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Letter from Sally Cartwright, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to Senator McMahon of Connecticut, March 6, 1946

During World War II, the U.S. government built a secret facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to produce the nuclear materials needed for an atomic bomb. Few who worked there knew of the project’s ultimate goals until the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan. Sally Cartwright opposed the position of General Leslie Groves, military director of the Manhattan Project, to keep atomic energy under military jurisdiction.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Letter from Sally Cartwright

Regulating Nuclear Technology

The United States ended the war in the Pacific by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in August 1945, killing more than 100,000 Japanese civilians and demonstrating the devastating power of these new weapons. Neither Congress nor the public understood the terrifying capabilities of atomic weapons prior to August 1945, as development of the bomb had been shrouded in secrecy. Shortly thereafter, Congress debated how to meet the unprecedented political, social, and economic issues precipitated by the revolutionary development of the atomic bomb and nuclear technology.

Atomic power must be controlled to prevent a push-button war.

Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas of California, Press Release, 1945