The Manhattan Project

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & HistoryNational Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Wakefield Wright's Interview

Born in Ohio, Wakefield Wright had a degree in biological sciences from the University of Louisville. In 1943, he was assigned to a “super secret project” and sent to Oak Ridge, where he was trained in the separations process to separate plutonium from uranium that had been irradiated in a reactor. In September 1944, he was sent to Hanford, where he supervised “chemical operators” at the T-Plant. He recalls the technical aspect of the separations process, the emphasis on secrecy at Hanford and Oak Ridge, and life in Richland.

Mac and Vera Jo MacCready's Interview - Part 1

W.K. MacCready received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in physical chemistry from the University of Alabama. During the war, MacCready worked as a liaison between the construction and operations teams at Hanford, and later was a supervisor of the construction plant. In this interview, MacCready elaborates on the exceptionally fast building of the B-, T-, and U-Plants at Hanford, and his role as the construction and operations team manager. He describes his work with plutonium research, and the safety and secrecy associated with such research. He finishes the interview by elaborating on a fatal accident that occurred at the plant. Vera Jo MacCready was from Alabama, and traveled to Richland to join her husband in June 1944.

Vincent and Clare Whitehead's Interview - Part 1

Vincent ("Bud") Whitehead and Clare Whitehead met during their time at the Hanford site. Bud was a counterintelligence officer assigned to Hanford to prevent the intrusion of any spies; Clare was a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, and worked as a secretary at Hanford and Richland. In this interview with S. L. Sanger, the Whiteheads talk about meeting and living in Hanford. Bud describes his experience as a counterintelligence agent and how he was recruited. He also talks about encounters with suspected KGB agents and a German skilled laborer. Clare Whitehead discusses how she came to be posted in Hanford.

Sam Campbell's Interview

Before he came to Hanford Sam Campbell had a varied work history, including service with the coast artillery in the Philippines and pipeline construction in South America. He was a Patrol Captain and Assistant Chief of the security patrol during the wartime period at Hanford. He was originally in charge of overseeing security around the B Reactor area. In this interview, Campbell discusses his background in the Army and construction with DuPont, as well as how he was assigned to Hanford. He also talks about the various criminal problems around Hanford, namely gambling, prostitution, excessive drinking and fighting. Campbell also goes into the security procedures and the few security incidents he had to deal with.After the war, he settled in Richland.

Roger Fulling's Interview (1986) - Part 1

Roger Fulling began working with the DuPont Company in 1934. During World War II he was a division superintendent in DuPont's War Construction Program. He also served as acting Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Eisenhower Administration. In this interview, Fulling explains his respect for General Leslie R. Groves, as well as the hierarchy of DuPont staff supporting him. He remembers key DuPont personnel, including Granville Read, Mel Wood, Gilbert Church, Frank Mackie, and others. Fulling talks about the troubles in acquiring materials and skilled laborers for the Hanford construction project. He also explains why he believes American industry should be praised for its tireless work for the war effort.

Robley Johnson's Interview

Robley "Rob" Johnson arrived in Hanford May 2, 1943, at the age of 35, one of the first DuPont people on the scene. He came from Gopher Ordnance Works, a powder plant near St. Paul. At Hanford, Johnson supervised DuPont's photo crew. The War Department photographs of Hanford released after Hiroshima and Nagasaki were his, although he did not receive direct credit.

John Marshall's Interview

After receiving his doctorate, John Marshall was hired to assist Leo Szilard with his experiments at Columbia. Afterwards, Marshall traveled to Chicago to work on Chicago Pile-1, and finally to Richland to work on the B Reactor at the Hanford site. Marshall was on duty when the reactor shut down due to xenon poisoning. He discusses his experience working for Szilard and alongside Fermi, as well as the steps taken when the B Reactor shut down on his watch.

Ray Genereaux's Interview

Ray Genereaux was Design Project Manager for DuPont for the chemical separation facilities at Hanford, WA. He also visited the Chicago Met Lab. He was responsible for designing the massive buildings and innovative machinery that separated the plutonium from the irradiated uranium fuel elements after they were taken from the reactors. However, at several points in his interview, Genereaux refuses to take credit for the designs, saying his engineers were responsible. He discusses the challenges of designing and constructing the plants. Genereaux was born in Seattle, WA in 1902 and earned degrees from both Stanford and Columbia.

Oswald Greager's Interview

Oswald Greager was a high-ranking DuPont chemist when joined the Army's Chemical Warfare Service at the start of World War II. He was later transferred to the Manhattan Project's Hanford site and served as the Army's liaison at the plutonium separation areas. After the War, Greager returned to Hanford and worked for General Electric as a Technical Manager in the separation areas. In this interview, Greager discusses the production of plutonium, the separation process, and the perils of transporting radioactive material. He also discusses the race against the German for the atomic bomb as well as Hanford's role after the war ended in 1945.

Orville Hill's Interview

Chemist Orville Hill joined the Met Lab at the University of Chicago in May of 1942, three months after it was created. After a stint at Oak Ridge, he went to Hanford in 1944. At Hanford, he worked to improve the plutonium separation process. After the war, he worked at Los Alamos and was tasked with studying bomb debris from the Bikini atomic bomb tests. Eventually, he returned to Hanford looking for a better way to separate plutonium from irradiated uranium. In this interview, he recalls his first days at Chicago and remembers meeting Enrico Fermi. He describes the excitement and pressure of the Manhattan Project: "We were on the frontiers. We were doing things that I hadn't dreamed of doing even a year before."