NNSA Administrator Views Manhattan Project Era Artifacts, V-Site And Gun Site During Visit For 75th Anniversary Of Trinity Test

NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty (left) views artifacts from the Manhattan Project at the historic V-Site at Los Alamos National Laboratory along with Director Thom Mason (center) and Representative Ben Ray Lujan (right). V-Site consisted of a cluster of wooden buildings built in January 1944 as a high explosives handling and assembly facility. Photo Courtesy LANL

NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty addresses media at a press event Thursday at  the historic V-Site at Los Alamos National Laboratory, accompanied by LANL director Thom Mason, left, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, right. Photo Courtesy LANL


Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty spoke Thursday at V-Site on the Los Alamos National Laboratory during a commemoration event for the 75th anniversary of the Trinity Test.

The V-Site buildings and the nearby Gun Site are the last significant structures still standing at Los Alamos associated with the development and assembly of the world’s first nuclear devices. Located away from the main laboratory for safety and security reasons, the V-Site consisted of a cluster of wooden buildings built in January 1944 as a high explosives handling and assembly facility. V-Site was one of the most secret areas in the Manhattan Project as it was here that all elements of the project finally came together. Few records exist to document activities at the site. Photographs were prohibited, and the area was hidden behind a “no-peek” fence. The Gadget, which became the prototype for the “Fat Man” bomb, was an implosion device. Detonation was achieved when symmetrical lenses directed pressure inward to compress a plutonium core.

7651260076_cf44ff4619_bAnother Manhattan Project era building is TA-22-1, the Quonset Hut Assembly Building. Courtesy photo 

Aerial photo of Gun Site. Photo Courtesy DOE

At Gun Site, scientists performed ballistic tests for the so-called gun method, which brought two subcritical masses of fissionable material together at high speed to form a supercritical mass. This was done using conventional artillery technology to fire one subcritical mass into the other. From the safety of a Gun Site structure built into the hillside, scientists observed the results of the tests through a periscope. The gun method was used for the uranium-235 bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

7651259956_a44005f728_bGun Site/Courtesy Photo

The Department of Energy was awarded a grant through the federal Save America’s Treasures Program by the National Park Service to stabilize and restore V-Site and Gun Site as the interpretive centerpieces for public understanding of the laboratory’s role during the Manhattan Project. The May 2000 Cerro Grande fire severely damaged all of the V-Site structures except for the High Bay building, where scientists assembled the Gadget for the Trinity test.

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Desert sand, ejected up into the fireball by the blast, vaporized inside the mushroom cloud and fell back, as molten droplets onto ground zero. There it solidified into puddles of a new, manmade mineral, christened trinitite. Pieces of trinitite were among the artifacts viewed by NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagert Thursday at V-Site. Photo Courtesy LANL

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Robert Oppenheimer’s chair on view Thursday afternoon at V-Site. Photo Courtesy LANL