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Manhattan Project National Historical Park Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, H.R. 5987 is a bipartisan bill authored by me that will establish the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Mr. Speaker, there is a like bill, a bipartisan bill, also pending in the Senate.

The park will encompass three locations that were integral to the tremendous engineering and human achievements of the Manhattan Project. The three locations are the Hanford site in my home State of Washington, Los Alamos in New Mexico, and Oak Ridge in Tennessee.

The vast majority of the facilities that are eligible to be included in this park are already owned by the Federal Government, and they are located on lands owned and controlled by the Department of Energy.

Our Nation already possesses these pieces of history, and the real purpose of this bill is to officially declare the importance of preserving the history, providing access to the public, and include the unique abilities of the Park Service to help tell this story.

Currently, some of these facilities slated for inclusion in this park are scheduled to be destroyed at considerable taxpayer expense. A great many local community leaders in all three States and interested citizens have worked to coordinate a commitment to preserving this piece of our history. Additionally, the government will save millions of dollars from foregone destruction, as opposed to the minimal cost of providing public access and park administration.

In recognition of the important contributions to the Manhattan Project by the men and women at sites across the country, the bill contains a provision allowing communities like Dayton, Ohio, for example, outside the historical park, to receive technical assistance and support from the Department of the Interior as they seek to preserve and manage their own Manhattan Project park resources.

This is a good piece of legislation, and it is part of our history, Mr. Speaker. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is really not as complicated as my good friend from Ohio tries to make it appear to be.

Now, I recognize, and we've had conversations on this when the bill was introduced, and I respect his opinion, but I respectfully disagree with his opinion and his arguments. There is nothing wrong with that. After all, we're Americans, and we can do that in America.

But I want to, and with the gentleman, what I heard him saying was dealing in what if and what would be an ideal world. Well, we'd all like to have an ideal world. But let's talk about reality at that time.

We were forced into the Second World War. Germany, of course, had started, some can say, started that war with their blitzkrieg on September 1, 1939, into Poland. You could say it may have started when Japan started expanding where they were going in the Pacific, and certainly when they attacked us on December 7, 1941.

Whether we liked it or not, we were in a war for survival. There is no question about that. That is simply the facts.

In the process of carrying out that war, and by the way, Mr. Speaker, let me say that war is absolutely unpredictable, but because if you're logically thinking about war, if it were predictable, it wouldn't have happened in the first place. But the very nature of war is unpredictable.

So we didn't know where we were, but we had heard that Nazi Germany was developing an atomic weapon. Now, they had been building a military machine long before because we were caught a bit off guard in the Second World War. We were not a warring Nation. So we had to use whatever technology we had in order to defend our freedoms. One way that was decided was to build an atomic weapon if we had to use that atomic weapon.

What this bill purports to do is nothing more than to talk about the ingenuity of the American people to develop this weapon when the nuclear industry was relatively in its infancy, and did it in such a short time frame. That is something that we ought to put into our history books because we do put past battles in our history books.

Just earlier this week was the 150th anniversary of Antietam, right up the road here in Sharpsburg, Maryland--the largest single-day casualty in American history at that time. Yet we memorialize the battlefield because it helped preserve our Union and get our Union back together.

So I think it's right that we look at these from that perspective.

Now, I can only imagine how difficult a decision it was for President Truman shortly after President Roosevelt had died to make this decision; but he made it because in his judgment, given the information he had, it would probably save more lives than it would cost by dropping a bomb. That was the judgment he made.

Let me speak just a little bit about, again, the ingenuity and the technology of what happened, and I can only speak about my area, Hanford, and about, specifically, about the B Reactor.

This is the first nuclear reactor that was built in this country; and from start to finish, it was built in less than a year. The technology at that point wasn't even proven. Yet when they started the B Reactor and went ``hot,'' as they said, it obviously did what it was supposed to do. It was a tremendous scientific achievement.

To open this up to the public and open this up to school children to see what we can do and what we did in this country to protect the freedoms and liberty we have, I think is worth preserving.

Again, all this does is take those three main sites that largely are already owned by the government, transfer them to the National Park Service, and show them to the public so we can learn and remember what happened during that time.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, let me say that I've been down on this floor many times criticizing the Obama administration. But the Obama administration, through Secretary Salazar and the Department of the Interior, is in favor of legislation establishing precisely what this bill and the Senate bill hope to do.

So while I have differences with them, I certainly congratulate them for recognizing how important this legislation is.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I urge adoption of the legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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