In 1943, three ordinary-looking US cities were constructed at record speed – but left off all maps. They had an extraordinary purpose: to create nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan project

Something strange happened in the US state of Tennessee in 1943. Thousands of young workers poured into a 59,000-acre site about 25 miles west of Knoxville. Vast quantities of materials followed, never to re-emerge. Houses and other facilities were built with record speed. Yet officially Oak Ridge did not exist during the war and could not be found on any map.

What was going on there? Very few people knew at the time, even among the residents. The answer was that this was the starting block in a race against Adolf Hitler to build the atom bomb.

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