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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Oral Histories

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‚Äôs role in WWII, as well as initial reactions of the American people following the use of the atomic bomb.

Colonel Franklin Matthias’s Interview (1986)

Colonel Franklin Matthias, a civil engineer, was a close associate of General Groves throughout the Manhattan Project, and was asked to review sites in the West. Matthias and two Du Pont representa­tives looked quickly at possible sites in Montana, Oregon, and California, as well as Washington. Matthias decided Hanford, isolated and with a good supply of water, was the best choice. Groves appointed Matthias officer-in-charge at Hanford, granting him authority over civilian operations as well as military.

Francis McHale’s Interview

Francis McHale was a security and safety man, a civilian, with the Corps of Engineers. He came to Hanford from the Pennsylvania Ordnance Works to set up fire and safety and police protection for the Manhattan Engineer District. McHale retired in 1972 as director of security for the Atomic Energy Commission at Hanford. In this interview, McHale recalls arriving at Hanford, his work in security there, and briefly elaborates about life at Hanford.

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.