(Kansas City, Missouri) - At the height of World War II, the city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee - then known only as the Clinton Engineering Works - boasted 75,000 people and yet did not appear on any map. Thousands of civilians, many of them young women, were recruited to the secretive site and trained not to talk about what they did or knew.
This was where the U.S. enriched the uranium that led to the first atomic bombs, a fact not revealed to workers until the bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945.
Journalist Denise Kiernan recounts the women's experiences in a discussion of her book The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II on Tuesday, June 9, 2015, at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St. The presentation begins at 6:30 p.m.
The event continues the series War Stories: World War II Remembered, which is co-presented by the Truman Library Institute and made possible by funding from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
Women and men alike were enticed to Oak Ridge by the promise of solid wages and war-ending work. But what were they actually doing? Despite round-the-clock toil, no tangible products ever left the gates. And why did this relatively small town consume more electricity than New York City?
Answers finally came after tens of thousands of Japanese died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Oak Ridge residents celebrated when Japan surrendered and the war was over - though Kiernan notes how the workers were conflicted upon fully understanding their involvement.
Her best-selling book is being adapted by Sony Pictures Television into a TV miniseries.
Kiernan's work as a journalist has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Village Voice, among other publications. She has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, PBS' NewsHour, NPR's Weekend Edition, MSNBC's Morning Joe, and C-SPAN.
A 6 p.m. reception precedes the event. Admission is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.