The Secret City

Starting in 1942, the U.S. government began quietly acquiring more than 60,000 acres in Eastern Tennessee for the Manhattan Project -- the secret World War II program that developed the atomic bomb. The government needed land to build massive facilities to refine and develop nuclear materials for these new weapons, without attracting the attention of enemy spies. The result was a secret town named Oak Ridge that housed tens of thousands of workers and their families. The entire town and facility were fenced in, with armed guards posted at all entries. Workers were sworn to secrecy and only informed of the specific tasks they needed to perform. Most were unaware of the exact nature of their final product until the nuclear bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945. Photographer Ed Westcott (the only authorized photographer on the facility) took many photos of Oak Ridge during the war years and afterwards, capturing construction, scientific experiments, military maneuvers, and everyday life in a 1940s company town (where the company happens to be the U.S. government).

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Dan Mullan / Getty

    Baku 2017: The Islamic Solidarity Games

    For the past 10 days in Baku, Azerbaijan, 6,000 athletes from 54 nations competed in 21 sports during the fourth iteration of the Islamic Solidarity Games.

  • Lucas Jackson / Reuters

    The Finale of 'The Greatest Show on Earth'

    After a run of 146 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, known as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” has come to an end.

  • Pascal Pochard-Casabianca / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 5/13–5/19

    The world’s fastest shed in Wales, France welcomes a new president, a portrait of the late singer Chris Cornell on stage in Atlanta, a new eruption of Mount Sinabung, and much more.

  • Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

    Venezuela's Crisis Deepens, Protests Escalate

    Since April 1, daily anti-government  protests across Venezuela have frequently devolved into clashes with riot police, leaving thousands arrested, hundreds injured, and 43 dead.

Join the Discussion