George Warren Reed (1920-2015) was a chemist at the Chicago Met Lab during World War II. He primarily researched fission yields of uranium and thorium to determine their viability for a nuclear chain reaction. Reed was one of the few African American scientists to work on the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Reed talks with his son Mark Morrison-Reed about family life, sabbatical, the riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., work on the Manhattan Project, retirement, and his positions at Fermilab and Argonne National Laboratory.
Karen Dorn Steele is a journalist. As a reporter for the Spokesman-Review, she broke the story about the Green Run test, in which the U.S. government released radioactive gases in 1949 over areas surrounding the Hanford Site. Subsequently, she covered the Hanford Downwinder litigation, in which residents living around the Hanford Site sued the federal government over the health complications they suffered from as a result of radiation exposure. In this interview, she discusses how she discovered the Green Run through FOIA document requests. She describes covering the Downwinder litigation and her thoughts on how the trial was managed. Dorn Steele remembers meeting and interviewing some of the plaintiffs, and how their lives were impacted by the Hanford Site.
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 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 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.
Robert Franklin is the assistant director of the Hanford History Project. In this role, he is the archivist and oral historian for the Department of Energy’s Hanford Collection and Washington State University’s collections on Hanford. He attended Washington State University in Pullman and earned his Master’s degree in history. In graduate school, he took a graduate-level seminar on the Hanford oral history project, which sparked his interest in Hanford and the impacts of the Manhattan Project on the rural, agricultural communities in Washington. In this interview, Franklin discusses the general history of Hanford, displacement of Hanford area residents during the Manhattan Project, and current efforts to preserve the site. He also describes some of the pre-Manhattan Project properties that can be visited today, including the White Bluffs Bank.
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.
Philip S. Anderson, Jr. lived in Oak Ridge from his second-grade year through his junior year of high school. His father, an officer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was responsible for housing at Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project; his mother was active in the Oak Ridge community. In this interview, Anderson remembers his childhood in Oak Ridge, describing the level of secrecy in the city and hikes with his friends. He also recounts his reaction to the bombing of Hiroshima and his fond memories of being a Boy Scout in Oak Ridge.
Bill Ginkel served as the Manager of the Idaho Operations Office for the Atomic Energy Commission. In this interview, he describes his experience working at the facility beginning in 1950. He recalls the pioneering work conducted at the laboratory and the occasional methodological divide between the scientists and engineers. He also explains the transformative effects the influx of nuclear scientists had upon the local community and the state, and why the area was referred to as “The Site.”
Richard “Dick” Meservey is a nuclear physicist who worked at Idaho National Laboratory (INL). In this interview, he describes the rewarding projects he worked on at INL including the Special Power Excursion Reactor Test and the Advanced Test Reactor. He lauds the unusual freedom that scientists enjoyed working in Idaho Falls, and explains why he came to love living in Idaho Falls.