the Let me start off by stating that Los Alamos is my hometown, it’s where I grew up, it’s where my family legacy is and I have spent many years diligently researching its history and that of its founder J. Robert Oppenheimer. I moved there when I was six years old in 1967 well after the Manhattan Project and Project Y but I have more than several social media friends who grew up there during this time and have personal knowledge of what it was like to live there which I do not doubt nor question. That being said let me first say that I am not only disappointed but disgusted and angered with this television series. Now before anyone responds by commenting that this show is not supposed to be factual which it clearly advertises let me say this, then they should not use the name Los Alamos, PO Box 1663, The Manhattan Project or J. Robert Oppenheimer. They did state in their trailer of the show that the characters would be based on a combination of actual people and actual events however. But if this is supposed to be fictional then they should not mention Hitler or Japan or anything to do with actual events of World War II. On a side note why do they bother to use fictional names of all the other scientists working on the bomb if they use Oppenheimer’s. They also use the real names of The Gadget and Thin Man (which was the original name of the Fat Man bomb). If they went to the trouble of researching deep enough to know about Thin Man they could have done better elsewhere. They place the show in Los Alamos New Mexico and refer to the only known name of the town as the factual name of PO Box 1663. This makes no sense but on to more important issues. Because the do refer to the whole thing as The Manhattan Project and because they do have Oppenheimer as the head of it there is enough reference to factual events and persons that those that do not know the history of Los Alamos and the bombs are going to associate these non factual people and events with real ones and most will assume that this show at least loosely represents the truth when in fact the before mentioned names are the only facts and truth of the show.
I am going to specify events from the show and then present what really happened or what never did happen along with things that I don’t believe would have happened based on my knowledge of Los Alamos. I also must point out why I feel so strongly about certain misrepresentations.
1. – This personally the biggest offense of all, admittedly because I have such a fondness and a soft spot for the man us locals lovingly call Oppie. The character of Oppenheimer is presented as aloof and non approachable not to mention anything but hands on which is far from the truth. Oppie though notoriously arrogant and short of patience prior to his assignment as head of the Manhattan Project was a different man when he took his position there. He was known to be not only approachable by his fellow scientists but by their wives and children. He was known to officiate at weddings and host endless parties at Fuller Lodge where he was always surrounded by admiring females and friends who loved him for his charm, his wit and his undeniable charisma. He was known to have an open door policy for his fellow scientists absolutely practiced the philosophy that knowledge should be shared and he encouraged the asking of and answering of questions from everybody within the scientific community. What angers me about his portrayal is that one of Oppies greatest legacies was his ability to assemble a group of the greatest scientific minds from around the world and create a highly collaborative group that had a common goal that was unprecedented and never before or since accomplished. This leads me to number two…
2. – The scientists in the show are constantly fighting, back stabbing, resentful and just plain nasty towards each other. It was the very fact that the real scientists that were worked on the bombs worked so well together that this project came to be completed so smoothly and so quickly. Now, the fighting and competition in the show is mainly between two groups who are competing with each other to have their design for a plutonium bomb become The Gadget and then be chosen to work on Thin Man’. These two groups are also fighting over the plutonium that they needed to build these bombs. One of my biggest points of contention to do with the history of building the bomb or dropping the bomb is the phrase ‘the bomb’. More often than not it is only Hiroshima that is remembered and more often than not is the belief that it was Fat Man was dropped there when the fact is there were three bombs that were successfully built; The Gadget, Fat Man and Little Boy (Thin Man was abandoned due to contaminated plutonium and redesigned as Little Boy using Uranium). The Gadget was the first atomic bomb ever used when tested in White Sands New Mexico at what is now known as Trinity Site and Little Boy was the first atomic bomb ever used in war when it was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. Fat Man was the plutonium bomb and was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on August 9th 1945, 3 days after Little Boy. Now I don’t have any proof or even any documentation to prove this but I also have never read or heard that there was such fierce competition between teams of scientists of the Manhattan project let alone petty bickering and backstabbing.
3. – I highly doubt any Native American would have traded peyote for sanitary napkins, peyote is sacred to them.
4. – In episode 3 they had the wives working the switchboards and monitoring phone calls between residents to listen for ‘flagged’ words of phrases that they were to report to the powers that be if they heard them. I seriously doubt that surveillance jobs of phone conversations for protection of national security would have been entrusted to any civilians.
. – In episode 2 the Chinese American spy was shot by a Private at the gates of Los Alamos when trying to leave with classified documents. First I don’t believe that a Private would ever have been posted at the entrance gates. This was a town that even the President who though was aware of the project did not know of its location and nobody in his administration not even the vice president knew it existed. Everyone I mean everyone had to have a badge and security clearance to enter those gates and I highly doubt the responsibility of this would be given to a Private. Secondly I am pretty sure that once this supposed spy was accused of being a spy he never would have been left to leave at the very least without so much as a vehicle search. The character took a guards gun and escaped without so much as a fire alarm going off? Wouldn’t have happened I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the military would have had him down by the time he got to his room, got the documents he was taking, got into his car and then sat there and argued with the MP’s at the gate to let him leave. Now more importantly, it is my opinion that this character on a scientist named Wen Ho Lee, I say this because there is no record of any Chinese scientists ever working on the Manhattan Project or of being accused let alone convicted of being a spy except Lee who worked at Los Alamos National Laboratories in the 90′s and was accused of espionage. He was however only convicted of one count of misusing classified documents and is still alive today. Those who may know of this man and his actions but not the details could easily confuse fact from fiction.
This show is simply put written by revisionist historians who, though their intent may not be to misinform are doing exactly that about a part of history that should never never never be anything but learned from.