Rudy DeJong Oral History

Dublin Core


Rudy DeJong Oral History


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


An oral history interview with Rudy DeJong conducted by Bill Putnam for the B Reactor Museum Association. Clement was a Construction Foreman 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


Rudy DeJong


Rudy DeJong interview- recorded 4/6/95


Tom Putnam: Just state your name, and maybe you could spell it for us, since it’s a little challenging. And then tell us when you came to Hanford and how you heard about the Project and how you were recruited. We’ll sort of open it that way, if you don’t mind.

Rudy DeJong: Well, my name is Rudy DeJong. My last name is spelled capital-D-E, capital-J-O-N-G. I was working at Remington Arms in 1943 when I heard about the Hanford Project, which interested me very much, and several others. So there were five of us left in November of 1943 to come to Hanford. It was a very interesting trip that time of the year—winter, cold—but we found Hanford. We spent the first night in Pasco. We got there kind of late at night and we spent the night there. Then we drove over to Hanford. When we got to Hanford, it was on Sunday morning—I remember that—and we found the barracks. We were assigned to Barracks Number 2, and we were told that we’d be eating our food at Hanford Barracks—no, Hanford Number 2 is where we’d have our meals.

Putnam: Let’s turn it off for just a second. Okay, so this was—what was the date?

DeJong: It was November of 1943.

Putnam: So you were one of the very first people to arrive. Pretty early.

DeJong: Yeah, pretty early. We were very early in fact, uh-huh.

Putnam: And who was your employer?

DeJong: It was Remington Arms, which is DuPont. So it was just a matter of transfer up here, so I continued to work for DuPont up here during the construction of the first three reactors: B, D, and F.

Putnam: What did—how much had been done, by the time you got here? When you got here what did it look like?

DeJong: Well, very little. We were living at Hanford, at the time in the barracks, and there was a shop there where we started to work. And one of my first assignments was to work in the 105 Building where they were to machine all the carbon blocks for the reactors. So my function was to set some of the machines and equipment for that activity. Then there was a time or two--oh, two or three weeks—when we were going to the 300 Area, and I was setting equipment for the shops over there and also for the power house.

Putnam: Things were on a pretty tight schedule, weren’t they?  It was quite a tight schedule?

DeJong: Things were quite a tight schedule. We were very busy and working long hours. We all had plenty to do; there was no waste of time.

Putnam: What—excuse me—were you a machinist by trade? Is that what you were--

DeJong: Actually, I was a millwright at that time. Millwright.

Putnam: What did—let’s see—where was that area, was that out at the B Reactor site?

DeJong: It was a little later. After they had built the outer walls of the B Reactor then we were shipped to work there, every day, from Hanford to the B Reactor area. It was quite cold then. They had big 50-gallon drums with fires in them to keep warm, so we’d warm up and then go back to work. But by the time I got there, the outer walls were built to full height, and we started doing some work inside.

Putnam: What was story you were telling Greg about climbing those walls?

DeJong: Oh! Some of the survey crew were looking for someone to set a survey target high on the walls. Well, there were actually no scaffolds inside, and they were having a lot of difficulty finding anyone to do it, because they had to be tied with ropes and hung over the wall to do it. So finally I told them I would do it. To do this, I had tools which I carried with me, and the target, and I climbed the outside scaffold clear to full height. And riggers were there, and they tied ropes on me and hung me over the wall. The survey crew were down below, and they were giving me signals where to set the target. Well, I had a starred bit which you hold up to the wall, and I kept moving that around till they give me the signal to stop. And then I took my hammer and made my mark. After that, why, I continued to make the hole, deep enough for the target. And they were all pleased, they said that’s perfect, so I drove the target into the hole. I’m assuming that that was the major target for setting all the other activities. It didn’t take too long to do it. It didn’t cause me any trouble.

Putnam: How long—at that point, were you out working on the construction of B Reactor?

DeJong: Yes, I’d been working there not too long, maybe two or three weeks when I had to set that target. It was after that, that I was doing other work, getting ready to set the floor blocks for the reactor—that is for the carbon portion of it, you know. We had to use mercury levels to level all those blocks. I was also involved setting the outer blocks, which were quite large, and they had to be set very accurate. Those were the ones that would contain all the gun barrels, which were the lines that would go clear through the carbon blocks, clear through the other side. So I continued on that ‘til they got pretty well built clear to the top.

Putnam: How long did that take?

DeJong: This is something I couldn’t tell you, because—I can tell you this, B, D, and F were all completed during 1943 as far as our portion of the work. Because it was December that I transferred to the 200 Areas, and started working January the first in the 200 Area.

Putnam: What was the process of handling these blocks of carbon from the 105 Building to where they were going to be put in? What was the--

DeJong: They were hauled there, on pads, and then the rigging crews would pick them up and bring them inside the reactor.

Putnam: Did they have to be protected?

DeJong: Well, I don’t recall it too much. They were placed very carefully on these supports, and they had to be laid very accurately. I mean, it had to be accurate, if you were off just a little bit—if the height would get out of line, or the width—then the gun barrels would not be able to go clear through the reactors.

Putnam: What was their method of aligning them if one was a fraction off?

DeJong: Well, we had to move them. Sometimes you’d have to move a whole layer if you got off too far. But the important thing was to be very accurate from the time you laid your first carbon block as you go right on through. And it was checked very carefully, and they had an inspector watching things pretty carefully.

Putnam: Was it all enclosed—or, you said they’d bring them over the wall; was the--

DeJong: The outer walls were all in at the time you were laying the carbon blocks, right. They were all to height, then you laid your carbon blocks, then after that, then you laid your gun barrels in and run through.

Putnam: Must have been difficult to keep it clean enough, with the dust and all? I mean, it sounds like--

DeJong: It didn’t seem to be any difficulty there, no. It was pretty clean. They had carloads of Kotex coming in. I mean a lot of Kotex, which made a lot of people wonder why. But those were used as swabs going through the gun barrels and piping. That’s the way we swabbed all those pipes.

Putnam: That’s what I’ve heard. The box cars.

DeJong: Yeah, oh, my!

Putnam: Lots of jokes. Well, what John Rector said—he said that they got a bid from Modess. And it was a cheaper bid, and they started buying them. But they didn’t work, because they were wood fiber.

DeJong: Right, right, right.

Putnam: And they didn’t really hang up. They’d leave a residue. So, anyway, that’s a funny little story. I forgot to ask you that on camera. What was the Hanford Camp and all? Did you live in the camp?

DeJong: Yes, we lived right at Hanford in Number 2 Barracks—that was our barracks—and we ate in Number 2 Mess Hall. Food was perfect. They had wonderful food, and a lot of it. I mean, a lot of good dessert. I’ll have to say that; the food was perfect.

Putnam: They had great pies, I’ve heard.

DeJong: Very nice, oh, yeah. Variety of pies and cake. Boy, we really ate.

Putnam: So in November of ’43—that was pretty early, and there must have—what was it like? Was there activity every day and buildings going up all around?

DeJong: Oh, yes, there was a lot of activity all over. There really was quite a bit of activity, you bet. It was a busy place.

Putnam: Was it a seven day schedule, seven days a week?

DeJong: Yes, well, I worked mostly six days a week, and twelve hours a day. That’s the way they had the shifts pretty much, twelve hours and six days a week.

Putnam: Did the work stop on Sunday or were there other people, other shifts working?

DeJong: Yes, you’d work your shift then the next shift would come on and work the other 12 hours. That’s the way you got in your 24 hours.

Putnam: How much did you know about the Project when you came out? And then as it went on, did you find anything out?

DeJong: No, I didn’t know until after I’d been here a short while. I pretty much had it figured out what it was to be. Now after I was made foreman, then, the foremen, the engineers, superintendents were the only ones that ever saw a drawing! And we had to go into a vault inside the reactor building, look at the drawings, figure and get your dimensions, make notes, then you go out to your crew and tell them what to do and what the dimensions were! I had to make notes in my little notebook, you know. It’s hard to remember all those dimensions, but we did pass on the information and it worked out very well.

Putnam: So, the drawings—the engineering drawings—would come out and be put in a vaulted--?

DeJong: Everything was in a vault. You’d never see a drawing out on the floor; no one saw a drawing except the foremen and the superintendents. Which brings out a strange story, I was 1-A in the draft when I came up here, and I got my notice to go to Spokane to take my physical, with some others. I passed my physical, I came back, and it wasn’t too many days before I got my notice to go into the Army. So I gave this notice to the superintendent, and he says, you cannot go, there’s no way you can get in the Army: you know too much about what is going on. This is a highly secret project. So I did not have to go in the Army. My two brothers did, but I did not. But it kind of gives you an idea.

Putnam: Were some people drafted that might not have had the access to the securer matters from Hanford? Did some get drafted? Did you know of any?

DeJong: Oh yeah, there’s a lot of people that didn’t have that information No, no, I don’t think anyone was ever drafted that knew anything about what was going on. In fact, General Groves was there one day out on a truck talking to everyone and telling us how important this project was. It was snowing and it was cold. He said the Germans are working on the same thing; we must get this finished first. But he didn’t tell us what it was. But it was interesting.

Putnam: What did you do after construction was finished—construction of B Reactor?

DeJong: After the B Reactor, then I was transferred to D Reactor. And completed that, and then we went to F. And when F was completed is when I left there to go back to Operations. And January 1st, ‘45 is when I started Operations.

Putnam: At B Reactor?

DeJong: No, operations in the 200 Areas. I’m sorry, 200 Areas.

Putnam: That’s the separations area.

DeJong: Yes, right.

Putnam: Was that effort going on—when did they start building T Plant?

DeJong: Oh, T Plant was quite early, because I remember standing on top of the F Reactor and seeing smoke coming out of the stacks. They were actually started operating T Plant, because you could see the colored smoke coming out of the stacks. It was very interesting, yeah.

Putnam: That was the separation side of it?

DeJong: That was the separations side of it.

Putnam: And they were helping that, obviously, on a schedule to—

DeJong: Right, right.

Putnam: Were you aware of startup in September of ’44, when the plant first began to run? Were you aware—or were you there?

DeJong: You mean in the 200 Areas?

Putnam: No, in B--

DeJong: No, I was not aware of it then. Well, I heard about it but I couldn’t fix a date to the time. I was very, very busy when I was in 200 Area. Oh, I was a busy man. We were very busy there.

Putnam: What were you doing there?

DeJong: Well, for a short time, I was a millwright, only maybe two or three weeks, until I moved up to a foreman, see. Then I was foreman for a while. And then when they were building PUREX, I was moved to engineering and I was on the inspection of PUREX, every part of that, while it was being built. When it was finished, then I became planner and scheduler and started hiring the help to operate, do the maintenance, operation of PUREX. But—

Putnam: That was later on.

DeJong: That was later on. Oh, I think before that I worked at T Plant for a short time, and U Plant. I was the foreman there at U Plant. Oh, it’s hard to remember everything.

Putnam: Oh, sure. Is it right to assume that, because this separations facility would not have anything from Hanford to separate until the reactor had run for a while, that they were on a later schedule?

DeJong: I was foreman at B Plant in Separations for a while, you know, there. I had all of the crews--all of the maintenance crews there, in fact we even had to the tank farm maintenance at that time. There’s one story I can tell; I don’t know whether you want to hear it or not.

Putnam: Sure.

DeJong: But I was driving a company car to B Plant, and to pull up to the dock, and there’s a large crowd of people all looking up in the air. Flying saucers! Flying saucers!  So I run down and got my binoculars and went around the building where I could get a better view. And they moved so fast, but there were three flying saucers. Now, don’t think this is just a joke. This is true, because Patrol was there, and I asked them, and they said we’ve alerted Moses Lake Air Force. We watched those for a while, and suddenly they were gone. I don’t know whether it’s because the Air Force was showing up or what, but then—there was a lot of us saw that. There were actually three flying saucers there that we saw from B Plant.

Putnam: When was that?

DeJong: That would be about ’47, 1947, some place in that area, yeah. In fact, when I first went to the 200 Areas, I guess, oh, perhaps six months after that, we used to see some of these balloons from Japan coming over. In fact, the riggers got some parts of one and brought it in.

Putnam: I’ve heard a lot of rumors, here. You’re the first person I’ve ever talked to--

DeJong: There were actually some; we saw them. In fact, about that time, I had the rigging crews; they were our—see, I once had all of the shops—I was manager of all the shops, all the rigging crews, janitorial services, all of them. And the rigging crews came and showed me that one time.

Putnam: Was there knowledge about the balloons coming over before they were seen? Was there any instructions to people as to what they should do if they saw one?

DeJong: Well, we were cautioned to beware of those things, because you never knew what explosive they might have, or you know.

Putnam: Just tell me the story of the balloons. I mean, do you know how many were sent? Tell us about that. Where did they come from?

DeJong: This portion of the story had to be in ’45, before I was manager, I think, because one of the riggers brought one of them up to the shops. I was foreman then. And I recall seeing one going across. And then this other one—the one they found parts of it—that’s all I remember about balloons.

Putnam: Let’s see. Oh, gosh.

DeJong: It’s kind of a little difficult for me getting my timing right on some of these things, because you’re going back 52 years or—


Putnam: When was T started?

DeJong: T Plant had to be started up in 1944 before I ever got to 200 Areas, because it was in 1944 we were on top of F Reactor, can see that colored smoke coming out of the stacks at T Plant. So they had to have  been operating then.

Putnam: In ‘44.

DeJong: In ’44.

Putnam: Well, it Christmas of ’44, around then, that the first fuel was discharged.

Greg Greger: I thought it was later than that. Could they have possibly had some material from the Chicago Test effort?

DeJong: Might have done; I don’t know.

Putnam: Maybe they were running other chemical process, just to--

DeJong: Could’ve been, but it was colored smoke, I know this, colored--

Putnam: And that was characteristic of the process itself?

DeJong: Well, I thought it might have been, right. And U Plant, of course, that started operating shortly after that, I think.

Greger: Good information about living in the Barracks, living in the Camp, and recreation?

Putnam: Yeah, tell us about the Hanford Camp. And was that—I’ve heard that was a pretty wild place, and I’ve heard it actually wasn’t a wild place. What was your impression of it?

DeJong: Well, I didn’t feel that it was wild, because of course you don’t have that much time there. When you’re working twelve-hour shifts and you’re back, you go to the mess hall to eat, you eat in the morning and you eat at night, it’s—They had the—the women were kept in an enclosure. Their barracks were all enclosed with a high fence, so they were protected. [LAUGHTER] No, I don’t think—I didn’t see any wild activities. They had a theater there, and people had time to go to. And they had a bank there. I do recall so many people there to cash their checks, they didn’t know how to sign, they couldn’t sign their names; they made X’s on their checks. So many of them that did that.

Putnam: Now, who ran the camp, and everything was provided for you, wasn’t it?

DeJong: Yeah, everything was provided, right. It was handled very well.

Putnam: What were barracks like?

DeJong: Well, they were kind of crowded. I think there was—some of them had four bunkers in there. You know, you sleep on bunks: two levels, two levels. You didn’t stay in there very long anyway, but you’re in there to sleep. But they were all right, I can’t complain. In those days, when you’re young, you don’t think about things like that. You’re tired and you want to sleep.

Putnam: What can you tell us about working for the DuPont Company? I mean, people have generally said that DuPont was very well organized. And what about that, the effort involved in organizing so many people for so long and doing such an--

DeJong: I believe that DuPont did an excellent job, I really do. They were with it. There was no waste of time. They seemed to have pretty good control of everything that we did. There was no problems, no discontent that I know of. I was certainly happy with them and they promoted me fairly early after I got there, and they treated me nice, really.

Greger: Did DuPont give an official reason for them giving up the contract to leave when GE took over?

DeJong: Not that I recall. I do not recall. Pension-wise, it did not help me too much. I get a very, very small pension from DuPont, part would be from Remington Arms and part of it out here, the one year, roughly.

Putnam: Do you know the terms of the contract that DuPont had? What were the conditions under which DuPont was hired?

DeJong: I don’t know. I really don’t know anything about the contract.

Putnam: What do you remember most from that period of time in ’43-’44? In your experience, what stands out the most in your mind?

DeJong: Well, there was considerable activity; there was so much work going on. I had one difficult period: I wanted to get my wife up here. I was living in the barracks for so long, I had a young son. So one day on a Sunday, one of the fellows that was a foreman that I worked with had a car, so we drove to Yakima. Drove and drove. And I finally found a home. A lady had an apartment, and she really questioned me very carefully, and it was a nice lady. And she says, okay, we’ll give you an apartment. So I got my wife up here—I think it was March that I got her up here. The only problem was, I was working from 6:00 to 6:00. It was an odd shift, the portion of work that I was involved in at the reactor, and the buses didn’t leave until 8:00 at the barricade up there to go to Yakima. So I wouldn’t—I’d have to be two hours before catching a bus, I’d get home about 10:00, sometimes 10:30 in the morning, I had to get up a 2:00 to catch my bus to get back to work. Can you imagine that?  So my wife stayed ‘til about September and then she went back to Utah, and--

Putnam: That was a rough day.

DeJong: Oh, that was rough, that was rough. That was the hard part of it.

Putnam: Was everybody working that hard?

DeJong: Well, I don’t think there’s too many that traveled but there were some. Roads were real rough, buses were rough, shaky. Gosh, they were shaky, but--

Putnam: Pretty dusty?

DeJong: Dusty and rough. It was rough, yeah. So I didn’t get much rest, oh, boy. And you had to work hard, you’re busy, yeah.


Putnam: --is where they were when they heard the news that the bomb had been dropped. And if that was that the first time they knew, and how that affected them. Do you recall?

DeJong: Yeah, I was manager of the shops when I heard that. Because one of the foremen rushed up to me and heard they’ve dropped a bomb on Hiroshima, yeah. And that was—when was that, ‘45?

Putnam: August of ‘45.

DeJong: August of ’45?

Putnam: Did you immediately associate that with Hanford in any way?

DeJong: Yes, I did, oh, you bet. There was a lot of talk going on when we heard that. I can’t remember whether I was manager of the shops at that time or not. It seems like that’s where I heard it, but my memory is slipping.

Putnam: Mine is, too, and I’m a lot younger than you.

DeJong: Oh, gosh.  I guess if I knew more about the questions you were going to hit me with, I would’ve been better prepared.

Putnam: Oh, that’s not a problem at all. And in fact, we want spontaneous memories and impressions, too. Jim Acord said that he had a very enjoyable trip out to B Reactor with you, and that it was quite fascinating.

DeJong: Who?

Putnam: Jim Acord, who was—

DeJong: Oh, yes.

Putnam: He said that you had a nice trip out there. Tell me about that. What were you guys doing out there? It was the first time you had been out there in a while, wasn’t it?

DeJong: Out at the B?

Putnam: Yeah.

DeJong: Yeah, we hadn’t been there in, oh gosh, several years, several years.

Putnam: That must bring back a lot of memories?

DeJong: Yeah, oh yeah. I want to change one story a little bit. I was not manager of shops when that bomb was dropped. I remember it was later on, the foreman rushed up to tell me that was when President Roosevelt was shot, that’s what it was. But it had nothing to do with the—so, I’m sorry. No, I don’t know where I was when I heard that, about that bomb being dropped. I just don’t recall.

Putnam: But you did, you did understand that it was the--

DeJong: Oh yeah we did, we knew that, you bet.

Putnam: Was there a lot of celebrating, or—how did people react generally to it?

DeJong: There wasn’t a lot of celebrating, but there was a lot of reaction to it. I don’t know much—I don’t recall any celebrating.

Greger: I’m curious about one thing. You knew what you were making, because of your position, and--

DeJong: Yes, I knew.

Putnam: Did you know at that time—was it said that this would end up as a bomb? Or how did they describe it its end result? Or did they?

DeJong: I knew it was going to end up as a bomb, yes. I knew that early in the game. Right, right.

Putnam: You must have had been one of the very few people that did know.

DeJong: No, there was others who knew it. There was another fellow that worked with me; he’d gone and been to university studying a little about it. He was a good friend that came up here with me, and he knew what it was. And we both talked about it.

Putnam: Well, security--tell us a little bit about security. It was very tight, wasn’t it?

DeJong: Security was very tight, very tight. It was good. All the way through, even with operations, it’s been very good. You bet. No, I can’t complain about security; it was very well done.

Greger: Did you know of any cases where people were—well—were perhaps terminated or any action taken on them because of security violations? Did you ever hear of that?

DeJong: No. Only thing I recall—once, when I was manager of the shops, one craftsman, apparently an alcoholic, and he used to bring some alcohol in his thermos bottle. And I don’t know—I wandered through the shops quite a bit—and one time I’m watching him, so I walked up to him and I could smell the alcohol. So I said, this is it, I’m gonna have Patrol take you home. And I said, when you come back, there’ll be no more drinking on the job, or you’ll be fired, you know. And by golly, Patrol took him home, I never had a problem with him since. In fact, his wife called me one time and thanked me. She says, he’s away from alcohol. So people can get away from it. Isn’t that something? Yeah.

Putnam: Yeah. Well, let’s see. We covered most of our—


Greger: --B Reactor, when you were assigned there, what would a typical day involving you, what would you be doing? Was it mostly aligning the blocks of graphite?

DeJong: Well, that was part of it, yeah.  And doing different—setting equipment, you know, ventilation systems, heating systems, cooling systems, and part of that. And then setting the blocks. Those huge blocks, they had to be so accurate. I spent a lot of time on that. And also after the walls were built, we had to set some blocks down to support the carbon, and boy those things had to be perfect. We used mercury levels to set those blocks, so that when the carbon was on, we had no difficulty afterwards, you know, by settlement and whatever.

Putnam: How were those blocks handled? What kind of machine or tool was used to actually position them accurately, as you say?

DeJong: Well, they were set of course with cranes, and I guess we had to—it’s hard to remember a lot of that. You know, I’m sorry.

Greger: It’s all right.

DeJong: I’m sorry. But, I guess--

Greger: I always think of it as a fragile thing, and I’m not clear on how you could even have something that would grip them while you’re positioning them.

DeJong: Oh, the carbon blocks—if you’re talking about the carbon blocks—they slide pretty easy.

Greger: Yes.

DeJong: Yeah, we can move those pretty easy.

Greger: Yeah. What were the other blocks, then, that you were referring to?

DeJong: Oh, they were heavy material to support the whole weight, you know. They were heavy blocks.

Greger: Of what material?

DeJong: Oh, I don’t remember now. Jeez! I don’t remember. I just don’t remember! Hmm!

Greger: Probably a combination of metal—iron and something?

DeJong: Yeah, metal, concrete maybe, I don’t know. Isn’t that strange, I can’t remember that? I didn’t do that too long. Most of my time was with the carbon blocks and the outer blocks.

Greger: They’re relatively light.

DeJong: Yeah, yeah.

Greger: How big was—I know there were probably certain sizes, but how big was an average carbon block?

DeJong: Seems like they were four or five foot long, maybe five or six inches square. I don’t know. There’s another thing that is hard to remember.

Putnam: And all of them pre-drilled so that--

DeJong: Everything was, they were all pre-drilled and pre-machined, to accuracy.

Greger: So that the tubes could be slid in.

DeJong: Our main objective was to be sure they all lined up.

Greger: Were you out there at the time when they began putting up the tubes and these kinds of things?

DeJong: Oh, yes, yeah.

Greger: Were there any problems that you saw?

DeJong: No, not that I recall, no. Putting in tubes.

Greger: What was their sequence of during the reactor? Did they do from bottom-up, putting in the, I suppose the gun barrel first, then the tubes?

DeJong: Yeah, bottom-up, as I recall, bottom-up, right. I remember the gun barrels were welded in while we were building and putting the blocks. While they were set, the welders were welding in the gun barrels, they’d go just so far through, then your other tubes would go right on through, all the way, through the gun barrels. And I do remember one thing: the welders all had a helper working with them, you know, to help them move things and clean the weld if it has to be chipped, you know. And one welder was saying to this one young fellow that was working with him, now watch it. He meant for him to close his eyes, and after a while this fellow says, I can’t watch it anymore! I can’t see anymore! Gosh. Yeah, I remember that.

Greger: Bad choice of words.

Putnam: Yeah.

DeJong: Yeah, can’t watch it anymore.

Putnam: How many people were actually onsite? What was the crew sizes? I mean, were there hundreds of people?

DeJong: Oh yeah, there were hundreds of people. Probably have as many as twelve or fifteen in a crew, depending on what your activity was, yeah.

Putnam: But at any given time, there would be a lot of people?

DeJong: Oh, yeah, because there’s all kinds of other activities, see. My crew’s working strictly on the reactor. Well, there’s other work going on around the reactor. There’s lot of activity inside and around.

Greger: With you folks working a twelve hour shift out there, how did you handle a meal during this period? Did you take a lunch, or what was the process?

DeJong: Yeah, we took a lunch. And we had our meals at Number 2 Barracks before we came out and when we came back.

Greger: And out at the Site, you ate one meal there?

DeJong: Ate a lunch, yeah. We took a lunch.

Greger: Did they have facilities for that?

DeJong: Not that I recall, no. No, no. Something I just—trying to think of. Hit my mind when we were talking.


Putnam: The bus from where you stayed—how did they manage all that?

DeJong: Well, the bus going—well, they just had a bus taking you right up to your job site. There was no problem.

Greger: There must have been thousands of people being taken.

DeJong: Oh, yes there was. Oh, you bet.

Greger: That was a whole problem--

DeJong: That’s right. See, when work was going on at B Reactor, they were already started working on D Reactor and then right on to F Reactor. So while you’re still at B, there’s work going on at D, and maybe possible little bit at F, doing the ground work and getting ready for it.

Putnam: What can you say of the magnitude of the reactors themselves and of the Manhattan Project? I mean, it was immense, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it one of the biggest?

DeJong: Oh yeah, it was a tremendous activity, you bet. It was big. Of course, as you say, a lot of people didn’t know what it was, but I think gradually the word must have got around a little bit. We couldn’t talk about anything like that, it was something you just didn’t talk about it. But—I don’t know.

Putnam: It’s an impressive achievement, a huge accomplishment.  

DeJong: Oh, yes, yes. It was a tremendous accomplishment. And imagine building three reactors in one year. Look how many years it takes to build one now. It was a lot of work done. It went fast, amazingly fast.

Greger: Here’s this old term termination wind. Did you want to comment on the situation where some people came and looked it over and maybe decided it wasn’t for them? Did you--

DeJong: Hmm, I don’t recall any of that, I think that most of the people stayed. I think so, yeah.

Greger: Did you get into town—Richland—very often?

DeJong: No, no, the only time I ever got to go any place was Yakima. And sometimes we’d drive over to Grandview or Prosser to eat, you know, just to get a change, we’d do that sometimes. One of the guys had a car, so we’d do that. But, no, I never got started going to Richland until around 1945. Got my first house there, January of ‘45, got my wife back up here. Gosh. Oh, there was something I was going to tell you, but now I—


DeJong: Oh, yes, I think people, they don’t talk much, but everybody was working hard to get the thing done. There wasn’t any goof off there at all. People were really working. That’s one time they were really working, during that war period, mm-hmm, yeah. Gosh.


Putnam: So, you just kind of walked around the building and you saw this? Tell us.

DeJong: No, actually I was driving—I’d been to a meeting, and I was driving a company car up to the dock of a building, and I saw so many people out there. And I parked the car, and they said, flying saucers up there, three of them!  So I ran down—my office was in the basement of 271-B—and got my binoculars. And I saw for a moment and then they went behind the building so I run down around the end of the building to get a better view and that’s when I run into the patrolman. And I says, flying saucers, and he says, yes, we’ve alerted the Moses Lake Air Force. And, boy, I was watching--

Greger: Ever hear if they sent up anything?

DeJong: I never saw the Air Force. That’s what makes me wonder if the government was involved in those some way.

Putnam: Can you describe the shape again?

DeJong: Saucer shaped. They were, no question.

Putnam: And moving?

DeJong: And white colored, and, boy, they moved fast.

Greger: I guess you can say we are relatively a minor planet here—small. And there are folks out there who have done things far beyond us.

Putnam: Certainly a recurring theme.

Greger: Yeah. Not quite ready to believe those people who claim they were taken aboard, but—

Putnam: Yeah. Well, like I say, I’ve never had that experience with it, but it certainly makes you reflect and think about it. I can see that if you had seen it, it would make a believer out of you.

DeJong: You know I’m trying to think hard when I was made foreman: whether it was still at B or at D. I kind of suspect it was D. This Earl Wiesner, I was telling you about, he was an iron worker; and I had a record of laying more carbon blocks, my crew than anybody ever did, you ask Earl Wiesner, he was a rigger boy, he was telling the story about it.

Greger: I’ve been trying to get in touch with him but nobody answers the phone.

DeJong: I don’t know whether he’s away or not. He might be.



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B Reactor Museum Association, “Rudy DeJong Oral History,” Hanford History Project, accessed June 21, 2024,