Jane Yantis was the wife of a petroleum engineer, Carl Yantis, who worked at the Oak Ridge site during the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Yantis discusses how she and her husband ended up at the Oak Ridge area. She remembers accidentally fermenting apples in her pantry, the difficulty to find adequate housing, and how friendly everybody was. She also discusses the alcohol restriction at Oak Ridge, the tight security, and creating ornaments for her Christmas tree.
Gordon Steele was a chemist who began working at the Manhattan Project at the University of California, Berkeley, and was later transferred to the Y-12 Plant at Oak Ridge. He worked on separating uranium-235 using calutrons developed by Ernest Lawrence at UC Berkeley. In this interview Steele explores a variety of topics, from his work separating uranium isotopes to the realities of living in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He recounts a trip to Georgia in which he and his friends purchased rum and other liquors to smuggle into Oak Ridge, a decidedly dry town during the war. He also discusses his coworkers, their chess games, and some mishaps in repairing the calutron machines.
Dunell Cohn was born in Oak Ridge in 1944. Cohn’s father, Waldo, was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project in Chicago in 1942 for his work on radioisotopes at Berkeley and Harvard during the 1930s. Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to Oak Ridge, where he developed a method to separate the fission products from the nuclear reactor. He also pioneered the radioisotope program at Oak Ridge, producing radioisotopes in large quantities that could then be used for medical and biological research. Dunell recalls what it was like growing up as a child at Oak Ridge and describes his father’s effort to desegregate the town by integrating the public school system. He also remembers his father’s love for music and his role in creating Oak Ridge’s symphony orchestra.
Helen Jernigan was a young woman when she was offered a job working in the recreational facilities in Oak Ridge. Eventually, she moved on to become editor of the local newspaper, Carbide Courier. Jernigan recalls the nightlife young men and women were encouraged to participate in as a break from life in the secret city.
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.
In 1943, Jess Brinkerhoff was working at Du Pont’s Remington Arms ammunition plant in Salt Lake City as a warehouse and shipping foreman. The plant was shut down and he transferred to Hanford as a fireman. His wife soon joined him, and they raised six children in an original Richland pre-fab; Brinkerhoff was still living there at the time of this interview in 1986.
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.
Harry Petcher’s flat feet meant he couldn’t be drafted, but still had an obligation to work for the war effort. After working as a Signal Corps clerk in Chicago, Petcher moved to Hanford with his wife, where they found jobs in the mess hall. Petcher soon became head of Hanford’s massive box lunch department, where he oversaw tens of thousands of box lunches being made every day. In twenty months at Hanford, the staff served 3,088,480 box lunches.
Dewitt “Bill” Bailey, originally from New Albany, Mississippi, was working at an Alabama shipyard when he heard of the job opportunities in Hanford. At Hanford he worked as a special material handler for DuPont, and experienced the regime of intense compartmentalization and secrecy. In this interview, Bailey discusses his life and work at Hanford, as well as the role played by the DuPont Company.