[Back to Formatted Version]

Charter Heslep Papers, 1932-1963

By Finding aid prepared by Trevor Sandgathe

Collection Overview

Title: Charter Heslep Papers, 1932-1963

Predominant Dates: 1950-1963

ID: MSS Heslep

Primary Creator: Heslep, Charter (1904-1963)

Extent: 0.75 cubic feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The Charter Heslep Papers are arranged into five series: 1: Correspondence, 1950-1957; 2: Speeches, 1950-1963; 3: Ephemera, 1945-1961; 4: Photographs, 1932-1961; 5: Sound Recordings, 1958-1961. Materials are arranged chronologically within series.

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Charter Heslep Papers are primarily comprised of materials dating from Heslep's time as an employee of the Atomic Energy Commission. The collection includes correspondence, speeches, ephemera, photographs, and sound recordings relating to Charter Heslep's work with the AEC, with emphasis on his efforts to televise U.S. nuclear tests on behalf of the Commission.

The contents of Box-folder 1.6 in Series 1, Correspondence, and Box-folders 1.36 and 1.38 in the Photographs series, have been digitized and are available upon request.have been digitized and are available upon request.

Scope and Content Notes

The Charter Heslep Papers document Heslep's work as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission. The bulk of the collection is comprised of materials relating to Heslep's participation as an official observer in several nuclear weapons tests including detonations in Operations Crossroads, Upshot-Knothole, Tumbler-Snapper, Teapot, and Redwing. Notably, the Heslep Papers contain extensive correspondence between Heslep and his wife, Margaret, describing recording and broadcasting preparations for the Upshot-Knothole, Tumbler-Snapper, and Redwing tests. The collection also includes certificates of participation from Operations Teapot and Redwing, and photographs of the Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds, Heslep in his role as official observer, and assorted nuclear detonations.

The collection also contains speeches authored by Heslep on various topics such as nuclear energy, television and radio, and the practice of ghostwriting. Ephemera related to Heslep's position at the Atomic Energy Commission, including event programs and publications, can also be found in the Heslep Papers. In addition to photographs of military tests, sites, and personnel, the collection also contains photographs of Heslep at the Washington Daily News, Atomic Energy Commission and International Atomic Energy Agency events, and assorted sites and individuals associated with nuclear weapons and atomic energy during the 1950s and 1960s.

The contents of Box-folder 1.6 in Series 1, Correspondence, and Box-folders 1.36 and 1.38 in the Photographs series, have been digitized and are available upon request.have been digitized and are available upon request.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Charter Heslep was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1904. In 1929, he took a position at the Washington Daily News where he later became managing editor. In 1941 he was appointed night news editor for NBC in Washington. During World War II, Heslep served as chief radio news censor for the Broadcasting Division of the Office of Censorship. In 1946, he became manager of the Mutual Broadcasting Company's Washington division. In 1949 he left MBC to become Assistant to the Director of the Atomic Energy Commission. Heslep was an official observer to several nuclear bomb tests at both the Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds. He was also recognized as a ghostwriter for many public officials including President Eisenhower, Admiral William D. Leahy and members of the Atomic Energy Commission. Charter Heslep died in 1963 at the age of 59.

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 165 photographs; 2 boxes

Statement on Access: The collection is open for research.

Physical Access Note: Due to preservation concerns, reel-to-reel sound recordings are unavailable for playback.

Acquisition Note: Materials were purchased by the Oregon State University Special Collections in 1990 as part of the History of Atomic Energy Collection. The Charter Heslep Papers were separated from the larger collection in 2013 and are now held by the OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center.

Separated Materials: Radioisotopes and Radiation: Recent Advances in Medicine, Agriculture, and Industry by John H. Lawrence, Bernard Manowitz, and Benjamin S. Loeb (1964) has been transferred to the History of Atomic Energy Collection (RB Energy). The volume includes a letter from Glenn T. Seaborg to Margaret Heslep dated October 29, 1964.

Related Materials:

Related collections on nuclear history in the United States include the Barton C. Hacker Papers (MSS Hacker), History of Atomic Energy Collection (RB Energy), and the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers. Volumes from the library of Charter Heslep are located in the History of Atomic Energy Collection (RB Energy).

Additional materials relating to Heslep can be found in the Charter Heslep Papers at the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center and the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.

Preferred Citation: Charter Heslep Papers (MSS Heslep), Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.


Heslep, Charter (1904-1963)

People, Places, and Topics

Atomic bomb--Marshall Islands--Testing.
Atomic bomb--Testing.
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Heslep, Charter, 1904-1963
History of Science
Hydrogen bomb--Testing.
International Atomic Energy Agency
Marshall Islands
Mutual Broadcasting System
National Broadcasting Company
Nevada Test Site (Nev.)
Nuclear weapons--Testing.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Operation Crossroads, Marshall Islands, 1946.
Operation Greenhouse, Marshall Islands, 1951.
Operation Plumbbob, Nev., 1957
Operation Redwing, Marshall Islands, 1956.
Operation Teapot, Nevada, 1955.
Radio broadcasting.
Television broadcasting.
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Washington Daily News Publishing Company

Forms of Material

Photographic prints.

Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: Correspondence, 1950-1957

Series 1 is composed predominantly of letters to and from Charter's wife, Margaret, between 1950 and 1958. Their correspondence includes personal and family news, descriptions of Heslep's work on behalf of the Atomic Energy Commission, and extensive correspondence dating from Heslep's observation of nuclear tests in Nevada (1952 and 1953) and the Marshall Islands (1956). Notably, Heslep provides detailed descriptions of activities surrounding the Tumbler-Snapper Charlie test, the Upshot-Knothole Annie test, and the Redwing Lacrosse and Cherokee tests--the first thermonuclear drop--including setup of broadcast relays, weather reports, the detonations of nuclear devices, and life at Camp Mercury and aboard the USS Mount McKinley. The series also includes several letters to the Heslep children, a telegram regarding a cancelled meeting with Harry S. Truman, correspondence granting clearance for Heslep to attend the Eniwetok-Bikini Atolls tests, and a letter to Captain H. G. Rickover describing plans for Heslep to author a book on nuclear submarines.

The contents of Box-folder 1.6 have been digitized and are available upon request.

Box-Folder 1.1: Family Correspondence, 1950
Box-Folder 1.2: Family Correspondence, 1951
Box-Folder 1.3: Family Correspondence, 1952
Box-Folder 1.4: Family Correspondence, 1953
Box-Folder 1.5: Family Correspondence, 1954
Box-Folder 1.6: Family Correspondence, 1956
The contents of this folder have been digitized and are available upon request.
Box-Folder 1.7: Family Correspondence, 1957
Box-Folder 1.8: Professional Correspondence, 1953-1956
Series 2: Speeches, 1950-1963
This series is comprised of speeches authored and given by Charter Heslep during his time at the Atomic Energy Commission. Topics include the defensive applications of radio and television, the role of the Atomic Energy Commission, the history of nuclear weapons in the United States, and the role of ghostwriting in the public sphere.
Box-Folder 1.9: "The Atom Business," American Association of University Women, Richmond, VA, 1950
Box-Folder 1.10: "Radio's Role in Defense," Tennessee Broadcaster Association Dinner, Nashville, TN, 1950
Box-Folder 1.11: "Mobilizing Radio and Television," Conference on Station Problems, Norman, OK, 1951
Box-Folder 1.12: Mimeographed typescript of untitled speech before the NATO Information Program Group II, 1954
Box-Folder 1.13: "The AEC Can Talk," American Women in Radio and Television, Kansas City, MO, 1954
Box-Folder 1.14: Speech Material on First Experimental Central Station Nuclear Power Project, 1954
Box-Folder 1.15: "The Geneva Story," Radio Television News Directors Association, Denver, CO, 1955
Box-Folder 1.16: "Some Aspects of the Impact of the Nuclear Age in the United States," United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Paris, 1958
Box-Folder 1.17: "Ghosting: A Necessity, Not a Sin," Conference on College Composition and Communication, Washington, D.C., 1961
Box-Folder 1.18: "Atoms for Peace: Program or Propaganda?" Springfield College, Springfield, MA, 1963
Series 3: Ephemera, 1945-1961
Series 3 is comprised of several items of ephemera collected by Heslep during his career. The series includes programs from nuclear energy-related events and a press kit from Atomos en Accion, an exhibition on nuclear science and technology held in Peru in 1961. The kit includes correspondence, an organizational chart, and promotional materials relating to Heslep's attendance as a representative of the Atomic Energy Commission. The series also contains a report by Charles L. Dunham on a nuclear energy symposium held in Argentina, an account of reporter Paul Harvey breaking into restricted military property, an article on Heslep from the Augusta Herald, articles written by Heslep on the televising of nuclear tests, several certificates of participation from Oak Ridge Laboratories, Operation Teapot, and Operation Redwing, and a news sheet printed on board the USS Mount McKinley.
Box-Folder 1.19: Program from the Atomic Age Dinner of America United for World Organization, Inc., 1945
Box-Folder 1.20: Certificates of Participation in Atomic Tests, 1950-1956
Box-Folder 1.21: "Paul Harvey Incident" Materials Compiled by Radio Reports, Inc., 1951
Box-Folder 1.22: "Charter Heslep in Augusta," The Augusta Herald, 1952
Box-Folder 1.23: "They Said It Couldn't Be Done: The Story of the First Live Televising of an Atomic Detonation", 1952
Box-Folder 1.24: "It Couldn't Be Done - But T-V Men Did It," The Quill, 1952
Box-Folder 1.25: Program from the ground breaking ceremony for the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, 1954
Box-Folder 1.26: "B-52 Makes America's First Bomb Drop," Port & Starboard Press, Amateur news sheet printed on board the USS Mount McKinley, 1956
Box-Folder 1.27: Program from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Annual Honor Awards Ceremony, 1956
Box-Folder 1.28: "Chronology of Important Events in the Atoms for Peace Program", 1958
Box-Folder 1.29: "Trip Report: Second Inter-American Symposium on the Peaceful Application of Nuclear Energy, Buenos Aires, Argentina," Charles L. Dunham, 1959
Box-Folder 1.30: "Atomos en Accion" Press Kit, 1961
Series 4: Photographs, 1932-1961

Series 4 is comprised of both color and black and white photographs relating to Heslep's work as a news reporter and member of the Atomic Energy Commission. The collection contains photographs of nuclear test preparations and explosions including images of Operation Trinity; Operation Tumbler-Snapper's Charlie test; Operation Upshot-Knothole's Annie, Nancy, Ruth, Dixie, Ray, and Grable tests; Operation Plumbbob's Priscilla and Fizeau tests; Operation Greenhouse; and Operation Redwing. The collection also includes photographs of test dummies and buildings, portions of the Nevada Test Site including "News Nob" and Camp Mercury, and photos of work aboard the USS Mount McKinley, an observer ship in the Pacific Proving Grounds during the Redwing tests.

The series also includes photos of Atomic Energy Commission events, meetings of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, an Oak Ridge National Laboratory conference, Britain's first plutonium factory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, protests surrounding the Rosenberg espionage hearings, and other events and people relating to nuclear science and history. The series also contains numerous career photographs of Heslep in his position at the AEC, the Washington Daily News, and the Mutual Broadcasting Company as well as headshots and studio portraits.

The contents of Box-folders 1.36 and 1.38 have been digitized and are available upon request.

Box-Folder 1.31: Operation Trinity, 1945
Box-Folder 1.32: Operation Tumbler-Snapper, 1952
Box-Folder 1.33: Operation Upshot-Knothole, 1953
Box-Folder 1.34: Operation Plumbbob, 1957
Box-Folder 1.35: Nevada Test Site Unidentified Nuclear Tests, undated
Box-Folder 1.36: Nevada Test Site, 1952-1953
The contents of this folder have been digitized and are available upon request.
Box-Folder 1.37: Operation Greenhouse, 1951
Box-Folder 1.38: Operation Redwing, 1956
The contents of this folder have been digitized and are available upon request.
Box-Folder 1.39: Pacific Proving Grounds Unidentified Nuclear Tests, undated
Box-Folder 2.1: Career Photographs, 1932, 1937
Box-Folder 2.2: Career Photographs, 1945-1949
Box-Folder 2.3: Career Photographs, 1950
Box-Folder 2.4: Career Photographs, 1951
Box-Folder 2.5: Career Photographs, 1952
Box-Folder 2.6: Career Photographs, 1953
Box-Folder 2.7: Career Photographs, 1954
Box-Folder 2.8: Career Photographs, 1955
Box-Folder 2.9: Career Photographs, 1956
Box-Folder 2.10: Career Photographs, 1957
Box-Folder 2.11: Career Photographs, 1958
Box-Folder 2.12: Career Photographs, 1959
Box-Folder 2.13: Career Photographs, 1960
Box-Folder 2.14: Career Photographs, 1961
Box-Folder 2.15: Career Photographs, undated
Box-Folder 2.16: Headshots and Studio Portraits of Charter Heslep, 1932, 1952-1959
Series 5: Sound Recordings, 1958-1961
This series is composed of two sound recordings, "Peaceful Use of the Atom" and "Atoms for Peace: 1946-1961".
Box-Folder 2.17: "Peaceful Use of the Atom" Reel 1, January 16, 1958
Box-Folder 2.18: "Peaceful Use of the Atom" Reel 2, January 16, 1958
Box-Folder 2.19: "Atoms for Peace: 1946-1961", February 8, 1961

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.