by Martha Hutchens
|WAC barracks room, photo by Martha Hutchens|
The women who lived there filled many roles in our town. They manned the PX milkshake machine, filled out numerous army forms, operated the telephone lines, and performed a million other tasks necessary to a town. A select few chosen for their mathematical abilities worked in the tech area as calculators—humans who performed the work that digital calculators do today.
|Niels Bohr on Los Alamos ski Hill|
from Just Crazy to Ski
by Deanna Morgan Kirby
Many Los Alamos legends involve Richard Feynman, who had only recently received his Ph. D. when he arrived in Los Alamos. His irrepressible humor lightens our legends. It is true that Feynman taught himself to crack safes and frequently raided safes of his colleagues in the technical area. It is also true that General Leslie Groves kept candy in his safe. Do we know for sure that the general came into his office one morning to find his entire stash relocated to his desktop, courtesy of Feynman? I suspect it might be.
While mail coming from overseas was routinely censored, mail from the United States was not. Los Alamos was the exception. All mail leaving the town was censored, which caused Feynman a problem. His wife lived in a tuberculosis sanitarium in Albuquerque, NM. Feynman wrote his letters to her in code, because she loved to break cyphers. Needless to say, the censors were not amused. Eventually a truce was established. Feynman would write his letter in code and include a translation which the censor would read and remove, so as not to deprive Mrs. Feynman of the pleasure of breaking it.
here. I find it fitting that even in this somber note his sense of humor emerges at the end, where he writes, “Please excuse my not mailing this—but I don’t know your new address.”
Another group of scientists in Los Alamos were called the Special Engineer Detachment. Many of these young men had joined up after Pearl Harbor and had technical degrees so they were assigned to the Manhattan Project. One young man got assigned to New Mexico after helping clear a lab in the Pacific. Looting was entirely forbidden, but this soldier spied an platinum beaker and slipped it in his pocket. Not long after he received new orders, but due to the secrecy they didn’t tell him where he was going, only that MPs were going to accompany him. He spent the entire trip convinced he was being sent to Fort Leavenworth for taking that platinum beaker.
The legends of Los Alamos are many and varied. I hope you have enjoyed the ones I have shared with you.
Martha’s current novella is set in southeast Missouri during World War II. It is free to her newsletter subscribers. You can subscribe to my newsletter at my website, www.marthahutchens.com
After saving for years, Dot Finley's brother finally paid a down payment for his own land—only to be drafted into World War II. Now it is up to her to ensure that he doesn't lose his dream while fighting for everyone else's. No one is likely to help a sharecropper's family.
Nate Armstrong has all the land he can manage, especially if he wants any time to spend with his four-year-old daughter. Still, he can't stand by and watch the Finley family lose their dream. Especially after he learns that the banker's nephew has arranged to have their loan called.
Necessity forces them to work together. Can love grow along with crops?
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