The Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association has unveiled a new guide to the historic sites of the “Secret City” of Oak Ridge. The Manhattan Project, Secret City Pocket Guide was prepared by the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association in cooperation with the National Park Service and the Oak Ridge Schools.
The 44-page guide measures only 4 inches by 7 inches in size, so it easily fits in your pocket, a press release said. It tells the story of the Manhattan Project’s first major nuclear site, Oak Ridge—created less than a year after the Pearl Harbor attack. The guide is priced at $5.
The new guide is packed with historic photos, an introduction to the new national historical park, a driving map of Oak Ridge’s heritage sites, and fascinating factoids on the people who built one of the most amazing technical achievements in history, the press release said.
The guide’s author, Martin McBride, is a member of the Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association Board and a retired nuclear safety division director from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Back in March, 1942—barely four months after the Pearl Harbor Attack—President Franklin Roosevelt instructed his staff to accelerate America’s research into the possibility of an atomic weapon. At the time, the country was reeling from a series of successful Japanese attacks in East Asia. Nazi Germany seemed all but invincible as it rolled through the Soviet Union and North Africa, the press release said.
In August 1942, a top-secret government project, code-named “The Manhattan Engineer District,” was created by the Army Corps of Engineers. Its purpose was to create an atomic bomb in time to end World War II (if such a weapon could be made).
On September 17, 1942, one of the nation’s top military construction experts, Leslie R. Groves, reluctantly agreed to head the fledgling project, the press release said. He had just completed building the brand-new Pentagon.
Two days later, on September 19, 1942, Groves authorized procurement of the first major Manhattan Project site, located on 59,000 acres of Tennessee farmland just outside of Knoxville. This area would ultimately come to house four first-of-their-kind nuclear production plants and a 75,000-person “Secret City” of Oak Ridge, the press release said.
Hundreds of thousands of Americans were involved in the Manhattan Project—in total secrecy. They worked around the clock to squeeze several decades of research and development into two short years. Most experts thought building an atomic weapon in such a short time-frame was impossible.
“The brilliance of the project’s technical achievements and the tragedy of the subsequent bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed everything,” McBride said in the press release.
“After the two atomic bombs were dropped, the worlds’ superpowers took a deep breath and stepped back from the option of unlimited, global warfare. There has been no World War III in seven decades—a truly remarkable accomplishment, considering that only 20 years separated World Wars One and Two.
“A third World War was due to happen in the 1960s—based on the timings of WWI and II. If it had, it’s unlikely that the civil rights or environmental protection movements would have been taken seriously. And without the extended period of international stability, there would be no Internet today and little science advancement outside of military technology. The Manhattan Project really did change everything.”
Next year marks the 75th anniversary of the creation of Oak Ridge and the nation-wide nuclear complex that eventually morphed into the U.S. Department of Energy.
The new 44-page Secret City Pocket Guide is available at several Oak Ridge locations, including the American Museum of Science and Energy, Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge, The Ferrell Shop, Through The Looking Glass Antiques and Collectibles, Jefferson Drug Store, and the Oak Ridge Staybridge Suites Hotel.
It’s also available on the web at www.amse.org.
Proceeds from sales will go towards heritage preservation efforts so that future generations can learn the amazing story of the Manhattan Project, the press release said.
“We really appreciate all the wonderful help we received to put the guide together,” McBride said.
For further information, contact McBride at (865) 482-5386 or [email protected]. The Oak Ridge Heritage and Preservation Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to education and preserving our nation’s heritage.
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