Governments have to keep a certain level of secrecy about their inner workings — and it makes sense. If the public was privy to every action that occurred behind closed doors, not only could it cause potential panic, but warring nations would suddenly have dangerous information at their disposal.
In 1942, residents of a small county in Tennessee were evicted from their homes without warning. Within just a few weeks, thousands of military personnel were suddenly occupying the area, and a mysterious town was erected for a secret government mission…
When the residents of Tennessee’s Andersen and Roane counties returned home from work one afternoon in 1942, every person was bewildered to find an eviction notice on their door from the United States government.
With no information as to why, roughly 3,000 residents were immediately displaced. The evacuated area was a 17-mile stretch of land tucked deep in the Appalachian valley, and there was a very specific reason the government was so focused on this secluded piece of land.
Within just a few weeks of the original residents leaving, swarms of military personnel began rolling into the area to start building. This caused extreme unease in the surrounding towns. What was happening?
Soon enough, an entire mysterious city was built, and the people in charge of the project named it Oak Ridge. No one was sure why, and to make matters even weirder, the town didn’t appear on any map…
Although Oak Ridge appeared to be a basic middle-class community full of supermarkets, movie theaters, and churches, at a closer glance, it was far from ordinary. The entire vicinity was enclosed by a barbed-wire fence with guard towers to keep unwanted visitors out.
Every day, Oak Ridge was receiving a number of strange shipments brought in on large cargo trucks. Workers scrambled to set up a massive infrastructure, including this mile-long U-shaped building where thousands were said to be employed.
There were thousands of temporary housing units built for the families who were moved into the weird new place. Hundreds of miles of roads and railways connected every part of the land, making transportation throughout all of Oak Ridge easy. But not everything was as it seemed.
All of this flurry of mysterious activity was happening during World War II. During this time, most of the country was rationing supplies, but in Oak Ridge, people constantly had fresh produce, unlimited food stamps, and a ton of cash flow.
Not only were the material goods in Oak Ridge plentiful, but it was the only city without unemployment, and every member of the city was able to afford solid health care. It seemed too good to be true…
Because it was. The people of Oak Ridge were living in a tightly sealed military compound that was putting forth a lot of effort into something none of the residents really understood. However, the secret couldn’t stay hidden for long…
Oak Ridge became thefifth largest city in the United States not long after it was built! It was also using one-seventh of the electrical power consumed by the entirety of the country! Something big was clearly happening, but very few people had any idea what it was.
Although you might find it hard to believe, the actual workers in the massive factories didn’t really know the purpose of their jobs either. Every aspect of their day-to-day routines was kept under tight wraps.
The government told the residents of Oak Ridge a very vague reason for their work: it would help bring an end to World War II. But, no one had any idea how; they just showed up to work, flipped dials, turned knobs, and did whatever else they were instructed to do.
There were carefully placed signs all over Oak Ridge urging people to keep their mouths closed about what they saw and heard while on the job. Oak Ridge was shrouded in mystery for three whole years, but on the morning of August 6, 1945, everyone finally knew what they all had been working towards…
The residents of Oak Ridge had, in fact, were helping to secretly build the atomic bombs dropped on Japan. Some people were ecstatic the war was over, but others were horrified that their time at Oak Ridge was spent helping to kill hundreds of thousands of people.
The entire undercover endeavor was known as the Manhattan Project. The buildings in Oak Ridge, along with three other smaller locations around the country, were used to enrich uranium and produce plutonium, two vital materials in atomic weaponry. But, now that the war was officially over, what was to become of Oak Ridge?
After the war, the military handed it over to civilian control. In 1959, the town was officially placed on maps, and visitors could take guided tours of the mysterious town that helped end the second world war.
Nowadays, Oak Ridge still has a government nuclear research program, but it’s nowhere near as secretive as the Manhattan Project. Two of the three massive power plants still stand, but now, 30,000 people call Oak Ridge home and the days where secrecy and mystery inundated the streets is no more.
Imagine working for years in an enclosed city around military personnel without ever really knowing what you were doing. If the government kept something as massive as Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project a secret from the world, what else could they be hiding?
Thankfully, the work done at Oak Ridge ended a horrific war. However, there were plenty of people who felt like they had blood on their hands once the true nature of their work was revealed. How would you have felt if you were one of them?
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