The Iowa Man Who Helped Oppenheimer Build The Atomic Bomb
The Christopher Nolan film 'Oppenheimer' opened strong in theaters this past weekend. The three-hour epic movie details the days, months, and years that led to the United States developing nuclear weapons and testing them in the desert of New Mexico. The Manhattan Project was a success and allowed the U.S. to use nuclear weapons to end the war against Japan. Unbeknownst to many, a northeast Iowa man played a pivotal role in the development of one of those weapons.
KWWL reports that staff at the Memories Are Forever Museum discovered that Sumner, Iowa has a close connection to the creation of the first nuclear bombs. Herbert Potratz was born on a small Iowa farm near Sumner. After graduating at the top of his high school class, KWWL reports that he was recruited into the Chicago branch of the Manhattan Project. Several months later he was promoted to the chief chemist at the Los Alamos facility in New Mexico.
While working in New Mexico, KWWL reports that Potratz was responsible for creating the radioactive isotopes that went into the bomb called 'The Fat Man.' That bomb was eventually detonated over the city of Nagasaki, Japan on August 9th, 1945. An estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people were killed in the bombing, with thousands more dying from the long-term effects of radiation.
You can learn more about Herbert Potratz's role in the Manhattan Project at the Memories Are Forever Museum in Sumner, Iowa. The exhibit will be open through Labor Day.