CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A July 16, 1945 blast in New Mexico marked the successful test of the atomic bomb that subsequently was dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki and effectively ended World War II.
At the time in Oak Ridge, Tenn., hundreds of young female clerks, nurses, cleaners, secretaries and scientists endured mud, censorship and racial and gender discrimination for good wages and, often, mates. Few even guessed they were working on a bomb.
Speculating was taboo.
The women simply didn't ask, they told author Denise Kiernan for her recently published book, "The Girls of Atomic City."
The experiences of almost a dozen young women are chronicled in volume subtitled "The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II."
I found it hard to imagine their life.
Not so Barbara Main Randall, widow of retired St. Albans Mayor Jim Randall.
She was there, arriving at Oak Ridge in June 1944 after a year of college.
"The first time I went for a job interview I wore penny loafers, which were kind of our co-ed dress shoes, and a dress, of course," she wrote in an email from her Ohio home. "I waded through enough mud to almost pull them off my bobby sox."
At least she kept her shoes.
One of the nine women interviewed by Kiernan ruined her new shoes in the mud upon arrival in August 1943. "Broke my heart," she told the author.
Barbara Randall came to Oak Ridge to join her family. Her father, a civil and design engineer, was a planner with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
By then Oak Ridge was a city of 75,000 residents with new railroad line, houses, apartments, dormitories, barracks, trailers, a library, hospital, offices, warehouse and recreational facilities, Barbara wrote.
"But it was so new and raw that the overwhelming impressions was of white rocks on sticky Tennessee red clay slashed with curving roads full of a fleet of Army drab buses."
Because of her dad's position, the family of five had a three-bedroom home.
"I remember seeing bright lights coming down our lane as pavers put down asphalt at midnight one night," she wrote.
Homes were prefabricated, assigned according to position and rank.