Greg Greger Oral History

Dublin Core


Greg Greger Oral History


Hanford Atomic Products Operation


An interview with Greg Greger as part of the Beverlin Summer Institute for Teachers held at the Richland Community Center.


Beverlin Summer Institute for Teachers


Hanford History Project at Washington State University Tri-Cities




Those interested in reproducing part or all of this oral history should contact the Hanford History Project at






RG1D_4A / T.2010.052.008

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Renee Gackle


Greg Greger


Richland Community Center



LENGTH: 25.20

RENEE: Hi! We’ll open it up with a couple of questions in the beginning, and then we will open it up with you. If you have any particular question raise your hand or we will keep going.

GREG: One comment, we are competing with them. Please (inaudible-I think it is “please keep in mind I have a) hearing aid.

RENEE: Thank you. Some of the questions that they have given to me from just this sheet here, (inaudible- and get some juicy tidbits about you) and then get these people to talk to you. It says, “You were selected for an Army Special Training Program? Is that right? Will you tell us about that? I do not know anything about that. (Renee points to the audience and asks, “Do you?”.

GREG: The Army and I were into the war and really realized they needed technical trained people; really to protect themselves. So they felt (inaudible). We had to take very hard technical tests and I was fortunate enough to pass these tests. We were actually sent to (inaudible) experience this kind of. (The next 10 or more sentences or paragraph is very inaudible.) (Cameraman was being very noisy…talking making response inaudible. There was loud laughing in background. )

UNKNOWN: Renee, Renee, I can interrupt you as an old friend; you are going to have to speak up. Okay?

RENEE: (She asks a question but it is inaudible. Cameraman is speaking and can not hear question.)

GREG: At that time my brother had been drafted in the military (inaudible- possibly he had owned a flight or light plane) as a flyer. He is a flyer. (Very noisy filming sounds from camera inaudible.) Something about the 13th Airborne (inaudible) and then they decided “What we really need in the Army is the infantry - the infantry.

RENEE: (She asks a question but there is so much noise it is inaudible. The Cameraman is walking in and out of frame. The Cameraman is making a lot of noise with the camera; clacking and clinging.)

GREG: (He answers but it is inaudible because of much banging and clanging of the camera.)

RENEE: I don’t know a whole lot about that. (Many more sentences are inaudible.) Where and when (inaudible)?

GREG: When the ASTP was spent we were sent to various infantry divisions in the state for training; I was sent to the One hundred and third in farming conditions; which was in Haleyville, Texas, and this was a shock (inaudible-they got you a rifle) and had milk (inaudible) and all of a sudden we were an infantry. It was very serious, really serious. What this government would do is training young Private PFCs and then they would be sent away as replacement in Europe. Anyway that must have been “42” or “43” the whole division was sent to Camp Shags’; then aboard a transport luxury liner; “The Monticello” made to carry about a thousand people in peacetime. Thirteen thousand of us were shipped and we landed at Marseilles, France. (Next line is inaudible.) The frontlines were up and beyond that, so we were trucked into where the combat was. We relieved the 45th Division.

RENEE: I can tell that (inaudible). What were you thinking about (inaudible) was it a scary thing or…?

GREG: Well not at that point; I had some scary times of course; of course everybody does the first time, and a lot of fray point’s things that you are not used to. All in all, I was very fortunate.

RENEE: Did you actually participate in combat or…?

GREG: I belonged to “K” Company; we called ourselves “The K Company Commandos”, and we ended up with the most decorative company in the Regiment. As in most things, you have your worst day; the first day you know oh so little, and after that things get better.

RENEE: Does anyone else have a question that you might want..?

UNKNOWN: Did you see a lot of action?

GREG: Oh yes!


GREG: Actually the German Army was pretty battered-up and it is funny the attitudes; the first prisoner we took, he was sat down with four people guarded him. Two months later we got used to things and things had changed. I have seen where whole companies or regiments were surrendering and we would just wave them back to the rear. We made sure they had no weapons. Sent them back and let the rear people take care of them. So things could change. It was certainly not the first line German Army such as it was in North Africa that we were up against. We ended up; we made quite a dent into Germany; we were past the national line the fifty-third; then in December when the break through, in the north, of “The Battle of the Bulge” we were rushed back to be in a holding position, but we were not actually in it, but we were close enough to see the artillery to the north. We were there over Christmas; then we pulled back and had to retake some of the area we had already taken.

RENEE: So about approximately how much time did you actually spend in the…when you were an Officer?

GREG: Three years.

RENEE: Three years.

GREG: I got out before most of my company that was interesting. When the War was over we were in occupational territory; this was pretty comfortable there were really not many duties and you were looking for things to pass your time. I was surprised, when my military service number was called-up to be; leave the company, go to the States for a furlough, and then go to Japan. There were others that joined me, but I was the only one from my company. Well the idea of a 40 day furlough sounded like it would be worthwhile. I never thought it would happen. I got to the shipping point in France, on the coast, when I came down one morning the Sergeant there in charge said “The news (inaudible) is the Bomb has been dropped.” That of course, would be, of course he used the word “Atomic Bomb”. I had enough physics to know that something new and complicated that I really didn’t know the details of. We went ahead, our group shipped out, although, we heard that we were the last ship that left. While we were in route to New York the second bombs dropped, and the war was over. So, instead of going to Japan we ended up in the States early and the war is over; so in a couple of months I go out. I then used the G.I. Bill to get a Degree from the University of Nebraska. I appreciate particularly well that is another story.

RENEE: So what did you do to have fun? You said that “You were passing the time in periods like this”.

GREG: Well you know it was a time of non-fractionation; you could not even talk to them a German. That relaxed and most towns had swimming pools; guys got up baseball games; you could go up and explore the countryside. Actually we ended up in Innsbrook which was a great place in the Alp Mountains. You could take a trolley from the end of the street, Main Street, right up to the resort. The resort had been reserved for us; so there was skiing there in June and July; because it was such an altitude gain. That is the one place in Europe I wouldn’t mind seeing again; the Innsbrook area.

RENEE: Can you think of how many countries that you actually visited; when you were stationed at?

GREG: France started in France into Germany and Austria. I might mention that what I have always enjoyed; is an unusual experience; the day we were told the War was over everything pretty much stopped. I had gotten the reputation of being a knowledgeable of photography, 35mm photography. I had taken my own camera with me; I had actually taken more than a thousand shot of various types of action. A man from another company knew I had some background in this; he came over with a jeep, we were doing nothing but waiting he said, “How about going with me to that town we just passed, a bigger town? We just went through the town. Nothing happened we just kept going. He said, “I would really like to get a missing part of my camera.” He had a Leica camera; which was a very good camera; it had no take up spool, and until he had it he really could not use it. (Inaudible there was too much laughing.) We went back to this town, that was an interesting experience, there were no troops in the town; American Troops; you would drive down the street, and look down the side streets you would occasionally see a German uniform, but they were trying to get out of sight. We could not find a camera shop, and finally we saw one building and he said, “Let’s try that one.” The reason he said that is sometimes when we would go through a town they would ask that all the guns would be collected at one place; often the County Seat or something like this. Anyhow, we knocked on this door of this rather elaborate building; well we went in to the main door and then went down this corridor; we heard voices in one room, so we knocked on the door and it was all of a sudden silent. Then we could hear somebody walking to the door, and it was opened and here was this long table with very dignified looking elderly people, in it, sitting on both sides. At the end was obliviously the Burger Meister; he had on a special uniform, with a big ban across show his prestige. We all stared at each other and he spoke to the woman, and she said, in English, in broken English, “Are you the people from your country, who have come to help us form our new government?” I was thinking “Wow! What have we got into?” before I could figure out a politically smart thing to say. My buddy said, “Do you know where I can get a piece for my camera?” She then more or less said to them, “They can’t help us.” She shut the door and we were out. I could image what she was saying, “Oh, their just souvenir hunters.” That was my big moment and I missed it.

RENEE: How did you get from (inaudible dropped the bomb) how did you get back to here? In the Richland area and get involved…with?

GREG: Well at the University of Nebraska; one of my good friends was an engineer and he ended up working at Hanford, like in the notes. So after I got my Degree and tried some professional photography work. I made the mistake of not being smart enough to examine a town before we committed ourselves there for awhile. We did this in a town in Colorado; Walsenburg, Colorado. Taking over a studio that someone else had started. Well we were not smart enough to recognize it was a mining town and only about half of the miners were working normally; so after a year we decided this is not where we want to spend out lives. We pulled our stakes and I drove out to Hanford here by myself. I checked in with my friend; who was working in radiation monitoring. He said “I know your background is in photography, but they are hiring monitors.” So I checked in and gave them my background. I had a funny thing happen to me there; they said, “When they were examining my photography credentials; you are over qualified for the one photography job we got; but we are hiring monitors, would you like to have that kind of job?” So I took it and I became a monitor.

RENEE: About how many years did you do that?

GREG: Well I was a monitor for three years and then I became a Supervisor in the monitoring. Then I got into Reactor Administration; I was a measurements person and then when they began closing them down. I got into data processing, and I ended up down at the “Senior Systems Analyst” cataloging the payroll savings plan and the pension plan, and all those things that have to work when you have a couple of thousand who depended on a check every two weeks.

RENEE: So what did you do with your pictures you guys took?

GREG: Well that is another side of it. I was in a position to keep the home address of all the people in the Company; so I made-up a set of 200 of the best of them, and offered them copies to all these guys. Can you imagine 200 pictures for $12? I sold about, my first $1000 worth of pictures. So that was my first money from photography I had really made. We are still in touch because many of those appreciated they did not have cameras and this is great for them to have.

RENEE: Is there any other questions that you have? Yes.

UNKNOWN: Where were you when Pearl Harbor was bombed? How did you find that out?

GREG: I was still home. I was at home. I was not yet in the service.

UNKNOWN: How did you find out about it?

GREG: Radio.

UNKNOWN: How did you feel about it?

GREG: Well our attitude was; they’re so foolish to do that. We did not realize, of course, that they had been building up their military for many years. (Inaudible-we were caught or difficult) I think that was an incentive to get in. I was on a ranch and it left my Father with very little help. Both my brothers and I had gone, but I felt like this is something we had to do.

UNKNOWN: When you were in Europe what kind of food supply system did they have for the troops?

GREG: What kind of a what?

UNKNOWN: What was the food? What did they give you to eat?

GREG: Well the kitchen would supply you if they could, but if, in the combat situation you had the K Rations. You know what they are… Don’t you?


GREG: Well it was a couple of packages about this long and this thick, and in it you had one can of Spam; a couple of cookies; some toilet paper; some decaf, no it was powdered coffee. You could make coffee if you had water. That was the meal. There was a slightly better one if you were lucky enough to get it, we call them something else. You had two or three cans a little bit more. What would happen is if we were in reserve for a few days then the kitchen could reach us, and give us something better? A little incident about that I might mention; for the first time after we had been over there for several months; the kitchen we heard got fresh eggs. We thought “WOW” that is something we missed. So the next morning we really lined-up early. Do you know what they had done? They BOILED them! That kitchen crew came real close to being shot! The next day even the Captain got on their case, he said, “Tomorrow you are going to make for each person eggs the way they ask for them.” and they did!

UNKNOWN: How long were you in Europe now?

GREG: Let’s see, we landed at Marseilles in November and I got back in August of the next year.

UNKNOWN: November of which now? That was November of which year?

GREG: Well that would have been “44” and “45”.

UNKNOWN: “44” and “45” so you were right toward the end?

GREG: Yes the tail end, right. That certainly made a difference; the Germans had been heavily depleted. I had another little incident which I really haven’t resolved. When we were following the Germans; the troops over the Rhine River or to the Rhine River they had blown the bridge; even before some of the people had got off it. The rest of them there were in rafts. My company was ahead of me; they went across in rafts. When I came to the edge of the river I found an envelope there, which was unusual, and I stuck it in my pocket when I had time to look at it. It was a series of 13 pictures taken, obviously taken by a professional; a very high rated photographer because it was pictures of Hitler and his top staff; taken eight to ten feet away. The circumstances were a meeting with a Russian, I am sorry, with a Japanese General in a town in occupied Russia. There was German writing on the rear and I have their names; I had it translated. I am trying to think of the right use to make of this. I would like to see it published or make use of some particular fashion; I have not found the right source yet to do that. I have never heard of this meeting; I have tried things on the internet, but so far I have not had much luck in finding what kind of meeting that happened between the Japanese General and the German people.

UNKNOWN: So you do still have the pictures? Were you able to keep the pictures?

GREG: Yes. I still have them.

UNNKNOWN: Those are priceless.

RENEE: So how did you get; how did you relate all that with your craft of flint knapping? I understand your wife, and other things you, and Margaret do.

GREG: Well when I was still in a one room school, a country school, then we had about 8 pupils in 8 grades. The new (inaudible) I suppose I was in the 6th grade in the library which was one shelf this long. Was about a…it wasn’t a Native Indian, but a cave boy; the story of how he and his older brother had to make their tools or go to the tool maker; from the family would make stone points for them. That really stirred up my interest, however, where we lived there was no river near there; I looked all the time I was there. I only found one or two pieces of little rock that were of some Indian origin; now this was at the edge of the sand (hills or field) in Nebraska. I don’t know if any of you have been there are not. When I say sand I mean sand. When I was 4 or 5; I used to pickup and put into a special box any rock that was bigger than my little fingernail; twenty miles north it was all different. Entirely different on the Newbury River…but this is really sand. That is what you’re ranching in.

RENEE: We kind of have to wrap thing up. I just wanted to “thank you” (inaudible-loud clapping) share your life with us. We just really appreciate it. (Inaudible-loud clapping) I am sure that you could share with us some fascinating things.

GREG: Is there any other questions?

UNKNOWN: How did you meet your wife?

GREG: At the University of Nebraska.





Beverlin Summer Institute for Teachers, “Greg Greger Oral History,” Hanford History Project, accessed July 7, 2022,