Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Towns That Went Nuclear

[[H I S T O R Y]] * This is an uncommonly significant week when it comes to World War II remembrances. Last Sunday, August 6, marked the 60th anniversary of the U.S. atomic-bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later, residents of Nagasaki observed a moment of silence in memory of their city’s own atomic destruction, back on August 9, 1945. And this coming Sunday, August 14, brings the 60th anniversary of the day on which U.S. President Harry Truman announced that the war was finally over. There have already been numerous stories published in recollection of these events, but let me add one more to the list, this from the August/September issue of Washington Law & Politics magazine: “Nuke Town,” my history of the area around Hanford and White Bluffs, Washington, which had to be evacuated in the spring of 1943 to make room for a super-secret plutonium-manufacturing plant.

The Hanford facility was one of three across the country devoted to the A-bomb-developing “Manhattan Project” (the other two being a laboratory and testing grounds near Los Alamos, New Mexico, and a huge uranium separation complex at Oak Ridge, Tennessee). As I explain in the WL&P article, 1,200 Eastern Washingtonians had to be moved from their homes, farms, and orchards within a month’s time. Not until 1968--25 years after the government confiscated their property--were those people allowed to again see their hometowns, or what was left of them. Unfortunately, the online version of this story does not include the print magazine’s excellent photos of former Hanford-area residents, taken by Seattle’s Rick Dahms.

1 comment:

Paul said...

My grandfather was part of the duPont management and engineering team which was brought to Hanford en masse to build the plutonium production facility. As it turns out, my father was a B-29 crewman flying missions from Tinian. Granddad knew Dad was in the Army Air Corps somewhere in the Pacific, and Dad knew Granddad was in Washington somewhere, but neither had much in the way of details of what the other was doing.

My granddad once told me that his highest motivation was to help end the war before my Dad got killed in the Pacific.

Mission accomplished.