EMU professor writes book about people behind building of atomic bomb
YPSILANTI - The 60th anniversary of dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima is Aug. 6. This is the action that many Americans remember as the beginning of the end of World War II with Japan – one of the main reasons they surrendered.
Remembrances of the atomic bomb and its effect on the lives of ordinary people are the concern of Eastern Michigan University’s historical expert Russell Olwell, assistant professor of history.
Olwell has written a book, “At Work in the Atomic City: A Labor and Social History of Oak Ridge, Tennessee” (University of Tennessee Press, 2004), that describes the lives of people who made the bomb happen. They were the residents of Oak Ridge, Tenn., who received an award for their wartime service of creating the uranium and plutonium for the atomic bombs.
“We’re coming to the end of the World War II generation. There are fewer veterans and witnesses who remember what life was like in Oak Ridge during the war effort,” said Olwell.
His book details how, in 1942, thousands of residents were brought to the city without knowing where they were going or what they would be doing. They lived and worked under a tight security system that banned visitors, outlawed liquor and required a travel pass. If workers lost their job, they were immediately evicted from their home and forced to leave the city, said Olwell.
“Because workers were banned from talking with their families about their job, we know little about what went on in the facility,” he said.
Olwell said he interviewed a resident who, after having five strokes, barely remembered anything.
After the war, Oak Ridge residents stayed and established a city, similar to Willow Run in Ypsilanti, whose residents built aircraft and established a thriving community, said Olwell
A resident of Ann Arbor, he teaches American history at EMU and has been an historical consultant for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Justice. He has been featured in a Knoxville radio documentary and has written an article on the legacy of Oak Ridge for The Knoxville News-Sentinel.
He has a doctorate in the history of science and technology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in American history from Princeton University.
For more information, contact Olwell at 734.262.3626.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their careers and lives, and to be better citizens.
Eastern Michigan University is a public, comprehensive university that offers programs in the arts, sciences and professions. EMU prepares students with the intellectual skills and practical experiences to succeed in their career and lives, and to be better citizens.
Editor's Note: Looking for an expert source for a story? Check out EMU's Eastern Experts online at www.emich.edu/univcomm/easternexperts.