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.
Michele Gerber is the author of “On the Home Front: The Cold War Legacy of the Hanford Nuclear Site” and served as the official Hanford Site historian. In this interview, she discusses her role as a local consultant on the Center for Disease Control’s research about the potential health effects of emissions from Hanford on residents. Gerber also describes her efforts to declassify the Hanford site documents. Additionally, she talks about how the United States learned the USSR acquired the bomb and explains the negative health implications of the Green Run test. She also discusses other sources of environmental pollution at Hanford, including in the soil and the Columbia River, and the health impacts on Downwinders.