Saturday, June 4, 2011


I'm fascinated with Robert Oppenheimer and the whole story of the Manhattan Project. I don't want to get political about the use of the atom bomb, the story behind the making of it is what piques my interest.

It started when we visited the Atomic Museum in Albuquerque. It's a powerful spot, a place that will certainly get you thinking. Then we visited the Missile Museum at White Sands, then, the Trinity site (you can read about it here and here). And finally, we visited Los Alamos.

All of these sites talk about Oppenheimer, so I started doing a bit of research on my own. A tall, slim intellectual, he was a involved with many "left wing" folk before being tapped to head the project. While he may not have been their first choice politically, he was so brilliant that there was no one else who was so well suited for the role he played in the Manhattan Project.

The story of the Project and what happened to Oppenheimer afterwards is an engrossing tale of the United States and our history. It bears examination by everyone. It's a story well worth remembering

If you have any interest in either the Manhattan Project or Oppenheimer, I can fully recommend the following.

Sam Waterston

An excellent adaptation of his story. A 1980 miniseries (I believe it was a Masterpiece Theatre) it follows Oppenheimer from Berkeley to Los Alamos, then on to Princeton. Sam Waterston nails the charismatic Oppenheimer.

This is a fine documentary. It successfully fleshes out the whole phenomenon that was Los Alamos in the 1940s.

If you'd rather read than watch, 109 East Palace and the Making of the Atomic Bomb are both insightful and educational.

The folks who did this work were really pioneers, working for what they believed in. What they achieved in a short period of time is a real success story. If you find yourself traveling in New Mexico, all these sites offer a chance to peek into our not so distant past.

It's this kind of thing that I love about RVing. You never know what you'll find and what direction it will take you in.


Jerry and Suzy said...

Undoubtedly there are many different political views on this subject, and you are wise in not making an opening for it. We won't open it either. But thanks for the leads to learning more about the whole matter. One of these rainy days would be a good opportunity to get started!

Merikay said...

I've added it to my Netflix Queue. One good thing about reading blogs is you get "heads up" on things you might have missed otherwise! :~)

Big Matt said...

Aye, trinity and Los Alamos are definitely on my visit list, along with the Hanford tour which takes you to America's very first Nuclear reactor which was used to create the fissle fuel for one of the atomic bombs during WWII.

Donna K said...

Interesting post. Politics aside, it is part of history and worth knowing about. I would like to see that movie and will try and locate it. Thanks for the information.

SM said...

Thanks for the suggestions. I grew up in Los Alamos & my dad worked at LANL (nuclear weapons work, from what little I know). I've always been intrigued by Oppenheimer too. I've been to Trinity site once as well.