Community Celebrates 70th Anniversary of Manhattan Project - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Community Celebrates 70th Anniversary of Manhattan Project

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RICHLAND, Wash. -- August 13th marks the 70th anniversary of the Manhattan Project, a research and development program to produce the world's first atomic bomb.

The Manhattan Project was led by the Army Corps of Engineers and signed into order by President Roosevelt during WWII. The Plutonium for that bomb was made at Hanford, and it forever changed not only Hanford and the Tri-Cities, but the world as well.

Dozens celebrated at Richland Public Library Monday morning. Congressman Doc Hastings personally thanked the people who worked on the secretive project decades ago. "Keep in mind the efforts here helped win the second world war and the efforts here helped win the cold war. that's pretty significant for one local area and its because of the work of the local people," said Hastings.

Ellen Low, the executive director of the CREHST Museum estimated the Manhattan Project drew more than 50,000 workers to live at the Hanford construction camps at its peak. About 1,500 people who lived and farmed in the White Bluffs area were forced to leave their land.

"I came here in 1943 as a young child with my mother, we lived in a trailer at the Hanford construction camp out at the area," says Wendell Lane who worked on the B Reactor for many years. He and his father both had Hanford jobs. Today he is a docent at the CREHST Museum and does B Reactor Tours as well.

"Most people are genuinely interested and they realize the important things that went on here.and what a service it actually provided, not only during the world war years but the cold war years also," says Lane.

Low says the people who came here went through a lot. "They lived in barracks, they lived in trailers, they lived in very basic accommodation and they moved into the housing which was provided by the government." she says. She says high winds and dust often made workers and their wives leave, in masses of hundreds at a time. Also, the workers were expected to keep a very low profile. They helped make the plutonium which was used in the Nagasaki Bomb that dropped on Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack. She says most of the workers didn't know what it was to be used for, but they knew it was something important.

"They were told if they weren't keeping quiet about what they were doing that hey would would be fired, and they were," says Low.

Today, the CREHST Museum continues to grow in popularity, as people's interest grows for the Manhattan Project each year. "Our docents take people around and show them around those exhibits, live that life, and they tell the story from their own perspective. I think that's a wonderful part that makes the story very very personal," she says.

The Department of Energy estimates about a1,000 more visitors come to tour the B. Reactor each year from 38 countries and every state in the US. DOE says they've had about 10,000 this year.