, directly over a parade field where the Japanese Second Army is doing calisthenics. The pilot, Captain Tibbets, immediately dives away to avoid the anticipated shockwaves of the blast.

CAPTAIN NARRATOR: 09:16 flash followed by two slaps on plane. Huge cloud. 10:00 Still in sight of cloud which must be over 40,000 feet high

EDELMAN: Captain Tibbets thinks he’s taking gunfire.

CAPTAIN NARRATOR: 10:03 Fighter reported

EDELMAN: A second shock wave hits the plane, the crew looks back at Hiroshima. "The city was hidden by that awful cloud boiling up, mushrooming, terrible and incredibly tall," Captain Tibbets recalled.

CAPTAIN NARRATOR: 10:41 Lost sight of cloud 363 miles from Hiroshima with aircraft being 26,000 feet high

EDELMAN: The tremendous power of a single atomic bomb instantly destroyed 60% of the city of Hiroshima. Within hours of the attack, radio stations began playing a prepared statement from President Harry Truman.

PRESIDENT TRUMAN AUDIO: A short time ago an American plane dropped one bomb on Hiroshima and destroyed its usefulness to the enemy. That bomb has more power than 20,000 tons of TNT. The Japanese began the war from the air at Pearl Harbor; they have been repaid many fold. And the end is not yet. With this bomb we have now added a new and revolutionary increase in destruction to supplement the growing power of our armed forces. In their present form these bombs are now in production and even more powerful forms are in development.

EDELMAN: In the absence of a Japan surrender announcement, President Truman orders a second atomic attack to take place.

NARRATOR: August 9, 1945

EDELMAN: The 10,000 pound plutonium bomb nicknamed Fat Man is loaded onto the B-29 airplane called Bockscar. Commander and weaponeer Frederick “Dick” Ashworth, another member of the Los Alamos team, keeps a progress log of the mission during flight.


EDELMAN: The Bockscar and two observation planes take off from Tinian and head for its primary target, Kokura Arsenal, located at the southern end of Japan.

COMMANDER NARRATOR: 04:00 Charged green plugs to red prior to pressurizing. 05:00 Charged detonator condensers to test leakage. Satisfactory

EDELMAN: Five hours later.

COMMANDER NARRATOR: 09:15 Arrived rendezvous point at Takashima and circled awaiting accompanying aircraft. 09:20 One B-29 sighted and joined in formation. 10:44 Arrived initial point and started bombing run on target. Target was obscured by heavy ground haze and smoke. Two additional runs were made hoping that the target might be picked up after closer observation. However at no time was the aiming point seen. It was then decided to proceed to Nagasaki after approximately 45 minutes had been spent in the target area.

EDELMAN: Pilot Charles Sweeney finds the weather conditions to be unacceptable and unwelcome above Kokura. Sweeney makes three passes over Kokura, then decides to switch to the secondary target even though he only has enough fuel remaining for a single bombing run.

COMMANDER NARRATOR: 11:50 Arrived in Nagasaki target area.

EDELMAN: Clouds greet Bockscar as it approaches Nagasaki, home to the Mitsubishi plant that had manufactured the torpedoes used at Pearl Harbor.

COMMANDER NARRATOR: Approach to target was entirely by radar.

EDELMAN: At the last minute, a brief break in the cloud cover makes it possible for a visual target at 29,000 feet.

COMMANDER NARRATOR: At 11:50 the bomb was dropped after a twenty second visual bombing run. The bomb functioned normally in all respects.

EDELMAN: Fat Man explodes 1,650 feet above the city with a force of 21,000 tons of TNT.

COMMANDER NARRATOR: 12:05 Departed for Okinawa after having circled smoke column. Lack of available gasoline caused by an in-operative bomb bay tank booster pump forced decision to land at Okinawa before returning to Tinian. 13:51 Landed at Yontan Field, Okinawa.

EDELMAN: All the factories and buildings on the Urakami River were destroyed. In total, about 45% of the city was was no longer.

NARRATOR: August 10, 1945

EDELMAN: The very next day, Japan accepted the surrender terms.

NARRATOR: August 14, 1945

EDELMAN: The war that began for the United States with the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 was now over as Japan surrendered officially ending World War II.

TRUMAN/NEWSREEL AUDIO: I have received this afternoon a message from the Japanese government. I deem this reply a full acceptance of the Potsdam declaration which specifies the unconditional surrender of Japan.


EDELMAN: but trying this new weapon came at a great cost. Little Boy killed 70,000 people in Hiroshima -- including about twenty American Airmen being held as POWs -- and it injured another 70,000. By the end of 1945, the Hiroshima death toll rose to 140,000 as radiation-sickness deaths mounted. Five years later the total reached 200,000.

Fat Man killed 40,000 people in Nagasaki Japan and injured 60,000 more. The total eventually reached 140,000, with a rate similar to that of Hiroshima.


EDELMAN: After the war, Americans were astounded to learn of the existence of a far reaching, government run, top secret operation with a physical plant, payroll, and labor force comparable in size to the American automobile industry. In total, about 130,000 people were employed by the project at its peak, among them many of the nation's leading scientists and engineers. That total was almost the equivalent of people that were killed in Nagasaki.  

LANTERO: The war might’ve ended, but that isn’t where our story ends. In a way, it’s where the story of the Department of Energy begins.

NARRATOR: August 1, 1946

LANTERO: Almost exactly one year after the surrender in Japan, President Harry Truman signed the Atomic Energy Act which transferred all Manhattan Project assets and responsibilities to the Atomic Energy Commission, whose mission was the peacetime development of atomic science and technology.

NARRATOR: August 15, 1947

The Manhattan Engineer District is abolished. What is clear as the Atomic Energy Commission takes over is that the success of the Manhattan Project helped cement the bond between basic scientific research and national security. Science had gone to war and contributed mightily to the outcome. The challenge confronting American policy makers in the postwar years was to enlist the forces of science in the battle to defend the peace.

LANTERO: Even though the Manhattan Project was over, that places we talked about in Part 1 - Hanford, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and various other sites around the country continued to produce nuclear materials throughout the Cold War. This included work on the development of the world’s first thermonuclear device or hydrogen bomb.

Meanwhile, through a series of reorganizations, name changes and the addition of other offices...

NARRATOR: The Energy Policy Office, the Federal Energy Office, the Federal Energy Administration, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (fades out)

LANTERO: Almost exactly 32 years after the first bomb was dropped, on August 4, 1977 the Atomic Energy Commission became what we know today as the U.S. Department of Energy.

PRESIDENT CARTER AUDIO: Working with Congress, we have now formed a new Department of Energy, headed by Secretary James Schlesinger.

EDELMAN: And because the Department of Energy is a direct descendent of the Manhattan Project, we still own and manage most of the major Manhattan Project properties. So the question became, 

DAVID KLAUS: What were we going to do with these Manhattan Project facilities?

EDELMAN: That’s David Klaus, the Department of Energy's former Deputy Undersecretary for Management and Performance. He was crucial in figuring out what sites could be demolished and which should be preserved.

LANTERO: We’ll get back to him in a minute, but we have to point out that we’ve jumped ahead about fifty years here. During the last half century, nuclear waste at these facilities was not always disposed of in a manner that would meet today’s environmental protection standards. In some cases, we’re still dealing with the clean up of these legacy nuclear sites. We even have an entire office dedicated to that clean up: the Office of Environmental Management. 

EDELMAN: It’s also important to point out that the scientific breakthroughs that led to the bomb also lead to many other scientific breakthroughs that weren’t weapons. Gary Peterson at Hanford breaks it down.

GARY PETERSON: Radioactive medicine, Health physics, many sciences that didn’t exist in the 1940s came out of Hanford, Oak Ridge and Los Alamos. Huge, huge developments.

There were nine production reactors built in the last one in the downstream flow the Columbia River was called F reactor and that’s where they put biology, aquatic biology. They wanted to study effects of radiation on fish, wildlife, goats and all kinds of things. Out of that grew an understanding of measuring Radioactivity, measuring how much goes into the bones, how much goes to the skin, how you ingest it and where it becomes helpful or harmful and so many of the treatments for cancer today wouldn’t exist if you didn’t have that technology development and part of it started right here at Hanford.

LANTERO:. Now, back to David Klaus and the creation of a national historical park.

KLAUS: When I came to the Department in 1998, we were at the point where all the Manhattan Project facilities were 50 years old or older. And one of the requirements of National Historic Preservation law, is that you must do a historic assessment when you take down any federal facility that's 50 years old or older.

LANTERO: As a former history major, he was excited to join the committee to designate the most historically significant sites.

KLAUS: We came up with a plan, which was to identify seven of the major sites that, essentially, together reflected all of what happened in the Manhattan Project, and basically identified them as quote “signature sites of the Manhattan Project.”

LANTERO: Those sites are on the three locations that have been at the crux of our story. Oak Ridge, Hanford and Los Alamos. The sites were validated by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, a government entity that believe it or not whose job is to advise federal departments and agencies on how to do historic preservation,

KLAUS: And with that, we were then able to frankly take down thousands of old facilities that were contaminated, you know, that we couldn't afford to preserve.

EDELMAN: These old facilities were carefully cleaned up and then torn down. Ben Williams, who works at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge office, explains that process.

BEN WILLIAMS: So we take down the building first and that allows us to rip up the slab and then if there are any issues with the soil beneath it we can address that. Anybody that would dig deeper than 10 feet in their development would have to get a special permit from us. So that’s the sequence that we go in.

EDELMAN: The end goal at Oak Ridge is to transfer the land for private industrial use.

LANTERO: But for some, it wasn’t enough to just preserve these sites, they wanted to make them accessible: to really tell the story of the Manhattan Project to the American public. At the forefront was the B-Reactor Museum Association or BRMA in Hanford.

MAYNARD PLAHUTA: Would the park exist if it wasn’t for BRMA?  My frank answer is no it wouldn’t.

LANTERO: That’s Maynard Plahuta, former BRMA president.

PLAHUTA: when the announcement came that they were going to close down the whole site with regard to producing the plutonium and the reactors these people said look this B-reactor is significant from the standpoint that it’s the first in the world. The first of its kind we really need to preserve it so it doesn’t become ancient history so to speak and everybody forgets about it.

LANTERO: So they created BRMA. Thus beginning the challenge of forming a national historical park. Creating the first atomic bomb was one thing but protecting the places that made it happen was quite another. Hanford’s Gary Peterson explains what happened next.

GARY PETERSON: So at that point there was a group at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Los Alamos and here at the Tri-Cities

LANTERO: Tri-Cities in Hanford Washington

PETERSON: who all worked together with our congressional offices from New Mexico, Tennessee, and here to get everybody supportive of a new national park … Manhattan Project National Historical Park. It wasn’t one person it was all of us.

EDELMAN: It took over ten years, but in

NARRATOR: December, 2014

EDELMAN: The teamwork paid off as Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included provisions for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. 

But how do you go about uniting a set of preserved buildings, literally spread across the country into a single park? The Superintendent of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, Kris Kirby, has some idea.

KRIS KIRBY: Once it’s established there’s a lot of administrative things that have to take place in order just to ensure that the Park is in the system and it can be staffed up and get its budget and start running then once those foundational things are addressed.

EDELMAN: The National Park Service starts looking at things like what’s already happening in the community. How interested is the community in the park? And what are their priorities?

KIRBY: And I think the biggest and most critical thing to do is develop and maintain a good relationship with your gateway communities, communicate your park priorities, and capabilities to the public and be very realistic with your expectations especially in the first few years when budgets and staffing levels are often low or non-existent. Many of these new parks are established after many years and sometimes decades of hard work by the communities.

LANTERO: Like the fact that the people at BRMA had already put in over a decade of emotional investment.

KIRBY: But very often the national park service is just learning about the park when it gets established so often there is a disconnect there. And that’s why those community relationships are so important so that expectations can be realistic and the national parks service and its communities can you know proceed down a path where they can jointly work together. 

EDELMAN: Which brings us to the present.

NARRATOR: Two thousand seventeen.

EDELMAN: The park has been established and if you find yourself near Hanford, Washington; Oak Ridge, Tennessee; or Los Alamos, New Mexico, you can go visit and get yourself a shiny Manhattan Project Junior Park Ranger Badge. Story over.

LANTERO: Well, not quite over. Even though the park is established, it’s still going to take a while before all of those important sites are open to the public. Here’s David Klaus and Gary Peterson.

KLAUS: I think, we're probably at least a decade away from the park being able to be what most people think when they think of a park.

PETERSON: The fact that this is a national park that’s in three locations and it won’t be owned by the National Park Service it's owned by DOE is unique it’s really unique. But the other uniqueness of this national Park at Los Alamos, Hanford and here and is that all three sites are still working sites so how do you have a national Park?

LANTERO: And the various sites are at different stages of being ready to be open to the public. Hanford, for example, has been doing tours of the B-Reactor for years.

TOUR GUIDE: Welcome to the B Reactor, this is one of our newest National Historical Parks. And we're very excited to be a part of the National Park Service. So why don't we come on inside and we'll get our tour started. And now as we come around this corner you will indeed see the B-Reactor itself... Welcome to the control room, I like to think of the reactor itself as being the heart of the matter out here, but here is the mind at this wall over here. We have one whole wall that is nothing but knobs....So we are now in a humongous room. This is called the valve pit because we are actually going down into a pit. It is very huge and it is completely lined in concrete: concrete floor, concrete walls, stairs, metal grated platforms all over the place. But more than anything else what you see in this room are pipes, lots and lots of pipes. They are probably at least ten inches in diameter, mostly a gray color.

HOST: And at Oak Ridge you can visit the X-10 Graphite Reactor,

THOM MASON: Most of the facilities around this reactor were either taken down or they're in the queue to get taken down as part of the environmental management program. The one exception, of course, is the graphite reactor, which is being preserved as a National Historic Site. So what you see here is the face of the reactor, and those circular holes are actually the feeds that the fuel would get loaded into. There are some maniquennes there sort of simulating the fuel loading. Most of this is pretty much as it was, the facility ran for 20 years, it was actually shut down on the anniversary of the first criticality in 1963. Well if you look at Oak Ridge National Lab today and the areas of research we’re in. You can actually see the fingerprints of what we did during the war.

LANTERO: But the buildings at Los Alamos are further away from being accessible for safety and security reasons. Unfortunately for a park visitor at Los Alamos today, most of the park is located within areas of the laboratory that are not publicly accessible

ELLEN:  So when we say behind the fence that’s a term for those of the areas that are not open to the public. And they’re literally behind a fence and different types of fences all over the place and our checkpoints they have to go through. Most people can visualize a military base where you have Gates and checkpoints that’s the kind of feel here at Los Alamos. You have to have a badge just like in World War II to access different areas yeah need to know to access different areas but there are opportunities for the public to see things that are related to the history of the Manhattan Project in downtown los Alamos.

LANTERO: The National Park Service and the Department of Energy are working together to safely expand access to the facilities included in the park. We are also working with partners in local communities and from around the world to tell the complete story of the Manhattan Project and its legacy.

EDELMAN: So it’ll take some time before you can get the FULL experience of visiting the various locations of the park. But the Manhattan Project National Historical Park is already having a big impact.

ROBBIE MEYER: I met a woman about 9 o’clock this morning  at the museum and she stopped and she stared at me and her jaw dropped. She’d moved here in 1947 with her dad. Her dad worked over at Y-12. She said, “When did this become a National Historic Park?” She was ecstatic.

EDELMAN: That was Robbie Meyer, a National Park Service Ranger at the Oak Ridge location. And guests who toured the B-Reactor in Hanford have had similar reactions.

PARK GUEST 1: I think it’s a great idea, I think lots of this knowledge is being lost. Our kids in school need to learn about this. This is a good place to keep everything so that you can still see it.

EDELMAN: People from around the world have been visiting the parks.

JAPANESE PARK GUEST: coming here now I can compare the situation in Fukushima and also the reactor here. I’m very interested in the cleanup project about the Hanford site because we have same situation in Fukushima so I think we can (can’t understand) techniques and know-how into the Fukushima situation. 

PARK GUEST 2: I think the demonstration of what our intellectual background is background is intellectual resources are in the United States and our skilled resources. Not just natural resources, not a mountain but something that brains and muscle built. 1:11    

PARK GUEST 3: You know when you sit in a classroom sometimes you don’t really understand what you can do with your education and I think this a true indication what it takes to get something done, and what education can do for you. 

LANTERO: Which is the whole point of the National Historical Park -- and this episode -- to help people learn about this world-changing moment in history.

KLAUS: It is an amazing scientific accomplishment that they were able to design, develop, and move the science as quickly as they did. The number of unbelievably talented, skilled, capable scientists who got together to do one project at one time, fully funded, is not something that happens all that often.  

EDELMAN: In fact, the Manhattan Project was as much a triumph of engineering as of science. Without the initial spark from Albert Einstein, the innovative work of the talented Leslie Groves, as well as that of DuPont and others, the revolutionary breakthroughs in nuclear science achieved by Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, Ernest Lawrence, and their colleagues and the ingenuity of J. Robert Oppenheimer it could not have produced the atomic bomb that ended World War II. Despite numerous obstacles, the United States was able to combine the forces of science, government, military, and industry into an organization that took nuclear physics from the laboratory and into battle field.  The weapon of terrible destructive capability  made clear the important nexus of basic scientific research and national defense.

LANTERO: Scientific progress like that doesn’t come around everyday, and neither do new national historical parks. This is a unique chance for the Department of Energy to work with the National Park Service and create an educational experience out of our roots. We can now bring people along on a walk in the shadows of scientific history.



LANTERO: You can learn all about the Manhattan Project National Historical Park on our website, There you’ll find an extensive photo gallery of both past and present locations, video tours, and unique content not used in this podcast.

EDELMAN: If you have questions about this episode or any other episode you can email us at or tweet @ENERGY. If you’re enjoying Direct Current, help us spread the word! Tell your friends about the show, and leave us a rating or review on iTunes. We really appreciate your feedback.

LANTERO: We’d like to again give an atomic thank-you to the folks at Oak Ridge: Jonathan Sitzlar, Ben Williams, Ray Smith, Thom Mason, Claire Sinclair, and everyone else for their southern hospitality.

EDELMAN: At Hanford, thank you to Colleen French, Gary Peterson, Anne Vargus, Rick Bond, Whit Vogel, and Marcus Goetsch.

LANTERO: Representing Los Alamos, thank you to the dynamic duo of Alan Carr and Ellen McGehee. Special thanks to Kris Kirby from the National Park Service.

EDELMAN: And thank you to Ernie Ambrose for narrating our story. Thank you to Taylor Gray at Transition Music, Tracy Atkins and Tania Taylor Smith from the office of Legacy Management, Terry Fehner, Skip Gosling, and Eric Boyle in the Energy Department's Office of History and Heritage Resources. And finally, thanks to Vernon Herron, Bianca Ktenas, Kayla Hensley, Bob Haus and the Energy Public Affairs Team -- both past and present.

LANTERO: Direct Current is produced by Matt Dozier, Simon Edelman and me, Allison Lantero. Art and design by Cort Kreer. With support from Paul Lester, Daniel Wood, and Atiq Warraich.

EDELMAN: We are a production of the U.S. Department of Energy and published from our nation’s capitol in Washington, D.C.

LANTERO: Thanks for listening!


The conclusion of our two part story on the Manhattan Project. We take you to the Trinity site where the first bomb was tested and then follow the Airmen as they drop the first ever atomic bombs. Later, learn about the creation of the Department of Energy and how, along with the National Park Service, we're preserving the origins of nuclear power and weaponry.