Oak Ridge, TN

Oak Ridge, Tennessee the secret city that build the atomic bomb that ended WWII

Sara B

Built among the Appalachian mountains lies a city called Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Once Oak ridge was an average mountain town until chosen for the Manhattan Project.

The site was chosen for its remote, landlocked location and the perfect number of people living in East Tennessee. Not too dense and sparse, even though the town was already inhabited.

In 1942 the government, under the orders of General Groves from the US Army Corps of Engineers, purchased the 59,000 acres. Which meant the 3,000 people who inhabited Oak Ridge, Tennessee, would be displaced.

It is said that the residents one day had a notice on their door that they all had to leave, and the kids were sent home from school and said tell your parents you have to find a new place to live, giving the residents only a few weeks to vacate and very little money given for compensation.

Not even VP Truman knew about the Manhattan project; it was a top-secret government project. The project recruited workers from nearby Knoxville, Tn.

The K-25, S-50, and Y-12 plants were built to separate the fissile isotope uranium-235 from natural uranium. Due to the number of people needed to work on this project, the government created an entire town.

It included a railroad track, ten schools, seven theaters, 17 restaurants, 13 supermarkets, and even a library. The city was able to serve its 75,000 residents. The town also employed women as many men were overseas fighting, and each worker had only one task, with precise instructions and repetitive tasks.

Signs were up everywhere to remind no one to talk about what was happening at oak ridge. Reports stated it paid very well for their compliance. It was a time when the rest of the world was rationing and out of work.

The employees were constantly reminded not to talk about their job; they were not allowed to congregate in groups of 7 or more. If anyone leaked what they were doing to the outside world, residents could be jailed for ten years or fined 100k.

“We didn’t know that it was an atomic bomb, and if we had known, we couldn’t speak about it because they had signs – on the road, at the entrance, everywhere – with, ‘Don’t talk,’ ” she said. “You don’t talk, and if you did talk you weren’t there the next day.”

No one knew what they were building, only that it would end the war. It was not until the US dropped the atomic bombs in 1945; the employees realized what they had created. According to the New Republic, the headline read, ¨Oak Ridge Attacks Japan¨.

Oak Ridge still processes enriched uranium at the Y-12 National Security Complex. Yet if you would like to visit the site, you can register for a tour and see the Secret City.

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I share legends, myths, and bizarre history, sometimes news. Living nomadically since 2018, currently in Colombia.

Pasadena, CA
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