The Manhattan Project

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

Oral Histories

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."

Opal Drum's Interview

Opal Drum lived in Richland while her husband worked as a crane operator for the Manhattan Project. Neither she nor her children had any knowledge of the purpose of her husband's work until they heard the news about bombing of Hiroshima. Drum describes civilian life in Richland, discussing what it was like to raise kids in the town. The family resided in the town's largest trailer park. She speaks of her brother’s role in WWII, as well as initial reactions of the American people following the use of the atomic bomb.

Meta Newson's Interview

Meta Newson, a homemaker at Hanford during WWII, was married to the late Henry W Newson, a Manhattan Project physicist at Chicago, Oak Ridge, Hanford and Los Alamos, and later a professor at Duke University.

Margaret Hoffarth's Interview

Margaret Hoffarth was born in Colorado and moved west with her parents, traveling to Idaho in a wagon train. She was a forty-three year-old widow with three sons when she came to work in the Hanford Mess Hall in 1943. She recalls work, social life, and secrecy at Hanford, as well as the sudden emptiness of the site after the war. One of Hoffarth's sons was killed in action during World War II.

Jane Jones Hutchins's Interview

Jane Jones Hutchins moved from small-town Kansas to Hanford to work as a secretary. She recalls social life at Hanford, a Christmas tree made of sagebrush, and an empty Hanford after the war.

Fred and Diana VanWyck's Interview

The VanWycks, Fred ("Van") and Diana ("Di"), moved to Richland (near Hanford) in 1944 from Charleston, West Virginia, where Van worked at DuPont's Belle Plant as a technician. At Hanford, Van was a plant operator, while Di raised their sons and volunteered actively in the community. In this era, Richland was a raw, new, wind-blown, almost treeless town. The VanWycks watched it change to a pretty city of more than 30,000, with shade trees in abundance and grass that halted the sand storms of the 1940s. Richland had been a government-owned town, and remained so until 1957 when the Atomic Energy Commission allowed private ownership of residences.

Robert E. Bubenzer's Interview

Robert "Bob" Bubenzer was supervisor of Hanford plant protection for DuPont from 1943 until early 1945. Though he helped maintain order in Hanford, he said that he "got no pleasure in putting people in prison." After the war, he worked in the construction industry in the Midwest. In this interview, Bubenzer recalls what it was like to work as a patrolman for DuPont.

Bill and Louise Cease's Interview

Bill Cease worked in the 100 and 300 areas at Hanford, working as a patrolman and later as an operator at B Reactor and D Reactor. His wife Louise accompanied him to Hanford, and worked at Penney's. In this interview, Bill discusses how he came to work at Hanford in 1944 after working in Bridgeport, PA, at the Remington Plant making explosives. Bill elaborates on the various roles he had at Hanford, what working conditions were like, the technical aspects of his work, and his reactions to the bomb. Bill and Louise also discuss social life at Hanford, what the living conditions were like, and how the dust impacted them.

Betsy Stuart's Interview

Betsy Stuart worked as a secretary for the electrical engineering department at Hanford. Her husband, Charles F. "Stud" Stuart, was a personnel troubleshooter for DuPont at Hanford. Mrs. Stuart recalls various pleasures and annoyances of living and working in Hanford. Stuart also elaborates on her reaction to the bombs being dropped.

Steve Buckingham F9 480p 16x9

Steve Buckingham's Interview

Steve Buckingham, a chemist, worked at the Hanford site beginning in 1947. He explains how the B Reactor worked, and applauds the ingenuity of the designers of the T-plant.

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