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Lot 47168
[J. Robert Oppenheimer]. Inez O'Brien Archive from Los Alamos. A small archive of documents, articles, photographs, etc., with two Oppenheimer signed papers, relating to Inez O'Brien and her work on the Manhattan Project. Documents contained within the archive include a War Department certificate, O'Brien's honorary discharge papers, various magazines (Times Magazines, LIFE magazine, etc.), images from Los Alamos and the Trinity Explosion, copies of contemporary articles, Los Alamos holiday cards, and a veterans coin with a fragment of Trinitite (a glass formed from the sand at the Trinity site where the world's first atomic bomb was detonated).

Inez Claire O'Brien served as a Technician in the Women's Army Corps at Los Alamos during the Second World War. She worked with Oppenheimer in the U.S.'s attempts and eventual success in building the first atomic bomb. The Manhattan Project was established mid-1942, almost one year after the United States had entered the war. The Los Alamos Laboratory was built on the site of a private boy's school, and employed over 6,000 by 1945. The first nuclear weapon test, codename "Trinity", was conducted on July 16, 1945. The bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki occurred just three weeks later.

O'Brien was awarded a certificate by the U.S. War Department to recognize her involvement in the Manhattan Project. One page, 11.5" x 8.5", Washington, D.C.; August 6, 1945. The certificate has a stamped signature by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson and reads, "This is to Certify that Inez C. O'Brien has participated in work essential to the production of the Atomic Bomb, thereby contributing to the successful conclusion of World War II. This certificate is awarded in appreciation of effective service." It should be noted that this was awarded on the same day that the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. O'Brien's honorary discharge papers are also present within this archive; two pages (front and back), 8.5" x 11", Santa Fe, New Mexico; April 28, 1945, stating that "Inez C. O'Brien A-514398, Technician Fifth Grade, Provisional WAC Detachment 1...is hereby Honorably Discharged from the military service of the United States of America. This certificate is awarded as a testimonial of Honest and Faithful Service to this country. Given at Brune General Hospital, Santa Fe, New Mexico." The certificate is signed by Major W. L. Darling.

Following their work on the Manhattan Project, and O'Brien's honorable discharge on April 28, 1945, the two colleagues parted ways. It is unknown what O'Brien went on to do, but Oppenheimer became the director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. However, it appears as though the two kept in touch, as evidenced by on June 12, 1963, Oppenheimer wrote to Inez O'Brien to thank her for a letter she had previous sent him. The typed letter is signed "Robert Oppenheimer". At an unknown time, Oppenheimer also sent flowers to O'Brien, and the following note was included, measuring 3.25" x 2", "They will not survive as long as the orders I file."

Included is a poem that was possibly composed by O'Brien, entitled "Buried Alive!" The poem is written on a flattened paper pie plate, and seems to reflect the author's feelings of loneliness and fears.

O'Brien also kept a file of articles published around the time of the Manhattan Project, dating from around July 16 - August 10, 1945. There is also a copy of the Cleveland Press's March 13, 1944 article entitled, "Uncle Sam's Mystery Town Directed by '2nd Einstein'", which was one of the worst media leaks concerning Project Manhattan. The U.S. government was very concerned about keeping their atomic bomb experiments under wraps so as to not raise the suspicions of the enemy during WWII.

Condition: Documents and articles have varying degrees of toning. Oppenheimer signed papers are toned with light creasing or flattened mail folds. Overall, very good.

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47168: [J. Robert Oppenheimer]. Inez O'Brien Archive fr

Estimate $2,400 - $3,600Oct 25, 2018
Auction Curated By:
Sandra Palomino
Director Historical Manuscripts
3500 Maple Avenue
17th Floor
Dallas, TX 75219
United States
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