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Celebrating love and life in Manhattan Project-era Los Alamos

The sweet story behind the uniforms in the History Gallery
October 30, 2020
Roger and Jane Rasmussen

Roger and Jane Rasmussen

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  • Stacy Baker
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This Veterans Day, we remember the Rasmussens.

Roger Rasmussen, a technician in the Army's Special Engineering Detachment (SED), was assigned to Project Y, the Manhattan Project’s site in Los Alamos, to build diagnostic electrical equipment. Jane Keller arrived the same month with the Women's Army Corps (WAC) to work at the switchboard. They met and began dating.

On July 16, 1945, Roger was an eyewitness at Trinity site for the first detonation of a nuclear device. Two months after WWII ended, Jane and Roger married in Santa Fe.

Both continued their careers at the Laboratory — Roger in engineering and consulting, Jane in supercomputing. Their well-preserved uniforms were gifted to the Bradbury Science Museum after Roger died at his Los Alamos home in 2017 at age 96.

For more information about museum artifacts, visit our Collections web pages or contact Collections Specialist Wendy Strohmeyer.

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U.S. Army uniforms worn in Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project, courtesy of the Rasmussen Estate.


Did you know? A significant portion — about 40 percent — of women employed in Los Alamos through the end of the Manhattan Project era were members of the Women’s Army Corps. Recruiting workers with technical skills and other relevant experience was difficult during the war — many qualified individuals were already in the armed forces or working on other government-sponsored projects for the war, and the WAC was a way to bring women with technical skills in the army to the Lab.

In August of 1943, the detachment here consisted of four officers and 43 enlisted women. At its peak in August of 1945, the Los Alamos detachment had a total of about 260 women, though after this point, the number of WACs steadily declined until October 1946, when the detachment was deactivated.

WACs held positions throughout the Lab, supporting its wartime mission directly and indirectly. Many WACs worked as medical staff, cooks, librarians, and in various other roles, such as drivers, supply clerks and scientific researchers, which had traditionally been filled by men.

Looking at the Laboratory today, there is far more opportunity for women in all positions than during the Manhattan Project years. Over the decades, we’ve seen more and more women in scientific and leadership roles. This is reflective of a more inclusive institution, as well as expanding opportunities for women in higher education and society in general. These broader opportunities lead to a larger pool of qualified workers from which the Lab can tap.

Source: The Laboratory’s National Security Research Center, which houses physical collections dating back to the Manhattan Project era as well as six digitization labs to preserve and make materials available electronically.