Marge Shipley spent her time at Oak Ridge listening to the concerns and grievances of the female mechanics and operators at Y-12. As one of the plant’s counselors, she was responsible for mediating housing disputes and serving as sounding board in the face of workplace frustration or anxiety. She discusses the stories of the employees she knew as well as her own experiences, describing the poverty of the operators who commuted from surrounding towns, working long hours, and counseling young women after the death of their loved ones in the War.
A member of the Special Engineer Detachment, Ray Stein participated in the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, working at the Y-12 Plant. He tells the story of security and secrecy during the project. At Y-12, he and his fellow SED members donned civilian clothes and were told to keep an eye out for possible saboteurs or spies.
Harry Kamack worked as a chemical engineer for the DuPont Company during the early 1940s, when he was transferred to Chicago to work at the Metallurgical Laboratory. As a chemical engineer, Kamack admits that he did not have much knowledge of nuclear physics, but he quickly learned and was soon tasked with building a Geiger counter. In 1943, Kamack was transferred to Oak Ridge, where he continued work on developing processes for the separation of plutonium at the X-10 Graphite Reactor. In October of 1944, Kamack was transferred again to Hanford, where he continued research on the chemical separations process of the T-Plant.
Anne McKusick worked at the Y-12 Plant for Tennessee Eastman. She remembers dancing with Ernest Lawrence at one of Oak Ridge’s dances. Because of the pervasive emphasis on secrecy, she nearly got in trouble for carrying around a book on Russian. She considered becoming a physicist after the war, but decided to go to medical school.
Bill Wilcox, the late Official Historian for the City of Oak Ridge, discusses the origins of Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project. A chemistry graduate from Washington & Lee University in 1943, he was hired by Tennessee Eastman on a “Secret, secret, secret!” project in an unknown location he and his friends nicknamed “Dogpatch.” He recalls the amazing construction activity going on at Oak Ridge when he arrived at the site in October 1943. He worked with uranium, which was referred to only by its codename “Tuballoy,” under threat of imprisonment. Wilcox worked at Y-12 for five years and then at K-25 for 20 years, retiring as Technical Director for Union Carbide Nuclear Division. Wilcox has actively promoted preservation of the “Secret City” history through the Oak Ridge Heritage & Preservation Association and by founding the Partnership for K-25 Preservation. He also published several books on Oak Ridge, including a history of Y-12 and “Opening the Gates of the Secret City.”
Lucille Whitman, a native Tennessean, came to work for Tennessee Eastman at Oak Ridge straight out of high school. She tells us about life at Oak Ridge and the secrecy surrounding their work during the Manhattan Project.