The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

MAY  2006

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






America's Secret City: That Never Was

Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

by Cecil Owen

Suddenly, an urgent command filled the night air ... "HALT! do not take another step or I will shoot, I repeat, I will shoot." This causes a young woman and a young man to stop in their tracks rather quickly. But then a shot still rings out and whistles over their heads. "That was a warning shot, the next time I will not miss." Then a stern faced U.S. Army MP (Military Police) stepped out of the shadows, his rifle aimed directly at the nervous pair. As he blows a whistle twice, three more MP's appeared mounted on horseback.

This confrontation is taking place down on the Clinch River near the Anderson-Roane county line in Tennessee and the time is midnight 1943.

The jittery young man manages to ask "what are you guys being so serious for? We were just looking for a secluded spot to make love."

Just then a military jeep roars up and a sergeant MP jumps out. "Handcuff and blindfold both of these trespassers then I will take them to headquarters." Roughly the two civilians are shoved into the jeep as it is driven off very rapidly.

Once headquarters is reached, they both are spread-eagled and handcuffed to the wall.

Cecil Owen

"My name is Captain Otto Von Deeringly and I am the officer in charge. What kind of Nazi spies are you two? Were you sent here to sabotage this place? And don't try to tell me that you were just looking for a place to make love, for we have two signs that are posted near where you were arrested and this is what they said: Warning! Warning! Proceed no further, this is a top secret military

reservation. Trespassers can and will be shot!" 

By now the man and woman were both scared half to death. They were white faced and trembling like a leaf.

"Please Captain, just look at the I.D. cards in our wallets. My name is Charles Chadwick Carfunkle and this is Gwenlynn (Gwen) Dorene Bachcuris. I am a newspaper reporter and she is my cameraman. All we wanted was a good story."

Next a special FBI agent appeared in the doorway.

"I am Lawrence Oliver Stoverham from FBI Headquarters here, and I have checked all of their documents.... they have told you the truth. If both can sign this disclaimer they can be released. Charles and Gwen, please read this carefully and then sign below."

It read, I have never been here and I have not been arrested, and moreover I have not seen anything at all. As quickly as the disclaimer was signed the couple were again blindfolded and loaded in a jeep. Several miles down Highway 96 a much shaken Charles and Gwen were unceremoniously dumped out into the middle of the road. They had no way of knowing that they had just stumbled onto the most closely guarded secret of World War ll in the United States. Until September of 1942, this was a rural farming community with around 1,000 homesteaders scattered around. It was the Oak Ridge area of Tennessee, a tract of 92 square miles. 30,315 acres in Anderson County and 28,447 acres in Roane County. This totaled 58,762 acres of land and will give you some idea of the vastness of what became the U.S. Army Military Reservation. The ramrod for this reservation was General Leslie R. Groves and his word was law. His official explanation was simple; This will be a demolition range for the U.S. Army. Targets will be erected to be destroyed by artillery fire or airplane bombings. The first building was started on November 22, 1942 but construction increased to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in January of 1943. In

separate valleys nearby, four different projects were springing up. This called for at least 47,000 construction workers. First project was K-25, a gaseous diffusion plant. This cost 500 million dollars to build. The main building was a gigantic U-shaped structure 2,450 ft long, 400 ft wide and 60 ft high and the total area of this one building was 44 acres! Bicycles were used to travel from one end to the other. 60 thousand railroad carloads of materials were used to build this plant alone. Many additional buildings surround the main building, bringing the total K-25 Plant area to 1,000 acres.

The K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant provided large scale separation of uranium U-235 from the natural uranium U-238 ore. It converted the ore into a gas to make it easy to separate the two elements.
The U-235 uranium is one of the elements used to make an atomic bomb.

The second project was Y-12, an electromagnetic plant. This  plant cost 427 million dollars to build. The complex had a total of 170 buildings with a floor space of 4 million 500 thousand square feet. It covered 500 acres and employed 22,000 people.

The Y-12 Plant also took U-238 Uranium ore and separated U-235 from it by using a very strong magnetic field. As the huge magnets were being manufactured, so much copper wire was needed the supply ran out so they used silver instead. The U.S. Army had to borrow 15,000 tons of silver bullion from the U.S. Treasury which was made into silver wire for the huge magnet coils. And of course, the President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt had to approve of this.

The third project was X-10 Plant Complex, that would include a pile chain-reactor and a chemical separation plant. Chemical separation techniques using the Bismuth Phosphate Process succeeded in making plutonium out of U-238 uranium. This was the other element needed to make an atomic bomb.

The X-10 complex had around 160 buildings on 150 acres of land. Money-wise this was a  smaller project that cost 13 million dollars and only 1,234 people were employed.

The forth project; Start from scratch and build a complete city to house the thousands of employees that would work in the three plants. The cost would be 96 million dollars. The town site was laid out in January of 1943. And in September of 1945, Oak Ridge became the fifth largest city in Tennessee. (With a population of 75,000.) A hospital and Post Office were quickly built. (All mail was heavily censored). Schools and shopping malls sprang up and soon 16 churches and 17 cafeterias were also built. (1,250,000 meals were served a month, or 40,000 meals a day).

The three plants were located 4, 10, and 12 miles away from the town. 800 buses transported 120,000 passengers a day. Oak Ridge also had a hotel with 15,000 residents and the city covered 9,000 acres. It was 7 miles long and

2 miles wide. An electric power plant was erected to serve the city and the three plant complexes. At peak operation, the need was so great, one seventh of all the electricity in the entire United States was generated.

General Groves proclaimed loudly, "Anything Oak Ridge residents desire - is exactly what they will receive. For I want them to be happy as they are working on an atomic bomb."

But very few people knew anything about a bomb of any kind. The plants were operated individually so each person only knew a minute part. They did not even know what that particular part was for. There was compete secrecy.  The city was self contained. It had several movie theaters with the latest movies available. For meat, the Oak Ridge area had its own cattle ranch with a herd of 3,000 cattle and also a large chicken raising facility.
Remember that all of these diverse activities took place behind the guarded high fences on the U.S. Army Reservation. To the outside world, none of this existed, including the City of Oak Ridge!! The city was not even opened to the general public until March 19 of 1949.

Y-12 still exists today, still heavily guarded and much larger than it was during World War ll. It now covers 811 acres, with a floor space of 7 million square feet. (The square footage of 150 football fields). Today Y-12 manufactures and tests components for nuclear weapons.
K-25, Y-12, X-10, and the city of Oak Ridge have a unique place in the history of mankind and the people of the State of Tennessee should be very proud of them for it is where the uranium U-235 and plutonium was developed to make the atomic bombs that ended World War ll. The official name for the whole "She-Bang" was the Manhattan Project!!
Many people will argue that President Truman should never have allowed atomic bombs to be dropped on Japan. Thousands of Japanese people were killed by the two atomic bombs the US deployed, but many more thousands had already been killed by fire bombs during sixty raids over six cities including Tokyo. If the US had invaded Japan as planned, many millions of lives would have been lost, both Japanese and Allied.

Note: The names of some of the individuals mentioned have been changed.