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Celebrating the legacy of service from men and women of the greatest generation, the Spirit of '45 exhibition opened last week at the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge in conjunction with the World War II surrender of Japan on Aug. 14, 1945.
There were 16.1 million Americans who served in the military during World War II. Today, there are 3 million surviving.
Through artifacts from the museum archives, museum visitors have opportunities to learn more about everyday heroes.
Military uniforms, photographs and memorabilia are highlighted in the exhibit in the museum lobby through Sept. 15.
From front-page headlines to the iconic image of the nurse and the sailor kissing the war goodbye in the Times Square photograph on Aug. 14, 1945, and the "War Ends" photo that captured the joy and relief of those individuals who filled Oak Ridge's Jackson Square in celebration of VJ Day, the everyday heroes of World War II are introduced in the exhibit.
In a letter in the Spirit of '45 exhibit from William Coffman to his parents on Aug. 19, 1945, he writes, "I hope there are three things you are anxious to hear about — the atomic bomb, what we did on VJ Day and when we will be home. So I will start in chronological order."
Coffman mentions that on VJ Day in Oak Ridge "the residents paraded up and down the streets carrying flags and banging on pots and pans."
Sharing an aspect of their work at Y-12 through the exhibit were Graydon Whitman, a mechanical engineer and member of the Special Engineer Attachment assigned to the Y-12 processing plant.
After two weeks of training on the calutrons, he was assigned to major repairs. Whitman was the only SED member who had a line job at Y-12.
Jack Beers was a self-taught structural engineer from New York who worked for Stone & Webster.
Beers’ work in Oak Ridge included the invention of a device to place the alpha process tanks at Y-12 into an upright position.
Another Stone & Webster employee was William Coffman, a Minnesota native who moved to Oak Ridge and initially worked in building design and later moved into assembly at the Y-12 electromagnetic separation plant.
In the area of communications, Daniel Stern worked with the press or in communications in Oak Ridge.
Among his papers donated to museum are numerous press releases on the dropping of the atomic bomb. A photo shows Stern attending a press conference conducted by Gen. Leslie Groves.
One of thousands of clerical workers who organized the day-to-day business of the Manhattan Project, Edna Best Hunter was recruited to the Security and Intelligence Division in Oak Ridge from Washington D.C.
She was secretary to Lt. Nicholas Del Genio, the Y-12 courier who hand-carried the enriched uranium for the first atomic weapon from Oak Ridge to Los Alamos.
Through the museum's exhibit, photos and uniforms of Mavis and Pete Kohler are displayed. Mavis Vanderpool Kohler served with the U.S. Navy WAVES from March 25, 1942-Nov. 19, 1945 and then served for two years in the U. S. Navy Reserves. Pete Kollar joined the U.S. Coast Guard after graduation from high school in Long Island, NY. He served in the U.S Coast Guard from 1942-45 and was stationed in New England, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
The American Museum of Science and Energy is located at 300 S. Tulane Ave., Oak Ridge.