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Register residents make their own marks in WWII
Bulloch History
roger allen
Roger Allen

Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at events in the history of Bulloch County.

The Bulloch Herald reported on Feb. 7, 1946, that James Lester Riggs, son of Jasper S. Riggs, a resident of Register, had received a certificate from Henry L. Stimson, U.S. Secretary of War.

The certificate lauded Riggs for his “participation in work essential to the production of the Atomic Bomb...(contributing) to the successful conclusion of World War.”

It honored his work on the Manhattan Project.

The Herald reported Riggs said "newspapers sold for $1 per copy in the area the day the bombing was announced, (as) we were all pretty excited over the whole thing."

Riggs then added, "We knew it was pretty secret, for we could not go in or out of the place without being searched and had to have a pass at all times. I was investigated by the FBI before I was investigated before I got hired."

As he told the Herald, "What you don't know won't hurt you." James Lester Riggs also received the "Bronze Star", the fourth-highest combat award given by the U.S.’s Armed Forces. The Manhattan Project began on August 2, 1939.

Albert Einstein wrote President Franklin Roosevelt to fund research into nuclear fission. Nazi Germany had begun its own research. Many American scientists agreed that our government should start the research as well.

On April 10, 1940, the first official committee was created. Known as MAUD (Military Application of Uranium Detonation), the group was comprised of American, British, and Canadian scientists.

They worked on two continents to come up with a workable weapon. Soon, the Office of Scientific Research and Development was formed to oversee the production of designing and production of the atomic bomb.

Watson Flagg Engineering Company helped with building them a new state-of-the-facility. Between July 6, 1944, and November 21, 1945, Riggs worked for Watson Flagg Engineering Co. as an electrician at the three production sites.

The day the bomb was dropped, 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.” After the war, the site was renamed Oak Ridge.

Miriam Bowen

Miriam Elizabeth Bowen was born in Bulloch County on January 11, 1923 to Myrtis and G.B. Bowen of Register, Ga. Miriam was a graduate of Nevils High School, and attended Valdosta State College.

In the summer of 1942, she accepted an invitation to join a government training program in electronics and physics to support the armament efforts of World War II.

After completing the initial training, she was selected for advanced training, first undertaken at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and then later finished at Wright Field Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

At Wright Air Field, she was promoted to Supervisor on the top-secret Eagle system’s high-altitude radar (radio detecting and ranging) for the bombers of the Manhattan Project. She returned to Bulloch County for Christmas in 1945.

Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email him at

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