Note: The following is one of a series of columns looking at places and events of interest in Bulloch County history.
On Feb. 7, 1946, the Bulloch Herald reported on James Lester Riggs, son of Jasper S. Riggs, a resident from the Register community, had worked on the “Manhattan Project,” which resulted in the creation of the first atomic bomb. Riggs participated in work essential to the production of the Atomic Bomb, which led to the end of World War II.” James Lester Riggs was awarded the Bronze Star, the fourth-highest combat award given by the United States Armed Forces.
On Aug. 2, 1939, Albert Einstein and several other scientists wrote President Franklin Roosevelt asking that he agree to fund research into the prospect of using nuclear fission to create an “atomic” weapon.
On April 10, 1940, America’s MAUD (Military Application of Uranium Detonation) committee was created to study the idea of such a bomb. American, British and Canadian scientists began working feverishly on two continents to come up with a workable weapon.
Soon, America’s Office of Scientific Research and Development created the "S-1 Project," whose job it was to build a nuclear fission weapon. The United States government soon decided to build a central lab where the device would be designed, assembled, and then tested.
Chosen for "Site X" was 59,000 acres of land along the Clinch River, west of Knoxville, Tennessee. The lab site’s name was first changed to the Manhattan Engineer District Headquarters complex, and then later changed to the "Clinton Engineer Works."
Between July 6, 1944, and Nov. 21, 1945, Riggs was working with Watson Flagg Engineering Company in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, working on the “Manhattan Project” as an electrician.
The day the bombing was announced, Riggs said that this was “the first and only inkling we had of the work we had been doing.” “We knew it was pretty secret,” Riggs commented. Riggs also mentioned that he was investigated by the FBI prior to hiring.
At the end of the project, some 13,000 personnel were housed mostly in trailers around the site. This population created the fifth-largest city in Tennessee, that consumed one-seventh of the electricity produced in the entire United States.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look each week at the area's past. E-mail Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.