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

  • Henry Nicholls / Reuters

    Images of the Season: Fall Is in the Air, Part II

    One last look at my favorite season of the year, with more autumnal images from across the Northern Hemisphere.

  • Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

    Robots at Work and Play

    Recent images of robotic technology around the world

  • © Google

    Seven Square Miles

    Snapshots from Google Earth, all rectangles of the same size and scale, approximately three and a half miles wide by two miles tall—showing seven square miles of the varied surface of our planet in each view

  • Mark Wallheiser / Getty

    More Photos of the Incredible Devastation Left by Hurricane Michael

    Recent photographs from Mexico Beach, Panama City, and neighboring Florida towns, as the full extent of the damage wrought by Hurricane Michael becomes clearer.