Atomic Heritage Foundation

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Join Today as an Atomic History Patron Member

Ardes Shea

Ardes Shea (née Memmott) worked in a DuPont office at Hanford, WA during the Manhattan Project.

Ardes was born in Scipio, Utah in December of 1922. She was a college student in Logan, Utah studying science at the time of the Pearl Harbor attacks. This event, and the subsequent entrance of the U.S. into World War II, redirected her plans away from a college degree and toward the U.S. war effort.

She left school and became a supervisor at a DuPont defense facility in Salt Lake City, before eventually accepting a classified position in the office that managed the construction of a plutonium production reactor in Hanford, Washington. She lived in the women's barracks at Hanford. Ardes said that not until the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima did she realize what her contribution to the war effort entailed.

After her contract for the Hanford Project expired, she chose to move back to Salt Lake City, where she found employment at a supply depot. There, she met Jim Shea at Coconut Grove Ballroom and the two married on V-J Day 1945. In 2016, Ardes published “It’s Classified!”, a brief memoir recounting her experience at Hanford. In it, she recalls her thoughts and emotions as she maneuvered through the maze of bureaucratic paperwork at the site, found friends in a new and challenging environment, and managed her work successfully despite the barriers of secrecy.

Ardes Shea passed away on May 24, 2016 at the age of 93.

Information courtesy of Peter Shea, Ardes Shea's son, and Robert B. Smith.

Related Profiles