During WWII there was a secret installation in Tennessee. Oak Ridge became one of the largest military reservations doing top secret work. At its height, Oak Ridge had 75,000 residents and employed many more. But everything at Oak Ridge was on a need to know basis. Even the workers knew little of what they were doing. All they were told was that it was to help the war effort. Of the thousands who worked at Oak Ridge a large percentage were women. They were recruited from all over the country to move to Oak Ridge and work in one of its sections. There were scientists and secretaries, cleaners and factory workers, black and white, married and single. People from all walks of life flocked to Oak Ridge hoping to secure a position there.
This is the story of several of the women who lived and worked at Oak Ridge. This book tells their stories of how they were recruited, what they did at the reservation and what happened to them afterwards. Oak Ridge was not just a military factory it was a town with churches, theaters, dormitories and houses. The men and women of Oak Ridge may have been surrounded by fences and guards but they had pretty much everything they could need on the reservation. It wasn’t until after Hiroshima and Nagasaki that the people at Oak Ridge learned they had been building the atomic bomb.
We know a lot about WWII, it seems it is one area of history that is covered thoroughly. So it is nice to read an account of events that are not widely known. When we think about the creation of the atomic bomb you think of the Manhattan Project and Los Alamos, but Oak Ridge does not come readily to mind even though it was a major player in the development of the bomb.
I really enjoyed how this book was set up. The chapters are filled with accounts of the women highlighted by the author. They tell these women’s stories of living and working, of the secrecy, of falling in love and getting married. Between the chapters are section on Tubealloy, the name given to the elements of the atomic bomb. These are scientific and military based describing what lead up to the discovery of the atom and fission and how the scientific and military community controlled the information and the research. While some of these sections were a little dry for me, I really enjoyed the information. The level of secrecy surrounding this project was astounding as was the amount of money spent.
This was a fascinating look at an area of history I knew nothing about. I loved learning about the lives of the people at Oak Ridge and what went into the creation of the atomic bomb. This book seemed really well researched with a lot of first hand information and documentation. Kiernan provides extensive notes on her research at the end of the book. I would definitely recommend this book to people interested in historic nonfiction.
I received a galley of this book from the publishers through Netgalley.com.