AT LOS ALAMOS
March 1943-November 1943
I WAS A seventeen-year-old student at the Los Alamos Ranch School in 1942. I remember when the bulldozers came through to remake the school. About December that year, two men showed up at school, and we were required to say our yes sirs to a Mr. Jones, who was wearing a fedora, and to a Mr. Smith, who was wearing a porkpie hat. The names were obviously pseudonyms. Not only was everybody showing them great deference, but Mr. Jones seemed most uncomfortable every time someone referred to him by that name.
The four of us who were seniors had studied physics. The pictures in our physics textbook made it easy for us to recognize Mr. Jones as Ernest Lawrence and Mr. Smith as Robert Oppenheimer. Furthermore, the discovery of fission had been big news. In fact, we were even aware of the idea of a chain reaction.
Clearly, the school was about to be converted to a laboratory to work on a very secret physics project. Why else would top physicists be visiting a place out at the end of nowhere with no water, no roads, no facilities? What was really going on was obvious! We were secretly amused by the pretense.
Mr. Smith gave the commencement speech for my class late that winter. It was extremely gracious, but somehow I didn't believe a word of it. By then the school had told us that the government was taking over the school for the war effort and that we shouldn't discuss it after we left. We were sad to have to leave, but we didn't talk. 1