Tour The Top-Secret Town Where Atomic Bomb Parts Were Made During World War II

oak ridge

Photo: Ed Westcott/US Department of Energy

In 1942, the U.S. government snapped up more than 60,000 acres of land in eastern Tennessee as part of the Manhattan Project. The area, called Oak Ridge, was already home to about 3,000 people. But for the next seven years, the town remained top-secret while thousands of federal workers developed materials for the atomic bomb. Residents were required to wear badges when outside their homes and armed guards were staked at all the city’s entrances.   

The U.S. Department of Energy recently digitized hundreds of 1940s-era photos of the “secret city.” Although many of the photos are posed, they provide a snapshot of life during a monumental period in U.S. history.   

[via A Continuous Lean]

Thousands of people from all over the country who were brought in to work at the site lived in housing developments.

By 1945, the population of Oak Ridge grew from 3,000 to 75,000.

Check out the interior.

A playground for the kids.

The area was also cleared to make room for three sprawling manufacturing plants — X-10, Y-12, and K-25.

Here's early construction of the K-25 plant. Each facility was involved in separating Uranium 235 (used in the Atomic Bomb) from Uranium 238.

The Uranium 235 (used in the Atomic Bomb) from Uranium 238.

Construction of the Steam Plant at K-25.

The outhouses were segregated.

A billboard in Oak Ridge.

The Jewel Lee bowling team.

Residents were allowed to own dogs.

Garbage collection.

Girl Scouts tea.

Oak Ridge High School cheerleaders.

Children line up for public health inoculations.

A laundry facility.

A travelling library hands out books.

The city market meat counter is busy.

Military police guard one city entrance.

War bond drive.

And here's what Oak Ridge looks like today.

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