US Government Top Secret Town: Manhattan Project ‘Atomic City’ aka Oak Ridge TN

April 14th, 2013 Permalink

In 1942, as part of the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government created a top ‘Secret Town’ aka ”The Atomic City’ now called Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The government bought up about 68,000 acres of land and about 1,000 Tennessee families were given two weeks or less to vacate. All the while, other secret towns were created elsewhere in the US as part of the race to create an atomic weapon. These photos are a flashback into World War II and a treasure trove of Oak Ridge period history. Through these pictures we can peer into the past, previously shrouded in secrecy, into the atomic city where the Little Boy bomb was created before the Enola Gay dropped it on Hiroshima. It’s a story that involves Soviet atomic spies, espionage, compartmentalization to guard secrets, and government billboards encouraging secrecy among Oak Ridge workers. [60 Photos]

Atoms For Peace Traveling Exhibit in Oak Ridge 1957

Atoms For Peace Traveling Exhibit in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 1957. But once upon a time, for years, both the atomic research and the facility in Oak Ridge were shrouded in secrecy. The government created this ‘Secret Town’ aka ‘The Atomic City’ as part of the Manhattan Project. In fact, Oak Ridge was the Manhattan District Headquarters. Oak Ridge National Lab, which is now home to ultra-fast and powerful supercomputer Titan, has digitized photo archives, making this photo essay possible. DOE Photo #1 by Ed Westcott

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

Uncle Sam promoting secrecy on Oak Ridge billboard in December 1943. Wikipedia states, “The Manhattan Project operated under a blanket of tight security, but Soviet atomic spies still penetrated the program. It was also charged with gathering intelligence on the German nuclear energy project. Through Operation Alsos, Manhattan Project personnel served in Europe, sometimes behind enemy lines, where they gathered nuclear materials and documents, and rounded up German scientists.” DOE Photo #2 by Ed Westcott



Your Stake in the Atom geodome in 1966 at The Atomic City aka The Secret City, Oak Ridge TN

Oak Ridge Tennessee 1966: “Your Stake in the Atom a special traveling exhibit of U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, is housed in its own geodesic, exoskeleton structure some 20 feet high and 50 feet in diameter.” By this time, the atomic bomb had been dropped on Japan, WWII was long over and replaced by the Cold War. The Manhattan Project had turned into a new page in history, the nuclear arms race. DOE Photo #3 by Ed Westcott

The Secret Town, Atomic City and Atomic bomb aka Trinity Test

Left: Capt. O’Sullivan talking about how ‘Atom Splitting releases energy’ in 1944. Right: Little Boy, the bomb secretly produced at Oak Ridge, was untested. But on July 16, 1945, the atomic bomb created in Los Alamos was tested and this was known as the Trinity Test. DOE Photo #4 by Ed Westcott & #5 by Jack W. Aeby / Special Engineering Detachment at Los Alamos laboratory, working under the aegis of the Manhattan Project

1940s Oak Ridge Military Gate

1940s Oak Ridge Military Gate. “Oak Ridge was established in 1942 as a production site for the Manhattan Project—the massive U.S., U.K. and Canadian operation that developed the atomic bomb.” It wasn’t officially called Oak Ridge for a very long time. DOE Photo #6 by Ed Westcott

Early Construction K-25 plant with one of original houses Oak Ridge Tennessee 1942

1942 early construction on the K-25 plant with one of original houses in Oak Ridge. This Tennessee Manhattan Project “location was established within a 17-mile-long (27 km) valley, and the valley itself was linear and partitioned by several ridges, providing natural protection against disasters between the four major industrial plants—so they wouldn’t blow up ‘like firecrackers on a string’.” DOE Photo #7 by Ed Westcott

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

Workers at Oak Ridge were not allowed to tell anyone what they were working on. The secret Atomic City was constructed in a very short time frame; the scientists and the workers worked around the clock. 1943: ‘This is the only way he gets a day off’ billboard at Oak Ridge During World War II. DOE Photo #8 by Ed Westcott

April 1944 workers on break at Oak Ridge Store

The government had bought up nearly 70,000 acres of land. Wikipedia states, “About 1,000 families were affected by the condemnation order, which came into effect on 7 October. Protests, legal appeals, and a 1943 congressional inquiry were to no avail. By mid-November US Marshals were tacking notices to vacate on farmhouse doors, and construction contractors were moving in. Some families were given two weeks’ notice to vacate farms that had been their homes for generations; others had settled there after being evicted to make way for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the 1920s or the Norris Dam in the 1930s. The ultimate cost of land acquisition in the area, which was not completed until March 1945, was only about $2.6 million, which worked out to around $47 an acre. When presented with Public Proclamation Number Two, which declared Oak Ridge a total exclusion area that no one could enter without military permission, the Governor of Tennessee, Prentice Cooper, angrily tore it up.” This April 1944 photo shows workers on break at Oak Ridge Store. DOE Photo #9 by Ed Westcott

October 1943 Oak Ridge Tennessee Billboard During World War II

October 1943 Oak Ridge Billboard. DOE Photo #10 by Ed Westcott

1943 Interior of PX (post exchange) Oak Ridge

1943 Interior of PX (post exchange). DOE Photo #11 by Ed Westcott

1943 Outdoor Privies Oak Ridge Tennessee

1943 Outdoor Privies. DOE Photo #12 by Ed Westcott

1944 muddy road building at Oak Ridge Tennessee

1944 and building roads; the early roads were mud pits when it rained. Oak Ridge was not even a reality yet. The name wasn’t formally adopted until 1949 and was “only referred to as the Clinton Engineer Works (CEW). All workers wore badges, and the town was surrounded by guard towers and a fence with seven gates.” DOE Photo #13 by Ed Westcott

Stay on the job rally at J.A. Jones Construction Co. Oak Ridge Tennessee 12-14-1944

Stay on the job rally at J.A. Jones Construction Co. Oak Ridge Tennessee 12-14-1944. Thanks in part to compartmentalization by General Leslie Groves, the people at Oak Ridge did not know what they had been working on until news came about the first atomic bomb used against Japan on August 6, 1945. DOE Photo #14 by Ed Westcott

1944 Hawley Plant Security Poster Allis Chalmers Milwaukee Wisconsin During World War II

Sister Manhattan Project site billboard in 1944, Hawley Plant Security Poster Allis Chalmers Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Similar security signs were also posted at the secret site in Los Alamos during World War II. All of these secret towns were secretly competing against other facilities that sprung up at the same time in the race to successfully to make an atomic weapon. They used different formulas and were all out to make the first real weapon of mass destruction. DOE Photo #15 by Ed Westcott

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

Security and secrecy in 1944: A little boy gets a security badge and a man talking on a work-only telephone. DOE Photo #16 by Ed Westcott & DOE Photo #17 by Westcott

Loose lips sink ships Billboard Oak Ridge During World War II 1940s

Loose lips sink ships (), 1940s Oak Ridge billboard. Russian atomic spies were hellbent on espionage. DOE Photo #18 by Ed Westcott

Elza Gate MP 1945 Oak Ridge Tennessee

Elza Gate Military Police in 1945. Oak Ridge was “initially known as the Kingston Demolition Range, the site was officially renamed the Clinton Engineer Works (CEW) in early 1943.” DOE Photo #19 by Ed Westcott

1945 K-25 Plant Aerial Oak Ridge Tennessee

1945 K-25 Plant Aerial Oak Ridge Tennessee. ORNL has digitized its photography archives. From 1943-45, “Oak Ridge hosted several uranium separation technologies” like the Y-12 electromagnetic separation plant, and the K-25 and K-27 gaseous diffusion plants. There was also S-50 thermal diffusion plant, but the X-10 was used later for plutonium production. DOE Photo #20 by Ed Westcott

1944 Operation at Oak Ridge Hospital

1944 Operation at Oak Ridge Hospital. At one point during WWII, the construction population of the ‘secret’ Manhattan Project ‘atomic city’ swelled to about 70,000 workers. DOE Photo #21 by Ed Westcott

I played with matches 1940s Fire Truck and kids on Kodachrome in Oak Ridge Tennessee

I played with matches? 1940s Fire Truck and kids on Kodachrome. This is one of the rarely seen color Oak Ridge photographs from the 1940s – 1960s. DOE Photo #22 by Ed Westcott

1945 Canteen Oak Ridge

1945 Canteen. At one point during Project Manhattan, Oak Ridge was consuming as much as 10% of the total electricity used in the United States. DOE Photo #23 by Ed Westcott

November 1944 War Bond Drive Oak Ridge & Boy Scouts

November 1944 War Bond Drive & Boy Scouts holding the US flag. DOE Photo #24 by Ed Westcott & DOE Photo #25 by Ed Westcott

Hit 'em harder billboard in Oak Ridge in October 1944

“Hit ’em harder” billboard in October 1944. DOE Photo #26 by Ed Westcott

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

Shift change at Y-12 Oak Ridge Tennessee 8-11-1945; notice the security sign on the right. By May 1945, 82,000 people were employed at the Clinton Engineer Works. DOE Photo #27 by Ed Westcott

October 1943 Attendance Billboard Oak Ridge Tennessee

October 1943 Oak Ridge Attendance Billboard. The pressure was on to split the atom and construct a bomb to use on Nazi Germany. Atomic spies burrowed into the scientific research at Los Alamos. Nowadays it is cyber-espionage that is equally if not more so ‘deadly’ and dangerous. DOE Photo #28 by Ed Westcott

Battles are not won by Absentees, Oak Ridge TN billboard in November 1943

Battles are not won by Absentees billboard in November 1943. DOE Photo #29 by Ed Westcott

1945 Coal worker & Center Theater Win this Pony Prize Oak Ridge Tennessee 11-30-1946

Left: Coal worker at coal yard in 1945. Right: Center Theater ‘Win this Pony Prize’ 11-30-1946. DOE Photo #30 by Ed Westcott & DOE Photo #31 by Ed Westcott

Oak Ridge Tennessee 1944 General Ike War Billboard

1944 General Ike War Billboard. DOE Photo #32 by Ed Westcott

Police Department – Car Lineup Oak Ridge Tennessee 1945

Police Department – Car Lineup in 1945. DOE Photo #33 by Ed Westcott

Woman Welding at K-25 Oak Ridge Tennessee February 1945

Woman welding at K-25 in February 1945. DOE Photo #34 by Ed Westcott

Cart Associated Press Oak Ridge Tennessee 9-29-45

Cart Associated Press on 9-29-45. DOE Photo #35 by Ed Westcott

Alpha Track Calutron at the Y-12 Plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee from the Manhattan Project, used for uranium enrichment by electromagnetic separation process -- Circa 1944-1945

Alpha Track Calutron at the Y-12 Plant at Oak Ridge, from the Manhattan Project, used for uranium enrichment by electromagnetic separation process — Circa 1944-1945. DOE Photo #36 by Ed Westcott

Whose son will die in the last minute of the war billboard in Oak Ridge Tennessee in January 1944

Whose son will die in the last minute of the war? Wow another trippy billboard in January 1944. Manhattan Project costs through December 31 1945 for the Oak Ridge site was about $1,188,352,000; that is equal to $15.2 billion in 2013. DOE Photo #37 by Ed Westcott

1945 Disk jockey at Oak Ridge

This was what it was like to be a disk jockey in 1945. Bill Pollock – Disk Jockey and Berl Henry singing. DOE Photo #38 by Ed Westcott

1945 Drivers permit bureau eye test

1945 Drivers permit bureau eye test. DOE Photo #39 by Ed Westcott

Billboard showing total payroll deduction for 7th war loan drive Oak Ridge Tennessee

Billboard showing total payroll deduction for 7th war loan drive. DOE Photo #40 by Ed Westcott

Line For Cigarettes IN 1945 at Williams Drug Store-Jackson Sq. Oak Ridge

Line For Cigarettes in 1945 at Williams Drug Store-Jackson Sq. in Oak Ridge. DOE Photo #41 by Ed Westcott

May 1945 Cigarette Gag in Oak Ridge

Not leave or take a penny, but a cigarette. May 1945 Cigarette Gag. DOE Photo #42 by Ed Westcott

MP detachment Oak Ridge Tennessee 1945

MP detachment in 1945. Wikipedia states, “Two types of atomic bomb were developed during the war. A relatively simple gun-type fission weapon was made using uranium-235, an isotope that makes up only 0.7 percent of natural uranium. Since it is chemically identical to the most common isotope, uranium-238, and has almost the same mass, it proved difficult to separate. Three methods were employed for uranium enrichment: electromagnetic, gaseous and thermal. Most of this work was performed at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.” DOE Photo #43 by Ed Westcott

CEW Housing- Hutment- interior Oak Ridge Tennessee February 1945

CEW Housing – Hutment – interior February 1945. DOE Photo #44 by Ed Westcott

Link Trainer Oak Ridge Tennessee 9-1945

Atomic emblem on Link Trainer 9-1945. The Nazis threat ended with their surrender, but the Pacific held war with Japan after it bombed Pearl Harbor. DOE Photo #45 by Ed Westcott

Little Boy atomic bomb made in Oak Ridge and dropped on Hiroshima

Left: Little Boy, the atomic bomb created in Oak Ridge, on a trailer cradle before being loaded into Enola Gay‘s bomb bay. [Note bomb bay door in upper right-hand corner.] The 10 foot long Little Boy weighed about 4.9 tons, 9,700 pounds. Right: At the time this photo was made, smoke billowed 20,000 feet above Hiroshima while smoke from the burst of the first atomic bomb had spread over 10,000 feet on the target at the base of the rising column. Three planes of the 509th Composite Group participated in this mission; one to carry the bomb — the Enola Gay, one to take scientific measurements of the blast — the Great Artiste, the third to take photographs — Necessary Evil. Others flew approximately an hour ahead to act as weather scouts on 08/06/1945 before dropping Little Boy on Hiroshima. Photo #46 by Archival Research Catalog & DoD Photo #47 by Enola Gay Tail Gunner S/Sgt. George R. (Bob) Caron

V-J day Celebration Jackson Square Downtown Oak Ridge 8-14-1945

V-J (Victory over Japan) day Celebration at Jackson Square in Downtown Oak Ridge on 8-14-1945. After August 6 and Little Boy, the US dropped the ‘Fat Man’ atom bomb from Los Alamos onto Nagasaki August 9 1945. The Soviet Union also declared war on Japan on August 9. Japan surrendered. DOE Photo #48 by Ed Westcott

US government photographer Ed Westcott, Army Corp of Engineers, in his dark room at Clinton Engineer Works, Oak Ridge, 1945

US government photographer Ed Westcott, Army Corp of Engineers, in his dark room at Clinton Engineer Works, Oak Ridge, 1945. Photo #49 by DOE

1946 Solway Gate MPs on duty Oak Ridge

1946 Solway Gate MPs on duty. About atomic spies, Wikipedia states, “To obtain this information from the Manhattan Project, the Soviet Union needed spies that, first of all, had security clearance high enough to have access to classified information, and secondly, could understand and interpret what they were stealing. Moscow also needed reliable spies who believed in the communist cause and would provide accurate information. One such Soviet spy was Theodore Hall, who had been a developer on the bombs dropped in Japan. Hall gave up the specifications of the bomb dropped on Nagasaki. This information allowed the Soviet scientists a firsthand look at the successful set up of an atomic weapon built by the Allied team.” DOE Photo #50 by Ed Westcott

1947 Aerial photo of Oak Ridge National Lab, Tennessee

Rare color 1947 aerial photo of Oak Ridge National Lab. During that period, Oak Ridge’s nicknames included “the Atomic City, the Secret City, the Ridge, and the City Behind the Fence.” ORNL is still a very important scientific center. Cyber-spies have tried to get into ONRL, using phishing emails and malware, but many such important sites are targets for cyber espionage in today’s world. Do you suppose cybersecurity billboards would help strengthen passwords, batten down the hatches, or get the appropriate people to unplug critical infrastructure that need not be connected the the Internet? DOE Photo #51 by Ed Westcott

Sept. 3, 1948 Logan Emlett with first Atomic Power Plant at X-10 Graphite Reactor at Oak Ridge Tennessee

Sept. 3, 1948 Logan Emlett with first Atomic Power Plant at X-10 Graphite Reactor, Oak Ridge. DOE Photo #52 by Ed Westcott

Gate Opening Celebration Elza Gate Oak Ridge Tennessee 3-19-1949

Elza Gate opening celebration on 3-19-1949. DOE Photo #53 by L.S. Chastagner

April 1949 City Limits with Restriction Sign of Town Oak Ridge

April 1949 City Limits Sign. The secret Atomic City officially becomes “Oak Ridge.” DOE Photo #54 by Ed Westcott

1949 Elza Gate Security Patrol Oak Ridge

1949 Elza Gate Security Patrol. DOE Photo #55 by Ed Westcott

1959 Dr Alvin Weinburg and Sen. John F. Kennedy at the Graphite Reactor Oak Ridge National Lab

1959 Dr Alvin Weinburg and Sen. John F. Kennedy at the Graphite Reactor at ORNL. DOE Photo #56 by Ed Westcott

1960 Security Billboard Oak Ridge TN, the wishful thinker

1960 Security Billboard: The wishful thinker. DOE Photo #57 by Ed Westcott

Security Billboard 'One In Every Crowd' Oak Ridge Tennessee 1960

1960 Security Billboard ‘One In Every Crowd’ . . . it’s perhaps still true today. DOE Photo #58 by Ed Westcott

Scarboro was one of several communities in the Oak Ridge area dispersed in order to build a base for the Manhattan Project

Scarboro was one of several communities in the Oak Ridge area dispersed in order to build a base for the Manhattan Project. Photo #59 by Brian Stansberry

Security Billboard Aug. 1970 Oak Ridge Tennessee

1970 Oak Ridge Security Billboard. DOE Photo #60 by Ed Westcott

Now we sit on the brink of a new war, cyberwar. Video #1 by wabajob

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