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The secret cities behind the atom bomb 

Off the map: the secret cities behind the atom bomb  In 1943, three ordinary-looking US cities were constructed at record speed – but left off all maps. They had an extraordinary purpose: to create nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan project, Guardian, by David Smith in Washington , 3 May 18

Something strange happened in the US state of Tennessee in 1943. Thousands of young workers poured into a 59,000-acre site about 25 miles west of Knoxville. Vast quantities of materials followed, never to re-emerge. Houses and other facilities were built with record speed. Yet officially Oak Ridge did not exist during the war and could not be found on any map.

What was going on there? Very few people knew at the time, even among the residents. The answer was that this was the starting block in a race against Adolf Hitler to build the atom bomb.

Oak Ridge was one of three “secret cities” of the Manhattan Project, along with Los Alamos in New Mexico and Hanford/Richland in Washington state.

More than 125,000 scientists, technicians and support staff occupied the three cities by the end of the war. There is a photo of a Santa Claus being frisked at the gates of Oak Ridge and a local newsletter stamped “restricted”. Anyone aged 12 or over had to wear an ID badge. The use of words such as “atomic” or “uranium” was taboo lest it tip off the enemy.

Yet some social aspects were all too familiar: even these planned communities, which tried to offer residents an idyllic lifestyle and would influence postwar urban construction and design in America, replicated the racial segregation of the era.

More than 125,000 scientists, technicians and support staff occupied the three cities by the end of the war. There is a photo of a Santa Claus being frisked at the gates of Oak Ridge and a local newsletter stamped “restricted”. Anyone aged 12 or over had to wear an ID badge. The use of words such as “atomic” or “uranium” was taboo lest it tip off the enemy.

Yet some social aspects were all too familiar: even these planned communities, which tried to offer residents an idyllic lifestyle and would influence postwar urban construction and design in America, replicated the racial segregation of the era.

It was late 1942, less than a year after the US had entered the second world war, when the US Army Corps of Engineers quietly began acquiring vast tracts of land in remote areas of three states. The few residents of these areas were summarily evicted and their houses demolished.

Soon thousands of young workers arrived from far and wide, initially occupying tents and other makeshift shelters within the newly designated military reservations. Shielded from public view by natural barriers and security fences, the workers quickly erected hundreds of buildings, ranging from prefabricated houses to industrial structures of unprecedented scale.

…….. Built from scratch in half a year to produce fuel for atomic bombs, Oak Ridge was initially conceived as a town for 13,000 people but grew to 75,000 by the end of the war, the biggest of the secret cities.

……. When the US dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945, killing tens of thousands of people to force an end to the war, the city’s secret was out. Many residents celebrated. One local newspaper declared: “Atomic super-bomb, made at Oak Ridge, strikes Japan.” Another said: “Oak Ridge Attacks Japanese … Workers thrill as atomic bomb secret breaks; press and radio stories describe ‘fantastically powerful’ weapon; expected to save many lives.”

Not everyone was jubilant, however. Mary Lowe Michel, a typist in Oak Ridge, is quoted in the exhibition as saying: “The night that the news broke that the bombs had been dropped, there was [sic] joyous occasions in the streets, hugging and kissing and dancing and live music and singing that went on for hours and hours. But it bothered me to know that I, in my very small way, had participated in such a thing, and I sat in my dorm room and cried.”……https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2018/may/03/off-the-map-the-secret-cities-behind-the-atom-bomb-manhattan-project

 

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May 4, 2018 - Posted by | history, USA

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