Thomas Clement Oral History

Dublin Core


Thomas Clement Oral History


Hanford Atomic Products Operation
B Reactor National Historic Landmark (Wash.)


An oral history interview with Thomas Clement conducted by Bill Putnam for the B Reactor Museum Association. Clement was a Instrumentation Shift Supervisor at the Hanford Site during the Manhattan Project.


B Reactor Museum Association


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.





Oral History Item Type Metadata


Tom Putnam


Thomas M. Clement


Home of Thomas M. Clement



Tom Putnam: If you’re ready, we’re ready.

Thomas Clement: All right.

Putnam: So, can you state your name and your position—what you did, you know, what your job title was.

Clement: At the beginning?

Putnam: Yeah.

Clement: Thomas M. Clement, and I was transferred to Hanford in February of 1944 from Kings Mills, Ohio. That was the Remington Arms Plant at that time, making ammunition for the Armed Forces. And I was interviewed back there by Walt Simon, who turned up to be the plant manager for DuPont here, when he got here. And they allowed me to drive my car out here in February of ’44. I had snow all the way from Cincinnati to Pendleton, Oregon, so it took me eight days to make it. And when I started to work here, why, I was in training for the reactor instrumentation maintenance end of the business. When I got here, I did not know what we were doing here; I was not informed during the interview. But there was a college friend of mine here that I’d gone to college with in engineering and I was—they sent me down to Los Angeles for a couple weeks down to the Beckman Instrument Company to look over the Beckman RXGs, which were used in the control room.


Putnam: Okay, I’m sorry I was—had an interruption there. I’m sorry, can you start with that description again about, about—oh, you better tell me about the physics book again, too. I’m not sure I got that. So, if you could tell me that story, and then--

Clement: All right. In May of 1944, I was assigned to go down to Los Angeles to visit the Beckman Instrument Company at that time, who were manufacturing the Beckman RXG Micro-microammeters that would be used in the reactor control systems. They would measure the output of the ion chambers that would indicate the level of nuclear activity in the reactor block itself and were used as a matter of control and safety. At that time a classmate of mine back in college, Sherman Lloyd, said, while you’re there, why, go over to the Los Angeles Public Library and look at the Pollard and Davison physics book, and you’ll find out, essentially, what we’re into here at Hanford. So, I did this when I went to Los Angeles and got some idea of the type of thing that we were looking at. So, in other words, it didn’t—the book did say something about the feasibility, or possibility, of a nuclear bomb being manufactured. So after that, why, I continued my training. And the other thing I continued was courting my potential wife, who was living in Seattle and I was living here. I would get on the train in Pasco Saturday night and get over there in the morning and visit with her and then get on the train and come back here Sunday night and then go to work Monday morning. So, it was kind of hectic, but that ended a bit anyhow on August the 13th when we were married over in Seattle and I had a long honeymoon of three days up at Paradise Inn on Mt. Rainier. So then, shortly after that I was assigned out to B Reactor. I think it was about the first of September, and at that time, I was acting as a shift supervisor for the instrument crew, and we had--I think it was either four or six—Instrument technicians, I call them now, on each shift. Because we were training people for the other two reactor areas that were going to be started up at that time. This was B Reactor and we were going to start up D Reactor and F Reactor.


Putnam: --you went out to the Area and what it looked like, what stage the construction was in, or something like that, can you describe?

Clement: The stage of the construction on our first tour, as I remembered—I think it was in April of ’44—and the D and F Reactors were just coming out of the ground—the buildings. And B, as I remember, the side walls on the reactor building were getting up pretty high. I think they were still laying the graphite in the pile, as I remember, at that time. And that would have been the year—actually the year the reactor started up. So if you put this in terms of building reactors today, it was a fantastic job from the standpoint of how fast it went along. When you figured that they got all three reactors started up within one year and--

Greg Greger: Excuse me. When they took you on this tour, what did they call this—you know, if they were going to show you this, how did they refer to it?

Clement: Hmm. Well, the reactor, the only thing I remember is reactor.

Greger: They did use that word?

Clement: As I remember. Now I may be wrong, but that’s the way I remember it—

Greger: I see.

Clement: --so. And of course we were into the instrumentation and control of the reactor, too, as far as what was going on inside. So we had to measure the nuclear activity; we had to measure the heat generated, and all that sort of thing—I mean, with the thermocouples. And we had to measure the water flow through the reactor with the panelettes for the pressure monitor system. You know all about that, I’m sure. But--

Putnam: Were you developing instruments as you went along? Were you building new instruments?

Clement: No, we were learning—in the process of learning what instruments had been provided to do the job. In other words, this was an orientation period for us. Which amounted to, I’d say, about six months or less, on a completely new field. Because we were assigned out to B Reactor, I think it was in the first part of September of 1944 on shift. And at that time we were preparing for reactor startup and—which went quite well as I remember it—up until the time that the reactor died because of the poison—the nuclear poison. Enrico Fermi was there at that time, and it took him, I think, less than a day to come up with the answer. It turns out that DuPont—who was in charge of the construction and in charge of the operation of the reactors, in their design work back in Wilmington, Delaware—had decided to put at least one or more extra rows of process tubes around it—the outside of the reactor—so that—the critical—they could put in more uranium to enhance the critical mass if some of the calculations were not right. So, when Enrico Fermi went through the process of calculating what had happened with the shutdown of the reactor, why, all they did was to charge the outer rows—I think it was one or two rows; I can’t remember which—of processed tubes with more uranium. And then we were able to proceed along with normal operation of the reactor. So, this would overcome the poisoning of the—what was the material that was—

Greger: Xenon?

Clement: Xenon poisoning, right.

Putnam: Were you there? During that time, were you at B Reactor?

Clement: I was at B Reactor during that time, yes. I was on the shift—on one of the shifts.

Putnam: In the control room?

Clement: Well, I had a crew of instrument people that were responsible for the instruments in the control room and in the whole plant, for that matter. So I was there. I don’t remember being in the control room at the time that the actual—it died gradually, let’s put it this way. The xenon poisoning was a gradual thing, it wasn’t just cut off like that, suddenly.


Putnam: Well, what was I going to ask you to do was kind of think back about the atmosphere. It must had been quite charged with expectation; I mean, people must have been—was it doubtful, was it simply people didn’t know what was going to happen, or was it confident?

Clement: Oh, I think people had confidence in the management of the plant. In other words, it was all being run by DuPont. DuPont had been in charge of construction. It was not at all like the atmosphere in today--that we have today--with so many government agencies in the picture that you don’t know what the final decision is going to be. This way, you would pass the problem up the line and you would get an answer back down the line, a positive answer. And you would go with it, and you would believe in it. Because you had faith—you had confidence in the people that were running the show. I still come back to another story that I heard. That in Congress—at that time, Harry Truman was in Congress, and there was a lot of to-do about all of the money they were spending at Hanford. And so, Harry Truman came out to Hanford to do a little investigating. And about the time he got here, why, one of the DuPont executives called Wilmington, Delaware and Wilmington, Delaware called Washington, DC and Harry Truman left right overnight; he didn’t do any investigating, so—[LAUGHTER] They had a lot of confidence in the company that was constructing the plant, and that was running the plant, and I think this is a very key point to the success of the whole operation. At least, in my opinion it was.

Putnam: Go back to that time of startup and can you kind of describe that day or that period of time? We understand there was a long process of loading tubes and then dry criticality was reached, and then it was flooded and then they had to come back up to wet criticality. Do you have any recollection?

Clement: I don’t have a specific recollection of that. I imagine Don Lewis probably would give you a better description of that.

Greger: What were you as instrument people, what was your main function in all of this?

Clement: The main function in this would be to—like in the criticality end of the business—would be to see that our—we’d read the results or measure the criticality with the Beckman instruments that I was talking about, that I went to Los Angeles to check on where they were building them—the Beckman RXGs in the control room, they’d have the ionization chambers actually under the reactor so that you can measure the nuclear activity in the reactor. And of course as you come, as you start to reach criticality your activity builds up quite a bit; your readings on your instruments goes up, so.

Greger: Where were these chambers positioned in relation to the loaded tubes?

Clement: They were positioned—let’s see now. We had the galvanometers—chambers were positioned in holes through the reactor shield, up about the middle of the reactor. The Beckman instruments, now these measured—these galvanometers measured the ionization current coming from those chambers and would measure activity. The Beckman instruments themselves were--the chambers were located underneath the reactor where there’s holes up through the graphite, so that they can get a picture of the center activity, in the center of the reactor. Now the Beckmans were safety devices, such that you would preset a trip point on the Beckman, and it would automatically scram the reactor, or insert the control rods when you passed a manually set trip point.

Greger: Were these Beckmans such that you could change them out or maintain them through their position in the reactor?

Clement: Yes, we could. We had to change the chambers if we had a failure. Sometimes we would have failures and we would have to remove the chamber and replace it with a good one. In other words, they’ll fail like most any other object or gadget, you might say. We didn’t have to do that frequently, but it had to be done sometimes. But we had enough of them, such that we would always have some of them in operation, and we would be sure that we had a good picture of what was going on. Of course, in addition to the radioactivity, we had a good handle—now, that would be for dry critical, but it would also work during the wet critical stage. When wet critical, why, then you would have the temperature instruments—we measured the temperature—outlet temperature of the water coming through each and every process tube on the temperature monitor. In this way, you can get a picture, too, of the heat generation in the reactor itself. You know the inlet water temperature and then you measure the out water temperature and we had a temperature monitor system so that you could plot the whole picture and see where the hot—what’s getting hot and what isn’t.

Greger: Actually, the measurement of that temperature was significant in understanding the level, was it not?

Clement: In the reactor.

Greger: Yes.

Clement: That’s right. We also had a, a power level instrumentation which would measure the overall outlet water temperature and the overall—in other words the bulk, the flow. And this would give you the level of the reactor in kilowatts or megawatts or whatever—heat generation. So--

Putnam: It must have been fascinating for the first time to see what a real reactor, actually—no one really knew what it was like, did they?

Clement: That’s right, that’s right. And you figure before we got done out there, before we shut B down, we were up to--what was it—about 3,000 megawatts of power generation--I mean, of heat generation, not power generation. And you look at the overall picture, it’s very rewarding. But it took a lot of effort, it took a lot of, we’ll say, cooperation and working together with the people out there. And I look back on it and I—it’s a pleasant memory, let’s put it that way. That phase of the work is very pleasant.

Putnam: Did you have a sense you were breaking new ground, that you right on the frontier?

Clement: We were sure of that, yes. I think we were sure of that, and after reading some of the articles and things that are done and then the fact—when the bomb was dropped, of course, then it hit the newspapers, so. That confirmed what we had known for quite a while, or what some—many of us had known.

Putnam: What do you think the general feeling of people was? Was there a feeling of a big—that it was a real cooperative effort? Was it kind of s cooperative spirit, a real project team kind of feeling and a feeling of real satisfaction when job was done?

Clement: Yes, I think there was, really. At least there was in my mind. I think a lot of this, like I said before, comes from the attitude and the way the whole system was managed by the DuPont Company. And they were in charge, and in that time the only other government agency in here, as I remember was the Corps of Engineers. DOE hadn’t come into the picture as yet.

Greger: Or even AEC.

Clement: Or even AEC. That is right. Now, I’m not saying that those aren’t necessary at this time, but during the war effort when time was of the essence because Adolph Hitler—they had word that he was also working on the atomic bomb. So we had a goal in mind.

Greger: Do you have any recollections of that first startup shift? How did it affect you as a person, as what you did that night or whatever?

Clement: I guess I don’t, Greg. Whether my shift was off or not, I don’t know, but I don’t have any specific recollections on that one.

Greger: Do you remember how you learned that they had made the first indication and all this kind of thing?

Clement: Well, I was—I can’t even remember the date that we first started up, to tell the truth, when we first reached criticality. So I, I have no specific recollection. I went through so many phases of it afterwards I guess, that I-- [LAUGHTER] And I realized after we’d get up to 1,000 megawatts how insignificant it was in terms of energy. I have no specific recollection of that.

Putnam: So it was like a huge milestone in the day-to-day operation; it was just pretty routine almost?

Clement: That’s right. And this was the first step in the B Reactor and of course, we knew that we would have two more reactors to start up, too. And people were focusing on the overall, I think.

Putnam: Any interesting problems, or solutions to problems, during that time in terms of your field, in terms of the instrumentation or anything you remember about something that came up that was—I know that we were talking about canning the fuel elements and that it took them a long time to settle that problem—was instrumentation pretty straightforward?

Clement: I think it was. I can’t remember any during the startup phase. I can remember some later on, when we ran into a lot of failures in the thermocouples which measured the outlet temperature of the individual process tube. But that would be a year or two down the road, when we had to get in and replace all the 3,000 thermocouples on the rear face. [CHUCKLES] Which is the fairly radioactive place. But I don’t remember any specific problems, as such, right now.

Putnam: Okay.

Greger: I was curious about one thing, when the news hit the papers, as to what the result of the product had been, what kind of attitude did that generate either at work or in the community? Was there anything that one can talk about as to that—all of a sudden people knew what they had been doing?

Clement: Well, I think for us people that were involved with it, I think it was a matter of pride, really. That we were happy to have been a part of what our country was doing. In other words, that was my feeling. Now let’s see, the first bomb was dropped in August, wasn’t it?

Greger: Yes.

Clement: Of 1944?

Putnam: Five.

Clement: Five, ‘45. So we started the first reactor out there in September of ’44. And we started the second reactor out there in December of ’44. We started the third reactor in February of ‘45. I was in on the F Reactor and on the B Reactor; I wasn’t in on the startup of D. But I didn’t get C and H and some of the others.

Greger: Some of the people had mentioned this problem that B ran into, of the graphite growth and the fact that B was shut down for a while. Do you have any recollections of how all this happened?

Clement: Oh, yes.

Greger: Was there an instrument?

Clement: Oh yes, yes, yes indeed. The graphite growth of course came at after it was directly, we’ll say, connected with the amount of irradiation that the graphite had suffered. I remember very well, because Bill Overbeck was in charge of instrumentation at that time. And I was assigned, along with Harry Shaw, for finding out a method for measuring the amount of growth of the graphite. So, we got our heads together—and Harry had a background of civil engineering, I believe. And Bill Overbeck and Harry and I--and I think that was all, three of us—went over to visit at Boeing down—when they were at Boeing Field—and did some exploratory work down there, looking for a means of measuring the bowing on the—I say, that’s B-O-W-I-N-G—on the process tubes. So we came up with a very simple approach where we would set up a transit on the charge elevator and we had the center of each process tube on the wall—measured on the wall, the concrete wall and back about—what, 50 or 100 feet from the elevator. We would take a little target that just fit inside of the process tube and had a little scale on it with a light, and the scale was marked in tenths of an inch, or something like that, on a horizontal basis. And we would pull the slug with the scales through the tube, one or two feet at a time—I can’t remember how many feet—and we would take a reading with the transit at each position. And then you could plot the bowing on the process tube. So this turned out to be a very helpful thing in determining the actual amount of graphite growth that we had. And we continued to use this method for a number of years—I don’t remember how many, as long as we had the graphite reactors, I suppose—in determining the amount of growth. And I imagine, after we had enough data, they could calculate the growth of the graphite based on the amount of nuclear activity that you’d had in the reactor itself.

Greger: Wasn’t there an operational change that caused a change of this growth rate, of using helium?

Clement: We started out—I think we started out with a mixture of helium and CO2 in around, surrounding the graphite and it seems to me we wound up eventually with 100% helium, I think. I remember very well, too—of course this is way late in the game—but we had gas analysis instrumentation on the gases flowing through the reactor. This goes back to the 60s though, a long time.

Greger: The use of helium was supposedly a cure or a slow down?

Clement: Slow down for the graphite, yes, that’s right.

Interviewer: Do you know how they came to the conclusion that that was the thing to try?

Clement: I would imagine it was done by the results of our surveys. I would imagine that. I wasn’t in on that, but all we did was to take the readings and give them the readings. And then the technical—the other technical people would make their calculations and go on from there.

Greger: What is there to say about the time they closed down B Reactor for a period, because of this problem?

Clement: Oh, Greg, I don’t think I remember that. I may have been assigned to another reactor at that time.

Greger: Our power person here mentioned that, and I knew it was down for a period.

Clement: Yeah, that’s right, it probably was. I don’t remember that. I might had been over at F Area or D Area or H Area or something like that.

Putnam: Was the work pretty absorbing in that first year? So summer of ’44 to summer of ’45—things must’ve been pretty intense. Were you working long shifts?

Clement: Oh, yes. Everybody was working at least six hours a day—six days a week, I mean. Six days a week. And it was a long day. The time you left the dormitory and caught your bus at about 6:00 or 6:30 in the morning and got back about 6:00 or 6:30 in the night, it was a long day, yes. And then you’d have to go over to the eating place there. That building’s still there, incidentally—the old cafeteria building’s still there, as you know. It’s right across Knight Street from the Federal—from the post office there.

Putnam: Yes.


Clement: Yeah, there’s been a lot of phases, an awful lot.

Greger: I guess, at one point that to an outsider is hard to imagine, and I don’t know what your memory is of it, but when all this construction and ground digging was going on out in the Areas, it must have been interesting to see it on a windy day.

Clement: Yes, it was.

Greger: Several people have referred to this, but—

Putnam: I think maybe that’s—

Greger: I’ve been meaning to ask you.

Clement: The dust storms were terrible in those days. And we think they’re bad now, but the dust was coming from—well, I think of around the city of Richland primarily because I was not in the area during the construction phase as much, very much. But when you were living in Richland in the first two years, I’d say ‘44, ‘45 and ’46, the dust was very, very bad. Because a lot of people were moving in; they hadn’t been able to plant their lawns, even though, when you got your house, why, the company would furnish you with grass seed, they would furnish you with water and everything to try to encourage you to plant the lawns. They’d furnish you with coal to heat your house, and all that sort of thing. So, that was one of the things that—I didn’t hear Brit mention that one, but—[LAUGHTER]

Putnam: Yeah, in some respects it was a pretty good life, wasn’t it?

Clement: It was a very—that’s right. Your rents were very, very low. This house here is the first one we moved into. I think it was in the beginning of December in ‘44 when we moved into our B house up on Black Court. It was a real interesting experience.

Greger: I’d like to ask you, you as a plant employee, and in your case, you met your future wife who did not work here. What kind of situation was there when two people meeting would obviously want to know what the other was doing and these kinds of things?

Clement: [LAUGHTER] I just told her, I couldn’t tell you. It’s secret work, yeah. [LAUGHTER]

Greger: Enhanced your—

Clement: Yeah! I didn’t get any kind of—any negative reaction I guess, because she went ahead and married me anyhow. And we had five children so, and we’re still married so. There’s been a lot of rewarding things, too, let’s put it that way.

Putnam: One of the most interesting things that we talked about, I think, is the magnitude of effort, and the fact, as you say, that in a year three reactors were built and put online.

Clement: That’s right.

Putnam: Can you—was there more to say about that? Just—what was the magnitude of that effort? What was going on? What all was involved?

Greger: Even the traffic must have been—the shift changing.

Clement: Well, that’s right. Well, let’s put it this way, the magnitude of the effort was tremendous. The design of the plants, first of all, was made—was generated in Wilmington, Delaware by the DuPont Company. And they were in charge of design, they were in charge of construction, although there were some subcontractors out here, but they had full control. Which was the secret I think, of the whole operation being, in my opinion, of being so successful. And when you look back at the Hanford days, when the town of Hanford was at its peak, I imagine, I think there were 40 or 50,000 people housed out there. I’m guessing a little bit on that, but I think it’s about right. And the mess halls, the dormitories, the trailer parks. And the fact that you get that many people together in one place and they have nothing to do in their off hours, it’s kind of a problem. But they were working long hours, and I think their purpose—their whole purpose in being there was to complete the job. And I think that, they didn’t just work a 40 hour week and—So, I think that added to it, a lot. And there was a high rate of turnover, I think particularly among the construction workers. I was not aware of any high rate of turnover among the DuPont people who were going to operate the plant.

Greger: What was recreation--in the spare time you had--not in construction, but down here, in Richland, what could one do?

Clement: Oh, well, I remember playing tennis with Mr. Farmer, who happened to be Enrico Fermi, playing doubles down at the park. We did play a lot of tennis down here. I remember another Sunday, not too long after I got here and I still had gas stamps, and three or four of us in the dormitory got in my car and we drove out to Rattlesnake and climbed up Rattlesnake. You could drive up to where the old well was on the side—gas well, I guess it was—on the side of Rattlesnake and climb up from there. It was dirt road, but it was accessible. And there was a tremendous amount of things to see and do. With gas stamps I remember driving up almost to Chinook Pass one day with four or five of my buddies. We had one day off, so--one day a week off, so that didn’t allow for too much—to do too much.

Greger: What was in Richland at that time as a source of recreation?

Clement: Well, Howard Amon Park was there, the tennis courts were there. I remember them well because I played a lot of tennis down there, that’s one thing that I did. There were no bowling alleys as I remember at that time. I’ve forgotten just when they—maybe they—I can’t remember when they built the bowling alleys at the old rec hall, you know.

Greger: Was there a movie theatre?

Clement: Yes, there were movie theatres, there were movie theatres.

Greger: And Richland Players, I think, started fairly early.

Clement: Fairly early. I don’t remember just when they started. I used to work backstage for them, but that was after I—that was after 1948. Where I’m living now, we were right across from the Chief Joe Auditorium there, is where we live now. But it’s been a very rewarding life, I think.

Putnam: How would you describe the overall experience from startup and your ensuing years here? You say it’s been a good life?

Clement: Yes, yes, I think so. I have no complaints; I have a lot of good memories. I have some that aren’t too good, but I don’t magnify those; I don’t think of any specifically that come to mind.

Putnam: What—I guess I never thought about this—but what happened after startup? Did the community remain? I know the construction people were disbanded fairly quickly, but the early people that came on for operations and all, was there a high rate of turnover at that point, or did it become settled and you made a lot of friends and the community came--I mean, what happened around that time?

Clement: I was not associated much with the construction people. I’d say the operating people, from my point of view, were a very steady group. There were very few, very little turnover. I can remember one instance and I can’t remember the exact time of it; I think it was after we started F Area up, and my boss came in one day and said, well, we’re going to have to lay off a few people. So he told me who to tell, and so I went out and told him and I had a hard time with him. But it turned out all right. But like anybody when they get laid off, why—but there was not a large cutback. I’d say by and large, a large number of the people that I associated or worked with back in ’44, there’s still a lot of them around here, let’s put it that way.

Putnam: Was that a surprise at that time—I mean, I guess, I know a lot of people thought that the effort was to win the war, and then perhaps things would shut down after that and continued. Was that unexpected?

Clement: Well, we were wondering, yes, we were wondering. In fact, that would have been about ‘45 and ’46, wouldn’t it? And I was wondering myself, because in August 1946 I guess it was, I had some ideas; I was going to get a separate line of work. So I went out and bought a farm over in the Kennewick Highlands, twelve acres. It was about five acres of asparagus and several hundred fruit trees and a house. So we moved out there, I think it was August of ’46. So whatever happened at Hanford, we were going to have a separate sideline so to speak. And well we stayed there two years, because about that time, I think it was ‘47, ‘48, the construction started again, and the traffic got so bad it would take me an hour to get from the Kennewick Highlands over to Richland and then another hour to get out to work—two hours one way. And that got a little old. So at that time, why, I reapplied for housing. And at that time they were expanding the housing in Richland, so I got the house we’re still living in now, a Q house.

Greger: What did you hear, or what’s your impression of the political changes that were an impact on the plant? You know, the war was over, was there kind of a gap there, until all of a sudden it began going up again, as you say, with more construction?

Clement: Yeah, well, the political changes, of course, were that the AEC came into the picture more and more and more, I think. In other words, the government agencies. Which they had to do, I suppose, looking at the type of government that we have. And of course we had a change of contractors when DuPont left. I personally had a chance, I could have gone back east again with DuPont, but I turned it down and decided to stay here. That would have been in ‘46 when they left and General Electric came in. So.

Greger: Do you recall the reason given for DuPont to not continue the contract?

Clement: I don’t recall exactly, no. I know that shortly after that they were given the contract for Savannah River.

Putnam: We’ve certainly heard nothing but good things about DuPont as a company, and the efficiency with which things were done.

Clement: That’s right, right. Well, I started to work for DuPont in 1937 when I first got out of college and started making viscose rayon. And then I helped start up the first nylon plant in Delaware. And then they shipped me out to Ohio to make ammunition for the war effort and then on out here. So, I have an awful lot of respect for them, let’s face it. And I grew up in their territory, back in Pennsylvania. And still, in fact my sister’s retired now, and she lives out at—oh, the DuPont estate there outside of Wilmington, Delaware. I’ll think of it in a minute.

Putnam: Any more?

Greger: I can’t think of any more, do you? Well, maybe we should ask him that question. Do you think of anything that you remember as being interesting or significant to you or even funny?

Clement: [LAUGHTER] I can’t right off hand. If somebody were to trigger me, I might think of something, but I can’t right off.

Greger: Since you referred to it, I think it would be of interest—how did you manage the living quarters? You’d just married and I think—were you in dorms, or did you have a house?

Clement: When we were first married, my wife had a whole week off, I had three days off. We were married on Sunday. We spent Sunday night and Monday night and Tuesday night up in Mt. Rainier, Paradise Inn. And then we came down and stayed at the transient quarters for the rest of the week and then my wife had to go back to work in Seattle. So from there on it was a weekend at a time whenever we could make it. Either she would come over here or I would go over there, and that would involve catching the train Saturday night out of Pasco and going over and spending the day and then coming back. So, but then I applied for a house, of course, as soon as I could. And then it took them until—that was August—until December before I was given a house.

Putnam: And, did she move over then?

Clement: Then she moved over, right. In the meantime, she had been shopping for furniture so we could furnish the house—shopping in Seattle.

Putnam: You asked about women in the area.

Greger: Oh, yeah, right. Well, I was curious; I asked the others, in construction or operations, I don’t think there were many women, but what do you remember? I’m just trying to think of women working. I know there were a few, even among the technicians, we were told, to help startup, there was a man wife team?

Clement: There was a man and wife team at B Reactor, the Doctors Marshall. They were both physicists. And I remember them being out there, because they came from the same part of the east that I did, as I remember. I didn’t know them personally, but I remember them at—I think it was at B Reactor. I think they were—I’m not sure they were—I don’t think they were involved with the first shutdown when due to the xenon poisoning. I don’t believe they were, although my memory’s not that good.

Greger: Were there other women in other jobs that you observed during the early days?

Clement: The only ones that I observed were secretaries, that I had any personal contact with, the only ones that I remember. Did anybody else have any memory of it? I don’t remember.

Greger: Annette Heriford commented, she delivered blueprints to construction, but that’s the only other one.

Clement: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, I remember the secretaries that I had on the job out there when I was in different stages of the thing. I didn’t have any when I was on shift, of course. Then I got up to where I was assistant manager of the instrument group and then I was manager for a while and then they changed the organization and they had a, then I was manager of maintenance for D&DR. And then went on from there to various different types of organizations and jobs.

Putnam: One question that I think I mentioned; I don’t know if I asked you but, the question of wartime—sort of the atmosphere, the crisis, you know, it was pretty tense. Can you talk a little bit like that? I mean, how much was at stake in this effort? Were you aware of how much was at stake and how important it was to the war?

Clement: I think we were, yes. Well, I know at one stage of the game when the Japs were bombing—well, this was after Pearl Harbor probably, but we expected to see Jap bombers come across out here. And we were all always out looking around the sky to see if we could spot any planes coming in. We’d make a crack about seeing a Jap bomber up there. Of course, we never did and we had, pretty much, defense units around from the Army and so forth that were out there. There were quite a few of them.

Greger: Was there any particular activity following the “war was over” announcement, because of the plants’ effect on it?

Clement: You mean on the war?

Greger: After the second bomb.

Clement: Oh, I think there was a lot of good feeling, as I remember. In other words, look what we helped do. We did a little—we did our part of it anyhow. In other words, I think there was a lot of satisfaction, yes.

Putnam: Any celebrating, dancing in the streets?

Clement: I don’t remember any, let’s put it this way. I don’t remember any.

Putnam: I didn’t think there was a whole lot. Well, okay, if you have anything to add, we’d be interested.

Clement: Yeah, I can’t think of anything right offhand.

Putnam: Okay.

Clement: If, at a later time, there’s anything I can fill in that you come across, why, let me know, and maybe I can search the mind and remember some of it. Maybe not.

Greger: This has been a great time.

Clement: Well, I hope it’ll--





Bit Rate/Frequency




B Reactor Museum Association, “Thomas Clement Oral History,” Hanford History Project, accessed May 28, 2024,