Atom Bomb & Hiroshima and Nagasaki

August 1945

Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was led by the United States with supports of the United Kingdom and Canada, and ran from 1942 to 1946, for the development of the first nuclear bomb. The entire project cost the US a total of nearly $2 billion dollars, and employed more than 130,000 people. The project was spread out at over 30 sites across the US, UK, and Canada. The project also gathered information on the progress of the German nuclear energy project.

The project began when news of German scientists making extreme progress on splitting the uranium atom. From there, research began at a few scattered universities. However, on December 1942, a group of physicists produced the first controlled nuclear chain reaction in Chicago. More facilities were built, and funding became more abundant. By the summer in 1945, scientists were ready for testing.

This first test is known as the Trinity test. It took place in New Mexico. The device was put on a 100-foot tower, and tested just before sunrise. The flash created was visible for 200 miles, its mushroom cloud reaching 40,000 feet, and blowing out the windows of houses within a 100 mile radius of the site. Its discharge left a half miles crater. Word reached President Truman, in Germany, that the project had been successful.

At the time of the Trinity test, Germany had already been defeated in Europe. However Japan was still fighting in the Pacific. Even though the construction of the bomb proved to be a guaranteed success, several military officers still wanted to continue the conventional bombing in Japan that was already in effect, but follow it with a massive invasion, codenamed “Operation Downfall”. With this idea, Truman was advised that casualties would reach up to 1 million. To avoid that many casualties, Truman decided to use the atom bomb in hopes of bringing the war to a fast end. He hoped that the bomb would not only end the war, but put the US in a dominant position worldwide.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The selection of sites to be targeted was well debated. The US wanted the Japanese government to be impressed by the destruction it would cause, but they had to select a city that had been untouched by any US air offenses.

On August 6th, 1945, the first operational atomic bomb was delivered by a US B29 bomber on Hiroshima. Nicknamed, “Little Boy” after Roosevelt, it destroyed all buildings and terrain, leveling the entire city. There was a 50% death toll out of the 350,000 living there. The effects of the bomb were so big, that there are still people dying today from radiation and genetic injuries.

Three days later, nicknamed “Fat Man”, the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. Unlike Hiroshima, the bomb exploded about 500m above a suburb of schools, factories, and houses. The destruction was much bigger than the first, the first being more vertical, but because of the geography and surrounding mountains, much less was destroyed, and several more people escaped.

Surrender of Japan

The Empire of Japan surrendered on September 2nd, 1945, bringing an end to WWII. On August 8th, the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan, and later that same day the US dropped their second atomic bomb. These events combined cause the Japanese Supreme Council to accept surrender to the US.

Years after these bombings, the morality of the events are still being debated. People question whether or not it was necessary to kill so many innocent people, but others say it saved so many other lives. At the time of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some civilians and military officers were so shocked by the defeat that they chose suicide, and some began slaughtering captured American soldiers.