On July 16, 1945, the United States of America ushered the world into a new era with the successful detonation of an atomic bomb in New Mexico. That era was the nuclear age. Less than a month later, on August 6, 1945, an atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan; the first use of a nuclear weapon against an enemy nation. Most of us know of these basic events, but many do not know of the complicated decisions and scientific breakthroughs that paved the way towards that fateful day in Hiroshima. Every day we are closer to having nuclear arms fall in the hands of someone who wishes to do harm with those weapons. Many question why we think the U.
S. is justified in having our own atomic collection. This is why it is important to understand how the atomic bomb came about and why we decided it was necessary to use it. First reports of the bombs in Japan only reported that a “new type of bomb” had been used. Most had no concept of what an atom bomb was or why it was so powerful. The story of the atomic bomb opens with a series of new discoveries in physics that began near the turn of the century.
The term classical is applied to the physics that scientists developed prior to that time (Cohen, 17).
Much of it came from the work of the Father of Physics, the great seventeenth-century English scholar, Sir Isaac Newton. Newton was a scientific genius. Today, however, a competent student with a good high school physics course probably has a more accurate knowledge of the physical universe than Newton had.
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This is especially true concerning the most basic building blocks of matter, atoms. Newton, as did others before him, developed a theory about the structure of atoms. According to Newton’s theory, atoms were like marbles. They were solid and hard, but unlike marbles, they could not be further divided. It was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century that scientific experiment began to prove otherwise. Thereafter, knowledge of atomic structure moved ahead very quickly (Cohen, 18).
By the mid-1930’s, dedicated effort by British and other European scientists had revealed a new world of atomic structure, one filled with incredibly tiny systems of interacting subatomic particles containing electrons, protons, and neutrons. In 1938, two German physicists, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman, were experimenting with uranium. They discovered that bombarding uranium atoms with neutrons didn’t create a new element as they had previously assumed. Instead, uranium atoms split into two other elements-barium and krypton. This process was called nuclear “fission” (Batchhelder, 11).
These two new atoms weighed less together than a single uranium atom.
Therefore, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity on mass and energy (E = mc 2), the difference in missing mass must be made up in energy (Roleff, 14).
Two other scientists had been helping Hahn and Strassman at the time. Their names were Otto Frisch and Lise Meitner. Together they determined that the calculated energy that was released from one single uranium atom would be 200 million electron volts.
This energy was roughly 20 million times the energy of an equal portion of TNT. A pound of this matter converted to raw energy would produce more than half the amount of electricity generated in the US (Roleff, 15).
Within months scientists from all over the world had repeated and refined the experiment. At the time of Hahn and Strassman’s discovery, very few physicists were still working in Germany.
During the 1920’s and 1930’s, Germany was the center of the scientific world (Roleff, 20).
When Hitler began his rise to power in the early 1930’s, he also began his persecution of the Jews. As a result of his policies, many scientists left Europe for the safety of the United States. Many of these scientists became political refugees who contributed greatly to the success of the future Manhattan Project (Cohen, 22).
... chemical processes release only the energy of the outermost electrons in the atom. See Atom and Atomic Theory.Nuclear explosives, on the other hand ... that tremendous heat necessary to achieve fusion of hydrogen atoms. Atomic scientists regarded the A-bomb as the trigger of the ... Hahn and Fritz Strassmann (1902-80), who split the uranium atom into two roughly equal parts by bombardment with neutrons ...
This intellectual emigration took place at the same time as physicists on both sides of the Atlantic were discovering the secrets of the atom (Batchhelder, 18).
The most famous of these scientists was Albert Einstein, who settled in Princeton University (Batchhelder, 14).
Up to this point, the few who had even thought about it at all, regarded theoretical physics as a strange, esoteric practice. It was all very interesting, but highly speculative and not the sort of thing that was going to have any effect on people’s lives. The physicists, however, thought differently. They knew that nuclear fission could potentially release enormous amounts of energy.
The splitting of one atom would result in its giving off particles that would split two other atoms, and so on. If billions of atoms fission ed in a chain reaction, powerful bombs might be created. In theory at least, this process could be used to create a weapon of almost unimaginable power (Szasz, 14).
Since much of the work on nuclear fission had been done in Germany, German scientists certainly knew about this possibility. Yet almost no one in the United States seemed to take the potential development of a nuclear bomb very seriously (Batchhelder, 15).
With increasing developments in the nuclear field, the vision of Hitler in possession of an atomic bomb gave a group of refugee scientists the initiative to try and prevent Hitler’s discovery of the bomb.
The “Hungarian Conspiracy”, as the trio was later called, was made up of three physicists by the names of Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner, and Edward Teller (Szasz, 15).
Szilard attempted to persuade his fellow scientists to refrain from publishing the results of their research in the nuclear field out of fear that the publication of encouraging results might lead to the development of German atomic bombs (Roleff, 59).
... that Germany was making a atomic bomb. Albert Einstein got to work right away. Albert Einstein and a group of scientist studied the inside of ... an atom. Later on Albert Einstein and a group of scientist were able to develop an atomic bomb. Whit this they were able ...
They decided that the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt must be somehow made aware of the danger, and the United States must begin its own atomic research project (Batchhelder, 15).
The task of alerting Roosevelt to the German atomic threat was a hard one. Though the three men, particularly Szilard, were well known in scientific circles, it is doubtful if Present Roosevelt had ever heard of them.
The possibility that any of them would ever be able to get a private meeting with the president, much less get him to listen to their suggestions, which to the nonscientist would have sounded quite fantastic, was virtually nil (Batchhelder, 15).
They decided to enlist the help of a very well known scientist, one whose words Roosevelt or any other educated person would certain listen to, and that man was Albert Einstein. Szilard was an old friend of Einstein’s. He found out that Einstein was spending the summer in a house on Long Island and he made an appointment to see him.
Szilard explained to Einstein how a chain reaction might be created. Einstein was quite surprised remarking: “Dar an have ich gar nicht!” (“I never thought of that!” ) (Szasz, 16).
Einstein realized the dangerous possibility and agreed to help bring the dangers to the attention of the government. As the plan evolved, Einstein was to write a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt about the possibilities and dangers of atomic weapons. The letter was given to Alexander Sachs, an economist and longtime friend of Roosevelt’s.
Finally on October 11, after convincing Roosevelt’s aides that he had something worth an hour of his time, Sachs was ushered into the Oval Office (Batchhelder, 18).
Sachs had thought long and hard about exactly how he was going to make this proposal to Roosevelt. Both Einstein and Szilard had prepared scientific descriptions of nuclear energy and its implications. Sachs, however, decided to prepare his own simple terms version.
He summarized the contents of Einstein’s letter. He talked about the possibilities of using atomic energy for both peaceful and destructive purposes, but especially as bombs, and warned of the consequences of such weapons in the hands of a hostile power. Given recent events in Europe, hostile power meant Nazi Germany. The warning was clearly understood by the President (Cohen, 26).
... the first atomic bomb. Atomic bomb research started in the U. S. when fears of German physicists creating anatomic bomb from uranium. Since World War II ... . to try to make it " sown atomic bomb was a letter to President F. D. Roosevelt from Albert Einstein stating that it would ... be probable to create an atomic bomb if the ...
FDR called in his military aide and told him, “This requires action” (Roleff, 62).
With FDR’s initial rush of enthusiasm, it appeared that a strong atomic weapons research program was about to become a reality. The ghost writers of Einstein’s letter, Szilard and his crew, were ecstatic. While America’s atomic program was in its early stages, further new evidence continued to point to increasing German activity in the field of fission research. The Dutch-born chemist Peter Deby e was forced to leave his position as Director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin (Roleff, 63).
Upon his arrival in the United States, Peter reported that his former laboratory was being turned over to research in uranium. British intelligence units began to receive reports that Germans had ordered the Norsk Hydro plant, the world’s largest producer of heavy water, to increase its output sharply.
The fact that heavy water is the most efficient moderator for a controlled nuclear chain reaction, combined with the fact that German scientists had publicly announced that heavy water might become vitally important to Germany’s war effort, pointed to German development of atomic energy for war purposes (Roleff, 63).
Within days of his meeting with Sachs, the president appointed a three-person group, the Advisory Committee on Uranium, to study the possibilities of using atomic energy for national defense. Dr. Lyman J.
Briggs, a long-time government scientists and director of the Bureau of Standards, was picked to head the Uranium Committee whose other members consisted of the Army and Navy. Briggs invited the Hungarian Trio to attend the committee’s first meeting on October 31, 1939. There Szilard explained ideas on producing a chain reaction in uranium and also estimated the destructive force of an atomic bomb. The first report of the Advisory Committee on Uranium, issued November 1, 1939, recommended to the president that financial support be given for research on a controlled chain reaction (Cohen, 26).
Following the first flurry of activity, the progress of the Uranium Committee slowed to a crawl, much to the dismay of worried emigrant scientists. It was becoming evident that a serious commitment to fission bomb research would never occur until senior policy makers took more interest.
... leaders together the day after the Trinity test, the project on the atomic bomb was seriously under way. During one session at the ... to 20 th-century atomic physics. During World War II several French scientists participated in an Anglo-Canadian project in Canada, where eventually ... realization that Britain's major effort would come after the war. While the British program was sharply reduced at home, ...
The people at the top needed to be convinced that such weapons were needed, that they would work well, and that somebody could make them fairly quickly. Yet no one was willing to say without serious reservations that any of these conditions could be met. As events moved the United States closer to war in Europe, the program that sought to harness the energy of the atom inched along with little energy of its own. By late 1940, less than $50, 000 had been allocated for bomb-related research. (Cohen, 27) A few months later, the British committee of atomic bomb research published a report under the code named MAUD that reviewed the potential for atomic bomb development. The conclusions of the MAUD report were bold and disturbing.
It maintained that the development of an atomic bomb fueled by U-235, a naturally occurring isotope of uranium, was not only possible but could be completed in a minimum of 3 years. Furthermore, the destructive potential of such a bomb was tremendous and was “likely to lead decisive results in the war” (Beyer, 27).
Facilities to separate enough U-235 to fuel a production line of bombs could be constructed at an estimated cost of $5, 000, 000. In recommending “the highest priority” for a bomb project, even if the war should end before bombs were ready, the MAUD Report foresaw the significance of atomic weapons in the postwar future (Beyer, 28).
The weight of the British MAUD report finally convinced key American scientists and administrators that the United States must commit to building the bomb. When an official copy of the MAUD report reached President Roosevelt in October 1941, the president acted (Beyer, 29).
Government officials at the highest level were for the first time brought together formally to advise the President on the future of the atomic energy project. This Top Policy Group included Vice-President Henry Wallace, Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall, and inevitably, James B.
Conant and Vannevar Bush (Roleff, 63).
In November 1941 Compton’s review committee submitted to the Top Policy Group a highly favorable report-the first report to the government focusing primarily on the possibility of a U-235 bomb-estimating that bombs could be made “within three or four years” (Roleff, 63).
... people are still dying of the effects of the Atomic Bomb. These effects are so awful it is necessary ... the question "Why did they drop the bomb?" when the war was so nearly over.The Americans had pushed ... were killed by this atom bomb. On August 14 Japan surrendered and World War II was finally over. ... The Japanese had been very cruel to prisoners of War. Some Americans thought they deserved to be taught ...
At last, firm action was taken. On December 6, 1941, the day before Pearl Harbor, the crucial decision was approved by the President. The possibility of obtaining atomic bombs for use in the present war was deemed good enough to justify throwing the full support of the government, both financial and technical, behind the project, which should be reorganized for an all-out effort (Roleff, 64).
If an atomic bomb could be made at all, this made sure that the United States was now officially committed to making it first.
In the months that followed Pearl Harbor the Manhattan Project-the name given to the atomic-bomb program because its original offices had been in Manhattan-grew rapidly (Beyer, 30).
There now existed the possibility for direct military application of the new discoveries. Shortly after the Manhattan Project was established, Franklin D. Roosevelt set up a National Defense research Committee (NDR C) to mobile science for war, and later, the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSR D) (5, 67).
The discovery of plutonium in 1940-an alternative route to a nuclear reaction-plus a series of optimistic reports from the British scientists, led by physicist Rudolph Peierls, strengthened the fledgling American efforts.
By late 1941, the British were confident that a U-235 bomb could be developed before the hostilities were over (Roleff, 68).
The army had become involved in June 1942 and by the fall the secretary of war realized that someone was going to have to be put in overall charge. The man who was chosen was Leslie Richard Groves, a 46-year-old colonel in the Army Corps of Engineers (Beyer, 30).
Groves was angry about the new assignment. A career officer in the Engineers since graduating fourth in his class at West Point in 1918, he had just finished building the Pentagon in Washington, D. C.
, and was itching for an overseas combat assignment. Groves did not relish in the idea of staying at home to organize the efforts of civilian scientists in a program whose ability to influence the outcome of the war he at first doubted (Beyer, 36).
With General Groves as officer in charge, the Manhattan Project began to move forward with new energy. Although Groves did not have the academic brilliance or technical training to match the people had to oversee, he possessed an uncanny ability to learn from the discussions (Roleff, 68).
In just the first few weeks of his appointment, Groves acted with impressive efficiency. To open the necessary bureaucratic doors for the acquisition of materials and manpower, he pushed through priority status for the Manhattan Project with the War Production Board.
Groves then arranged the purchase of an important stock of Uranium ore from Belgian sources, and purchased land in Tennessee for a bomb fuel production site (Beyer, 37).
From late 1942 the focus of the Manhattan Project was the translation of bomb research into bomb production. This meant the next task was finding a location for a bomb-making factory. There were two main reasons for the creation of this site.
First, the project needed a special weapons laboratory that would put the bomb together. Second, Groves found himself caught in his own massive security regulations. From the beginning, he had insisted that the people involved with the various aspects of the Manhattan Project know only enough to carry out their own jobs effectively (Roleff, 70).
Groves had placed great faith in what he called “compartmentalization”-each scientists or team of scientists was to work within a narrow area and not discuss their work with others.
Only a few people at the top would have a full picture of what was going on (Cohen, 44).
This “compartmentalization” of tasks lay at the heart of all Manhattan Projects security. It proved so effective that no information ever reached German hands. As essential as compartmentalization might have been for security purposes, it was a hindrance on the purely scientific level. The constant exchange of ideas and information became vital to the scientists as they encountered problem after problem, all of which were interconnected. Moreover, as the project grew, the logistics of getting the proper people to the proper places proved cumbersome.
After the war, Szilard complained bitterly that Groves’s insistence on compartmentalization actually hindered the development of the bomb by eighteen months. Groves, however, always defended the position (Roleff, 70).
After much talk and deliberation, Groves decided that the project needed to create a new isolated site where the scientists could all come together and talk openly. So in the summer of 1942, after a brief search, Groves and the newly appointed head of the installation, J. Robert Oppenheimer, selected the region of Los Alamos, New Mexico (Roleff, 70).
Now the central facility of the Manhattan Project, Los Alamos grew out of the site of a boys’s chool.
It became an enormous think tank and laboratory that gave birth to the first atomic bombs (Beyer, 38).
Oppenheimer had known and loved this area for years, for his family had had a ranch in the nearby Pecos Mountains. Here he was able to combine his two great loves-physics and New Mexico (Roleff, 70).
Set on a hot and arid mesa approximately 35 miles northwest of Santa Fe, the school site satisfied General Groves’s requirements for the location of the top-secret project: adequate transportation and water supply, a ready labor force, moderate climate to enable year-round work, and most importantly, isolation for safety and security (Beyer, 39).
General Groves later said that the site had to be isolated so as to protect nearby communities from “any unforeseen results from our activities” (Cohen, 40).
However, it seems as though the barbed wire fence that surrounded the site wasn’t built to confine explosions, but to keep casual visitors out and keep scientists in.
Oppenheimer’s responsibility as director was to see to the design and production of a workable and practical atomic bomb. He had to accomplish this by the time that fissionable materials, U-235 and plutonium, were available in sufficient quantities, which was expected to take about two years (Beyer, 39).
He recruited many of the top personnel himself. His job was made easier by the fact that the scientists knew they would be applying their talents for the benefit of their own country. They also knew that if they succeeded, they would become a part of history. After some initial hesitation, recruitment snowballed, and by 1944 virtually every American physicist of important was involved in the project (Roleff, 70).
Even those at Los Alamos who knew little about the activities behind the fenced-in “Tech Area,” knew that they were producing something “that would help end the war” (Batchhelder, 55).
It is probably safe to say that never before in the history of the human race have so many brilliant minds been gathered together in one place. Visitors walking through the spacious Fuller Lodge at lunch might see four to five Nobel Prize winners dining at the same time. If they had been able to divine the future, they would have know that seven other men would also become Nobel winners (Roleff, 71).
By early 1944 a crisis had developed at Los Alamos. The difficulties in getting adequate quantities of fissionable material were staggering.
General Groves had taken an enormous gamble in building a half-billion-dollar secret factory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The factory began operating in August 1942, but it kept breaking down. It was only producing tiny amounts of pure uranium 234. Oppenheimer was told he could count on enough uranium for just one bomb my mid-1945 (Cohen, 63).
Groves made a second gamble in building yet another secret city, this one near Hanford, Washington, to produce a second fissionable material, plutonium 239.
Some 45, 000 construction workers labored under harsh and primitive conditions to rush construction of the Hanford facility. By 1945, it was estimated that Hanford would produce enough plutonium for more than one bomb in the next few months (Szasz, 15).
There were actually two types of atomic bombs being developed at Los Alamos. The uranium bomb was long and thin and initially called “Thin Man” after Roosevelt. But the size of the bomb was cut down and the nickname changed to “Little Boy.” The plutonium bomb was rounder and called “Fat Man” after Winston Churchill (64, Cohen).
Everyone was absolutely convinced that a uranium bomb detonated by the gun method would work. But early in 1944 I became increasingly apparent that the gun method would not work with plutonium. That meant that Neddermeyer’s implosion method would be used. However, the technology of the plutonium bomb was much newer and more complicated.
It absolutely had to be tested before it was used. And that meant that someplace in America had to be found to test the most potentially awesome weapon that the world had ever seen (Cohen 64).
A number of sites were considered and turned down for various reasons. In September an area called the Jornada del Muertos was finally settled on. Translated the name means “Journey of Death” (Cohen, 65).
Oppenheimer, for reasons never clearly explained, named the test site Trinity (Beyer, 55).
Construction on the site was in full swing by November. The construction company in charge of the work didn’t know what they were working on. The fact that they were building enormous concrete bunkers and reinforced steel towers led the construction workers to conclude that whatever the area was going to be used for it had to do with high explosives. They had no idea what sort of explosives these might be (Cohen, 65).
At first the scientists were so unsure that the bomb would work that they proposed putting it inside an enormous steel container.
If the bomb worked then the container would be vaporized instantly. If it didn’t whatever blast there was would be contained and the costly plutonium could be recovered. When it was finally built, the container, called Jumbo, weighed 214 tons and had 15 in thick walls of banded steel (Cohen, 65).
Getting it to the test site was one of the hardest parts of the construction. It was the heaviest single object ever moved by railroad (Beyer, 22).
Jumbo arrived at the test site in early April 1945, but by that time those in charge decided that it wouldn’t be needed after all.
Confidence in the implosion system had increased greatly. Later Groves actually tried to have the thing blown up with conventional explosives so that the congressional investigators would not begin asking questions about why so much money was spent on something that was never used. All they ever managed to do was blow the ends out of it — the remains of Jumbo are still in the desert (Cohen, 66).
On March 14, 1945, President Roosevelt was told that the atomic bomb would probably be ready for testing by summer. In April, Oak Ridge had finally produced enough uranium 235 for a single bomb. The bomb was partially assembled into two sections.
In July these were shipped separately, by water and air, to the Pacific island of Tinian where physicist Rudolf Peierls assembled the bomb — by hand (Beyer, 54).
At the same time, those working on an implosion bomb had made impressive strides, and Oppenheimer was able to send Groves the cheering news that they were just about ready (Cohen, 69).
Then on April 12, Franklin Delano Roosevelt died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage while vacationing at Warm Springs, Georgia. He was 63 years old and had served his nation as president for 13 years — more than any other president before or since. Roosevelt had been in failing health for months, but this was known only to his closest associates.
The nation was stunned (Szasz, 21).
Vice President Harry S. Truman took the oath of office on April 12, 1945. The ceremony lasted a minute.
About an hour later he was told about the atomic bomb (Cohen, 71).
Roosevelt’s secretary of war, Stimson, took the new president aside on a “most urgent matter” and briefly sketched an “immense project” that would give the nation “a new explosive of almost unbelievable power” (Roleff, 22).
Truman was still puzzled, and on the next day James F. Byrnes told him a bit more. Byrnes related some of what he knew to Truman along with the observation that possession of such a weapon would give the United States tremendous influence in the postwar world. Truman quickly appointed Byrnes secretary of state (Cohen, 72).
Meanwhile, the world’s first atomic bomb test was nearing. At Trinity, a hundred-foot steel tower was built to hold the bomb. The tower would be ground zero. The scientists wanted the bomb off the ground to more closely simulate the actual conditions of the bomb drop and to reduce the amount of sand that would be sucked up by the blast and later rain down as radioactive dust (Roleff, 23).
Observation posts were built ten thousand yards south of the tower, and twenty miles north of ground zero was Campania Hill, where other observers gathered to watch the explosion (Roleff, 24).
The first bomb of its kind, it was an implosion-type bomb that used plutonium to fuel its nuclear explosion.
The scientists working on it had no idea of its destructive capability or if it would even work at all. Groves and Oppenheimer selected July 15 or 16, 1945 as the date for the test. Truman would be in Potsdam, Germany, then meeting with Churchill and Stalin to discuss war reparations in Europe, Soviet involvement in the Pacific war, the future of Germany, and the Soviet Union’s role in Europe. (Roleff, 23).
On July 16, 1945, at 5: 30 a.
m. the world’s first atom bomb was exploded. (Szasz, 44).
The first impression the observers had was the brilliant flash of light, so intense that it blinded those who looked at it directly.
Within seconds of detonation, the fireball had become so large that some feared it would never stop growing. Next came the shock wave. Fermi, instead of watching the explosion, was slowly dropping small pieces of paper. When the shock wave blew the pieces of paper across the desert floor, he paced off the distance. Quick estimations in his head placed the bomb’s yield at approximately 20, 000 tons. Measurements taken after the blast indicated the bomb’s yield was 18, 600 tons (Roleff 24).
A survey of ground zero later found a crater four hundred yards in diameter. The steel tower was completely vaporized, with just a few twisted feet of metal sticking out of the cement footings. The sand in the crater had melted into glass the color of jade. (Beyer, 81).
It was at the Potsdam Conference on July 26 that the United States, Great Britain, and China released the Potsdam Declaration, an ultimatum to Japan ordering it to surrender or face “prompt and utter destruction” (Hogan, 12).
After a successful test at Trinity, Truman was ready to prepare for the use of their new atomic weapon. Two days after the Potsdam Declaration, the Japanese gave their answer in a radio broadcast. The terms of the surrender were “unworthy of consideration,” and “absurd,” and “presumptuous.” Truman gave the order to proceed with the atomic bombings as planned (Hogan, 25).
Now that the bomb had been proven to work, the disassembled pieces of Little Boy and Fat Man could be shipped to a Tinian for rebuilding. From there, B-29 bombers would fly to Japan and drop the bombs on their targets. A meeting among military and scientific advisors selected five possible cities for possible targets for the atom bomb: Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Niigata, and Kokura (Roleff, 26).
Stimson, however, refused to allow Kyoto to be bombed. He argued that Kyoto, as the longtime culture center and former capital of Japan, was too important to the Japanese to permit its destruction. Nagasaki was substituted instead (Hogan, 35).
Further discussions determined that the bomb’s first target would be Hiroshima; Kokura would be the second city destroyed. Yokohama, Niigata, and Nagasaki were alternates in case of bad weather over the selected primary targets (Roleff, 26).
General Carl Spaatz, the commanding officer of the 509 th Composite Group, a squadron of B-29 bombers that had been specifically modified to carry and drop the atom bomb, received his official orders July 25 to bomb the first target city as soon as weather permitted anytime after August 3. His squadron was to continue to bomb the Japanese cities as soon as he had atomic bombs to drop on them (Szasz, 77).
During the early morning hours of August 6, 1945, three B-29 Super fortresses from the 509 th Composite Group took off from Tinian Island and started flying toward Japan. Piloting the lead plane, the Enola Gay, which carried the atom bomb, was Lieutenant Colonel Paul W.
Tibbetts. Accompanying him were two observation planes — the Great Artiste and the Necessary Evil — carrying personnel and equipment to photograph and record the first combat use of the atomic bomb. (Roleff, 44).
At 8: 15 a. m. , a single B-29 bomber was seen flying over Hiroshima.
Some Japanese reported seeing an object and then some parachutes dropping out of the planes; thinking that American pilots were bailing out of their shot-up airplanes, they cheered. The parachutes were carrying observation equipment, however, to record the effects from the bomb’s blast (Hershey, 35).
Forty-three seconds later, Little Boy exploded at 1, 900 feet above ground level. (Hogan, 27).
Survivors from the ground reported seeing a brilliant white flash followed by a searing wave of heat that burned exposed skin (Batchhelder, 33).
Almost every building within a radius of one mile from ground zero was demolished by the bomb. Houses three miles away from the bomb’s hypocenter were flattened. American reconnaissance planes flew over Hiroshima four hours later and could not see the city below due to the smoke from the fires that raged out of control throughout the city (Batchhelder, 35).
The Japanese had no idea about what had happened to Hiroshima. An official radio broadcast told the Japanese people, “Hiroshima suffered considerable damage as the result of an attack by a few B-29’s.
It is believed that a new type of bomb was used” (Hogan, 40).
Despite the devastation suffered by Hiroshima, and even after Russia had declared war on Japan on August 8, most of the Japanese military hierarchy decided that Japan must continue to fight. Some factions within the Japanese government were urging peace, but three days after Hiroshima, no census on surrender had yet been reached (Roleff, 27).
Some Japanese military and political officials did not believe that the United States had more than one atomic bomb.
In order to convince Japan to surrender, Groves, Truman, and Stimson believe it was essential to drop a second atomic bomb as soon as possible after the first bomb had been dropped on Hiroshima (Roleff, 27).
The timetable for the second bomb, Fat Man, was sped up, and on August 9 th, it was ready to be dropped (Roleff, 28).
Bad weather over the primary target of Kokura forced Major Charles Sweeney, the pilot of Brock’s Car which was carrying the second atom bomb, to divert to the secondary target of Nagasaki (Baker, 19).
Fat Man exploded 1, 600 feet above the city with an estimated force of 22, 000 tons. The target seen through the clouds was several miles upriver from the original aiming point (Baker, 22).
Although the damage from the bomb was less sever than the damage at Hiroshima, an estimated 50 percent of the population died from the bomb within the next 5 years (Hogan, 44).
Although a third bomb was being prepared to drop on another Japanese city, Truman ordered that atomic bombing should be stopped. The idea of killing another 100, 000 people was just too horrible, he said, and he could not stand the idea of killing “all those kids” (Roleff, 28).
Early in the morning of August 9, the Japanese war council met once again to discuss the possibility of surrender.
Although Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo had not yet been informed about the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, he still believed Japan was fighting a lost cause and recommended the council accept the terms of surrender as outlined in the Potsdam Declaration (Batchhelder, 11).
The war council was evenly split over surrender, even after they received news about the bombing of Nagasaki (Roleff, 29).
To resolve the deadlock, Premiere Kantar o Suzuki took the unprecedented step of calling in Emperor Hirohito to listen to the arguments and to make the final decision. Japanese people believe Hirohito to be divine, although he was mainly a figurehead in the government. All the war decisions had been made by his war council. (Roleff, 30).
Finally at 2 a. m. on August 10, Hirohito announced his decision to his war council. As quoted in Rhodes: “I cannot bear to see my innocent people struggle any longer. Ending the war is the only way to restore world peace and to relieve the nation from the terrible distress with which it is burdened.” Thus given a direct order by their emperor, the war council notified the United States that it would surrender provided that the emperor be permitted to retain his throne and authority. The United States agreed and with that, the surrender was officially accepted on August 14.
The next ay was proclaimed V-J (Victory of Japan) Day (Roleff, 31).
The war was over. The atomic bomb is perhaps the single most influential invention to ever see the light of day. No other object in the history of mankind has ever furthered science by such great leaps and bounds, yet still done so much harm to so many people. The idea of atomic warfare didn’t just stop after the pacific war, in fact far from that. The depths of its power continued to be explored and the danger of that power continued to heighten as other nations advanced their atomic programs.
Atomic bombs fueled the basis of the Cold War, perhaps the closest we ” ve ever been to seeing the end of the world. Ultimately, the harnessing of atomic power was both a blessing and a curse. The fate of how we use this newfound power rests on mankind’s shoulders. It is imperative that we join hands with all nations around the world and strive together for the realization of lasting world peace. Bibliography Baker, Paul, ed.
The Atomic Bomb: The Great Decision. Hinsdale, IL: Dryden Press, 1776 Batchhelder, Robert. The Irreversible Decision. New York: Macmillan, 1965.
Beyer, Don E. THE MANHATTAN PROJECT: America Makes the First Atomic Bomb. New York: Watts Publishing, 1991. Cohen, Dan.
The Manhattan Project. Connecticut: Millbrook Press, Inc, 1999. Hershey, John. Hiroshima. New York: Knopf, 1985 Hogan, Michael, ed. Hiroshima in History and Memory.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Rhodes, Harry. History of the Atomic Bomb. New York: Red House Inc, 1991. Roleff, Tamara, ed. The Atom Bomb.
San Diego: Green haven Press Inc, 2000. Szasz, Morton. The Day the Sun Rose Twice: The Story of the Trinity Site Nuclear explosion. New Mexico: University of New Mexico, 1984.
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