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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Phil Gardner’s Interview

Manhattan Project Locations:

Phil Gardner was in charge of labor recruitment for the Hanford site in a region comprising seven states. He discusses how he worked nonstop to hire workers from of all fields across the country for a project he was told nothing about. Gardner recalls travelling over 100,000 miles by planes, buses, trains, and cars. He worked around bureaucratic obstacles in an effort to satisfy ever-increasing quotas.

Date of Interview:
January 25, 1965
Location of the Interview:


Stephane Groueff: So, you were in charge of recruiting for Hanford or generally for DuPont?

Phil Gardner: No, I had one section of it. The country was really split up into four parts at the time I became connected with it. That was in May of 1944 – four different people were sent out to head up recruitment in different sections. One was up on the Northeastern part, one was down in the Southwest. One was in here, and one was in the Chicago Area, that is right in the East here.

Originally when they started off, as I recall, they didn’t do much recruitment around the Pacific coast area. They hired locally, but initially, as I understand it, they didn’t do much recruiting there because of the aircraft industry and whatnot that was also felt to be extremely important at that time. But, I was not heading it up. The man I reported to was a fellow by the name of H. M. Miller, Howard Miller. Howard is in International Department now, and it’s over in Geneva. So then, he would have more of the contacts that were made for the overall. I’m familiar with it as it applied to my section—

Groueff: Which one was your section?

Gardner: Well actually, I had all together seven states. Region Number Nine, that’s where I started out in the War Manpower Commission. The regional office with the regional director and his staff was located in Kansas City, Missouri. That covered Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Arkansas – four states. Then a little bit later, I picked up, in addition to this region, Region Ten which is Texas, Louisiana, and New Mexico. It covered seven states there.

For a short time, I did come in and start recruitment in New York City Proper, but that is just about the way that we worked during the war. You’d be in Kansas City tonight, leave there at 9:00 p.m. and get into New York City.

Groueff: Okay.

Gardner: Yes, well that’s the way that it was set up. I started to say that we were called upon a few times to just jump in and do something special and to go out of our region if something special were to come up. For example, if we learned that a group of people were going to be terminated at some point – whether it was a war job or whatever it might be – if they were going to be available, we would hear through channels. We would get word to Pasco. They would notify one of us that they thought that it could get to that point immediately to try to make arrangements with the War Manpower Commission to get some of those people.

Groueff: Did you work in Pasco, or you traveled a long time?

Gardner: No, we traveled. The office was set up in Pasco, Washington, the central spot of the recruitment. But then, there were – I don’t know the exact numbers, but I would say approximately 100 recruiters out on the road. There were four of us who were senior supervisors, like employment agents who had different parts of the country. Then we had people working for us.

Of course, all of this recruitment was done under the War Manpower Commission and was all arranged and tied in with the War Department and their needs. The regional offices of the War Manpower Commission – maybe I can show what those are and give you an idea of what we’re talking about here. See these were the regions of the War Manpower – and here was number nine.

Groueff: So, yours was number nine?

Gardner: I had nine and ten. Well then, as I say, for a short time I jumped over and had two in addition. When I had this, I would be in Kansas City, for example, during the day on a Thursday, go over there in a plane at 9:00 p.m. and get into New York the next morning around 7:00 a.m., go to a hotel and have a shower, change clothes, and over at the War Manpower Commission, the United States Employment Service Office that we worked through in New York. Leave again at 3:00 p.m. something, be back to Kansas City around 2:00 a.m. the difference in time, and then be at the Kansas City office on Saturday. So, Thursday Kansas City, Friday New York, and Saturday Kansas City.

Groueff: So you were traveling all of the time?

Gardner: You’d do your sleeping on the plane a lot of the times or train or whatever it might be. Yes, a lot of travel. Well there again, something that we won’t want to take the time to read. If you just glance at it, that was travel during that recruitment period. You’ll notice that they’re consecutive days sometimes in Kansas and Texas, Louisiana and so on—

Groueff: How did it work? You would arrive in the place let’s say in—

Gardner: Well, maybe I should start at the beginning and just explain the way the thing was set up.

Groueff: Explain the whole—

Gardner: It was set up, as I say, through the War Manpower Commission. Approvals to go into these various regions to recruit was obtained from the authorities in Washington who were delegated that responsibility. That would be handled by the people in Pasco, the Pasco office, Mr. Miller and Mr. Colgate and others who were assigned that responsibility. Then, in May of ’45, they sent the four of us out to different sections of the country to make contact with that head of the War Manpower Commission for that region. For example, I went to Kansas City, Missouri around the 22nd – 23rd of May of ’43.

Groueff: ’43 yeah, not ‘45.

Gardner: ‘43. If I said ’45 before, I was wrong. It was ‘43. I was to call on the head, a fellow by the name of McDonald who was head of the War Manpower Commission in that region. I arrived there, and as you sometimes do when you’re sent on a mission like that, when I got on the train, and thinking to myself a little bit, I wondered, “Just what in the world and I going to do when I arrive here?”

But, I had a bundle of papers and forms to be used in the recruitment of people and to send them out to the job, but really, I didn’t know where I was going to start to get these people, because, as you know, at the time everywhere they were crying there was a shortage of people.

I got up to the War Manpower Commission in Kansas City in the last week in May of ’43. Had a little difficulty at first getting to see the head man until fortunately, I happened to belong to this fraternity. One of the gentleman in the office recognized it, and took me around the ropes and in to see the boss. That got me off to a good start in that respect.

He immediately turned me over to the supervisors who had the responsibility for the (they called them their clearance officers) for the region, for the four states in which they were operating. A man by the name of the Webb, Paul Webb, was the man in Kansas City. I recall very definitely the first time that I sat down to talk with him, he welcomed me to Kansas City, and promised that they would give all of the assistance that they could but informed me that they were 5,000 people short in Kansas City proper, and approximately 50,000 short in their region of the requisitions for people.

He agreed, however, to let me set up an office in the United States Employment Service Office in Kansas City. I did. I went down there and was assigned a desk on the fourth floor of the building. You had to go up on the elevator. I soon learned that only rejects were getting on the elevator. The others were being siphoned off at lower levels for local jobs. We were required to report back to Pasco by telephone every night.

At the end of the day, the number of people who flow into the office, the number of people who would be coming in and the number who were referred to us for an interview, the number who were offered employment, the number who accepted, and the number who were shipped to the job – as I say, this original flow perhaps started off at thirty or forty people a day, more or less rejects coming up who wouldn’t accept other employment.

We were trying to get support from Washington to put the heat on the War Manpower Commission to get the line down to the USES offices, the United States Employment Services Office, to get more consideration to our job. We started to get information from some of the employees as to the number of people who were coming into the office during the day. It was quite amazing to find the hundreds who were coming in and the few that we were getting to see.

Soon as we revealed those figures, the word did come back alright because the employees were instructed not to give us this information. Well, we proceeded to take the girl who was keeping the calendar out to buy her a drink after dinner or after work, and got her to agree that although she had been told not to give us the information, she was using a little counter. If we cared to stop by about 4:55 p.m. just to close the day, she could conveniently have it, so that we could read the figures. She still wouldn’t be telling us anything. So, we did get the information.

Well, we worked at it the hard way for some time. Started in at the office there for two or three weeks, then I had a man come in from Pasco to take care of that office. I was in there a long time hiring some local help.

Then I went down to start the same thing in St. Louis, Missouri in their office. Then to Little Rock, Arkansas. Then, we started to bring in more recruiters. We started to branch out. The picture changed in about six months to the extent that instead of us being referred, or people being referred to us last, it reversed around to where we were the first to see people. We were absolutely given the preference.

Groueff: Who arranged that?

Gardner: Well, the head of the War Manpower Commission in Kansas City, the deputy commissioner called me on the phone one day at the hotel, you know, back at the hotel in Kansas City, and asked me if I could come over. I went over to see him, and he showed me a communication that he’d just received from Paul McNutt, I believe it was, who headed up the War Manpower Commission at this time instructing him that by orders of the commander in chief that this job had to be staffed with words something to the effect that the war might be shortened by one day for every day that we could cut on the time required to get the job going.

The commander in chief was quoted as having said that unless this job were manned, that if necessary, they would draft people from the aircraft industry to man the job. So they asked immediately, “Now, do you want us to stop Kaiser recruitment?” Kaiser was recruiting in there too, and many other companies. Well, we didn’t want them to do that, but they did give us preference. They got the word out to their local managers that they would give preference to Hanford Engineer Works Project.

By this time, we had perhaps in the neighborhood of thirty recruiters scattered over the four states employing over into Texas, Louisiana, and New Mexico. That went up a little bit higher. First, we were not doing too much recruitment in Louisiana. We did quite a bit in Texas. We never really did get down to doing anything to speak of in New Mexico at all because after I had made a trip out there and arranged for it and made a second trip, everything was set to start the recruitment.

I had a man en route to Albuquerque when I was urgently paged on a Saturday morning in Texas and advised to call this off and stop it. I pointed out that I’d already been out there and placed advertisements in papers and given publicity to the fact that our recruiter was going to be there Monday to interview the people. So, they asked me to contact the man in the War Manpower Commission in the region in Dallas. He was familiar with the reason why they didn’t want us to recruit in New Mexico.

Of course, it was because of the Los Alamos job. It had been decided that this was a little bit too close. The people going to Hanford from that point might conceivably start to put two and two together. So as a result, I got word to our man as soon as he arrived at the hotel not even to go to the office. It was cleared with the office that they made the excuses for the fact that we didn’t show.

We never did start a recruitment. But our recruiters, after we would make these arrangements with the regional office of the War Manpower Commission to cover the area that they covered, the four states for example, such as region nine, then there was a state director first. So you’d have to go to each of those states to the state head. Either that individual or someone delegated by him would give you the approval to go into a certain area in the state. But then there’d be an area director, and you had to go to the area director. When you received his clearance, then you had to go to local United States Employment Service Office. There were those, of course, in major cities across the country. There were some oh, 500 to 600 cities in which we recruited during the war for this particular job.

You went through this line. This is the job that I myself had. Three other individuals had the similar type job in different parts of the country making these arrangements for the men to go in. We would put the men in at the local level to work with the United States Employment Service Office. Of course, we would advertise for people and have them come in there. The War Manpower Commission required that these people be obtained through the United States Employment Service office. Generally, they were.

There were exceptions because there were some places where the unions just refused to send their men through the United States Employment Service Office. At some point, the Employment Service recognized this. Rather than to have trouble with the unions, they would send one of their personnel to the union hall, so as the get referrals, and so that they would get credit. Actually, I think that they knew that the unions would do this anyway and send the people out. They might just as well have a man present to get the record, so that they would get credit in their office for supplying the personnel for this particular job.

Groueff: One thing that’s not very clear to me: when you were doing that, how much did you know about the job? Or were you just looking for some kind of special list of the positions, etc. without knowing that?

Gardner: Well, these are not restricted. They came out over Western Union to us. Incidentally, we couldn’t give you much information that would be restricted because we didn’t have it. As far as employment force is concerned, we received our orders weekly, sometimes more frequently, but usually weekly of the openings that existed. We never did get a total. Each week this would be supplemented, but we never did get the information of how many iron workers, how many of this, and how many of that total were needed. Of course, we had an idea from what the wires – here’s Western Union.

Groueff: Western Union telegram.

Gardner: Here’s a Western-Union telegram in September. This was just a new method of handling what was just advance money. October 17th, our forecast the following week is as follows: carpenters, 200; labor, 600; millwrights, 50; crane oilers—must be fairly experienced in oil cranes—25; truck drivers 25; first-class drivers for dump two to five yards, 10 of those; 35 auto mechanics; 30 survey instrument men, and so on. The list goes on and on.

Groueff: The Pasco office sent you this wire?

Gardner: Yes. Mr. Miller’s office, the Pasco office heading up the recruitment, sent this wire out to each one of us. In turn, I would take this wire, go back in to Western Union and give them a list of my recruiters and their addresses. They would send the same wire then to each one of them to acquaint them with what the openings were for the current week.

This same report in addition to these others were: 67 typists, 74 junior clerks, 101 survey rodman, 25 comptometer operators, 18 telephone operators, 3 physicians, 16 nurses, 207 patrolmen, 142 protection fireman. Carpenters and laborers continue to be needed particularly critical points and nurses typing and so on. We’d get this sort of a wire. Well this would bury—

Groueff: Is that for one week?

Gardner: Yes this was for the week.

Groueff: How could you find all of those people in one week?

Gardner: This was your job. It sounds ridiculous.

Groueff: Yes, it sounds impossible.

Gardner: Remember that as I mentioned before that this didn’t necessarily mean that all of these people are going to be hired in this week. The next wire that would come out, might be asking for another 200 protection people for example. Well, maybe we had only 100 the week before. Maybe we’d hired the 200 and they still need more because actually, as I recall, we had something in excess of 2,000 patrolmen on the job, protection.

Well, to give you an idea on that, I told you that when I arrived in Kansas City, in this region nine, these four states—forgetting the other three states for a minute—the individual told me that we were scraping the bottom of the barrel. There was nothing available. In eleven months, we had shipped approximately 15,000 people out of those four states.

Groueff: Fifteen?

Gardner: Fifteen thousand, over fifteen thousand out of those four states. They were there. Our recruiters often remarked about this that we’d go into a little town, for example, in Arkansas. One of these very small towns; you’d just see a few buildings around and what not. You would be interviewing at the courthouse and you would advertise before that you were going to be there on Thursday at 1:00pm or 2:00pm whatever, and there’d be people there to be interviewed. These were the towns that were too small to have an office.

They allowed us to use the courthouse or some other public facility. This was a government job and they recognized the need. You would hire twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five people. You’d think, “Well, I’ve got everyone who lives in the town,” but you’d go back in that same town maybe a month later, you take another thirty-five or forty. It was like going to a well; somehow they’d come back in. Now, some of those people came back from their own job perhaps and were rehired. But, they were floating around all of the time during the war.

Groueff: So during the war, a lot of people were with Armed Services. A lot of people were working for the industry. Wasn’t there a big shortage of manpower?

Gardner: Oh, yes. There was a big shortage. You see, we were hiring a lot of these people—we were taking their word for it that they were mechanics. The truth of the matter was that some of the men who were sent out there as carpenters—well, I recall one day in Kansas City, Colonel Matthias, who was a commanding officer on the job, and Gil Church, who was the project manager, were out visiting me and calling on the War Manpower Commission to impress on them the importance of this job.

Gil told them what DuPont was offering in the line of facilities for the man when he arrived at the project, and as much as he could of what they were attempting to do. The colonel gave them just as much information that he could give them as to the urgency of the job from a War Department standpoint.

Well, we got back to the hotel, the Colonel asked me if it were true that our recruiters would hire a man as a carpenter if he could identify a hammer. We said, “Well no. We’re not quite that tough. If he could convince us that his father would have known what the tool was, well we’d probably just take him.”

To a certain extent, and as ridiculous as it sounds, it was hands that you needed. If a man said that he was a carpenter, you had no time to check. We couldn’t give them physical examinations on the road.

This is one reason. It accounted for a lot of our rejects, which were not too terrifically high when you consider that they went all the way across country to go to work. The only time that we’d have anyone examined would be if the individual insisted he wanted to go to work and you had reason to suspect that he was not physically fit to even make the trip out to Pasco. Then you would arrange—if you could—with the doctors, but of course doctors were so in demand at that time that it was impossible to get them.

I recall calling on a doctor who was in with a brother and somebody else in a clinic in Kansas City. I was trying to arrange for us to refer people down there for quick medical exams before our recruiters would see them. We had lunch together and he explained that they were so busy that it’d just be next to impossible. He’d have to cut out a lot of his regular patients. He was very frank to say, “For what? I’m at the point where the government’s taken it all away from me anyway with taxes now. I’ve reached that point. Why should I forget all of my full-time patients here and start to do this job? Then when you fellows get out of the picture, I’ve lost a lot of my business and I’ve really suffered.”

But, he did agree and did do for us any who we were suspicious of. There were very few, but then again, we jokingly used to say that we had two men in the office. Each one would look in one ear, and if we couldn’t see each other, we’d take the guy.

The men, you’d be surprised where they did find them. We would of course, learn of jobs. Now some of these people perhaps were working in Memphis or some other place from up in the upper part of Arkansas. Perhaps they’d been laid off from some job or quit for some reason, then sorry they’d quit and needed to go back to work for a while. Some had been out on the Alcan Highway and made a lot of money, but when they got home, it didn’t last very long. As soon as the money was gone, they wanted to be shipped out to a job again.

Groueff: Your recruiters had to follow all of the time, these movements.

Gardner: Well, we were supposed to be in touch with the War Manpower Commission, but we couldn’t rely 100% on that because they didn’t always have the information. But various sources would get information. For example, I’ve made arrangements to open up recruitment in Little Rock, Arkansas. I went to Little Rock with a supervisor of the War Manpower Commission from Kansas City. We picked up another supervisor there.

We started on a week’s tour through Arkansas, Jonesboro and Newport and other places. Our itinerary was all worked out. This one supervisor was driving his car – the one from down in Arkansas. The second day out, we were at Jonesboro, Arkansas, and I had interviewed and hired some thirty or forty men. What I would have to do would be to sign those men up, go to the railroad station, and pick up tickets for them to Pasco, Washington, which we would buy on an order and charged against the job. We would give them the ticket, transportation out, then we would give them in cash, but not until they were down at the depot, a sufficient amount of money to eat while en route, because the majority of them didn’t have anything.

This varied from $3 to $10 or $12 depending up on how far they had to travel. As a result, it was pretty rough on a lot of our recruiters because many of them had to carry $1,000 or more in their pocket, train leaving at 1:00 a.m. or 2:00 a.m. from some little town in Arkansas or someplace. You’d have to be at the depot and pass out cash.

Well, it was known that you were doing this, so as a result, we had our recruiters advise the railroad police and the local police authorities what we were doing and asked for as much protection as possible because the money at this point was not insured because until such time, we couldn’t get insurance for them carrying this at that point.

Of course, as far as us being reimbursed by it, why it was not government funds until it was paid to the employee. It hadn’t been paid to him yet. We were just advancing this money because this was an advance that the employee would sign an authorization for deduction slip, and we’d give him this. The same as with this transportation. Then, over a period of weeks after he arrived on the job, a little bit at a time, they would take this out.

Later, in order to encourage people to come, they changed that setup to the point that if the man stayed—and I don’t recall exact time now, but something like two months on the job—then he would be given his transportation out of it. Any money that had been deducted would be returned to him. If he stayed so much longer on the job, six or eight months or whatever it was, then his transportation back to the point of hire would be paid. This was to induce them, try to get them to stay on the job.

But recruiters, in order to do this, it was necessary that they be traveling by bus, by rail, by air and be at the points needed, all the small towns in the different states that the War Manpower Commission people felt that we should cover. Incidentally, we had to be pretty careful because some of their supervisors were quite jealous of their authority. If you didn’t go where they wanted you to go, they would recommend that they stop your recruitment in this area.

Little things. Down in Texas, we were stopped one time because one of our recruiters cussed one of the men in the office who was bothering him late in the afternoon at 4:00 p.m. or so for a report, so that he could advise the state office in Austin how many people that had been hired that day. The fellow was practically saying, “Well, get out of my way and let me finish this job, and I’ll give you the figure later.” But, the supervisor had instructions to get his word over to us and by such and such a time. Finally the recruiter called him a fancy little name and told him to get out of his hair.

The result was a call to Pasco immediately from the head office. Pasco called me in Kansas City. I had just arrived from Dallas, Texas. I got off of the plane, got to the hotel. There was a call there for me to call the operator in Pasco. I called, and they said, “You’ll have to go to Texas right away.” I said, “My God! I just get off of the plane.” I just came in from Texas. Got to go back right away.

“We have your priority to fly back, pick up a man in Dallas, take him down to Houston, and relieve that man. We’ve got to get him out of Texas right away or stop further recruitment.”

So, I got down there, and I tried to arrange to take the man from Dallas, put him in Houston, and to bring the man from Houston up to Dallas. No. This guy could not stay in Texas, or we had to get out—one or the other. So, I quickly had to arrange with my counterpart over in the Chicago area to trade man for man. I sent the bad boy over to Chicago and took the other fellow down in his place.

This is just the way that we had to operate. You had to do these things. You couldn’t fool around. You had to get the people. This job required just about seven days work all of the time because we were operating six days. But then, we were traveling so much that you usually had to make your transfer from whatever point, whether it was a recruiter in one town to another, or a supervisor getting one place to another, that your traveling would be over the weekend to get there. You’d organize to go home Monday morning.

There were a lot of little interesting things that happened in connection with it. For example, one thing in which you might be interested down in Arkansas at one point is where they were unable to get the courthouse, and we knew that there were going to be forty or fifty people available to be interviewed. The arrangements were just made like this for the mortuary. They interviewed and hired the men in the funeral parlor at night. But, this is what you had to do.

You had to do whatever you could do to get the job done. I mentioned this trip through Arkansas with these supervisors. It was the second day out and was at Jonesboro, Arkansas. Right in the middle, just loaded down with work of these people I’d hired, I’d just gone to the depot and picked up the tickets and still had to give them their cash to travel with.

One of the clerks came in and said that there was a long-distance call for me and wanted me on the telephone. I got on the telephone. They said, “We have a priority for you on a plane out of Memphis at 9:00 p.m. for Des Moines, Iowa. We want you to be in Ottumwa, Iowa tomorrow morning,” because there was a big job over there that they had been tipped off by the War Department or by some branch of the service. “We’re going to be terminating people the next day.”

They want me to get in there and to arrange to interview these people when they were terminated. Well, I said “I don’t know how in the world I’m going to get to Memphis, but that I’d have to find out.” Well, I inquired. There are no trains to Memphis. There are no planes to Jonesboro, Arkansas. I tried to hire someone to drive me – gasoline rationing and no one would use their gasoline, the supervisor of the War Manpower Commission, he had had gas of the specific purpose of taking me around there. He wouldn’t take it and take me to Memphis.

I went down to inquire. I had heard that on the Frisco line there was a train that I could get that night out. I went over and talked to one of these flagman up in the tower. He looked up his old books and he made a couple of phone calls and he advised me that I could get a train out of Jonesboro at somewhere around 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. That would get me in to Kansas City in the morning. Then, I could go from Kansas City and get some directions. It sounded very confusing, but this is all of the information that I could get.

I get on the train, no ticket. I was sitting in the club car when the conductor came in, and when I told him I was going to Des Moines, Iowa – Ottumwa, specifically, I wanted to get to—he said, “Well, gee. You can do much better than this.”

He said, “You should be on the Missouri Pacific.” He said, “We cross their line down there about 10 miles down at Hoxie, Arkansas, Hoxie Junction. What you better do—I’ll just take a fare to Hoxie, and you get off there, and you’ll get a Southern-Pacific train into St. Louis. You catch the Burlington Zephyr in the morning, it’ll take you right up through Iowa.”

So I did. Well, I got off at this little town, and along around 11:00 p.m., the train was going through at 1:00 a.m. There were a few people hanging around on the platform. There were always uniformed people around. While I was sitting there, along midnight or so, an individual came into the station, and came over to me and wanted to know if my name was Gardner, and if I was connected with the DuPont and this war job out West. I said, “Yes.”

He said, well, he missed me that afternoon over at Jonesboro. They told him that they thought that I was at the station. So, he had driven over to this Hoxie place. How he ever knew that I was there unless somebody just guessed that I’d be going out in Hoxie to go to St. Louis, but he wanted to go. So, I got out my briefcase and hired him. Well as I say, we were required to send in a report everyday of the location, of the number of people interviewed, the number of people hired, and the number of people shipped.

So, just for the devilment of it, I went right to the wicket and sent a wire to the job. I wired them at Hoxie, Arkansas. One interviewed, one hired, and one shipped. All during the job, and I go out there in the main office, they had a map of the United States with pins in. That’s for where recruitment had taken place, a number of people with different colored pins indicating the number of people hired or stringers coming down. This one little pin was in there all of the time on that map, one person hired there.

Now I mentioned that to get around and travel it was necessary there, and I myself there during that eleven-month period, traveled about 100,000 miles. I think that it was around 80,000 air and the balance either by rail or by bus. We had priorities for flying. We had a class-three priority. We were in pretty good shape on that. The only thing that would bump us off would be the Ferry Command occasionally, if the plane was loaded with Ferry Command, which I understand was a priority too. Then, we wouldn’t be able to get on, but generally we could fly alright.

There were no priorities whatever for rail. You just had to take what you could get. We were moving so fast that there was none of this business of being able to make a reservation today and to get Sunday someplace, you didn’t know where you we ere going to go; Saturday you didn’t know where you were going to go Sunday. So, we just made a practice of all always buying a first-class ticket, getting on the Pullman part of the train. I was fortunate. I never stayed up one night.

This morning at Arkansas, when I got on the train at 1:00 a.m., I talked to an officer standing on the platform. He told me that three trains had been through there during the day, and they’d not been able to take all of the passengers around the platform. The trains were loaded. When the train pulled in, I went to get on the Pullman car. The Pullman conductor stepped down and said, “Standing room only.” This is 1:00 a.m. in the Pullman. Actually, when we get on despite the fact that the sign says that you cannot stand in the vestibule, we had to stand in the vestibule.

There’s not room inside, and he told us that we’d have to stay there. The conductor passed and heard me bargaining away a bottle of whiskey for the lower berth. The guy said that he’d give him anything for a bottle of whiskey, and I said, “Well have you got a berth?” He offered to trade the lower berth. The conductor heard me and motioned me not to take it, and then came back and told me that he had one berth and gave it to me.

I was fortunate to always get by in that respect. You just had to find your way to get there.

Groueff: Improvise.

Gardner: That’s right. In Little Rock, Arkansas one day, I had to get to the station with my baggage. I could’ve walked except for the weight of the baggage. From the Albert Pike Hotel, you could not get a cab and couldn’t get anyone to drive you because of this gasoline ration. Finally a laundry man drove up delivering laundry. I offered him a couple of dollars to take me down to the station. He did. I had to get in the back with the laundry. But he drove me down to the station. I had to get that train because I had a priority on a plane out of Memphis in the afternoon on Southern Airlines and I had to get up in order to make that connection. But, this is just a sample of what had to be done to do the job.

Now this went on pretty much all over the country. As I say, there are a lot of interesting things that happened. As I told Bob the other day, a lot of them would never do because when we put in the book form – I’m sure of that. It would be interesting reading I’m sure, but it might not be understood. But, that is some of the things that you’d have to do to really get the job done, because sometimes it’s almost next to impossible.

Another chap was taking over my territory early in ’44 when I was going out to Pasco. We had an appointment with people in the War Manpower Commission in Oklahoma City to arrange to start recruitment in Oklahoma. We were there to fly out around 6:00 a.m. or 7:00 a.m. in the morning. An hour or two before, the airlines called and said that we have been bumped because that plane was leaving Omaha or Chicago rather loaded with Ferry Command. They’ll not be able to take on any passengers. I called the priority board. Of course, I knew the fellow by name, and talked to him over the phone so many times.

He explained the situation, and he said, “Why now, you told me that the reason that you wanted this priority to go out in the first place is that you had to go back in Kansas City tonight because you’re going to Little Rock, Arkansas by train.”

I said, “That’s right, but I’ve got to come back to Kansas City first.”

He said, “There’s no need of me giving you priority on the next plane because there’s only forty-five minutes to an hour between the time that arrives at Oklahoma City, and the time a plane will come east that you have to come back on. You can’t get in the city.”

I said, “Well that’s alright. We arranged for the War Manpower Commission people to come out to the airport. We’ll see them out at the airport.”

Well he said, “I guess if you can get them to do that, we’ll give you a priority.” That’s what we did. Everything worked out fine except that we flew out there, and at about 2:00 p.m. I awakened. I’d been asleep. Everything was quiet, and everyone’s sleeping. I said to the stewardess, “Are we getting pretty close to Oklahoma City?”

She said, “We’ve been over Oklahoma City and circling there, but low ground fog, and they were unable to land. We’re now on our way back to Wichita.” She said that the captain was informed that he could go back to Wichita, or proceed to Dallas. He elected to go back to Wichita and get more fuel. Well of course, we had to get off at Wichita and get a train back into Kansas City.

We’d been gone all day and been nowhere just riding around when we went into the ticket office in Kansas City to get a refund, The girl said, “You don’t know how fortunate you were because had the captain elected to go to Dallas, anything could’ve happened because Dallas was closed.” That plane actually finally set down at Amarillo, Texas, which is way out in the western parts. Well then, I call these people out there, and of course they had known that the plane had been overhead and been unable to land.

Then, it developed that they were going to be in Fort Smith, Arkansas the following morning, and we were going to be going through Fort Smith around 5:30 a.m. on a train on our way to Little Rock. So, we agreed that you come out to the station, and we’ll have fifteen minutes to get together. That was to introduce this man who was taking my place to them, and to make arrangements to start recruitment in Oklahoma. But this is just the way that you went. You just did whatever was necessary to get the job done at the time.

Groueff: What did you tell the workmen? In other words, how could you entice them to take the job and to go to this rather desert place rather than stay in the big cities?

Gardner: I’m not positive now whether my memory serves me right or not, but I believe that we were paying $1/hour for common labor. A dollar an hour at that time for common labor was good money. In fact, the man who was head of the War Manpower Commission down in Arkansas said, “For Lord’s sake, don’t put out any posters saying that you’re paying $1/hour up in these little towns in Arkansas, or you’ll get the mayor and everyone else.

Groueff: What was the standard pay, $0.75/hour?

Gardner: No. Down there it was considerably less. Down there common labor in Arkansas was probably just getting $0.25/hour – $0.35/hour at that time.

Groueff: An hour?

Gardner: Oh, yes. That was back in the Early ’40s.

Groueff: You paid $1/hour?

Gardner: We were paying $1/hour. Now this was not all that was attracting them. Particularly the mechanics because they were getting to work in their craft. Undoubtedly a lot of people went to get a ticket and ride all the way across to the state of Washington. Because of course the turnover was pretty high, and yet not as bad as on many other jobs. There were undoubtedly exceptions for some of the people, but the instructions were given to our recruiters.

Those of us who have been with the company any length of time, we never mentioned the DuPont industrial relation plans in practice because as far as we knew the employer would not even be with us for a year, and we would not benefit by any of these things. So we made no promises. We told him very frankly that if we were to go out there, he’d have to leave his family in the East. There was no place for his family. He would have to live in a barracks. We told him that there was sand out there, sand blowing around, and what the conditions were.

Now, for a construction job with the theater on the projects and stores and everything like this, there were a lot of those facilities that were not available at another place, and yet they’re a long way from nowhere on the desert, but we painted the picture about as black as we could really to try to get the men. As I say, there were perhaps some exceptions. Some people who were more anxious just to get numbers than to get somebody who might stay on the job.

Actually, it surprised me we didn’t have too much. This was common practice then. Kaiser was hiring for the West Coast. We were hiring. There were any number of other companies hiring. People were being shipped all over the country to fill these war jobs. It was not too surprising to those people that this was the nature of the job.

Groueff: They had no idea what was being made in Hanford?

Gardner: We couldn’t tell them. None of us knew.

Groueff: You didn’t know either?

Gardner: No, not the slightest idea.

Groueff: What did you think personally was going on there?

Gardner: I didn’t really know. I didn’t have any idea, and I didn’t really give much thought to it. I never did give much thought. In the first place, you would hear a lot of speculation when you were back East. Sometimes in those down southern parts of the country, down in some of the southern states, speculation as to what might be going on out there, but no one knew at the job site.

One reason, we didn’t talk about it much – if you started asking questions, immediately somebody was going to be checking on you to determine whether or not you were there for some other reason than what you professed to be there for, and you might end up being moved off of the job, but that’s from a security standpoint. There was no discussion of it there. I never once heard anything more than one time.

When I was down in Houston, Texas, one of the supervisors in the Office of the Head of the Petroleum Industry for War – I was with a captain from the Seventh Army Command in Dallas. We were going to see one of the jobs that were contemplating laying some people off in the near future in the Texas oil setup down there around Texas City.

While waiting, this one man, a pastor, remarked to me that we certainly wished that they would get this job completed out there, because he thought that once they were able to release—what he thought that it was going to be was a fire bomb of some kind. Well, you see, they had started to use those things already, those gel bombs or whatever they were. The only thing that you couldn’t help but feel in your own mind when you would be out on a project and get around there, was that they were certainly not going to make Shredded Wheat by the way that the thing was being built. You didn’t ask questions.

Groueff: But you knew that it was something very important, but you didn’t know the nature?

Gardner: You knew that it was very important. You didn’t know the nature. You knew that you had recruited people. You and others like you had recruited people from all over the country, because a little bit later they did open up a Pacific Coast recruitment too. We had recruitments down in Los Angeles and other places.

Later on, when I left the recruitment and went out to the job, I was down there for three months or so. I was an assistant service representative on the job. We often would remark about it when we were driving out of there at night, how amazing it was to see this city going up, this city of buildings.

They were all constructed in buildings, of course, with what we said. In addition to a lot of very capable people with a lot of skill and brains, there was a large percentage of just riff raff, just the scum of the earth, those winos from California. Almost everything was showing up on the job.

Some of them actually would never get to the job, but they would get into a barracks, and then you’d have to find them in there two weeks later to find out that they were there alright. They were just eating on the meal ticket and sleeping. When you’d catch up with them, it was the case of either go to work immediately or get off of the job immediately. You’d have to put a lot of them off because they had no intention of going to work. They were just floaters. But the job was done.

Groueff: What was the most difficult trade? What specialists were most difficult to recruit and scarcest? Electricians or engineers?

Gardner: Well, I don’t know. I think that from my own experience perhaps—w e didn’t need too many, but we were always after them or doctors. The engineering came into a special recruitment program. I came back later on the special engineering program because we didn’t tie this in, although we hired them. When they would come in, we’d pass on the word.

Groueff: Technicians and mechanics?

Gardner: Actually, I don’t know which one you’d put your finger on and say that it was harder to get than any other, because they were all difficult. Labor was hard to get. There was a lot of it, but you were using a lot of it, carpenters, laborers, pipe fitters, and that sort of thing. Now, when you get into some of these machine operators, I read there a little while ago something about the critical need of some of these typists from comptometer operators, nurses, and this area.

Groueff: So, that was difficult to them?

Gardner: Yes, they were difficult, but still we got them.

Groueff: Did you have big problems with labor unions?

Gardner: No, we didn’t have too much of a problem with the labor unions because we played ball with them. In other words, one of the first things that we did all the time that I was on this job – I don’t think that a week went by – but what I was calling on the head of the labor unions, Kansas City, Kansas, and many of the other unions. Now some I didn’t call on as frequently. They were not the type that you could. You just had to get along the best way that you could with them.

Others, you could really keep a good relationship with them. They would call you when there were going to be some people available that they’d better get a man over, and arrange to get a man from the unemployment service over. You could work very well with them. This was because the men were being paid to union scale, or better than what they were getting in the area that they were in. As long as they were being offered that or more, they were not complaining.

And then too, it was a different setup because it was the war. It was a war effort, and you were not getting into a lot of trouble. Now, you had to be careful as to sit and play ball with these folks, because they could cut you off just like this if they wanted to. But all-in-all, I think that we got along exceptionally well with them. Exceptionally well!

Groueff: You say that families were not brought to Hanford?

Gardner: Well in some cases families were where the husband and wife – for example, if a wife were a nurse, or if a wife were a secretary and went in to do that work. But, if that was the case, the woman would have to live in the female barracks and the man in the other, unless they were in supervision at a level that permitted them to have housing in the Richmond area, which of course was limited.

I had my family out there. When we moved out, we lived in Richland, which was a town adjacent to the job. Generally speaking we had to tell people that they could not take your wives. Some now, let me say this. There were quite a large number who lived in trailers on the project. They of course where they had their own housing on them it was up to them if they wanted to bring them [their wives]. They did. A lot of them did.

Groueff: The restriction was only because of the housing problem?

Gardner: That’s right. It was the housing problem. Now, we ran into that same problem with respect to Puerto Ricans or with anyone else going out to the job. For example, one time I was in here. I came in to open up a recruitment in New York City. I left a couple of men up there and came down here just to visit the people over the weekend.

While I was down there on a Saturday, I received a call from my man in New York. The manager had just come to in to tell them that a boatload of Puerto Ricans had just arrived in New York. They wanted us to have them shipped out by the first of the week to get them out and out to the job. They said that there were laborers or auto mechanics and so on.

We were not in a position to handle them immediately because we didn’t have the housing facilities. We wouldn’t have time to really check these people out really carefully. They just arrived in Puerto Rico, but we were able to convince the War Manpower Commission, which we had to do in a very diplomatic manner because if we refused to take people who we had on order in their office, they’d cancel the recruitment just like this, so that we just had to convince them that as much as we’d like to have these people, we did not have the facilities to handle them immediately. New York wanted to get them off of their hands if they could. In this case, we missed it.

Later on we started a special recruitment of Latin Americans. The man who was heading that up was a fellow by the name Colgate, now deceased. He and I went to Texas with a group on a special recruitment and worked it out with the authorities there that it’s the War Manpower Commission. At that time, we had the military intelligence people along with us – a Captain Mountjoy and his staff were along because we had to check these people before we would send them to the job.

We had quite a battle with Texas. They didn’t want us to delay at all. They wanted us to hire these people and ship them immediately. We finally reached an agreement with them that we would delay shipping for approximately six days. Well actually, we reached the point where we were getting answers back in about forty-eight hours from a security standpoint. In order to accomplish this, military intelligence sent their man in the employment office with us. If I interviewed a man and I was interested in offering him a job, I would refer him over to you, military intelligence. You would get the information that you required. We would tell the man that we would advise him.

This list of people and fingerprints—they’d fingerprint them—would be sent via courier to Washington every night that a courier was going in. They were checking these through FBI files and what not, and would give us a report back within forty-eight hours if the man was okay from a security standpoint or not. We would arrange to ship him to the job. However, this program fizzled out. We didn’t get anywhere near the number that we anticipated. It was a flop. We spent a month or two on the program and didn’t get anything there to speak.

An interesting thing there is that this Colgate and I were going down through San Antonio and other places in Texas making arrangements of this, we had them announcing the job openings for these Latin Americans in all of the schools. We had ads in the papers. We just went through all of the different organizations that they were affiliated with including the churches. The priests in several of the churches were announcing at service that these job offerings existed at Hanford and where they could see our man.

In fact, one of our men that was traveling with the Wilmington office and not connected with the war work happened to be in San Antonio or El Paso. I’m not sure which one he was at the time, but I think that it was San Antonio. He came back into Wilmington, and he was telling them how amazed that he was when he went to mass—

Groueff: They are recruiting people.

Gardner: Recruiting people for DuPont and Hanford Engineer Works. That thing didn’t work out too well.

Copyright 1965 Stephane Groueff. This transcript may not be quoted, reproduced, or redistributed in whole or in part by any means except with the written permission of Richard Rhodes. Exclusive rights granted to Atomic Heritage Foundation.