Harry Zweifel Oral History Interview
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HARRY ZWEIFEL INTERVIEW- Recorded on 12/14/91
Okay, well my name is Harry Zweifel and I was a shift at B area during the startup, I was a uh, shift supervisor on what they called patrol. We wandered around the building and saw that everything was as it should be, no radiation, undue radiation and so on.
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEFORE HANFORD?
Well my experience before Hanford started out in uh, with Dupont in explosives, uh, TNT back at Kankakee and then I ran a training school in Wisconsin up at uh, Barksdale for TNT operators. And during the period of a 1940, latter part of ‘41 and ‘42 uh, I was in, as I say, in operations and in training school and uh, we followed the construction of the TNT lines and then the startups thereof and I was sort of a monohouse what they call a monohouse specialist. And then following the, as soon as all twelve were operating why uh, I became in charge of a shift in uh, TNT and uh, then was on days as the senior supervisor, actually an apprentice senior supervisor, I guess, and uh, one day early in uh 1944 I received a call from the head office TNT and the superintendent told me that uh effective, it was Friday, effective that Monday I was transferred on loan from Dupont to the University of Chicago. And I said “Well what am I going to do?” and he says “I don’t know, nobody told me, they’ll tell you when you get up there.” On Monday morning, uh, I think it was early February by that time that I went up and I was told by a fella named Dr. Kircher Q. Bellis that uh, that they’re going to split the atom, they’re going to make an atom bomb. And my job was going to be helpin em develop the uh, semaworks(?) under west stands doing the sep separations, developing the process for separating plutonium from the metals and I stayed there until I came out here and that was uh, I think that really was, things are starting to blur now but it was the end of a 1944. And we uh, I was following construction of the B reactor, my particular responsibility was what they call bellfield valves. You remember those George? They were uh, they were the valves that permitted us to quickly drop the, so called, poison solution into the vertical safety rods in case of a uh, of a an event where the reactor was gonna run away and you couldn’t get the VSR’S in and then this liquid went in all the thimbles. I spent about 3 months up there workin on the bellfield valves and droppin the materials and timing it and so on. And then once construction was done why I went in to uh, as I say, the patrol unit.
WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE IN CHICAGO?
Well in Chicago, when I went up there, we went in to the uh, under the west stands the (?) works and it was quite an experience. We had the, we had the squash court right next to Dr. Ferm’s reactor, his first reactor was... and they were just finishing their experiments and decided that yeah they could uh, keep the uh, reaction going and uh, we were building then the (?) works and we built it all ourselves because they wouldn’t let any laboring people in based on the security.
YOU WERE BUILDING THE?
The tanks, we, all the tanks and the and the piping for the, run running the solutions. We had our own little dissolver and then we’d jet over into these tanks. We had plastic lines and oh we had quite a time. We learned how to melt lead bricks, built our own shielding and so on. We did it all ourselves. Later on why we even got into a what later became the redux operation, we were doin uh, extraction with the liquids (?). We built that ourselves. And I became a, towards the end, I became the uh, supervisor in charge of the actual operation there.
WHAT DID FERMI DO IN CHICAGO AND YOU IN RELATION TO THAT.
Well ok. Fermi was strictly on the reactor side. And he was uh, he was the man that was doing all the studies on the graphite, how they moderate it, how the neutrons acted and so on. And at that time they were still trying to prove that they could sustain the uh, a uh, nuclear reaction. And uh, I, that was uh, I think that was the time it may have been in B reactor startup but I don’t think so. Something about the Italian navigator has landed and so on; which was the signal that uh, the reactor could be made self sustaining. And that was, that was a key right there, if it, if it hadn’t that would have been it.
WHAT WAS THE NATURE OF THE FUEL IN CHICAGO AND HOW HANDLED?
Uh George, I don’t, the fuel, I don’t really know exactly, as I say, I was, you know, they, I was on the chemical side. But uh, they had a ra, radioactive solution, rather potent, I think, a source, that they were using. And beyond that, I really don’t know how their, how their reaction...
IT MAY NOT HAVE BEEN SLUGS AT ALL?
Oh no, no I don’t think it was, no. Uh, I’m not, well they could have uh gotten clinton slugs, they had some, you know, from their reactor down there. And later on we started up our summer works that’s what we were running is the clinton slugs, they were sending those up. But, it if I can digress a little bit, Fermie was such a wonderful character, I just, (?). Uh, when we first, when I first got up there, he, they held an orientation for, oh maybe, 20 people. And uh, Ave Compton was there, Regner was there, Phil Morrison was there talkin physics and uh, they would each get up and they said what they had - these people there doin this and these people there doin that. There’s several sites, you see. Uh, Fermie, they all stood at the rostrum and uh, rather formal. Uh, Fermie got up there and he, first thing he sat on the edge of a table lookin at...and he always had a little stub of a pencil. No, maybe two, three inches long, that’s all, he played with that and so he stuck it in his ear and so on. So he was telling us what he did. He said: “Well I have these people at site B, they do this and I have these people over there, that do this.” He said: “Well I’ve got people all over, I don’t know what they’re doin.” He was kind of a breath of fresh air. He could meet em in the halls and of course there’s long halls in front of the squash courts and you could stop him, ask him a question, he’d stop and answer. So would Morrison. But some of the rest of em were more standoffish and too busy to mess around with a guy like me. But uh, Fermie was there and I really had nothing to do with him except meeting him in the halls and hearing him in a lecture and so on.
HE DID HAVE A CERTAIN CHARISMA.
Oh, he, he was, he was. He was just a comfortable old shoe.
(CHATTER) WHAT WAS IMPORTANCE OF DUPONT IN THIS?
Absolutely. The function of the Dupont Company I don’t think they ever received all the recognition that they should have. When, when you consider the design and the construction of these facilities and how successful they were, right from the beginning, it it’s astounding. I just think it’s beyond belief that they could do it and as far as I’m concerned Dupont was were the star of the whole outfit. And they sent good people out here; they had, boy, they had good people, top notch. Such that...(CHATTER). Well Dupont, Dupont would, I think that they never received the applause that they should have for the job they did. With the, nobody’d ever had a reactor other than the few blocks of graphite laid up and uh, in B squash court, uh, and we built the thing, designed and built it and it was successful almost right from the beginning as far as the reactor goes. There was a mistake made in how many, how much uranium you needed to keep the reactor goin so that you weren’t poisoned out by the iodine, but uh, it was an astounding thing. Uh, as I said, they had excellent management and they sent their best out here. They had some real good people and they were so much different than some that we had from then on, it seems to me.
WHY DO YOU THINK DUPONT CHOSE TO LEAVE WHEN THEY DID?
I think that Dupont at that time were kind of fed up with the way things were being run here. Uh, later on I think they were, you know, they were brought back in to Savannah and I think they hated that. And I really believe that this work and the Savannah work really set them behind as a chemical company, if you look at em now they’re havin a tough time, they’re, where it was all owned by the family now it’s own considerably by uh, Bronfran(?) who’s a liquor distiller and uh, and in a, not happily. I think that they, they really got behind on a lot of their research and so on in that long period where they were doing other things.
HOW WERE YOU RECRUITED OR WERE YOU ASSIGNED TO COME OUT HERE?
Like I say, they called me in on a Friday afternoon and said you’re transferred on loan to the University of Chicago, be up there on Monday morning. We were in Kankakee, of course and just 35 miles outside of Chicago so it was no great big thing bein there but it was a shock especially when you ask the superintendent of TNT “Well, what am I going to do there?” And he says “Nobody told me, he says, I don’t know.” And it was an entirely new, different group of people, you know, more uh, uh, scientifically oriented. PHD’s all over the place and some names you had heard and so on.
WHAT WAS THE TRANSITION TO HANFORD THEN?
Well that was uh, I was just telling George, Ward Botsford who was a friend of mine and he was he was back there at site B makin mirrors for instrumentation. So we were gonna come out here together and we both had cars, so we rented a tow bar. And his car was bigger so we towed mine. And so we drove out here. And I think, along about a, a little bit south of Spokane we both would have gladly turned around and gone back, what are we doing in a place like this? You know. It was quite a shock from a pair of city boys to see the desert and nothin nothin around there and couldn’t see how we could do anything out here. Of course, we both knew what we were gonna do out here, but sure didn’t look like a very good place to do it.
YOU WERE TOWING ONE CAR BECAUSE OF GAS RATIONING?
Yeah, um uh. And uh, that way we could both drive and we made a few side trips, did a days fishing at Yellowstone Park. But we got out here and went into the transient quarters and wasn’t went through the next day security and then we were, I was out in the area and Ward was, I’ve forgotten where they sent him. But there was an interesting thing there too on this transition. After being for a year and a half in uh, chemical separations and so on, I got out here and they said I was gonna be in the reactor. I’d never, I’d seen a reactor and it was really a surprise. And I didn’t want to do it because I really had an awful lot of experience in the one place and uh, I really had quite a bit of jump, you might say, on most of the other people who would be here. But it was real interesting, all my notebooks from (?) I got out here and they were too classified for me to see. I never did get em. So we went out to, we went out to the area, I went out to the area then, B and uh, followed construction, went through the startup and went through startup of F and then I went over to 200 areas for uh, more construction following and startup over there. I got, that’s where I got the unfortunate name of bein in construction and startups I think is that followed me all the rest of my life.
WHAT WAS THE OVERALL MOOD OF COUNTRY?
That’s, it was. Well, you know, we were still losin a lot of lot of uh, soldiers and marines uh, going into these various islands, the McArthur island hopping. And uh, you saw the uh bloody pictures of Tarawa and you saw a lot of the pictures of Guadalcanal and so on and so forth. Uh, I think that there was still a great deal of tension and so on while you began to see that on the long run that uh, that the Japanese were going to lose but at the same time you knew that there was gonna be an awful lot of American lives lost. It was not a happy situation. And, of course, that’s one reason why I was happy to see em drop the bomb because I’m convinced that saved many many thousands of American lives. (AND JAPANESE LIVES PERHAPS). It might have because, you know, by that time they’d had their fire storms over Tokyo and it’s questionable whether uh whether the bomb killed more than those fire storms did over Tokyo, I’m not sure.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO SEE THE PROJECT FOR THE FIRST TIME?
Through the dust storms, well we saw the through the dust storms and that’s where you, a lot like we had this spring. Those we would have called termination winds in the old days. But, it was an amazing thing. I think, if I remember the numbers, there was over 100,000 construction workers here and they had their dormitories uh, from uh, the old Hanford area and down in there. And actually, that was one of the places we used to be able to go at night to get a pitcher of beer. But you never went by yourself because there was some rough characters. There was all sorts of stories in those days, uh, about, you know they kept the men and women separated by big barb wire fences and there was all sorts of stories goin on there. And there were fights, a lot of fights, and uh, a patrolman at that time, I don’t know whether he was kiddin me or not, came off a shift and he said he’d found a body in a garbage can. That’s quite possible cause there was some rough people. But uh, dust storms, all the houses were still being, most houses were still being built. And you had the big argument about what kind a house you’re gonna have. And of course, well I lived in a dormitory for three months. My wife was back in Illinois, with our one little boy. And it was not a particularly happy period. You looked at it as, well this is a job, there’s others in the army doin a lot worse that this, so uh, you’d grit your teeth and you didn’t sign up for the termination wind.(?)
WHAT ABOUT THE SCOPE OF THE PROJECT?
Well, time let’s see, what was it, the 550 square miles if I’m not mistaken it was something like 5 to 600,000,000 dollars worth of construction and uh, it was so vast it, we didn’t know everything that was goin on, what was bein built, bein built and being built fast. And then, there was a shortage of material. You waited a lot of times for some valves to come in, of course, we had it a lot easier than any place else in the country other, of getting material. That was real interesting, you know, there was an awful lot of waste, a lot of thievery went on, cause a, a lot of the people in construction they had they’d gather them from anywhere they could.
CAN YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST TIME YOU SAW B REACTOR?
It looked monstrous, it looked so big. And you gotta, gotta bear in mind.
CAN YOU GIVE ME FULL STATEMENT?
Yeah, the first time I saw a reactor was the first reactor I’d ever seen, other than the little pile. (CHATTER) When I first went in there why I was pretty green about the reactors. I had to start readin manuals real fast to find out what was, what the was gonna do there and how it happened. Because uh, there was this tremendous block and of course they were still, still putting up a, a the B blocks and so on and they were starting puttin up graphite inside there and we got to see all that and uh, uh, that was quite uh, edify, for my edification and education. But it was a tremendous place. I be, I’d wondered whether I’d ever understand what it was all about and how to get around it. And then, of course, there was, we were a little leery about that much radiation, uh, the emphasis certainly was on safety. That’s why I found it so difficult to think, to hear that Dupont did so much other, down in Savannah, something doesn’t ring true. Or else it’s a different breed of cattle maybe, I don’t know.
Well, it, the facility, refrigeration facilities were in B. Each one of the reac, water plants, you know, had something a little different to them. And I think you’re right. I think B had a refrigeration system. F had somethin about a water treatment system, I don’t remember what uh, D had. But uh, they were tremendous units, but there again George, the separations of the people, I never went over into a water plant. You know, to see what was going there. First of all, we didn’t, we didn’t leave the building in uh, the early days toward, after we started up why then they started goin to the change house to each lunch. But outside of that you didn’t go. And you certainly, if you were a reactor man, you didn’t go over and go around the water plant, you know. So we were uh, we knew of course, how much water was comin over. We knew somethin about the quality of it, we knew the pressure. We knew a little bit more about 190 and the pumping because that was so important to us. But when you start gettin down on the, as you say the refrigeration, or some of the water treatments or the filtration plant of the river, I think it was probably uh, I don’t think I got to the river pump house until after I came back here in ‘46 and was in engineering design and did some work down at the river pump house. Only then did I see some of that stuff.
IT WAS PROBABLY INTENDED TO COOL THE WATER.
Yeah, that that’s right. You, you weren’t, you, like a I heard Don say on the cooling, we were always trying something different, you know, and there was so much unknown in the beginning. I marvel sometime at how quickly we’ve progressed because really in the beginning uh, you were cautious because you didn’t know that much, how it was gonna, bear, look look - as an example that uh, while Fermie and Compton had an idea that the reactor might die from pois, xe, xenon poisoning, but uh, they weren’t real sure of that. They weren’t sure enough that they didn’t go ahead and start and see what happened. And that was a lot of our, a lot of our training. Uh, but you lean so far over backwards on safety that uh, I never, I never felt endangered.
TELL US ABOUT INSTRUMENTATION FOR MEASURING RADIATION LEVELS.
Well, you’re probably more George, as far as instrumentation measurin, you probably know way more about that than I do. Of course, we all had our chances in the early days of carryin a Beckman(?) around and when we did anything. But uh, they were pretty crude. And you got one arm longer than the other. They must of weighed 35 pounds wouldn’t you think? And we’d traipse all around checkin on leaks and doin this and that, uh...(CHATTER) Beckman was an instrument, George can tell you more about it, for really, just only measured (?)(?) (?). Didn’t it George? And uh, we would go around the building with these, we were always checkin to make sure that there were no leaks and no stray radiation and uh, uh, that was one of the jobs that the patrol people did and in com in combining with the radiation monitoring experts.
WERE YOU CHECKING WITH EACH LEVEL?
Yeah, yeah, at the doors to the rear face, you know, to make sure that the air flow was in the right direction and nothin leakin out from the door. We went across the top of the reactor and uh, made sure that there was no gas leaking up there. Of course, we didn’t go within the circle of the VSR’s.
SO YOU WERE WORKING IN B AT THE TIME, AS PATROL?
In B, yeah. (YOU WERE THERE AT STARTUP?) Oh, yeah. Well that was, that was a terrible thing cause we didn’t know that much about it. But we started up and uh, very low level, of course, and I was on 4 to 12 at that time. And we came in the next day and everybody had a long face and they were all unhappy that the reactor was dying from the xenon poisoning. And uh, well it went down. Fermie and Marshall, Dr. Marshall and his wife, they were a young pair of physicists and very good. They worked with a Fermie a lot and uh, Morrison was there, Compton was there and they were burnin up their slide rulers. And uh, it didn’t take them too long and they said well okay you just have to put in uh, several more slugs per column and uh, we think we’ll be alright. As I remember, that’s what they said, we think we’ll be alright. So we went up very fast and as I recall, we put in about uh, about 50 more inches of slugs and uh, we were doin that as fast as we could, as a matter of fact it’s kind of interesting. Doc Marshall was a nice young guy and you could talk to him a lot, and uh, we had these old charging machines. Uh, you put a, you put your slug, you take it out of a box, you put it on a little ramp and it rolled down and then you had a lever and you pushed that. And I got him on one of the machines charging and then wouldn’t give him any relief. And he, he kept talkin “Come on, I gotta go somewhere” and I said well, you just stay and do a few more tubes and you’ll be alright. And he laughed and he was a good sport about it but uh, uh, that was a real critical period. And you wondered, you know, you had, you had to have faith that Compton and those guys knew what they were doin and they did.
HOW DID INFORMATION ABOUT THE SECOND STARTUP HIT YOU?
Well, on the second startup how did we feel. Well, you had to have confidence, especially those that came from Chicago, there weren’t too many but, but we had great confidence in Fermi and Morrison and the uh, and the Marshals. And like I say, as you had heard, you could look from the office into the control room and you could see them and they’re burnin up their slide rules and talking and so on and they came out and with the solution, proposed solution, adding extra uranium and uh, you know, at that time as I say, we were not that knowledgeable. A lot, especially me, coming from the 200 area operation you know I, I didn’t uh, it took a long time, I had a fine guy workin, that I was workin for at that time, Fran Mask, very intelligent guy and had achieved a lot of na, of knowledge at Clinton Labs. And he explained to me about iodine and how it degraded into xenon and xenon captured the neutrons so that there wasn’t uh, could be a sustained reaction. So, it was, it was a bad period because there wasn’t the confidence that the thing would, gonna go, you know, general confidence. You hoped and you thought it probably would, but you didn’t dare bet on it. And we were we were all anxiously waiting that next startup and, as I say, I was on 4 to 12 and we uh, between the 4 to 12 people and the l2, 12 to 8 people we finished the recharging the extra metal and they started up on day shift. And uh, the boy, when we came on
at 4:00 then the boys on the day shift were breathing a big sigh of relief.
THAT WAS OBVIOUSLY A MILESTONE.
A tremendous milestone.
WHAT OTHER MILESTONES WERE THERE IN THAT PROCESS.
Well, you gotta, you know, after a prolonged period is kinda what I looked at, if you remember that the reactors were said to be designed for 250 megawatts, and uh, I think one of the big big milestones was when we raised from 250 to 400 megawatts. Of course, that paled to the 2,000 that we got later on. But uh, it was awful big, awful big. You had to make a little changes, raise the pressure of your 190 pumps and uh, do a little reorificing and so on. But it was a great thing, because we, by that time we knew, hey we can run these things. And uh, a matter of fact we were probably gettin a little cocky, but uh, that was the big one.
FEEDBACK AND UPGRADING - WAS THAT SIGNIFICANT?
Well, it was to me because, you see, I left in May of ‘45, I left the 200 areas and went to rocket powder and uh, went around after rocket powder went to 3 or 4 more plants for du, for Dupont and by that time I was firmly in the design phase, design and construction and startup. And I was goin from plant to plant, so. We had two children at that time so uh, I quit Dupont and I hated to do that and came back here. And when I came back here I went into operations for a short time again, just to get my feet on the ground, but then I went into straight engineering design and I, I had part of building DR, building and design DR & H and uh, eventually ended up following all of the K reactors for opera for operations. Being in on design of those, so.
IN THIS EARLY PERIOD, WAS THERE ANY PROBLEM WITH FUEL FAILURE?
Oh yeah. That, that’s probably another milestone with the fuel failures. And uh, we were a frightened bunch of puppies when we realized that we had a slug with a hole in it, you know. And uh, uh, the first the first episodes at getting that out and how to do it, the, all learning, hadn’t been done anywhere before, you know. And uh, had to build all the equipment, how to push it, what do you do with it when you push it out the rear pigtail into the into the pool. How do you handle that. What about the water there, is it gonna be contaminated so badly. So that was a, that was a real milestone, George, I’m glad you mentioned that. Later on, of course, we ran at such high power levels and uh, high temperatures and we had a lot of em and I can remember one time we had a, we had a, it was at H, we had a critical W - you remember that’s when you shut down for lack of, for lack of electrical backup. And, we had been watching a specific tube in the H reactor, feeling that it was going to be a rupture or gonna stick. So when they shut down uh, we went into getting that out. Sure enough it was a sticker, but we got it out before the critical W was over. And that was, that was quite different than the first time. I think the first ruptured slug or stuck slug we were down for a week.
SOME DID OCCUR AT B REACTOR DURING THE INITIAL LOW LEVEL OPERATION.
Well George, whether there was an original loading, whether there was any fuel elements, I guess I’ve forgotten that if it did. It’s kinda, it certainly is uh, I think, probable but I just don’t remember if we did.
MARSHALL - ONE OF THE EARLY PROFESSIONAL WOMEN OUT THERE.
I think she was. Um uh. As you know, in the beginning, we had no women out there. The nurse was the only woman in the area. Uh, but, Mrs. Marshall, I’ve forgotten what her name was now, she was a good physicist in her own right and I don’t remember any other women being active in the work at that time. She was a Fermie protege.
WHAT FACTORS MADE IT POSSIBLE TO ACHIEVE THIS?
First of all, I think it had number one priority in the country, backed by the president. It was in a war time period where there was a different attitude towards work, I think. You had your Rosie the Riveters and we had our people out here just as dedicated, I think. Get it done, get it done. And uh, you worked. Well, in the beginning, you know, we worked 12 hours a day, 6 days a week - we didn’t uh take time off. We’d get home, go down to the cafeteria and eat go back to our dormitory a couple hours a playin bridge or whatever, go to bed, get up and do the same thing all over. Uh, so you had the priorities, you had the work ethic and you had a pretty high cadre of well trained people. Well, here’s an example. Uh, if you were asst. superintendent back with Dupont back there you came out here you what they called an area supervisor. If you were a uh, area supervisor and you came out here you’d be a senior supervisor. I was a senior supervisor, came out here and was a shift supervisor. So, you had, you had people, one, almost 100% engineers or chemists or whatever the discipline was required and most of them had shown some potential or they wouldn’t have been here. There was an awful lot of real good people left back - Kankakee, Memphis and a few other places. They skimmed the cream off, they thought. Some of em weren’t so creamy.
DUPONT WAS A GREAT COMPANY.
Well, of course I don’t, my thought is that Dupont was the best. Uh, and my feeling is that each succeeding contractor went down just a little bit and uh right towards to end, well I think it started with GE. You sent two type of people out here, as far as I’m concerned. This may be heresy but, you sent two type of people out here. You sent out young ones that you want to see whether they can advance to the next dead, or you set, sent out some people who were at a dead end and uh, sent out here, okay here’s a little reward but we’re gonna get rid of you too. But I think you had excellent people. Design wise, design and engineering wise, Dupont at that time, was the best in the country, I’m sure of that.
OVERALL TECHNICAL & INDUSTRIAL CAPACITY OF U.S. MADE IT POSSIBLE.
Oh, well yeah. We’re on the war time footing, you know, and we’re putting out the maximum effort with good people. The work ethic was there. My chemical experience here was, when I left, after we got B & F reactor, as you might imagine, the 200 areas were behind the reactors in construction. The main the primary job here was to get the reactors built and then the separations. So I followed the design and construction of a 221B and 221U. The only one I missed was 221T. And uh, I stayed there then for the startup of 221B, I was I was in charge of the control office. And uh, then of course that’s when I left there in Septem, er May of ‘45. I didn’t want to leave. I tried to stay another week but Bill Kay said “You get out of here, you’re transferred.”
SO THEN YOU WENT WHERE?
Oh then I went to Hercules rocket powder and we learned to make rocket powder there. Then I went down to Indiana plant 2 and we built that rocket plant. It was a $75,000,000 plant as I re, no $275,000,000. We made 207,000 pounds of rocket powder, we started up in about uh, mid June. Dropped the bomb August the 8th and we shut it, started shuttin down on the 9th. We made 205, 207 pounds of rocket powder. I had an interesting experience there uh, I was in charge at that time of what they call final testing. It was a, ultrasonic testing, x-ray and fine final inspection. And uh, my boss told me, plant one was smokeless powder and they were gonna shut down there, he said go on over there and interview those people and hire 70 operators. So I went over there and I met with all these operators and I told them how great it was they were gonna get laid off here but they could have a job here and rocket powder was so much more important at this time that you’ll work much longer.
ZWEIFEL INTERVIEW, PART 2
I had an interesting experience there. I was in charge at that time of what they call final testing. It was uh, ultrasonic testing, x-ray and then final inspection. And uh - plant one was smokeless powder and they were gonna shut down there - he said go on over there and interview those people and hire 70 uh, operators. So I went over there and I met with all these operators and I told them how great it was they were gonna get laid off here but they could have a job here and rocket powder was so much more important at this time that you’ll work much, much longer. Well I hired em in June and in August my boss said “Go and lay em off now.” And they were, they were not happy.
WHAT WAS THAT ROCKET POWDER TO HAVE BEEN USED FOR?
Oh, well you’ve seen these rockets in the war games and so on, at uh, the propellant for explosives, you know. And, boy, we’d burn, it was really ?, 50% nitroglycerin, 50% nitrocotton; and uh we made a lot of different shapes but they were ? shape. Mark, mark 18 was 39 pounds, and we burned the, in the testing we burned the uh, 39 pounds in a little over 2 seconds.
WHAT DID THAT END UP IN AS FAR AS THE WEAPON?
Well God, they put em in tanks George and they had, you’ve seen these Russians had a big batteries of them that fired and we did that too. It was quite a thing.
WHERE WERE YOU IN AUGUST OF 1945?
I was makin rocket powder at plant 2 in Indiana. And we were living in mud flats. And when they dropped the bomb there were a lot of people there that had come from out here, not a lot but some. And then we heard that the Japanese were gonna surrender. We had a two day party.
I GUESS YOU COULD SAY “I WAS THERE.”
I was there, that’s right.
REMEMBER IMMEDIATE REACTION WHEN YOU HEARD THAT?
Oh man. Well, return to, return to a peace time life. Get outta mud flats, at the, living conditions there were the, way worse than out here. We had a little pot belly wood stove in the living room and uh, water recirculated through there for hot water. It was miserable and uh, uh, just well, you can imagine. No more of your friends were gonna be gettin shot up uh, we could live a lot different. You know, after a while your, there were a lot of things that were short. Stand in line for this and that. And uh, just lookin forward to peace time.
ANY OTHER REFLECTIONS ON THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE?
Well, in reflecting back I always felt privileged to have been a part of it. And uh, you always felt in those days, well, you should have been in the service. And I went, I went up in Chicago and twice tried to get into the Navy and each time they’d say - “Well, what are you doin now?” And I’d say well I’m in explosives. “There’s the door, get out.” But uh, you AL, you always felt that you shou, you should have been, in your age group, you should have been in the army and not out here. You felt glad that was over. But you did feel that uh, some sense of gratification that you had some part in ending the war.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO PASS TO FUTURE GENERATIONS?
Well, I wish I could tell more of this generation that they’re makin a big mistake if they don’t proceed with a the use, the peaceful use of the atom. Forget all this stuff, the unfounded rumors of what might happen and so on that our friends in Portland and Seattle seem to thrive on. And uh, we’ve sure raised a lot of family here, haven’t we George. And none of em have two heads and none of em have been poisoned. It’s quite possible to have a healthy nuclear industry. I just wish we’d get on with it because petroleum’s running out and besides petroleum’s too good to be burning in gas, in automobiles, it should be making chemicals and medicines. I have no more that I can think of.