The Manhattan Project

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

Oral Histories

Collene Dunbar's Interview

Collene Dunbar's Interview

Collene Dunbar first arrived the Tri-Cities in 1950. She spent her childhood there while her father worked in construction at the Hanford Site. In this interview, she recalls her experiences growing up, and describes local perceptions of Hanford. She details discrimination faced by African Americans, local agriculture, and how the area has changed over the years. Dunbar also recounts her time working in construction and maintenance in the 200 East Area at Hanford, and shares her impressions of how secrecy and security were maintained at the site.

Carol Roberts's Interview

Carol Roberts's Interview

Carol Roberts moved to Hanford with her family in 1944 after her father was hired by DuPont to work as an electrician on the B Reactor. In this interview, she vividly describes life in Richland during the Manhattan Project. Roberts mentions local segregation, dust storms, the housing, social opportunities, and the challenges women faced in raising a family. Roberts champions the role of women in local history, including Leona Marshall Libby’s work on the B Reactor. She also details the founding of the local hospital and library, and recounts the takeoff of the “Day’s Pay,” the bomber funded by Hanford workers as part of their contributions to the war effort.

Virginia Ballard's Interview

Virginia Ballard's Interview

Virginia Ballard was born in Charleston, West Virginia. Her parents immigrated to the US from Scotland. In 1944, Ballard’s family moved to Richland, Washington where her father worked for DuPont. After attending college, Ballard went to work for GE and Exxon Nuclear. Her last job before retirement was as executive secretary to the manager for Siemens. Ballard had two children – Bruce and Diane – with her husband Del. In this interview, Ballard discusses her family’s relocation to Richland and her experience living there as a teenager. In particular, she talks about the high school she attended and recreational activities for teenagers at the time. Ballard also describes the town of Richland and its economy. She explains social and economic changes that occurred before, during, and after the war. Commenting on the secrecy of the scientific activity going on at Richland, Ballard shares that the dropping of the bomb came as a surprise to residents of Richland, but their reactions were positive and they expressed great pride in the work of their fellow residents. She hopes that the Hanford area and B Reactor will be preserved as an important historical site.

Jackie Peterson's Interview

Jackie Peterson's Interview

Jackie Peterson is an independent curator and exhibit developer in Seattle, Washington. She curated an exhibition called “The Atomic Frontier: Black Life at Hanford” at the Northwest African American Museum from October 2015-March 2016. In this interview, Peterson describes the exhibition and what she learned about African American experiences at Hanford during the Manhattan Project. She explains how African Americans came to the Tri-Cities, the kinds of work they were able to obtain, and the (largely informal) segregation they faced. She also contrasts how African Americans and Japanese Americans were treated by the federal government during World War II.

Ruth Howes's Interview

Ruth Howes's Interview

Ruth Howes is professor emerita of physics and astronomy at Ball State University with an interest in the history of women physicists. She has researched and written on the role of female scientists in the Manhattan Project. Howes is the co-author of "Their Day in the Sun: Women of the Manhattan Project," which tells the “hidden story of the contribution of women in the effort to develop the atomic bomb.”

Vincent and Clare Whitehead's Interview - Part 2

Vincent (“Bud”) Whitehead was a counterintelligence officer at Hanford during the Manhattan Project; his wife Clare was a secretary and a member of the Women’s Army Corps. In part two of their interview with S. L. Sanger, the Whiteheads discuss crime at Hanford and the project’s intense secrecy. Clare recalls when she was stricken with polio and how the DuPont doctors were far superior to the Army doctor. The couple also speculates on whether Bud’s subsequent health issues are related to radiation exposure. Finally, Bud recalls chasing and bringing down a Japanese balloon bomb.

Paula and Ludwig Bruggemann's Interview

Paula and Ludwig Bruggemann's Interview

Paula and Ludwig Bruggemann were born outside of Yakima, Washington in the agricultural community of White Bluffs. Their father owned a prosperous fruit farm in White Bluffs along the Columbia River before the U.S. government forced the family in 1943 to relocate from the area to make way for construction of the Hanford Site. In this interview, the Bruggemanns discuss their brief years in White Bluffs, family history, the ranch, and the years that followed their displacement from White Bluffs. They recall what life on the ranch was like, and the sort of amenities their home had.

Michele Gerber YouTube 480p

Michele Gerber's Interview

In this interview, historian Michele Gerber discusses the significance of the Manhattan Project in the twenty-first century, focusing on the Hanford site and its legacy. Gerber talks about why Hanford and DuPont were selected for the Manhattan Project, as well as setbacks from material shortages. She discusses the atmosphere of safety, how most Hanford workers had no idea what they were working on, and the environmental legacy of the Manhattan Project and the Cold War. She also explains the role of women at Hanford, the demographics, and why the area around Hanford suffered from termination winds.

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.

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