After visiting Bandelier National Monument on our way to Taos, we stopped in Los Alamos. Of course this is home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory and naturally, this was home to the Manhattan Project, also known as Project Y, the secret project to develop the atomic bomb.
The laboratory was established in 1943 to provide a place to bring together all of the various scientists and engineers from around the world who had been tasked with developing a weapon using atomic energy. The site chosen for the lab was then the Los Alamos Ranch School, a school where young boys could be taught responsibility and self-reliance in a ranch setting. In addition to their studies, they were taught about horse riding, outdoor living skills and given responsibilities for ranch chores. The Secretary of War informed the owner of the school that they would be taking over the ranch “in the interests of the United States in the prosecution of the war”.
Originally, they expected only to provide for approximately 30 scientists to be working on the project. Clearly they didn’t foresee that the town would grow to nearly 6,000 residents as their work progressed.
The town has a Historical Museum and a Science Museum, the Bradbury Science Museum. The Historical Museum focuses on the history of Los Alamos and what life was like for those who came to work on the project. The project was so secret and its purpose so guarded that local residents didn’t even know what to call the place. They just referred to it as “the hill”. All mail was directed to “Box 1663” in Santa Fe. Even the birth certificate for those born there gave their place of birth as Box 1663.
The Science Museum is very large and has detailed exhibits on the Manhattan Project as well as many other projects which have been undertaken at Los Alamos since that time. We didn’t have enough time to even scratch the surface at this museum. The exhibits are extensive and very detailed.
I’m glad we made this stop since it represents a very important period in our history.