A reminder: The 14-month celebration of Oak Ridge’s 75th anniversary starts today (Friday, September 15).
Today’s celebration will feature guest speaker Denise Kiernan, author of “The Girls of Atomic City” and “The Last Castle,” at 6 p.m. at the Historic Grove Theater. There will be a book signing, and Kiernan’s book will be available for sale.
Ed Westcott, the official government photographer in Oak Ridge during the top-secret Manhattan Project in World War II, will be the honored guest from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Family members Don and Emily Hunnicutt will present a slide show of Westcott photos with a question-and-answer session.
“You will never grow tired of Ed’s photographs, which tell the enormous Oak Ridge Manhattan Project story,” according to the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association, which is presenting the celebration.
The celebration starts with historical displays at 2 p.m. There will be a wide variety of artifacts, posters, and displays for you to enjoy, the ORHPA said.
The 75th anniversary celebration is free and open to the public. Donations to Friends of the Grove and the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association are welcome.
There will also be a closing reception with a birthday cake.
The Historic Grove Theater is at 123 Randolph Road, in the Grove Center in central Oak Ridge.
Go early and get your copy of the “Secret City Pocket Guide.”
Oak Ridge has several anniversary dates to note during the 75th anniversary, ORHPA said in an email.
“There is one for the selection of the site (September 19, 1942), one for the start of construction (November 1942), one for the start of construction in each of the government sites: Y-12 (February 1, 1943), X-10 (February 2, 1942), and K-25 (June 1, 1943),” ORHPA said. “And there are more dates of note such as when the X-10 Graphite Reactor ‘went critical’ on November 4, 1943, and when the first shipment of Uranium 235 left Y-12 (March 1, 1944).
“The first anniversary date is significant in that General Leslie Groves was told he had been selected for the atomic bomb project on September 17, 1942. He then authorized the purchase of 59,000 acres in East Tennessee on Saturday, September 19, 1942.”
The 75th anniversary is being celebrated on September 15, 2017, ORHPA said.
“Denise Kiernan, New York Times bestselling author of ‘The Girls of Atomic City’ will be here helping celebrate one of her favorite people, Ed Westcott. She will also introduce her new book, ‘The Last Castle,’ which tells the history of the Biltmore Estate, the nation’s largest home!”
Kiernan will discuss “The Legacy of Place,” the ORHPA said.
“If you have heard Denise speak before, you know what a treat it is to listen to her,” the organization said. “She is so dedicated to her work, yet has a most personable presentation style.”
The 75th Anniversary Committee was announced on Thursday, August 31, at the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce. During that ceremony, officials unveiled a 75th anniversary logo, designed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and announced a 75th anniversary website (www.oakridge75th.com).
Oak Ridge Mayor Warren Gooch said the 75th Anniversary Committee has 34 members, and it is broad-based and represents the rich history of the city. The Committee will promote, communicate, and support the official 75th anniversary events, Gooch said.
Today’s celebration featuring Ed Westcott and Denise Kiernan at the Grove Theater is the first official event.
Gooch said the 14-month celebration will recount the many accomplishments of the past and acknowledge the remarkable people, companies, and organizations that are responsible for them.
Men and women from every state in the country and from around the world have come to Oak Ridge to work over the last 75 years, and their collective efforts have protected national security, promoted the missions of the U.S. Department of Energy, and secured a bright future for the city, Gooch said.
“Obviously, we are known for our contributions to security and science,” he said.
The Y-12 National Security Complex played a vital role in winning World War II and the Cold War, and it continues to maintain national security today, Gooch said. Oak Ridge was built as part of the Manhattan Project, a top-secret federal program to build the world’s first atomic weapons during World War II. Uranium enriched at Y-12 fueled the first atomic bomb used in wartime. Code-named “Little Boy,” it was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, shortly before the end of the war.
Gooch said the scientific advances that came about because of the Manhattan Project “literally changed the world.” Those accomplishments include the first medical isotopes produced in 1946, the essential contributions made over the years in the exploration of space, the continuing research in nuclear science and energy, today’s high performance computing with the country’s most powerful computer for open science, and being the global leader in advanced materials research, Gooch said.
“As I often say, Oak Ridge was created to be great, and you can be sure that the next world-changing discovery or invention at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is on the way,” Gooch said.
The 75th anniversary events will also celebrate other features of Oak Ridge, ranging from its quality of life, business community, greenways, waterways, and bike trails to its cultural diversity and commitment to public education, the arts, music, medicine, and public services, Gooch said.
“We will celebrate the nation’s best rowing venue, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, the skill and talent of organized labor, and of course Main Street, which represents the revitalization of our center city and will also be the new home of the iconic American Museum of Science and Energy,” Gooch said.
The Committee will also highlight the city’s history in promoting the desegregation of public schools in the South and “our unwavering commitment to equal opportunity and equal justice under the law,” Gooch said.
After today, the next event is a September 21 groundbreaking for the new Peace Pavilion for the International Friendship Bell.
The Oak Ridge Fire Department will host a “Then and Now” 1940s-era Fire Prevention Parade and Community Festival at Alvin K. Bissell Park on October 7.
“I want to emphasize that these three events are only the first of many to come,” Gooch said. “The city, many companies, organizations, groups, and individuals will celebrate anniversaries of various milestones through the year.”
Gooch said the Oak Ridge Police Department has created a new badge for the 75th anniversary. It includes the historic “A pin” in its design. The “A pin” was originally given to Manhattan Project workers.
“Oak Ridge has always been known as the ‘Secret City,’ but we’re not secret anymore,” Gooch said.
Here are some key dates in Oak Ridge’s early history, according to Y-12 National Security Complex Historian and newspaper history columnist D. Ray Smith:
- September 19, 1942: The day that U.S. Army Corps of Engineers General Leslie Groves authorized the purchase of land for the Manhattan Project in the area that is now Oak Ridge, initiating a letter to purchase about 60,000 acres, much of which remains as the Oak Ridge Reservation.
- September 23-24, 1942: Groves visited Oak Ridge, which was then Site X and later the Clinton Engineer Works. The area had about 3,000 people and 1,000 farms in several communities, and they had to move within days for the Manhattan Project.
- February 1, 1943: Groundbreaking for Y-12, which continues to work on nuclear weapons, among other activities.
- February 2, 1943: Groundbreaking for X-10, now Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which had the Graphite Reactor, a pilot project for plutonium. ORNL continues to conduct scientific research.
- June 1943: Groundbreaking for K-25, now known as East Tennessee Technology Park, a uranium-enrichment site that has since been shut down and is being converted into a large industrial park.
Smith said Groves initially considered putting other Manhattan Project functions here, but he determined that that would result in too many activities too close to Knoxville. He decided to build plutonium reactors at Hanford, Washington, on 586 square miles near the Columbia River, which could be used for cooling. (Oak Ridge was 90 square miles.) Plutonium for “Fat Man,” the second atomic bomb, dropped over Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945, came from Hanford.
Another Manhattan Project site was built at Los Alamos, New Mexico, an isolated place on a mesa where physicist Robert Oppenheimer had vacationed, Smith said.
Besides enriching uranium for “Little Boy,” Oak Ridge was the main production site for the Manhattan Project.
Today, Oak Ridge, Hanford, and Los Alamos are part of the unique, three-site Manhattan Project National Historical Park, the first of its kind to commemorate the Manhattan Project. The park was formally established in November 2015.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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