Manhattan Project

Manhattan Project

In the early morning hours of July 16,

1945, the first ever nuclear explosion took place in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

The explosion was the first test of the most destructive weapon ever known
to man, and was the result of almost six years of research and development
by some of the world's top scientists. This endeavor was known as
the Manhattan Project. Less than a month after the test, which was
known as Trinity, the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan,
three days apart, which forced the Japanese to surrender. The story
of the Manhattan Project is an abysmal subject, as is the effect of the

Manhattan Project on international politics, and both will be covered in
this paper. Indeed, the Manhattan Project and the creation of the
atomic bomb were good things, because it actually decreased the likelihood
of nuclear war in the post- World War II era.

The Manhattan Project was preceded by a
variety of scientific discoveries in the 1920's and the 1930's. During
this time of scientific discovery, Hitler had been steadily rising to power
in Germany, and before long, physicist Leo Szilard and fellow Hungarian

Jews Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller became worried. They decided
that the President of the United States must be informed about the new
fission technology that had been discovered, which they believed was capable
of making bombs. The three physicists enlisted the help of Albert

Einstein, the foremost scientist in that period, and together they drafted
a letter addressed to President Roosevelt describing their beliefs that
nuclear fission "Would...lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable...that
extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed."

At first, not much money or interest was
spent on the atomic bomb program. However, the combination of France's
fall to Germany in 1940, the belief that Germany was ahead in the race
for the atomic bomb, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor soon convinced Roosevelt
that something more had to be done on this atomic research. Roosevelt
quickly assigned his top security advisors to form committees on this project,
and to determine what should be done and how. By the end of 1942,
bomb research had become bomb production, and the Manhattan Project was
now run by the military, with Colonel (soon to be General) Leslie R. Groves
as the officer in charge. Bomb production was carried out in three
locations; Oak Ridge, Tennessee handled the production of the bomb fuel

U-235, Hanford , Washington handled the production of plutonium fuel, and

Los Alamos, New Mexico handled bomb production and assembly. These
three locations became huge cities due to the size of and manpower required
for this project. "About half of [the American Physical Society's

4000 members] joined the Manhattan Project, which at its height employed
roughly 10,000 scientists with advanced degrees."

Eventually, fuel production began meeting
the needs of Los Alamos, and by 1945, the bombs themselves were in production.

On April 12, 1945, President Roosevelt died, and Harry Truman took over.

Secretary of War Henry Stimson took the primary role of filling in President

Truman on the details of the Manhattan Project, which Truman had known
nothing about. In July of 1945, President Truman met with Winston

Churchill of Britain and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union at the Potsdam
conference, at which time the "Big Three" drafted the Potsdam Declaration,
which offered the Japanese the opportunity to unconditionally surrender,
or "Risk the alternative of 'prompt and utter destruction.'"

Japan declined the Potsdam Declaration, and President Truman was left to
consider his options.

President Truman made the decision to use
this nuclear capability, and on August 6, 1945, Lt. Col. Paul W. Tibbets
flew the B-29 bomber Enola Gay over Hiroshima, Japan and dropped the first
atomic bomb, named "Little Boy." Due to the lack of Japanese surrender,
three days later Maj. Charles W. Sweeney flew Bock's Car toward Kokura,

Japan, but was detoured by bad weather. Sweeney then flew over the
alternate target of Nagasaki and dropped the second atomic bomb, "Fat Man."

A few days after the second bombing, Japan accepted the terms of the Potsdam

Declaration and surrendered. World War II was over.

The effects of the Manhattan project were
enormous on all levels- individual, domestic, and international.

On the individual level, the lives of the thousands of people involved
in the Manhattan Project were forever changed. Robert Oppenheimer,
the civilian director of the Manhattan Project and the one whom many credit
with the Manhattan Project's success, was stripped of his security clearance
during the McCarthy era because of suspected communist ties. Although

Oppenheimer was never charged with anything and McCarthy was soon discredited,