Review: The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women who Helped Win World War II, by Denise Kiernan

I was familiar in a vague sort of way with Oak Ridge, Tennessee but this book lays out the history of that community, which was established in 1942 but did not appear on any maps until seven years later. It grew rapidly in the next few years to include 75,000 people by 1945. Almost no one knew what the giant factories they toiled in were designed to produce. Many young women recruited from the South did know that their work could help end the war and bring home their brothers, friends, sweethearts and husbands from the overseas battlegrounds. They found out in August 1945 what the plant was producing and why complete secrecy was necessary when the atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Japan surrendered. The Oak Ridge factories were enriching the uranium needed to produce atomic weapons. The women who had worked at Oak Ridge during the war that the author interviewed in 2009 to 2012 did have a “strange mix of feelings…after the bomb dropped.” Dorothy Jones expressed that it was hard for her to explain to those who hadn’t lived through it. She felt good and bad and had feelings of pride, guilt, joy, relief, shame, as well as sadness at the memories of those who were lost forever when the employees of Oak Ridge’s Clinton Engineering Works had worked so hard to bring them home.

RATING: * * * * Very, very good

Reviewed by: kh

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