Los Alamos, New Mexico, was the site of Project Y, or the top-secret atomic weapons laboratory directed by J. Robert Oppenheimer. The site was so secret that one mailbox, PO Box 1663, served as the mailing address for the entire town. The mountains allowed the scientists ample opportunity to relax, by skiing, swimming, and hiking. But they spent most of their time in laboratories, overcoming challenge after challenge to develop the Littly Boy (gun-type) and Fat Man (implosion) atomic bombs.
Security & Secrecy
Stirling Auchincloss Colgate: I’m Stirling Auchincloss Colgate. And the first name is spelled with an extra “I,” S-T-I-R-L-I-N-G. My middle name is Auchincloss, A-U-C-H-I-N-C-L-O-S-S. And that last name is Colgate, and when I was around ten or eleven years old or somewheres like that, I changed my name and chose that myself, so I’m happy about that name. I like it.
Cindy Kelly: We’re going to start with your name: could you tell us your name and spell it?
Black: My name is Colleen Black, C-O-L-L-E-E-N B-L-A-C-K.
Kelly: Terrific. Good job.
Black: [Laughter.] Thank you.
In 1942, General Leslie Groves approved Oak Ridge, Tennessee, as the site for the pilot plutonium plant and the uranium enrichment plant. Manhattan Project engineers had to quickly build a town to accommodate 30,000 workers--as well as build the enormously complex plants.
The birth of nuclear weapons occurred on July 16, 1945 at the Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range in New Mexico, 230 miles south of Los Alamos. Gadget (as the bomb was known) was an implosion plutonium bomb, like the one used at Nagasaki, and detonated with 20 kilotons of force, slightly more than the Little Boy bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Originally the test was to occur at 4 a.m., but it was delayed to 5:30 after an early morning thunderstorm. At 5:29:45, Gadget exploded and the Atomic Age began.