Monday, August 7, 2017

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

We moved from Nashville to the Escapees RV park in Heiskell, TN for a week because they allow you to wash your rig. Most parks don't allow this so Opus has not had a good bath since last November when we were in Mesa. We took four days first scrubbing the roof and then washing the rest of the rig. I used Dri Wash n Guard on the side walls and put a couple coats of paste wax on the front for better protection since I have removed the diamond shield. We are happy with the way Opus looks even as a 13 year old teenager. 
This past spring we visited the Trinity Site in New Mexico where the first atomic bomb was tested on July 16, 1945. When we realized that nearby Oak Ridge is part of the new Manhattan Project National Historical Park that was just established in November 2015, we decided to visit. 
Oak Ridge, where uranium used in a bomb was enriched, is one of three sites in the national historical park. Another is in Hanford, Washington, where the plutonium used in the Trinity test was enriched. The third site is Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the bombs were built.  
The park service site is part of the American Museum of Science and Energy. Outside the museum is this tribute to the victims of the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and made from metal taken from the site.
With the rise of Hitler and the Third Reich many Jewish and Gentile scientists were persecuted and fled Germany taking with them the knowledge that would lead to the development of the atomic bomb. Many of those people came to the the United Sates and ended up playing major roles in the Manhattan Project.  
The original U-235 Gas Diffusion Model of the machines that were built in Oak Ridge to separate the bomb grade uranium 235 from U-238.      
The calutron, designed by Ernest Orlando Lawrence, was used to separate the the U-235 and also to enrich it a second time to make weapons grade material. There were 1,152 of these machines at Oak Ridge. They were operated around the clock by women, who proved to be much better at controlling the machine than the male scientists, even though they had no idea what the purpose was for all the work they were doing. The purpose became obvious on August 6, 1945 when the bomb using the enriched uranium they produced was dropped on Hiroshima. 
This exhibit explains the roles of the other two sites that were part of the Manhattan Project, Hanford and Los Alamos. The scale of the entire project is hard to imagine with nearly 600,000 people, most of whom had no idea what they were working on, being part of a secret project at three different locations across the country.
With the secret work to enrich uranium completed, the material was transported to Los Alamos to be made into the bomb. It was carried by two men who traveled by public train from Tennessee to New Mexico.  
While the scientists were working to develop the bomb, the military was preparing to deliver it. The 509th Composite Unit, using B-29's, trained at Wendover Army Air Field, Utah starting in December 1944. In May 1945 they moved to North Field on Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands. From there they did twelve missions over Japan dropping high explosive pumpkin bombs that were similar in size and weight to the atomic bomb, Fat Man.
The first atomic bomb was dropped by the crew of the Enola Gay lead by Paul Tibbets. Two members of his crew, Dutch Van Kirk and Tom Ferebee, had also flown with Tibbets on bombing runs over Germany in the B-17 Red Gremlin at the beginning of the war in 1942.
Since the Manhattan Project was secret it was conducted in remote locations where whole new towns with all the needed services had to be built. In Oak Ridge they used eminent domain to acquire 56,000 acres of land where a whole new town that housed over 60,000 was built. Single people were housed in barracks-like buildings and families had small homes like this one. It had 576 square feet of living space in a two bedroom house. This one was later purchased and used as a family summer home for sixty years before it was donated to the museum.  
While the house may seem small to most people, for someone who lives in a house on wheels it was very roomy. Nanc was calling to see if another one was available for us.

If you have any interest in the history of WWII, a visit to Oak Ridge needs to be on your to do list. I know we have added Los Alamos and Hanford to our list. We also need to go to those sites to complete our park service Passport Book stamp as each site has a stamp that is one-third of a circle.


Jan Mains said...

Did you do the bus ride through the base while you were there. It was limited to one bus load a day when we were there.

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

A good post, especially with the scary things happening today.