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Historians Propose National Park To Preserve Manhattan Project Sites 150

Posted by samzenpus
from the remember-this? dept.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "William J. Broad writes that a plan now before Congress would create a national park to protect the aging remnants of the atomic bomb project from World War II, including hundreds of buildings and artifacts scattered across New Mexico, Washington and Tennessee — among them the rustic Los Alamos home of Dr. Oppenheimer and his wife, Kitty, and a large Quonset hut, also in New Mexico, where scientists assembled components for the plutonium bomb dropped on Japan. 'It's a way to help educate the next generation,' says Cynthia C. Kelly, president of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, a private group in Washington that helped develop the preservation plan. 'This is a major chapter of American and world history. We should preserve what's left.' Critics have faulted the plan as celebrating a weapon of mass destruction, and have argued that the government should avoid that kind of advocacy. 'At a time when we should be organizing the world toward abolishing nuclear weapons before they abolish us, we are instead indulging in admiration at our cleverness as a species,' says Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich. Historians and federal agencies reply that preservation does not imply moral endorsement, and that the remains of so monumental a project should be saved as a way to encourage comprehension and public discussion. A park would be a commemoration, not a celebration, says Heather McClenahan, director of the Los Alamos Historical Society pointing out there are national parks commemorating slavery, Civil War battles and American Indian massacres. 'It's a chance to say, "Why did we do this? What were the good things that happened? What were the bad? How do we learn lessons from the past? How do we not ever have to use an atomic bomb in warfare again?" '"
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Historians Propose National Park To Preserve Manhattan Project Sites

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  • Humbling, troubling (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @09:06PM (#42199043)

    For those who've never visited, a tour of the museums at Los Alamos (the town) is incredibly humbling and thought-provoking. Except perhaps for psychopaths, there is nothing celebratory about it. On the contrary, the atmosphere is deeply troubling and anxiety producing. However, I for one would appreciate the opportunity to visit the lab grounds as a national park, to better understand how the Manhattan Project transpired. I believe this is important for humankind to grasp the darker sides of its nature.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @10:01PM (#42199467)

    For those who've never visited, a tour of the museums at Los Alamos (the town) is incredibly humbling and thought-provoking. Except perhaps for psychopaths, there is nothing celebratory about it. On the contrary, the atmosphere is deeply troubling and anxiety producing. However, I for one would appreciate the opportunity to visit the lab grounds as a national park, to better understand how the Manhattan Project transpired. I believe this is important for humankind to grasp the darker sides of its nature.

    This.

    A lot of stuff has been declassified, and there are still a few - very few - of the original workers still alive. It's only been in the past couple of decades that they've been able to show their children and grandchildren what they were working on. The museums in town are first-rate, and you'll see things you never knew existed. The bookstore, which is used for both tourists and locals alike, is surreal. When I was at the Bradbury museum, one of the artifacts was a binder with the ID badge photos of hundreds of lab workers. You could just sit there and flip through it and chalk up Nobel Prize winners every few pages. By accident of alphabetical association, Enrico Fermi's badge is right next to Richard Feynmann's, and Feynmann's picture is quintessential Feynmann.

    There's a little pond in the middle of the town with an unassuming little memorial on Trinity Street. When you locate that memorial on a photo of the town as it appeared in 1946 (I won't spoil it for you), you'll do a double-take.

    If you have an interest in vintage electronics, no visit to the town is complete without a trip into The Black Hole [blackholesurplus.com], a surplus store that was founded by a guy who got sick of building bombs - so he quit, and founded the place both as an act of protest and as a means to find a more productive use for the lab's surplus gear.

    (Not the same AC. Just another person who's done some atomic tourism back in the day. You can be awed by walking in the footsteps of genius, feel that shared nerdy kinship when you see a fellow engineer's cartoon about his day job, humbled that people not that different from you took upon themselves the reponsibility of doing something like this and keeping it secret, and horrified by the bets/choices/decisions made by leaders both civilian and military, all in the space of a few minutes, and you never know which of the three you'll be experiencing from one moment to the next.)

  • by icebike (68054) on Wednesday December 05, 2012 @10:21PM (#42199641)

    But it all depends on the execution. As with any museum/park/etc. how you structure it sets the tone.

    Well, it seems unlikely we could ever agree on the tone to be set.
    Let alone how to present it. (see my post upthread about my annoyance with chirpy park service interpreters).

    When you look at the death tolls [wikipedia.org], the fire bombings of both Germany and Japan cities killed way more people.

    In March 1945, 334 B-29s took off to raid on the night of 9–10 March ("Operation Meetinghouse"), with 279 of them dropping around 1,700 tons of bombs. Fourteen B-29s were lost. Approximately 16 square miles (41 km2) of the city were destroyed and some 100,000 people are estimated to have died in the resulting firestorm, more immediate deaths than either of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

  • Re:Only Americans... (Score:0, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 06, 2012 @12:13AM (#42200481)

    Anyone who needs a memorial to senseless killing should be happy with Ground Zero in Manhattan.

    History has been updated, and much as you may want to believe the use of these outrageous weapons shortened WWII, it did not. The Japanese were negotiating in earnest with Truman, and the only sticking point was keeping the emperor. Otherwise the Japanese were ready the surrender. The fiction that these weapons saved lives was convenient but untrue. There is no justification for wiping 250,000 civilians off the map and irradiating the nearby survivors, many of whom bore the scars as they raised their genetically modified offspring only to join them as they died from cancer later on.

    It was a heinous act, even if done out of ignorance and especially if contemplated as a show of force to deter the Russians ambition to claim Japan as their own.

    Aside from which a National Park should be preserved for its natural beauty and source of recreation through the appreciation of the out of doors, as has been the tradition since Theodore Roosevelt advocated for Yellowstone NP. Los Alamos doesn't begin to qualify for consideration in that regard. In addition, the National Park Service budget has been under assault for years out of sheer ignorance on the part of those who believe we should cater to the RV set and those who believe that every non-essential service of the federal government should be paid for on a fee-for-service basis.

    At a time when legislators on both sides of the aisle argue for fiscal responsibility, I can find absolutely no justification for the acquisition of this land, let alone its designation as a National Landmark. For once I'll side the Potty Tea People of America, this NOT an acceptable use of federal funds, especially if you are at all concerned about the budget, and even if you're not.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. -- John Muir

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