The Totally Normal Town Where Everyone Worked on Weapons of Mass Destruction


Totally normal, not weird housing in early Los Alamos. Image: LANL
A 1954 report from the birthplace of the atomic bomb wants you to know that everything is totally “normal” in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

By Daniel Oberhaus | MOTHERBOARD

In the early 1940s, the United States made its nuclear weapons program a priority with the establishment of the Manhattan Project, a top secret research initiative that would eventually yield the world’s first atomic bomb. Despite its moniker, the Manhattan Project wasn’t undertaken in New York City, but was carried out at top secret research facilities around the United States. The most famous of these was Los Alamos National Laboratory (nee Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory), a compound tucked away in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico, where Robert Oppenheimer and his handpicked team of top physicists worked in utter secrecy and isolation to develop the most powerful weapon in history.

But as a recently released 1954 memo drafted for PR purposes wants you to know, there’s more to Los Alamos than its top secret atomic weapons program. Like the Jeb Bush of travel brochures, this document wants you to know that Los Alamos is completely „normal“ and to please stop pretending like it’s not. Please.

The site of Los Alamos was recommended by Oppenheimer, in part because it was close to his own New Mexico ranch and also for its isolation. So the US government took over a local school to use as its laboratory and set to work developing a bomb…and a community.

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