J. Robert Oppenheimer and the band of geniuses he recruited won the existential race to create the atomic bombs that ended World War II. They also set the stage for a nuclear arms buildup in which worker safety was an afterthought and the mushroom cloud became a Las Vegas tourist attraction.
The blockbuster movie “Oppenheimer” about the rise and fall of the man called the “father of the atomic bomb,” based on a book by Kai Bird, gave a riveting account of the personal and political trials involved in the success of the Manhattan Project.
But the film had a glaring omission in the estimation of Christopher Godfrey, director of the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs at the Labor Department.
In a blog post and a phone interview with Military.com, Godfrey said the movie was “fantastic” and a masterpiece of filmmaking, but “one important part of this history the viewer does not see in the film is the sacrifice made by tens of thousands of workers in the production of our country's nuclear weapons arsenal.”
Much of the movie centers on the interactions of “Oppie” with Army Corps of Engineers Brig. Gen. Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, and the fractious bunch of physicists and engineers Oppenheimer had assembled at the secret site in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
A brief reference was made in the movie to the work at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which produced the weapons-grade uranium for the “Little Boy” atomic bomb…