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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

General Leslie Groves’s Interview – Part 11

In this segment, Groves discusses the establishment of the project sites at Los Alamos and Hanford. He talks about the role Oppenheimer had in influencing the choice of the Los Alamos site, and the planning that went into ensuring the site was both accessible but would not draw attention. In regards to Hanford, he talks about the innovative efforts to gauge water pollution and protect the salmon in and around the Columbia River.

Date of Interview:
January 8, 1965
Location of the Interview:


*[Please note that General Groves – Part 10 could not be found in the Groueff Collection. The interview was either mislabeled, misplaced, or does not exist.]

[We would like to thank Robert S. Norris, author of the definitive biography of General Leslie R. Groves, Racing for the Bomb: General Leslie R. Groves, the Manhattan Project’s Indispensable Man, for taking the time to read over these transcripts for misspellings and other errors.]

Stephane Groueff: General Groves, part 11. Washington, D.C., January 8, 1965.

General Leslie R. Groves: The next major decision, which occurred about the same time, and I wish I had referred to it previously, was with respect to reducing the load on Stone & Webster to something that they could carry. At the same time, we encouraged Kellex under [Percival] Keith in their efforts to amplify the research at Columbia. The research at Columbia was far from satisfactory as I’ve said. And this merely put more industrial viewpoints into it.

But the men working with Keith, and Keith himself, were on the scientific side of industrial engineering. Certainly nobody could accuse Manson Benedict of not being a first class scientist in every way. I don’t recall just what he had done, but he had joined Kellex. I think he was working in the petroleum area at the Kellogg Company. Their job was essentially that of designing and building chemical, but particularly petroleum plants, which is rather complicated engineering and it required a good knowledge of engineering, plus a good knowledge of chemistry.

I would say that was the decision. In other words, it wasn’t one that was clear cut, but it was putting more and more of the load on him.

Groueff: Who made the decision to get involved?

Groves: That was already done before I came into the project. Keith was their vice president who urged that they get into it. Of course, the head of the company was M. W. Kellogg himself.

After you’ve heard this in part of your review work, get the Smyth Report and read over again just those early days, and then you’ll get a picture of just how I fitted in I think at that time. There are some mistakes in the Smyth Report, but none that ever concerned me particularly.

The next decision was probably the one that was far reaching, and yet there wasn’t anything sudden or dramatic about it. That was a decision that we should take over everything. You’ll remember at the time that I was assigned, we were limited to essentially the construction. The research laboratories were not under us. They were under Dr. Bush at his University Lab. Our responsibility there was in assisting them in getting priorities for things that they couldn’t get and supplying them with money if they ran out of money.

Dr. Bush showed his great statesmanship at that time, and of course Conant was right along with him, and that was to agree with me that the sound thing to do was to turn over all responsibility for the laboratory to me. In other words, he would withdraw from that field. And in order to make the transition smooth and in accordance with my general policy of never upsetting an apple cart if you can help it, I proposed that when his contracts ran out, the new ones would merely be entered into by the Manhattan District.

In the meantime, we would gradually take over and would supply money where it was needed. We’d have our people there without the men on the job actually knowing what had taken place; there would be a complete turnover.

Actually the confusion in the minds of those scientists is still there. They don’t know when we took over. I think if you talk to Mr. Peterson at Westport whose address I gave you, Arthur V. Peterson, and ask him when did he go to Chicago and what did he find when he got there and how did he operate during that transition period, I think you’ll get a pretty good idea of it.

Now you won’t get anything out of Peterson by writing him a letter, because he is very dilatory in answering, because he tries to do a perfect job and he has other things to do, which is what he makes his living on. So this takes second place. But if you can see him and have your questions pretty well framed in advance, I think you’ll get a great deal out of him as to what the picture was in Chicago when we went there and about how this gradual transition took place.

It’s the only time that I know of in government or in business where there’s been such a gradual transition so that it was so smooth that nobody knew when it happened.

Groueff: So there was no major opposition or resistance?

Groves: No there wasn’t, because they didn’t know what was happening. That was one reason for doing it this way. I just felt why raise a ruckus here about it? After all, you know the man that controls the purse strings is pretty powerful anyway. And we had control of the purse strings very soon because they ran out of money.

Now the man who handled the contracts for Dr. Bush was Professor Irvin Stewart and later was the president of the University of West Virginia. He resigned from that a few years ago and became a Professor again at the University. I think the reason for his resigning was that he wanted to get away from the strain of being an administrative head, and he felt that he was still capable of teaching and wanted to teach. I would imagine that he was about my age. So he is now a teacher over there.

He was very much pleased and relieved because he was the contracting officer for OSRD, and this thing was just beyond their capacity. They didn’t have the personnel. They didn’t have the people who were experienced in contract administration.

I may have skipped some of these, but just from memory the next decision that occurs to me now was my decision that we had to have a second stage in our electromagnetic plant. Dr. Lawrence was not in favor of this. It’s hard to tell. I thought it was very definite. It always was in my mind.  But when I tried to check it when I was writing my book, I couldn’t get any confirmation from the man who knew the most about it at that time. His name is Dr. Harold Fidler. He’s now at the University of California, Berkeley.

Groueff: I intend to go to Berkeley.

Groves: Just to digress for a minute, when you go to Berkeley, the people you should see are Fidler, Dr. Donald Cooksey, who is retired now, who was a great friend of Ernest Lawrence. He was a man older than Lawrence who had been an instructor at Yale when Lawrence took his Ph.D. work. He was so impressed by Lawrence’s great capacity that he left Yale and went with Lawrence to the University of California just to help Lawrence in any way he could. He was an older man and he also was very well to do.

At that time, he was a bachelor, and he was for a number of years I believe. He had sort of an older brother relationship to Lawrence, but he was always perfectly willing to do anything Lawrence wanted him to do in the way of helping him. And I think all through Lawrence’s life, Cooksey was a tremendous aide to him.

Groueff: So he would be the best man to learn about Lawrence as a person and the way he works?

Groves: Just remember though that he puts Lawrence up on the highest kind of a pedestal. Offhand I’d say that I’d agree with anything he said. Fidler was my officer in charge at Berkeley during the War.

Groueff: He was a military man?

Groves: He was a Captain at the time, and he had a Ph.D. He’s now with the University and is the Business Manager of their Radiation Laboratory. Another man to talk to is Doctor McMillan, who is a brother-in-law of Lawrence’s. They married sisters.

Groueff: Is that the man who discovered plutonium?

Groves: Ed McMillan. He was in the project from start to finish. He was at Berkeley, then he went with Oppenheimer. He was one of the first men at Los Alamos. In fact, he helped to select the site. He can give you a little insight as to how relieved he was when I turned down the site that had been selected. Beyond that, I don’t know how much time you have. Teller is out in that area, you see.

Groueff: Teller?

Groves: Teller is at Davis, California, and also spends a lot of time at Livermore.

Groueff: But his participation was mostly in Los Alamos and not Livermore?

Groves: In other words, he will give you his insight of Oppenheimer, which I think you ought to really get because he can give you the other side. But just remember, I told you why they were at Los Alamos. You have to keep him glued to pre-1946. After that you get into things that we’re not interested in.

Groueff: So that was about the second stage of electromagnetic. Why was Lawrence against it?

Groves: Lawrence was against it because he hadn’t perfected the first stage, in that he just didn’t think that there was any need for it. He was hopeful that the first stage would produce material pure enough to make the bomb out of.

Groueff: And you realized that it wouldn’t?

Groves: I didn’t realize. I was positive that it wouldn’t. And I wanted him to get started on this second stage. Fidler didn’t agree with it. Therefore, I would not put it in my book. I didn’t put anything in there where there was any doubt as to the truth of it.

My recollection was that I argued with Lawrence. I told Lawrence that I wanted this, and he kept holding back. I, of course, did not issue any direct orders, because I never believed in direct orders in the thing of this kind. Finally, I told Fidler to tell Lawrence that I didn’t like to give orders. But if Lawrence didn’t start on that second stage, I was going to give him an order to do it. And then he started.

Groueff: At Oak Ridge?

Groves: No, that was at Berkeley to develop what is known as the beta stage. Fidler’s memory did not check that, and his papers did not check it. So as to how that was handled, I don’t know. But for that reason you can’t put it in.

There was another decision about that time, and that was the selection of the site for Los Alamos. As you can well imagine, people wanted it here and there and everywhere. I sent an officer out there who was one of Marshall’s officers, who had been brought up in Los Angeles. His name was General Dudley, John H. Dudley. He was then a young Major. I said to him, “I want you to survey this whole area and see where we can have a suitable site.”

The specifications that I laid down were that it should have good transportation from Washington, Chicago, and San Francisco. It should be out in an area where you could have outdoor experiments year round and outdoor construction. It should be isolated enough. If we had any experiments that became dangerous to anybody we would be off by ourselves, and that any experiments wouldn’t attract the attention of people.

If you set off a charge of normal explosive in the vicinity of Los Angeles, they’d know it in a hurry. It was on that basis that this area was selected. I originally told him that I thought it would be somewhere near Albuquerque.

After he did a little experimentation and looked around, at that time I asked Oppenheimer, although he had not yet been selected for the final job, what he thought of it. He came up with two possibilities. One was in the Albuquerque area and one was an area in California on a line that went up towards the eastern side of California from Los Angeles Southern Pacific line, not a main line. It went up towards Lake Tahoe. I don’t know just how far it got up to Lake Tahoe, but this would have meant about an eight-hour run, I guess, from Los Angeles.

I don’t think it could be approached directly from San Francisco. We would have to have had our own air service, which would have immediately attracted attention, which I wouldn’t do. It just wasn’t feasible. So it was finally decided to try and put it near Albuquerque. Oppenheimer had this ranch there, which he had had for years. I think it’s owned jointly with his brother Frank. Or else he owned it and Frank just was there so much that he might have just as well have been an owner. That was in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

They finally said that that had the place. I went out there and I met Oppenheimer in Albuquerque and Major Dudley. Apparently there must have been two cars instead of one, because McMillan says that he was there. He may be mixed up on that. I assumed that there was only one car. But in any case we’d borrowed a car from the District Engineer in Albuquerque. We drove to this first site.

Groueff: The three of you, Oppenheimer, Dudley, and you?

Groves: Yes. Those are the ones that were key in this. The others if they were along, McMillan and Williams, were spectators you might say. They were ready to chime in if they were asked any questions.

As soon as we started to go up this valley, which was the Jemez River I think, or Jemez Canyon, it was an Indian settlement with little Indian farms about five to ten acres. It immediately brought up the Indian question. It brought up that you’d be bouncing a lot of Indians off their place and that automatically would create an interest in why and so on. And there wasn’t any chance for expansion. It wasn’t isolated. It didn’t meet hardly any of the requirements I’d laid down.

After I’d looked at it and even before we got there—because I could see what we were running into—as soon as we got through looking at it after a few minutes I said, “This won’t do and this is why.” And then I said, “I don’t want to waste the day. Let’s go out and look some more.”

I was talking to Oppenheimer, “Do you have any ideas where we might find something?”

He said, “We can go back to Albuquerque by way of the Los Alamos School, and you might be interested in that.”

Groueff: So this place was further than Los Alamos?

Groves: It was on the other side of the mountains. If you were in the general location [motioning in the air], I would say that this would be Santa Fe, this is Los Alamos, this is Albuquerque, and there was a string of mountains going up like that. The Oppenheimer ranch was over here. And this place was down here in the valley. Then we crossed this mountain range and went into Los Alamos. Here is Santa Fe, and here is Oppie’s ranch right across there. It was a cold day. I can remember that I was wearing a short overcoat and that we stopped for a sandwich for lunch.

Groueff: Where?

Groves: We stopped somewhere on the way to Los Alamos. I guess we must have gotten there about three o’clock in the afternoon. At any rate, the boys were just coming out of class. We stopped at their little general store that they had and I think had a bottle of Coke or something while I was looking all the way around.

Groueff: You were in uniform?

Groves: I was in uniform. As far as they were concerned we were nothing. We were far enough away so they couldn’t see that I was a general. At that time—and we still do, I guess—we wore on our overcoats a black band about that wide, and the insignia was worn on the shoulder. But the black band was the giveaway.

Nobody paid any attention to us and we sort of looked at everything casually. It didn’t take me long to say, “This is it.” And then I talked to Oppenheimer about it as to what he thought the problem would be in getting it. He said that he understood that the owner of the school was very anxious to sell it to get out; running it at the time of the war was impossible.

It was a school that catered to rich Easterners who wanted their sons to learn what it was to have a horse and to live outdoors. The boys looked to be in prime physical shape. They were as brown as berries. They were in shorts though it was a bitterly cold day.

So I said, “We’ll take this if we can get it.” But before doing it, I asked about a water supply, and there was enough for what we needed as we estimated it to be.

The only problem was would we be able to get our equipment up there? Some things like Van De Graaffs [generators] are not light, you know. All of the construction material would have had to have come up. I looked at the road and it looked as if it could not have carried it. But I spent about a half an hour and figured out how that road could be modified. All I wanted to know is if it could be done. I didn’t try to get the best modification. I merely was trying to see if it could be done.

Groueff: It was the only road?

Groves: It was the only road. And if that road had been impossible for alteration without a tremendous amount of work, which would have meant time, we couldn’t have gone there. So I had to determine that that road was good enough, which I did. And then the order was issued.

We were on National Forest land, which is controlled by the Department of Agriculture. And we were butting into a National Monument called the Bandelier, which were old cave dwellings of the Indians there. So that was the way that Los Alamos was selected.  There were enough buildings there so we could move in and get started without waiting. There weren’t very many.

Groueff: And no population to remove?

Groves: Just the school, once the school was out. So as soon as the owner agreed to sell, which he did I think with probably turned hand springs on his way home, we closed the school down at midyear and it was very simple. The kids were scattered and nobody really paid any attention to it.

Then of course we set up the rules about the institution. But I think that was a decision that was important.

The next decision was at about the same time. DuPont, in agreeing to the contract to run Hanford, made one stipulation that the site would be moved from Oak Ridge where it was originally planned. I said, “I’ll agree to that providing one thing. As long as you want it moved it’ll be moved.” I wasn’t going to make the agreement that it would be moved if they changed their minds later and said that it wasn’t necessary.

I felt that it should be moved myself, so I was perfectly willing. But it did appeal to them that I was willing to go along without any argument on it. I described in my book how we then had a meeting in Wilmington. I wasn’t there. They determined just what would be the requirements of the site, the safety requirements and all of the rest of it like water and power. Those were brought back to me by Colonel Matthias. Are you going to see him San Francisco?

Groueff: Yes, I would like to see him.

Groves: Have you got his address?

Groueff: Yes. He’s with some company.

Groves: The Pfizer Company. Frank[lin] [T.] M., I think, but I’m not certain.  

Groueff: Yeah, Pfizer.

Groves: He had been at Wilmington as my personal representative. I wanted somebody that I could have my hands on all the time in addition to Colonel Nichols, who was working away from Washington all the time. He was really under Marshall. So when Matthias came back I met him at the railroad station and drove him home, because I was very much interested in what he had to say. I think I drove him all the way to his home, but maybe it was just part way.

After he told me, I said, “This site has got to be on the Columbia River in the area of Grand Coulee, probably about fifty miles downstream. It’d have to be below Grand Coulee,” and I placed my finger upon it. Then we appointed a committee. It was agreed with DuPont that I arrange that we would send three people: one of them was [Gil] Church, one of them was Matthias, and one other DuPont engineer who would have been a subordinate generally to Gary. Church would have been under Read in construction.

It was thought at that time by DuPont that Church would be their general manager out there. They came back and had done what I told them to. They recommended a site, which was Hanford. That was about twenty-five miles away from the point that I had told them to go to. The one that I had told them to was not as good of a site, but it also was out right away because it was being used as a bombing range by either the Navy or Army Air. I’ve forgotten which one, but I think the Army Air. And that would have created quite a confusion if we had gone in and attracted attention.

You might ask why was I able to do this both for there and for Knoxville and for Oak Ridge and Los Alamos. The reason why was that I knew the United States thoroughly. I had lived in about eleven states or so. I also had traveled with the engineers in construction work before. I’d been in every state in recent times. I knew the geography very well. Just as well, for example, as you would know the geography within a hundred miles of Paris—I knew the country about that well. I knew the rail systems. I knew the air systems. So that was the reason that I was able to do it.

We investigated several places at that time. Some of them I turned down right away, but told them that they should at least explore them enough so that we wouldn’t have these people backbiting us later.

One of the reasons was that Compton wanted to put it up on Lake Superior where the water would be cold, but you couldn’t do any construction in the winter time up there. It was just plain idiotic. There were a lot of those. The average academic scientist was really very impractical. They’re just like an artist or a musician that was not accustomed to thinking through from the practical standpoint.

Groueff: You mentioned in your book with the selection of Hanford that there was some worry about the fish there?

Groves: Yes. The difficulty there was that salmon had always been important. In the early days, the river had been teaming with salmon. The fishing had generally been destroyed. But it was still important. It was certainly important in the eyes of the people. When they built the Bonneville Dam, the Corps of Engineers spent about ten million dollars building fish elevators and fish ladders. You’ve seen fish ladders, haven’t you?

Groueff: No.

Groves: If you go around any dam in Scotland for example, you’ll see a ladder. What they are just little pools. A pool might be twice the size of this desk. And then at the end of the pool there’s a wall and then a pool up above it. The water flows over the edge and it just keeps on flowing. The salmon comes along and he jumps from one pool to the next.

Groueff: I know the salmon jumps.

Groves: Around six feet I think or more. They go up there without any trouble. With the elevator the fish were brought in. They always swim against the current when they’re going upstream. That’s what guides them. So you had the current going out through this big box that might be four times the size of this desk full of water. It would be sunk. And then the current would be going out there so all of the fish would get in there and then the elevator would take them up and then it would discharge them on the upper level. And altogether there was ten million dollars spent on those things. The elevator was not necessary. The ladder was good enough, but at the time they didn’t know that the ladder was good enough.

Groueff: And it worked well to protect the salmon?

Groves: It worked well. Of course the Pacific Coast salmon died when they spawned. You wouldn’t eat from the time they entered fresh water. They were nice and fat when they’d come in from the sea. And then they would get thinner and thinner as they went upstream.

Groueff: But they had this urge to go upstream.

Groves: To go upstream to spawn.

Groueff: And then they’d die?

Groves: And then they would die.

Groueff: It’s an amazing story.

Groves: The female fish would find a little pocket or scrape it out with her tail and deposit the fish eggs in a little pocket maybe about that big and a couple of inches deep. It was this swirl in the river. The male fish would then come over and fertilize it. And then when the small fish grew, when they got to be about this size, they would go downstream. They had found out that they could go downstream perfectly alright.

Groueff: At that time they’re salt water fish?

Groves: Yes, they’re going from fresh water into salt. And then they go to sea. They go through these turbines up to about that length without injury. They’d net them and would examine them for injury and they’d find that the numbered injured was almost infinitesimal. Then they’d go to sea. Some varieties of salmon stay at sea two years and some for four. And they always return to the stream from which they exited into the sea.

Groueff: That’s one of the mysteries.

Groves: It’s one of the mysteries.

Groueff: Never being explained.

Groves: Right, never explained.

Groueff: Like the homing pigeon.

Groves: They’re starting to get some idea about the homing pigeon. They have built-in radar. In any case, it has been a great industry out there. When I was a small boy my father told me they had big fish wheels. The fish would come in there and they’d just be up the river. When they put the wheel in a strong current and it would just go right on through. It was just the reverse. They would catch the fish in there, and then the fish would be pulled out. Then they would go through with the processing.

At that time the labor was mostly Chinese. The Chinaman used to stand there and cut the fish into portions of fish into several pound cans. Of course in those days, we didn’t have the exact requirements by law that you had to have exactly sixteen ounces, but you had to do very close to it. So when they built the machine that would do that job, they called it the “Iron Chinaman.”

The fish got lesser and lesser in the Columbia. But when we were building this they were still quite plentiful. And what we were afraid of, or had to take precautions against, was that the discharge of radioactive material into the Columbia would not affect the fish.

One of the decisions made then was to establish studies on fishing. We got the University of Washington to furnish the men. They were the foremost fish group in the country. There was a man named Professor Donaldson. If you were in Seattle you could talk to him, and that would give you an interesting little sideline on the thing.

Groueff: Did you build also elevators?

Groves: No, because we had no damage, you see. Our only problem was taking the water that was used to cool the piles, discharging that into the river, whether that would have enough radioactivity to affect the fish in any way.

Groueff: And the heat also?

Groves: The heat also. The heat was so little. I wasn’t bothered about the heat. But actually when we first started the planning for Hanford, we expected to build anywhere from two to four reservoirs. The water from the cooling would be discharged into this first reservoir and would just sit there. And then it would be moved onto the next one or maybe you’d have four, each with independent entries and exits so that it could sit there and age for a while. A lot of the half life would be gone.

We went so far as to say that we would put a big earth embankment on the outside of each of these so that nobody could look at it, on the grounds that the radiation might have some effect—we didn’t know. If a lot of these possibilities were eliminated, we could eliminate the precaution.

We found that there wasn’t enough radioactivity coming out of the water to affect this. We made our discharge, for example, into the river at a point where there was a very strong flow. It’s a wide river and even when the water is down, it’s got a tremendous flow in there and it would get rapid mixing. There was never any sign of it. We also set up a fish laboratory there to study this thing. We did a lot of work with that. We never found a single sign of a deformed fish.

Groueff: But in this concern for the fish, was there any sentimental or humanitarian elements? Or was it to protect the economy?

Groves: It was to protect the economy. We would have been subjected to terrific criticism, and I think justified.

Groueff: By the local population?

Groves: By the local population if we destroyed all of the salmon in the river. And we would have scared the country to death. They would have said, “Salmon can’t live there. What can you do?” That was one of the reasons for it. Now we thought at the time that the discharge of radioactive material would mix and then it would disappear. This is something that you might get out of Donaldson, if you couldn’t get it out of Stafford Warren here in Washington.

Groueff: The doctor?

Groves: The doctor. And that is that some of this material apparently collects in pockets. It’s the same kind of a pocket that a salmon would normally deposit eggs in. But actually, there are very few salmon that get up that far today. They used to get up there just above the mouth of the Yakima River. The next river down was the Snake. It wasn’t too far from the Snake.

The Indians had a right according to their ancient treaties, which America seldom observes, to fish on that territory. One of the things that I permitted during the war was that this treaty would not be interfered with in any way. The only requirement was that if any Indians wished to fish there, they would be escorted across the reservation.

Groueff: They weren’t allowed to—

Groves: But they didn’t fish there.

Groueff: What tribe was that? Do you remember?

Groves: I imagine they were the Yakimas. I don’t recall. I would say that was a part of the thing that was done. Now there’s a medical history being written apparently of the Manhattan Project. It’s being written by the Surgeon General. That is here in Washington, not headquarters. Dr. Warren could tell you about that, whether it would be anything of interest.

Groueff: I don’t want it to be too specialized, but the Salmon story is interesting to me. The fact that in taking an enormous decision, with millions in industrial things like dams, people have to think about it. They sound like small details. I remember when I read your book that was one of the things that impressed me. You had time to think about salmon there.

Groves: Yes. Another thing about it was this: as a result of having done that, there is more known about the effects of radioactivity genetic-wise than we ever would have begun to know because this goes way back to ’42, and fish breed pretty fast.

Groueff: Yeah, several generations.

Groves: We had plenty of generations since then. That’s why if you have the chance, Donaldson might be the one to talk to.

Groueff: Yeah, I might call him.

Groves: You might call him and see what you could get. Let’s see, where else were we?

Groueff: We were at Hanford.

Groves: I think that was about it.

Groueff: Was there a population there of people who had to be expropriated?

Groves: Oh yes. There is another human angle to it. In laying out the ground, we laid it out on three bases. One we wanted full ownership on. And then there were two outside areas. And I think we said just the inside area will be government property and nobody is permitted. The next one I think we were going to have the government property and permit people to use the land, but not live there. The third they could live there. I think we only had easements.

One of the things that they made, and some people got quite humorous about, was that I said this should be done on the basis that there would be no increase in the population of any of these individual farms. They wanted to know just what I meant. I had to explain to them that I didn’t mean the normal increase, but I meant that they couldn’t set up and take in boarders.

Groueff: I see, but could have babies?

Groves: They could have babies alright. But I don’t recall the exact terminologies that we used for this. Then we did another thing. We permitted them to stay on and harvest their crops in the spring of 1943. It was done because it would have been very unwise to have had people able to go out and say that the government came in and they’re talking about saving food. They’re short of food. They’re asking us to save this and that. And then they come in and let all of these crops just rot.

So we permitted them to stay. The result of that was very disastrous because they had the best crops they’d had in years and years. In fact it was for all time. Prices were extremely high, and we paid a lot more money for the land than we would of if we’d just taken it ruthlessly. That area was short of water. The water was irrigation water. There was plenty of water coming from the Columbia. But it had to come quite a distance and there wasn’t enough land to carry the cost. So it meant that irrigation was very expensive.

But some of their crops were very profitable. They grew what are known as soft groups, cherries, plums, and apricots. Also there were quite a few turkey flocks there, maybe five or ten thousand turkeys I guess.

Groueff: But it is desert there now. I imagine it as a desert.

Groves: It has a very small rainfall. If you have water it’s like any other warm climate. I don’t know exactly what their rainfall was, but I think about four or five inches a year. It’s very sandy soil. So anything that hit there just went right on out.

It had been settled originally as a veteran’s settlement after World War I by the State of Washington. It was a place for veterans to go. I think there were twenty-five or fifty families there. I think it was twenty-five. They’d never been able to make a go of it. There were only two or three really prosperous looking places.

But the Mormons were starting to move in. And anytime the Mormons move in, they only move when it’s prosperous or it has potentials. They’re not afraid to work and all that, but they have enough advice in the church that their people don’t get caught in a place that they can’t make a living in.

The fruit crop there that year was just absolutely magnificent. In later years, those parts of the orchards that didn’t have to be cut down – I don’t think any of them did. I think they’re all out of the actual zone. The Bureau of Prisoners sent over prisoners from federal prisons to gather the fruit and to can it for use in the penitentiaries at McNeil Island in Washington.

Copyright 1965 Stephane Groueff. From the Stephane Groueff Collection, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University. Exclusive rights granted to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.