Saturday, April 12, 2014

Did you know?

America's Secret Atomic City

The city of Oak Ridge located in eastern Tennessee was established in 1942 
as the production site for the Manhattan Project, the American, British and
 Canadian operation to develop the atomic bomb. At its height, over 75,000 
people lived there, but most of them had no idea that they were producing 
uranium until the bombs dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. In a fascinating 
look into this 'secret' town, learn about the residents' daily life and the
sacrifices they made for the atomic bomb. 

Atoms For Peace Traveling Exhibit in Oak Ridge 1957

Beginning in October, 1942, the United States Army Corps of Engineers
acquired the Oak Ridge area for the construction of the Manhattan Project.
The town was chosen by Major General Leslie Groves due its low population
and discrete location, all of which would aid in keeping the town a secret.

Uncle Sam and see, hear, speak monkeys for secrecy on billboard in Oak Ridge in December 1943

Billboards across the town reminded the residents of Oak Ridge of their duty, to
keep the project a secret and to complete their job. One resident recalls, "If 
somebody was to ask you, 'What are you making out there in Oak Ridge,' you'd
say, '79 cents an hour."
1940s Oak Ridge Military Gate
While the town was open to the public, the non-military section of the town was
fenced and guarded to limit who came in and out.
The vehicle inspection stop had no exceptions and everyone was searched, 
including the highest ranking military officials. This was at the height of the
war and the military wanted to make sure no one would leak information on
the bomb. If the workers themselves asked too many questions about what
they were doing, they would be thrown out of the community immediately.
Early Construction K-25 plant with one of original houses Oak Ridge Tennessee 1942

Workers were forbidden from saying certain words like helium or the names
of the equipment they worked with. This had a negative influence on the morale
in the factories and the workers became suspicious. They were told that they
were doing a very important job for their country, but could not see the results 
of their duties.

1943 This is the only way he gets a day off billboard Oak Ridge During World War II

In order to fix the problem of morale, the government decided to make Oak
Ridge into the perfect American town, with theatres, roller-skating rinks, sports
teams, bowling allies and more. The goal was to keep workers pleased during
their free-time so that they would be more motivated at work.

Security and secrecy conscious in 1944 as little boy gets a security badge & man on a phone

Almost all of the residents of Oak Ridge were young, and although there were 
schools, many of the couples were discouraged from having children. This was
so they could better serve the project and the mission.

Elza Gate MP 1945 Oak Ridge Tennessee

The large number of workers in the famous Y-12, K-25 and S-50 uranium plants
were recruited by the government, which led them to the conclusion that it would be worthwhile to build an entire town, instead of just a large camp.The town that was created had over 300 miles of road (480 km), 55 milesof railroad tracks (89 km), seven theaters, 17 restaurants and 13 supermarkets.

1945 Canteen Oak Ridge

By 1945, Oak Ridge was home to so many residents that one of the largest bus 
systems in the entire U.S. was established there. The entire town of 75,000 residents was using more electricity than New York City.

Shift change at Y-12 Oak Ridge Tennessee 8-11-1945, notice the security sign on the right

This abandoned cabin was photographed in 1947, only a few years after the U.S. government took over town. The 56,000 acres on which Oak Ridge was built had previously been farmland where some families were given only twoweeks' notice by the government to vacate their farms.
Early Construction K-25 plant with one of original houses Oak Ridge Tennessee 1942

Residents celebrated V-J day (Victory over Japan day) just like the rest of America because they had no idea that they were developing the atomic bomb that ended the war.
V-J day Celebration Jackson Square Downtown Oak Ridge 8-14-1945
Two years after World War II ended, the town of Oak Ridge was  demilitarized and shifted to civilian control. In 1966, the X-10 graphite reactor was designated a national historic landmark.
1947 Aerial photo of Oak Ridge National Lab, Tennessee
Little that remains of the town of Oak Ridge is an old hotel known as the Alexander Inn, or 'The Guest House', which housed the residents' visitors during the time of the project. The hotel finally closed in 1990, and since then has fallen into terrible disrepair. Oak Ridge has largely become a ghost town.

Correction: Please see comment below:


  1. The last paragraph is not correct. The current populations almost 30,000. The DOE still maintains a large facility and is one of the largest employers in the greater Knoxvile area. Their facility is also hoe to one of the largest supercomputers in the world. See the Wikipedia article.
    On a related note, Dr. Richard Feynman's autobiography "Surely Your Joking, Mr. Feynman" has some interesting personal insights of the Manhattan project. He worked at Los Alamos. Dr. Feynman was also on the Challenger accident commission and discovered the "O" ring problem that caused it. Nobel prize in physics.

  2. Also HOME to... Not hoe to... Stoooopid iCrap.

    1. Thank you so much for the correction! I shall update the article! (guess I was looking for info in the wrong place - again!) :0)

  3. Replies
    1. I like the pictures. The wrong info - not so much! So glad that Terry corrected me. It is a big town!