Hanford history collected at B Reactor 70th anniversary

Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldAugust 30, 2013 

hanford patty murray history historical park b reactor bruggeman

Sen. Patty Murray tours B Reactor on Thursday, Aug. 8 to see improvements to the National Historic Landmark while seeing other sites that could become part of a proposed Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

KAI-HUEI YAU — Tri-City Herald Buy Photo

Seventy years ago Oct. 5, ground was broken on the nation's first production-scale nuclear reactor, Hanford's B Reactor, as the United States raced to produce an atomic bomb during World War II.

The movement of that earth along the Columbia River would lead to a world where the allies were victorious in the war, where the threat of nuclear warfare looms over nations, and where radioactive isotopes are used for the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

The Tri-Cities will mark that historic date with a month of activities in October organized by the Hanford History Partnership, a community collaboration led by Washington State University Tri-Cities.

Tours, including a look inside T Plant, and lectures have been organized by the partnership to help the community observe its heritage and a Cold War-themed party has been planned by the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center as a fundraiser for the center.

Any proceeds after expenses from the other activities will be used to continue the Hanford History Partnership's work.

Since its organization earlier this year, the Hanford History Partnership has been concentrating on oral histories, videotaping new histories and making those already collected by a wide range of organizations more accessible to scholars and the public.

Robert Bauman, an associate professor of history at WSU Tri-Cities, has videotaped 30 interviews this summer with early Hanford workers and with the people who lived on land that the government confiscated during WWII to create a nuclear reservation for plutonium production.

"Every story is a little different even if they came to Hanford at the same time," Bauman said.

He's hearing stories that otherwise might be lost to the past, like Miles Pasch's account of how phones were monitored at Hanford by the FBI.

Pasch, now 95, came to Hanford after he finished serving in the Army during World War II and would spend most of his career working on the Hanford telephone system.

He was not allowed to discuss the monitoring then, but the FBI had a system to listen in on any phone at Hanford, Pasch said in his oral history interview.

Agents would record conversations of interest on spools of wax, he said.

Bauman hopes to have 75 to 100 interviews videotaped by the end of the year.

"The urgency is to capture the stories of people who don't think they have stories," said Gary Petersen, of the Tri-City Development Council, one of the partners in the Hanford History Partnership.

The partnership also plans to digitize about 400 existing oral histories collected by many agencies, including the CREHST museum, and have them available online, said Sharon Holden, director of development at WSU Tri-Cities.

Long term the partnership wants to use the oral history collection as a foundation for the creation of a Hanford Research and Educational Center at WSU Tri-Cities.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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