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The Girls of Atomic City

The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II

Kiernan, Denise

(Book - 2013)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Girls of Atomic City
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In this book the author traces the story of the unsung World War II workers in Oak Ridge, Tennessee through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. This is the story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history. The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project's secret cities, it did not appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships, and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men. But against this wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work, even the most innocuous details, was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb "Little Boy" was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb. Though the young women originally believed they would leave Oak Ridge after the war, many met husbands there, made lifelong friends, and still call the seventy-year-old town home. The reverberations from their work there, work they did not fully understand at the time, are still being felt today.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2013
Edition: 1st Touchstone hardcover ed
ISBN: 1451617526
9781451617528
9781451617542
Branch Call Number: 976.873 K475g 2013
Characteristics: xvii, 373 p., [16] p. of plates :,ill., map, ports. ;,24 cm

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From Library Staff

This is the story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history.

"At the height of World War II Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians--many of them young women from small towns across the south--were recruited to this sec... Read More »


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Aug 16, 2014
  • MrFrida rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

This book is for anyone who enjoys an historical and true story. Denise Kiernan offers an insightful look into the daily lives of the women who lived and worked in what was a secret city--Oak Ridge, Tennessee--established as part of the Manhattan Project in World War II. The narrative explicitly illustrates the compartmentalization and secrecy that the U. S. undertook to assure the development of the atomic bomb with the goal of ending the war. Reading the story gave me a deep appreciation for the spirit and sacrifice of the times. The author provided such detail it felt as though I was there with the women during their time in Oak Ridge. A well done true story!

Jul 05, 2014
  • Jane60201 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Having had an uncle who was present as a graduate student "under the stands" at Stagg Field for the first atomic reaction, an aunt who worked as a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and a friend who was with her family at Oak Ridge during World War II, I was fascinated to put this period of history together in a coherent way. Recommend this book highly for anyone interested in the social history of WW II.

Apr 26, 2014
  • dionyzus rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

An interesting look behind the scenes at the top secret city behind the war effort to enrich uranium for the Manhattan Project. It's fortunate that the author was able to interview people who were there, as many of them are now in their 90s and won't be with us to share their memories much longer.

Jul 08, 2013
  • walkermom rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Great scientific history that reads like a novel.

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