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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

Roger Fulling’s Interview (1985)

Roger Fulling was the Division Superintendent of Construction at DuPont during the Manhattan Project, which meant that he coordinated and expedited the construction projects at Hanford and Oak Ridge. He was also the main liaison with General Leslie R. Groves on the Hanford construction project. In this interview, Fulling discusses DuPont’s procurement issues and the support of American industry for the Manhattan Project. He also recalls visiting Hanford and the early days of working with General Groves. He explains the fate of Hanford’s orchards and farms after the Manhattan Project requisitioned the land, and his sadness at witnessing the orchards fall into ruin.

Roger Fulling’s Interview (1986) – Part 3

In this interview, Roger Fulling discusses the various positions he held at DuPont during and after the war. He recalls a special request from the Australian government for smokeless powder that DuPont had to fulfill, as well as outlining the structure and history of the DuPont Company. He explains the other wartime work of the DuPont Company and how DuPont had to balance its Manhattan Project work with its other military contracts.

Roger Fulling’s Interview (1986) – Part 2

Roger Fulling served as a division superintendent in DuPont’s War Construction Program. In this interview, he discusses the priority that the Manhattan Project received in the industrial sector, especially with materials like aluminum. He talks about coordinating production with the armed forces, including General Douglas MacArthur. He explains how General Leslie R. Groves would intervene if a company was having difficulty acquiring materials or producing products to certain specifications. Fulling also mentions meeting some of the top scientists, including Eugene Wigner, who thought that scientists alone, not DuPont and their engineers, should work on the project, and how DuPont persuaded them otherwise. He remembers his interactions with General Groves after the war, and explains why Groves chose DuPont to work on the Manhattan Project.

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.

Richard Foster’s Interview

Dr. Richard Foster was the fish laboratory supervisor at Hanford. He talks about inspection of organic matter in the Columbia River prior to and after the construction of reactors at the Hanford site. Foster describes DuPont’s central role in taking necessary precautions, highlighting their professionalism and efficiency. He discusses how any leaks were primarily into the atmosphere rather than into the water. Also, he brings up research done at the University of Washington regarding X-ray radiation and its effect on fish. The extent to which safety and environmental harms were taken into consideration, according to Foster, was advanced for its time. The state of Washington, and the country as a whole, had very little awareness regarding the concept of ecology or water pollution control.

John W. Healy’s Interview

John Healy was in charge of environmental monitoring and later worked on special studies regarding environmental impact of reactor operations at the Hanford site. He discusses the consequences of dumping materials into the river and air pollution from iodine volatilization. Healy touches upon DuPont’s role, mentioning that the corporation was very safety-conscious in terms of reactor operations.

Jack Hefner’s Interview

Jack Hefner joined the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge in 1943. Hefner was a reactor engineer and helped supervise the construction of the X-10 Graphite Reactor. Later, he transferred to Hanford and worked as a shift engineer, where he monitored the B Reactor. Hefner also helped maintain Hanford’s sprawling facilities, including office buildings and houses in the 700 Area.

Edward Teller’s Interview

Edward Teller, considered the father of the hydrogen bomb, was a key figure in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Teller goes into detail about his work on the implosion principle for the plutonium bomb and his work with John von Neumann. He recalls getting Einstein on board with the project in order to gain FDR’s approval. He talks about whether the bomb should have been first used in a demonstration for the Japan and whether he has any regrets.

Willie Daniels’s Interview

Willie Daniels came to Hanford from Texas by way of Oklahoma, where he worked at a naval air station. He was one of thousands of African Americans who left low paying jobs at home for high pay at wartime Hanford. Like many others, he came for the good pay. He and his brother made $19.20 on their first day of work, more than his brother made in one month on the railroad. Daniels worked mostly pouring concrete and performing manual labor; he poured concrete for all the reactors in the 100 area. In this interview, Daniels recalls Hanford social life, working conditions, and race relations.

Monsignor William Sweeney’s Interview

Monsignor William Sweeney was a priest working in Hanford. He talks about the growth of the site as his church became larger and larger, and how it became difficult to plan for masses given the high demand for interior spaces for social events and other religious activities. He also describes one of the accidents which occurred on the site, as well as the secrecy surrounding the Manhattan Project.