With the Oppenheimer film debuting in summer 2023, this itinerary demonstrates Dayton, Ohio’s connection to the man, the movie, and the larger Manhattan Project. Visit the Dayton Project sites before or after watching the movie. (There are no spoilers in this post).
The City of Dayton and surrounding communities played a pivotal role in the Manhattan Project, the name of the atomic bomb mission during World War II. The Dayton Project was a smaller project within the larger Manhattan Project. The Dayton Project’s mission was to create the polonium trigger mechanism to detonate the atomic bombs developed in Los Alamos, New Mexico, the community featured in the Oppenheimer film. The Dayton Project scientists and workers were critical to the overall mission. It is appropriate to honor their scientific creativity and personal sacrifice during a time of war. The Dayton Project had and continues to have a significant impact on the physical and mental health of Dayton Mound workers and their families.
1 Mound Cold War Discovery Center & Unit V of the Dayton Project
1075 Mound Road,
Miamisburg, Ohio 45324
Our recommendation is to start at this site. The exhibits will provide additional information and insight into the Dayton Project. Check the website for open days and hours. Admission is free. Consider climbing the Miamisburg Mound earth work across the street to get a sweeping view of the expanse of the Mound Laboratories site. This is also the site of Unit V of the Dayton Project. By 1945, plans for a permanent polonium production facility were underway and Miamisburg, Ohio was chosen as the site for the new facility.Open In Google Maps
2 National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
1100 Spaatz St.
This museum is free and open to the public. Please check their website for hours and additional information. The Boeing B-29 Superfortress known as Bockscar is the aircraft that carried Oppenheimer's creation into battle. The plane dropped the Fat Man atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan on Aug. 9, 1945, three days after the atomic attack against Hiroshima, Japan. The aircraft was modified for the purpose of carrying the atomic bomb as it retained only the tail turret. The armor was removed to save weight to carry the heavy atomic bomb over a long distance.Open In Google Maps
3 Unit I – Central Research Department Headquarters
1515 Nicholas Rd
Dayton, OH 45417
Now a private company, please do not enter this site. View from the road. Unit 1 served as a logistical and personnel center for the Dayton Project. Initial research was carried out in this facility, but it had insufficient space for the polonium processing and refinement. This was the headquarters for the Monsanto Chemical Company, a subcontractor of the federal government for the Dayton Project.Open In Google Maps
4 Unit III – Former Bonebrake Theological Seminary
1601 W First St.
Dayton, OH 45402
Owned by the Dayton Board of Education, this facility became the location of polonium research and development activities following Unit I. Additional structures were added throughout the war. Eventually, the Dayton Project outgrew Unit III which lead to adding Unit IV. In 1950, Monsanto returned Unit III to the Dayton Board of Education, which resumed using it as a maintenance facility for the city’s school system. The board razed the central Bonebrake Seminary building after 1955; however, most of the surrounding concrete block buildings constructed by Monsanto to support the Manhattan Project remain. This location has been recognized as a site on the National Register of Historic Places since 2006. Now a private property, please view from the road or sidewalk.
5 Unit IV – Runnymede Playhouse
Runnymede Rd & Dixon Ave
Oakwood, OH 45419
A privately owned community center, the Runnymede Playhouse served as Unit IV for the Dayton Project. From this site, scientists shipped refined polonium to Los Alamos every week in the summer of 1945. The site continued polonium production through the end of the war. The building was demolished in 1950 and the site mitigated. It was divided into seven residential lots. There is no visible trace of its World War II-era uses. These are homes are private residences. Please view from the road.Open In Google Maps
6 J.K. McIntire Company Building
601 E. Third St.
The J.K. McIntire Company Building is a six-story brick warehouse listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Originally the warehouse was used for receiving, sorting, and storing equipment. The Dayton Project leased the top three floors in 1945. Urinalysis and biological research laboratories were later added. In 1946, the site became a central planning office for Unit V design and construction.Open In Google Maps
7 Carillon Historical Park
1000 Carillon Blvd
Dayton, OH 45409
This 65-acre museum and grounds shares many Dayton stories including The Dayton Project. Check the website for hours and admission fees. The Dayton Project and Monsanto Chemical Company exhibit are located in the main building. While onsite, visit the WAVES cabin. This was not part of The Dayton Project, but a vital role the the codebreaking history of WWII.Open In Google Maps
Dayton’s role in the Manhattan Project is one of many reasons the National Park Service named Montgomery County (City of Dayton) an American WWII Heritage City in late 2022. Learn more about that designation here.
Notes: Unit II – Good catch! Where is Unit II? Unit II was located on St. Route 741 in Miamisburg, Ohio across from today’s Cox Arboretum, this was a Monsanto property, but not associated with the Dayton Project.