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

  • Stéphane Mahé / Reuters

    A Quiet, Ancestral Farm Life in Western France

    Reuters photographer Stéphane Mahé visited a farmer named Jean-Bernard Huon on his farm in western France, where he deliberately lives a traditional, non-mechanized farm life.

  • Guadalupe Pardo / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: Skiing Robots, a Bichon Frise Wins Best in Show

    The U.S. Toboggan Championships in Maine, scenes from New York Fashion Week, a camel trip on a Siberian steppe, and much more.

  • Adam Ferguson / The New York Times

    Nominees in the 2018 World Press Photo Contest

    The top images being considered to win awards in the 61st annual World Press Photo Contest ​have just been announced.

  • Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty

    Pyeongchang 2018: Photos From the First Five Days

    A look at some of the competition from the first days of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.