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

  • Alexander Utkin / AFP / Getty

    Anti-Corruption Protests Across Russia

    On March 26, 2017, thousands of Russians rallied across the country to protest government corruption, in one of the largest opposition demonstrations in years.

  • Eliot Blondet / Corbis via Getty

    Photos of the Week: 3/18–3/24

    The "Sydney Skinny" in Australia, a terror attack in London, Newroz in Iraq, President Trump behind the wheel, and much more.

  • Viktor Drachev / AFP / Getty

    Today Is National Puppy Day

    In the spirit of the day, I feel obligated to share some of these adorable images of pups around the world, and through the years.

  • Dennis Cook / AP

    30 Years Ago: A Look Back at 1987

    Take a step into a visual time capsule, for a brief look at the year.

Join the Discussion