MANHATTAN PROJECT NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park is one of the nation's newest national parks. Established in November 2015, the park preserves portions of the World War II-era sites where the United States developed the world's first atomic weapons. This unique park, managed in partnership by the National Park Service and the Department of Energy, will provide visitors the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of J. Robert Oppenheimer at Los Alamos, New Mexico; visit Hanford, Washington, to stand face to face with the nuclear reactor that produced the material for the first atomic test; and learn about the dedication of the Calutron Girls in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who helped the United States win the race against Nazi Germany to develop an atomic bomb. The Manhattan Project and its legacy is a complex story. It's the story of more than 600,000 Americans leaving their homes and families to work on a project they were told was vital to the war effort. It's the story of generals, physicists, chemists, mathematicians, and engineers pushing and broadening the limits of human knowledge and technological achievement in ways never before imagined. It is also the story of the death and destruction associated with World War II, and a new weapon capable of unimagined levels of devastation. A visit to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park provides an opportunity to view the sites that helped the United States end World War II and challenges us to think about how the world has changed with the dawn of the nuclear age.
THE MANHATTAN PROJECT
The Manhattan Project was an unprecedented, top-secret program implemented in the United States during World War II to design and build an atomic bomb. The discovery of nuclear fission in Germany suggested the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction with the potential release of enormous amounts of energy. Concerned, Leo Szilard prompted Albert Einstein in August 1939 to send a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning that an "extremely powerful bomb" might be constructed. Fearing ongoing research and development by Nazi Germany, Roosevelt initiated federal funding for uranium research.
By 1942, with the United States at war, officials concluded that an atomic bomb could be designed, built, and used in time to influence the outcome of the war. To accomplish this task, the US Army Corps of Engineers established the Manhattan Engineer District, headed by Brigadier General Leslie Groves. This effort, combining military, scientific, and industrial resources and involving hundreds of thousands of workers at many sites across the country, was largely kept secret for the duration of the project.
Scientists theorized there were two potential paths to a bomb using uranium-235, which comprises about one percent of naturally occurring uranium, or the newly discovered element plutonium, which could be created from a controlled chain reaction with uranium. Both paths required the use of expensive and unproven processes and success was not guaranteed. As a result, the decision was made to move forward with both paths. For the uranium bomb, a massive industrial complex was built at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to pursue the three separate technologies to enrich uranium at the same time. A pilot reactor and chemical separation plant were also constructed at Oak Ridge to test the plutonium production process. For full scale plutonium production, a second enormous industrial complex was built at Hanford, Washington. Workers built and operated huge reactors, chemical separations plants, and fuel fabrication and research facilities. Despite the speed with which the facilities were engineered and built, production at both sites was slow and difficult. It was not until mid-1945 that sufficient amounts of uranium-235 and plutonium were available for construction of the first bombs.
Building the bombs was not an easy task; it required extensive experimentation and precise calculations to obtain the optimum specifications. In early 1943, General Groves set up a bomb design and development laboratory, with some of the world's foremost scientists under the leadership of J. Robert Oppenheimer, at the isolated Los Alamos site in northern New Mexico. The uranium bomb used a fairly straightforward gun method for creating a critical mass and nuclear explosion. However, in 1944, scientists determined that the gun method would not work for plutonium, and they turned to the theoretical and complex implosion method. Uncertain it would work, a plutonium device was tested at the Trinity site in southern New Mexico on July 16, 1945.
As the project moved closer to the use of the first atomic bomb, ethical questions arose in the minds of some who understood the project's intent; however, scientists and politicians were primarily concerned with ending the war as quickly as possible. With Germany out of the war, the first uranium bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945. When Japan did not surrender, a plutonium bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9. On August 14, Japan announced its surrender and World War II ended.
The Manhattan Project is a highly significant chapter in United States history. It ushered in the nuclear age, determined how the next war, the Cold War, be fought, and served as the model for the remarkable achievements of American "big science" during the second half of the twentieth century. The Manhattan Project also raised ethical and moral questions among scientists and citizens alikequestions that continue to this day.
A PARTNERSHIP EFFORT
Manhattan Project National Historical Park is a partnership park. The National Park Service is responsible for administration, interpretation, and education at the three sites and will provide technical assistance to resource preservation efforts. The Department of Energy will continue to have responsibility for management, operations, maintenance, and historic preservation of the historic Manhattan Project sites now under their jurisdiction. Other agencies, communities, organizations, and associated tribes may also become involved to tell the full story of the Manhattan Project.
VISITING THE PARK
A visit to the Manhattan Project National Historical Park will be different from a visit to many other national parks. Many of the properties included in the park are located in areas that are being cleaned up or are still active nuclear facilities. Because of safety and security concerns some facilities may not be immediately accessible and others may only accessible on organized bus tours. The National Park Service and the Department of Energy are working together to safely expand access to the facilities included in the park. We are also working with partners in local communities and from around the world to tell the complete story of the Manhattan Project and its legacy. Additional background on the Manhattan Project can be found at: http://energy.gov/manhattan. To find out more about how to visit the park and what tours are available please visit: www.nps.gov/mapr
INITIAL PROPERTIES TO BE INCLUDED IN MPNHP
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park is composed of the three principal locations where work was completed as part of the Manhattan Project Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico. Each site performed a unique and critical role in the success of the project and today plays an important part in preserving the Manhattan Project story. The National Park Service plans to have a presence at all three of these locations.
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Oak Ridge, Tennessee
Source: NPS Brochure (undated)
Manhattan Project National Historical Park
In 1943, the United States government's Manhattan Project built a secret laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, for a single military purposeto develop the world's first atomic weapons. The success of this unprecedented, top-secret government program forever changed the world.
In 2004, the U.S. Congress directed the National Park Service and the Department of Energy to determine the significance, suitability, and feasibility of including signature facilities in a national historical park. In 2014, the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Obama, authorized creation of the Park. This legislation stated the purpose of the park: "to improve the understanding of the Manhattan Project and the legacy of the Manhattan Project through interpretation of the historic resources." On November 10, 2015, a Memorandum of Agreement signed by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of the Department of Energy made the park a reality.
Three locations comprise the park: Project Y at Los Alamos, New Mexico; Site X at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; and Site W at Hanford, Washington. The Manhattan Project National Historical Park legislation references 17 sites at Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as 13 sites in downtown Los Alamos. These sites represent the world-changing history of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Their preservation and interpretation will show visitors the scientific, social, political, and cultural stories of the men and women who ushered in the atomic age.
The properties below are within the Manhattan Project National Historical Park boundaries on land managed by the Department of Energy. These properties are not yet accessible to the public.
2016 Townsite Properties Walking Tour
The Manhattan Project National Historical Park tells the story of the people, the events, and the science and engineering that led to the creation of the atomic bombs that helped bring an end to World War II. The park allows visitors to explore how the creation of these weapons changed the world and the United States' role in the world community. Additionally, the park addresses the subsequent controversy and contribution of the Project to the annals of history and the world in which we live.
Los Alamos, New Mexico, was where efforts of the Manhattan Project came together to discover the science needed to succeed, to invent the technical processes, and then to produce two devices and test them. In Los Alamos, the park experience is a partnership among the Department of Energy, the National Park Service, private landowners, and Los Alamos County.
Though the park was established in December 2015, full implementation will take time. In Los Alamos, the Department of Energy is developing phased access to its properties that are currently inaccessible. In the interim, visitors can see the properties on this walking tour of the townsite, visit the Bradbury Science Museum, the Historical Museum, and download the Manhattan Project virtual tour app.
VISITOR CONTACT STATION
Welcome to your tour of Project Y, the Manhattan Project's Los Alamos location.
ICE HOUSE MEMORIAL
OPPENHEIMER & GROVES SCULPTURE
LOS ALAMOS HISTORICAL MUSEUM
STONE POWER HOUSE
ARTS & CRAFTS BUILDING
BRADBURY SCIENCE MUSEUM
GET THE MANHAHAN PROJECT VIRTUAL TOUR APP!
App available free at the Visitor Contact Station, the Bradbury Science Museum, and online in the Apple Store.
National Park website
Source: NPS Brochure (undated)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
A Brief History of the PUREX and UO3 Facilities (M.S. Gerber, November 1993)
Construction, Hanford Engineering Works: History of the Project, Volume I (E. I. Du Pont de Nemours & Company, Inc., August 9, 1945)
Dramatic Change at T Plant (M.S. Gerber April 1994)
Hanford Codes and Jargon (July 3, 1950)
Key Documents (Atomic Heritage Foundation)
Manhattan Project Sites Special Resources Study Newsletter #2 (September 2006)
Manhattan Project Sites Special Resources Study Newsletter #3 (September 2009)
Multiple Missions: The 300 Area in Hanford Site History (M.S. Gerber, September 1993)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Forms
Bear Creek Road Checking Station (Kimberley A. Murphy, April 5, 1991)
Bethel Valley Road Checking Station (Kimberley A. Murphy, April 5, 1991)
Freels Cabin (Kimberley A. Murphy and Philip Thomason, April 5, 1991)
George Jones Memorial Baptist Church (Kimberley A. Murphy and Philip Thomason, April 5, 1991)
Hanford B Reactor (J.C. Chatters, November 13, 1989)
Historic and Architectural Resources of Oak Ridge, Tennessee (Kimberley A. Murphy and Philip Thomason, April 5, 1991)
Homestead and Ranch School Era Roads and Trails of Los Alamos, New Mexico (Dorothy Hoard, February 2003)
J.B. Jones House (Philip Thomason and Kimberley A. Murphy, April 5, 1991)
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (Richard Greenwood, January 14, 1974)
Luther Brannon House (Owen Hackworth House) (Kimberley A. Murphy, April 5, 1991)
New Bethel Baptist Church (Kimberley A. Murphy and Philip Thomason, April 5, 1991)
Oak Ridge Turnpike Checking Station (Kimberley A. Murphy, April 5, 1991)
Woodland-Scarboro Historic District (Kimberley A. Murphy, April 5, 1991)
X-10 Reactor, Graphite Reactor (Polly M. Rettig, November 1965)
Nuclear Technologies and Nuclear Communities: A History of Hanford and the Tri-Cities, 1943-1993 (John M. Findlay and Bruce Hevly, February 1995)
The History and Ethics Behind The Manhattan Project (Miguel A. Bracchini, April 30, 1997)
The Manhattan Project: Making the Atomic Bomb (F.G. Gosling, Department of Energy, January 2010)
The Plutonium Production Story at the Hanford Site: Processes and Facilities Hitory (M.S. Gerber, June 1996)
Work at Hanford 1943-1983 (W.J. Dowis, June 1, 1986)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Last Updated: 14-Aug-2021