More than 100,000 people worked on The Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during the 1940s. The Manhattan Project was a research and development program by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada that ultimately produced the first atomic bomb during World War II.
The project began small in 1939, but grew to a work force of more than 130,000 people and cost the equivalent of $25.8 billion dollars. Most of the work was kept secret from the workers, though. That atomic bomb would be the one to go off in Hiroshima in 1945.
Soon after, the workers found out what they had been working on. A 1945 Life article claimed “no more than a dozen men in the entire country knew the full meaning of the Manhattan Project. The article went on to say that nearly all the employees worked like “moles in the dark,” not knowing the full extent of what they were working on.
They were also convinced to keep silent about anything they knew with the threat of 10 years in jail or the equivalent of a $129,000 fine. The workers mainly monitored raw materials coming into factories, as well as dials and switches behind thick concrete walls while mysterious reactions took place. No one really knew the purpose of his job. As a result, all the workers were stunned when the news broke, just like the rest of the world.