During World War II Oak Ridge, TN was known as the Secret City. It was and still is the host city for a government lab that is dedicated to researching all things atomic. During the war, this research was designed to create the nuclear bombs that helped to end the war. The bombs that they helped create were dropped on two Japanese cities: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In the early 90s, in celebration to the 50th anniversary of the founding of Oak Ridge and its part in the Manhattan Project.
Why the International Friendship Bell:
- The bell was designed to fit into the theme of the City’s Celebration – Born of war, living for peace, growing through science.
- The bell incorporates dates that reflect the workers in Oak Ridge with the Manhattan Project. The role they played in helping to end WWII and the Cold War.
- The bell, due to its traditional Japanese design is designed in a hope to focus on the peace between nations and promote understanding between the nation of Japan and the United States.
After a community wide exploration of what to do to celebrate the 50 year anniversary, it was decided to tie in the destruction to the two cities in Japan to the monument and the International Friendship Bell was commissioned. The bell itself is a traditional Japanese bell. It measures almost 5 feet wide at the base and is over 6 feet tall. This impressive item is housed in a Japanese style enclosure and is made of bronze. The outside of the bell is decorated with Japanese characters and is a work of art. The two main panels on the bell were designed by Oak Ridge citizen Suzanna Harris. The panels are covered in the natural characteristics of both Tennessee and Oak Ridge. The official flowers, birds, and trees of each of these locations are etched into the bronze itself. The basic goal is to extend that hand of peace to the people over the years that will see the bell and remind them of the past and to look to the future.
Next time you are in Oak Ridge, look for Bissell Park. The bell itself is hard to miss. It is a very large structure and a focal point in the park. Stroll around the park and spend sometime with the International Friendship Bell. Run your hands over the bronze figures and reliefs. Grab the ringer and give it a go and listen to the tone that the bell makes. Take your children and let them learn some history. Let them learn about Oak Ridge and its connection to World War II and the world.