Source: WBIR.com | Jeff Mondlock | August 6, 2015
Seven decades ago, East Tennessee played a key role in world history. On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
The event forever changed the world and helped lead shortly to the end of World War II. Key pieces of the bomb were made in Oak Ridge with the help of the Y-12 plant and X-10, which is now called the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Most of the East Tennesseans carrying out the work had no idea how it all related.
The once Secret City is remembering and relfecting decades later. The deep root connection of peace that takes the shape of a bell.
Oak Ridge officials put together a committee to create the International Friendship Bell. It came about around the 50th anniversary of the city of Oak Ridge.
“The city asked citizens, saying we would like to build an everlasting peace monument here in this town. So some of us wrote a proposal. And then we thought about this bell because it will last a long time from a hundred to 500 years,” said Shigeko Uppuluri.
The original cover for the bell began to fade, and was eventually torn down. Now, officials want to raise money to build a new one.
“What we are trying to do is build a more expansive pavilion with an iconic structure to support the bell and peace gardens to serve as a nice community gathering place,” said Alan Tatum, co-chair of the International Friendship Bell Advisory Committee.
Construction of the Friendship Bell Pavilion is expected to cost $700,000. Tatum expects it to be finished by the end of 2016.
Another tie, here in East Tennessee, is John Boyle, 97, worked as a chemist at X-10 in the 1940s. He took the job so he wouldn’t be drafted during World War II. Boyle never wanted to actively be a part of violence.
“I was in a group that was studying the effects of radiation on matter. So that’s what we did,” said Boyle.
He was sworn to secrecy about what projects were in the making. He knew that bombs were being worked on – and fast.
“I didn’t want to give away anything that would help the enemy. They impressed that into us, that the Germans are working on this, too. And we gotta beat the Germans and got to beat the Germans,” said Boyle.
His research was separate from the manufacturing of the bomb itself, but everything he knew and worked on was confidential.
Living in Oak Ridge during the 1940s was very different. Boyle said he had to use a badge to get into the town, and most people were affiliated with X-10 or Y-12. The rest maintained the city itself.
When he saw the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he didn’t realize that those were the caliber of bombs that were being built.
“It’s too bad they couldn’t show without killing a hundred thousand people just to show what we could do,” said Boyle.
The Japan bomb strikes signified the end of World War II. Because East Tennessee has a tie to “Little Boy,” the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, the city is forever linked to the atmoic legacy and to Japan itself.