The research for the first Atomic bomb was done in the United States, by a group of the best scientists; this research was given the name of The Manhattan Project. On Monday, July 16th, 1945, a countdown for the detonation of the first atomic bomb took place near Los Alamos, New Mexico. This atomic bomb testing would forever change the meaning of war. As the atomic bomb was detonated it sent shock-waves all over the world. There was endless research done on the bomb in the United States. The research was called “The Manhattan Engineer District Project” but it was more commonly known as “The Manhattan Project.”1 The Manhattan Project was brought by fear of Germany and its atomic research. On account of the fear of Germany, the United States took action upon testing their own atomic bomb. Once the bomb was tested, the United States had to decide whether it should be used and if so, where? Then there was the process of dropping the bomb. The Manhattan Project was overall one of the highest and most significant projects ever done in the United States.2
The United States government was shocked by the news of German scientists discovering nuclear fission. The news came to the United States from Albert Einstein. Einstein found out the nuclear fission information from a German physicist named Leo Szilard. He then told it to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and urged him to start an investment toward atomic research. 3The research would then help construct an atomic weapon of mass destruction.
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Roosevelt was not especially concerned about investing in atomic weapon research because he didn’t plan on getting involved in the War. When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese, Roosevelt entered the war and sent significant funds to the construction of the atomic weapon. Roosevelt speeded up the process of research by having General Groves set up a committee of the brightest minds from all around the world.
Because most of the work done on the research of the bomb was done in the Manhattan District of New York, at the US Army Corps of Engineers, the name given to the layout was “The Manhattan Project”.3 The man that General Grooves chose to head the Manhattan project was Robert J. Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer was a Jewish-born child who was raised in Manhattan. Oppenheimer went to Harvard University to complete a four-year chemistry program in three years. After Harvard, Oppenheimer went to Cambridge University to get a degree in Subatomic Physics. Then he went to teach at Berkley University.4 Another main person in the research project was Enrico Fermi.
Fermi was a graduate of the University of Pisa, where he received his Ph.D. Fermi then went to the University of Rome to teach chemistry and biology. Fermi played a major role in the development of the bomb by creating a sustained nuclear fission chain reaction, which was critical to making the atomic bomb.4
Richard Feynman was another scientist which worked on the atomic bomb. Feynman graduated from Princeton where he excelled in physics and other scientific studies. Feynman’s big duty on the Manhattan Project was to break big problems into smaller easier to do problems.4 The Manhattan Project, also had to have facilities for the research and testing of the atomic bomb. Some of the facilities built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers included: power stations, factories, steelworks, hospitals, laboratories, and housing for everybody that worked on the project.
Other facilities that were built for the construction of the bomb were plants to make the radioactive material needed to construct the bomb. Oak Ridge, Tennessee was used to make uranium which was used as an explosive to react with plutonium. The plutonium itself was made in Hanford, Washington.5 To make this explosion possible, a piece of uranium was fired at another piece of uranium to make the critical mass that was needed for an explosion. Critical mass is the exact amount of fissionable material needed to maintain a fission chain reaction.
Once Critical mass was obtained it compressed Plutonium and when the Plutonium was compressed enough, atoms from plutonium were split and it made an explosive bomb that could destroy a medium-sized city.3 Security was tight on the Los Alamos site because there was fear that bomb secrets would be spread outside of the workplace. There were many people that worked on the bomb that didn’t even know they were working on it, they just thought it to be another regular government job.
The workers that were there could not use their given names outside of the Los Alamos base. Any mail that was sent was to be read before delivered and vice versa.5 The creation of the bomb that was believed to work and now only needed to be tested The Manhattan Project was the most funded project done up to this time, so it had to be tested to see if the scientific research had gone to good use.
Testing for the first atomic weapon took place on July 16, 1945, at the Trinity test site in Alamogordo, New Mexico.3 The first atomic bomb was detonated. Small amounts of plutonium made a destructive force equal to 25,000 tons of TNT. The bomb vaporized the tower where it was dropped from. The bomb reached new heights by a mushroom cloud that was 41,000 feet high and shock-waves from the bomb were felt from at least 10,000 feet away from the test site. The blast was also heard or seen from at least 50 miles away.
After the testing, and succession of this first atomic weapon, the world was changed forever on its ways of battle.3 Now that the bomb was tested, it was ready to use for war. Another thing that now needed to be done with The Project, was what to do with the atomic bomb. By the time the atomic bomb was finished, the presidency had changed. President Roosevelt died of polio, so Harry S. Truman was left in charge of the decisions involving the bomb. The focus of the war was changing. Germany was starting to lose in the war day by day. So the U.S. decided to focus much of its attention on the war with Japan. A committee was formed to advise the president on the best course of action to easily defeat Japan with the lowest loss of American lives.
The committee came up with some choices. The first was to negotiate a peace treaty. Second, to cooperate with the Russians and continue fighting the war as they hoped for a quick end. The third decision was to organize a full-out invasion with the cooperation of the Army, Navy and other military divisions. Another choice was to use the bomb in a test on an unpopulated island to show the Japanese its capabilities for destruction. Their last choice was to drop the bomb on a major city in Japan.1 There were many disadvantages to all of these decisions that could be made. The U.S. was not to accept anything less than surrender, and the Japanese were insisting that they keep their emperor and the current government.
To cooperate with Russia meant the U.S. would be in debt and would possibly be in an undesirable situation with the Russian Communist rule. The invasion of the Japanese mainland would, like the previous choice, sacrifice hundreds and thousands of American soldiers. A problem with showing the testing of the bomb was the possible failure of the bomb. As we know choice five was chosen. The choice of dropping the bomb took about a month to decide from the time of the first initial testing.1 & 2 Five places had been chosen as good targets in Japan. They were Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Yokohama, and Kokura Arsenal. The last thing the U.S. now had to do was get the bomb dropped on their picked primary targets, which were chosen as Nagasaki and Hiroshima.1 A new leader, General Carl A. Spaatz, a commanding officer in Pacific operations, received notice that the first atomic bomb was to be dropped on Hiroshima.
The actual dropping of the bomb was delayed several times due to predictions of nasty weather. The plane that carried the bomb was named “Enola Gay” and weighed 65 tons at take-off, a total of 8 tons over the normal operating weight of a B-29 bomber. In case of a crash during takeoff, which would have blown up the whole naval base, it was decided that the bomb would have to be armed in the air. Captain William S. Parsons, a Navy ordnance expert, was the man in charge of arming a bomb during flight.5 On August 6th, the bomb named “Little Boy,” completely flattened about four miles of Hiroshima.
It was estimated that a total of 78,000 died in the explosion, but that number does not include people who died from radiation poisoning. Three days later on August 9th, the bomb named “Fat Man”, dropped on Nagasaki. It did not cause the devastation of Hiroshima because of different land features. But it still resulted in about 39,000 deaths.5 The second bomb was under suspicion that it was only dropped because the U.S. wanted to try a new type of bomb.
Some others thought it was needed to claim victory in the Second World War. Either way, both bombs were the most monumental in history to this time. 4 In conclusion The Manhattan project was one of the most important and expensive projects ever done in the United States to this time. The drip of the bomb probably could have been stopped but the US decided to take action which killed thousands and injured millions. The dropping of the bomb forever changed the meaning of war for all citizens of the world.
1 Atomic Bomb : Decision – Target Committee — http://www.dannen.com/decision/targets.html#E
2 Atomic Archive – Explore the History, Science, and Consequences of the Atomic Bomb – http://www.atomicarchive.com/main.shtml
3 CD-ROM and Online Encarta Encyclopedia 99
4 The Manhattan Project — http://www.gis.net/~carter/manhattan/
5 The Avalon Project : The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — <http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/abomb/mpmenu.html>
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