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History Detectives: Manhattan Project

Airs Monday, June 29, 2009 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Bill Wilcox (LEFT), the Oak Ridge City historian, tours the graphite reactor exhibit at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Museum with HISTORY DETECTIVES host Wes Cowan. This is where the U.S. enriched the uranium used to fuel the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

This patent for an Isotope Separating Apparatus is stamped with a filing date of October 11, 1945. The U.S. government issued the patent to the contributor’s father, who was secretive about his work at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, branch of the Manhattan Project. Was this patent used to build the atomic bomb?
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Above: This patent for an Isotope Separating Apparatus is stamped with a filing date of October 11, 1945. The U.S. government issued the patent to the contributor’s father, who was secretive about his work at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, branch of the Manhattan Project. Was this patent used to build the atomic bomb?

A contributor is certain that his father worked on the Manhattan Project during World War II. His father refused to talk about his war assignment, except to say that he sold his patent to the U.S. government for a single dollar. Along with the patent, the contributor has a letter from the Atomic Energy Commission stating that his father's patent had been declassified. Was this invention used to build the atomic bomb?

To find out, "History Detectives" host Wes Cowan travels to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and discovers a plan to hide atomic secrets in plain sight.

Watch an interview with Cowan and submit your own mystery online.