AHF is sad to announce the passing of Roger L. Rasmussen in Los Alamos on May 4, 2017, at the age of 96. He was a member of the Special Engineer Detachment, otherwise known as the SED, at Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project.
Rasmussen was born in 1920 in Mason City, Iowa. He studied at Illinois Wesleyan University before enlisting in the Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor. As Rasmussen remembered, “December 7, 1941. It was at that moment my life totally changed, and I enlisted in 1942 having turned the corner.”
Rasmussen was sent for training at Lafayette College and at the University of West Virginia. As he recalled, he studied “electrical engineering, including an unusual amount of physics.” In 1944, he was sent to Los Alamos as part of the Special Engineer Detachment and went on to work alongside many prominent Manhattan Project scientists.
Rasmussen was also present at the Trinity Test on July 16, 1945, observing it from a distance of six miles. He later recalled, “Shortly thereafter, the brightest light came that I had ever observed with my eyes closed. That was the detonation, but there was no noise and no sound and nothing to see until our troop master said we could look up. We stood up and looked into this black abyss ahead of us. I think the lightening had passed by then. There was this beautiful color of the bomb, gorgeous. The colors were roving in and out of our visual range of course. The neutrons and gamma rays and all that went by with the first flash while we were down. There we stood gawking at this.”
After the war, Rasmussen stayed on to work at the Los Alamos Laboratory, where he would remain for more than 40 years. He worked in electronics and in physics, before later becoming a consultant. He was a founding member of the Los Alamos Council of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the American Legion.
To listen to Rasmussen’s oral history on AHF’s Voices of the Manhattan Project site, please click here.