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Nuclear research all started when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and the United States entered into World War II. When the United States realized that Germany attempted to build an atomic bomb, Americans began to concentrate on their research about creating an atomic bomb more heavily. President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Manhattan Project, which included a group of top scientists, under General Leslie R. Groves, who worked around the clock to try to develop an atomic bomb within three years (Bondi 493). The Americans and the British combined their efforts to research the development of the bomb and created plants and factories to work in (“The Atomic Bomb…” 257). They created plants for three separate processes: electromagnetic, gaseous diffusion, and thermal diffusion. These plants helped create the plutonium and uranium 235 needed to manufacture the atomic bomb (Gerdes 142). The secrecy of the Manhattan Project was essential in order to develop the atomic bombs to end World War II.
The United States and Great Britain kept the development of the atomic bomb a secret (Bondi 493). In order to keep the secret, Groves spread the work out between laboratories so that the people working on the bomb could not figure out they were manufacturing. The members of the Manhattan Project asked the scientists questions about the bomb, and they gave answers back, but they did not know what the responses were for. The project consisted of so many restrictions for the employees in order to keep the secrecy of the project. They could not hold private conversations about the material they were working on because after awhile, people might have been able to put it together and determine that they were creating a bomb. Employees worked on tasks that had nothing to do with what the others around them were doing. Even the officials on the War Production Board remained unaware of the bomb (“The Atomic Bomb…” 258).
As with everything, problems occurred during the development process. The plutonium needed for the bombs was only in microscopic sizes, which was very difficult to handle. Plutonium’s properties were unknown, and scientists knew very little about uranium 235. The plants needed to be run by machinery because the materials were “radioactive, poisonous, violently corrosive, or all three” (Gerdes 143).
After scientists studied and became familiar with plutonium and uranium 235, they were able to begin the manufacturing process (Gerdes 91).
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President Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, and Vice President Harry S. Truman took office (Uschan 54). When Truman took office, he did not know anything about the Manhattan Project, which showed the top secrecy of it. He finally found out about the project one week after in office (Uschan 103). On April 25, 1945, Secretary of War Henry Stimson and General Leslie Groves informed Truman of the bombs that were created (Moser 144). Roosevelt left Truman with a significant amount of duties to step up to, and Truman had to make the extremely tough decision about the use of the bombs. His decision to use the bomb was justified by his thought that the war would finally come to an end, and many lives would be saved on both sides (Uschan 54). On June 1, 1945, the committee told Truman to use to bomb against Japan without a warning. Secretary of State James Byrnes stated Truman’s reaction by saying, “with reluctance he had to agree that he could think of no other alternative” (“The Atomic Bomb…” 256).
Tested on July 16, 1945, the plutonium bomb formed a “spherically symmetrical shock wave traveling towards the center of the bomb” (Gerdes 144; Bondi 494). The testing took place in Los Alamos, New Mexico (Uschan 52). Scientists did not test the uranium bomb because there was great confidence in its abilities. The plutonium bomb was more powerful than the uranium bomb (Gerdes 144). After perfecting the bombs, scientists dropped them as soon as possible (Gerdes 145). The whole project cost about $2 billion (Uschan 52). The Manhattan Project is said to be “the product of the greatest research and development project in history” (Gerdes 141).
At the Potsdam Conference in July of 1945, the United States told Japan to surrender, or they will face the consequences (Gerdes 91). Japan responded by saying mokusatsu, which means “to ignore or to kill with contempt” (Moser 145). The Japanese refused to surrender, which lead to the bombings (Gerdes 91). Truman reacted to Japan’s failure to surrender by saying, “They [Japan] may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the life of which has never been seen on this earth” (“The Atomic Bomb…” 257).
After the Japanese refused to surrender, the United States established a committee to determine the place to drop the bombs. The committee searched for places that were not already damaged, were important military wise, and would affect Japan’s ability to continue fighting. Some key places that the United States focused on included Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata, and Kyoto, all located on mainland Japan. After reviewing the choices, the United States removed Kyoto from the list because of the cultural significance. They replaced Kyoto with Nagasaki. Hiroshima became the first choice of location to drop the bomb on because there were no Allied prisoners of war there (Gerdes 144).
On August 6, 1945, a B-29 Bomber known as “Enola Gay” flew from Tinian Island, an American airfield, and then continued to fly over Hiroshima. The “Enola Gay” dropped the uranium bomb on Hiroshima, Japan (Bondi 494). The bomb, which consisted of 20,000 tons of trinitrotoluene, killed 50,000 people and demolished the four square miles of the city (Bondi 494; Uschan 53). It reached approximately 40,000 feet in the air. Some of the observations included flashes of bright light, a rising white cloud that “mushroomed at the top, broke away from the column, and mushroomed again” (Uschan 53). Japan still refused to surrender even after the United States dropped the bomb (Bondi 494).
Due to Japan’s refusal to surrender, the US dropped another bomb. On August 9, 1945, the Americans dropped the plutonium bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. The second bombing caused 40,000 deaths, and destroyed about one third of the city (Bondi 494). Everyone was in shock; no one could believe that the United States created more than one bomb (Moser 145).
On August 10, 1945, the Japanese decided to surrender as a result of the bombings and the thought of a possible third bomb (Bondi 494). The Japanese officially surrendered on August 14, 1945, which became known as Victory in Japan Day, or V – J Day. Throughout the world, people danced in the streets to celebrate. The war finally ended (Gerdes 92). The bombings on Japan became known as the “most terrible destructive force in history and as the greatest achievement of organized science” (“The Atomic Bomb…” 256).
Back in the United States, President Truman informed the Americans about the bombings because they did not know about them (Moser 146). Truman reacted to the bombings by saying, “I regarded the bomb as a military weapon and never had any doubt that it should be used” (Moser 144). He told them that two plants created the bombs using $2 billion. He mentioned that approximately 125,000 people worked extremely hard on the creation of the bomb; however, they did not know exactly what they were making (Moser 146). The scientists were just as surprised when Truman made the announcement as the Japanese were when the bombs were dropped, which shows the secrecy of the Manhattan Project (“The Atomic Bomb…” 258). Truman stated that the credit goes to the scientists’ research because their knowledge grew in such a short period of time (Moser 146).
The public’s response and opinion on the use of the bombs varies. As of September 1945, sixty five percent of the people agreed with the use of the atomic bomb because it ended World War II. But as of October 1947, only fifty five percent agreed with the use of the atomic bombs (Bondi 495). Truman made the comment that his decision to use the bombs saved many lives and ended the war. With this clarification, most of the United States accepted his justification. The United States began to view the bombings as “retaliation for the treacherous attack on Pearl Harbor” (Moser 145).
The Manhattan Project was composed of a top secret group of scientists who worked diligently to produce the atomic bomb. After hours of research on plutonium and uranium 235, the scientists had the ability to produce the bomb. When the Japanese refused to surrender, the Americans dropped two bombs on Japan, destroying the two cities. The entire world was shocked because no one even knew about the bombs that the United States created. Americans found out about the bombs after President Truman made the announcement to the United States. Overall, the Manhattan Project was necessary for the United States to gain victory in World War II.