The Manhattan Project

Life in the Secret Cities

William J. Wilcox, Jr.'s Interview

William J. Wilcox, Jr.: My name is Bill Wilcox. Oak Ridge, Tennessee resident for sixty-three years. Ever since—pretty much since the beginning of Oak Ridge. Can’t imagine a better calling, a better career, a better place to live, better people to work for, better people to work with, or to be associated with. Very important contribution to our country that I was privileged to have a very tiny, small part of. It was great.

Santa Fe, NM

Santa Fe was the first stop for many scientists, engineers, Women's Army Corps, military police and all others assigned to work on the top-secret project at Los Alamos. 

Lamy

Ten miles from Santa Fe, Lamy is the nearest stop on the former Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Young men and women assigned to work at Los Alamos arrived not knowing where they were or where they were going.  

Jackson Square

Jackson Square was the heart of Oak Ridge’s business district. Originally Town Center No. 1, the name Jackson Square was adopted in February 1945 as Oak Ridge moved away from military terminology. The site was one of five commercial shopping areas distributed across the Oak Ridge reservation.

T-Plant

In early 1944, DuPont, the operating contractor at Hanford, foresaw the need for four chemical separation facilities. These facilities, designated the T and U plants at location 200-West and the B and C plants at location 200-East (the C plant was never built), would be located approximately ten miles south of the reactors.

Wendover Air Field, UT

Wendover Air Field was chosen as the rear training base for the 509th Composite Group because of its isolation. It is located in the salt flats located 125 miles west of Salt Lake City. Colonel Paul Tibbets, head of the 509th, remarked upon seeing Wendover for himself: "The end of the world, perfect." Life at Wendover was primitive: the drinking water was bad, infrastructure was limited, rats invaded barracks, and there was sand in everything.

Mary Lowe Michel's Interview

Michel: My name was Mary Lowe, L-O-W-E, and I married John Michel, M-I-C-H-E-L.

Kelly: Great. Is it possible that you can look toward me? So tell me, how and when did you come to Oak Ridge?

Michel: I came in November of 1944.

Kelly: And what had—where had you come from? What brought you here?

Robert Ellingson's Interview

Robert Ellingson: My name is Robert Ellingson, and it’s spelled E-L-L-I-N-G-S-O-N. 

Kelly: Great. Now if you could just tell us where you’re from, and how you happened to end up in the Manhattan Project.

Ellingson: I am from a little town in Idaho, and Idaho is west of Wyoming if you’re not familiar with the geography of the country. Most people look quizzical and say, “Iowa, that’s north of here, isn’t it?” But this is the one in the West. 

Hanford, WA

Hanford, Washington, on the beautiful Columbia River, was the site selected for the full-scale plutonium production plant, the B Reactor. Today a popular tourist desination, the Hanford Site proved crucial to the success of the Manhattan Project. 

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