The Girls of Atomic City

The Girls of Atomic City

by Denise Kiernan

Debbie Weiss (11/16/13): Most people know of the Manhattan Project which brought us the atomic bomb in WWII. The less known historical fact is the secret town in Oak Ridge, TN, where the fuel for the bomb was enriched and the bomb was brought to fruition. The town was not on any maps at the time, yet it housed at one point 75,000 people and utilized more electricity than New York City. "The Girls of Atomic City" is the story of this town and the people who lived and worked there.

The people who sought jobs working in this secret town on this secret project came from all over the country. They were mostly young girls, many of them right out of high school, who were recruited with the promise of high wages and good jobs. They were not told what they would be working on and they were given only the minimal information necessary for them to perform their tasks. They were only told that what they were working on would help to end the World War. This promise appealed to the patriotism of the country at that time and gave these individuals a sense of importance and purpose. We get a very good glimpse of life behind the Oak Ridge security fences, which kept non-workers away.

The author tries to explain the science behind the bomb to the reader and she does, in my opinion, a good job. She introduces into the story many of the scientsts who were responsible for the success of the project.

Denise Kiernan interviewed many people who lived and worked at Oak Ridge during the 1940's to get details and the flavor of what life was like. There are many characters introduced to the reader and it did get a bit confusing, but after a while I stopped worrying about the details and just tried to absorb the atmosphere of what everyone was experiencing. I found it fascinating. I would recommend this book and I believe you will learn a lot about WWII and about the history of the time period involved.
Rating: ****

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