Atomic bomb brings distant communities together

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By Kirsten Laskey

When local historian Nancy Bartlit traveled halfway across the world to Tinian, it not only forged bonds between the island in the Philippine Sea and Los Alamos, but helped complete a personal tour of the WWII atomic bombs.
Beginning Aug. 5, Bartlit took part in “The Manhattan Project and Tinian: An Educational Symposium.”
The symposium recognized what Los Alamos and Tinian contributed to WWII.
Los Alamos, of course, developed the nuclear bomb while Tinian offered the airfield strips used by the airplanes that carried the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Bartlit said 200 people attended the symposium, which featured tours of the island, radio interviews and guest speakers.
Bartlit was one of the speakers. She said she discussed Los Alamos’ history including the Ranch School and J. Robert Oppenheimer.
A highlight, she said, was when Maj. General Douglas Owens, vice commander of the Pacific Air Forces, “thanked me (for my presentation). He said it was a fascinating history and he appreciated what I said.”
Another highlight, Bartlit said, was reading a proclamation passed by the Los Alamos County Council to proclaim Aug. 5 and 6 as “Tinian Tribute to the Manhattan Project” with Dr. Roger Meade, who served as the archivist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. After they read the proclamation, Bartlit said they presented it to Mayor Ray Dela Cruz.
One of the tours that stood out was a visit to the pits where the bombs were prepared and lifted into the airplanes.
“It was pretty exciting” to stand on the runways where the two planes carrying the nuclear bombs took off, Bartlit said.
A few members of the symposium had worked at Wendover Air Force Base, a training base during WW II.
“It was exciting to be with people who knew what happened,” Bartlit said. Meeting with Tinian citizens was also a positive experience.
They “were extremely appreciative of the proclamation and the representation of Los Alamos in this program.”
Attending the symposium was beneficial in nurturing a relationship between Tinian and Los Alamos, Bartlit said. She said being in a particular location really helps you understand the area and expands on the relationship between you and the location.
Ronald Wilkins, chair of the Fuller Lodge Historic Districts Advisory board, also sees a benefit of having a relationship between Los Alamos and Tinian.  
“I’m very pleased that Nancy’s trip to the symposium went off so well and I hope we can continue a relationship with Tinian,” he said.
The symposium offered to tighten the bonds between Los Alamos and Tinian and gave Bartlit a complete picture of the nuclear bombs. Wilkins said she has visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima and toured Wendover Air Force Base.  
Visiting Tinian, she said “sort-of completes the cycle for me.
“It’s always exciting to be able to reconstruct in your mind the events that happened that day (when the bombs were dropped in Japan).”

Kirsten Laskey can be reached at lareporter@