The Manhattan Project was the secret name for the United States project prior to World War II in order to design and build a nuclear weapon. With the breakthrough of fission in 1939, scientists figured out that nuclear and radioactive materials could be used to make bombs of epic proportions. The idea of building such a weapon originated from Albert Einstein, sharing his idea with President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939. The first atomic bomb was set off in Los Alamos, New Mexico on July 16, 1945. One month after the first atomic bomb was set off; the United States dropped two atomic bombs over the Japanese islands of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
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In 1938, many people believed that Adolf Hitler had produced an atomic bomb in Germany with his scientists being able to split uranium. Hitler’s racism towards Jews, however, caused many Jewish scientists to seek safety in the United States. One of these scientists that looked to America for safety was physicist Albert Einstein. Einstein, a known pacifist, ignored his beliefs and wrote a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt. In his letter, Einstein advised President Roosevelt to develop an atomic bomb before Hitler was able to. Soon, Roosevelt concurred with Einstein and developed the Manhattan Project, a secret project designed to build an atomic bomb.
The Manhattan Project was not known to many individuals. It was held privately through numerous agencies and was not shared with the public. By the year 1945, the Manhattan Project had up to 40 laboratories in operation and up to 200,000 employees operating in order to build the first atomic bomb.
Before the Manhattan Project began, the study of the physics and the reactions of different elements were occurring. Although these scientific discoveries were occurring, the political fabric of countries was tearing. Japan was beginning its military expansion, eventually invading Manchuria in 1931. In Europe, Hitler’s rise to power was beginning and his expansion of Nazism was overtaking Europe. The tear of politicial stability was not in these countries alone. Italy was suffering the change to Fascist government under dictator Benito Mussolini. Other countries experiencing political instability occurred all throughout central Europe and Spain. The rise of Stalinism in the Soviet Union was leading into the Great Purge from 1936-1938, with the people of the Soviet Union having to deal with political oppression and discrimination.
The rise of Hitler and Japan were causing political turmoil in the world. Hitler began instituting the Nuremburg Laws, thus beginning the persecution of Jews in Germany. In March 1936, Germany begins its invasion of Europe by taking over the Rhineland. In July 1937, Japan invades China, causing a shift of power in Asia. In November of 1937, the Axis Alliance is created by the countries of Germany, Italy, and Japan. In March of 1938, Germany takes control of Austria and takes over Czechoslovakia in September. The actions of the Axis Alliance are the beginning of what is known today as World War II.
This time of the world cause many other countries to fear the possibility of an atomic bomb. The power to create such a weapon was getting more plausible as the war continued. The discovery of fission had occurred when Germany began resorting to conquest by force, rather than just mere intimidation. Although at the time it was not sure whether it was possible to control the release of the atomic power, many European physicists did not want to find out the hard way with Hitler being in power.
European scientists Albert Einstein and Leo Szilard sent a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt addressed from Einstein, which warned the United States of the possibility of nuclear weapons being used by the Axis Alliance. The letter, which is now known as the “Einstein Letter,” was delivered to the President on October 11, 1939. The President then called a meeting of the Advisory Committee of Uranium, also known as the Briggs Uranium Committee, in Washington D.C. Due mainly to constant lack of interest; the progress on the subject was halfhearted and questionable to the United States. The next step in the projects for a nuclear weapon occurred in the United Kingdom, with the United States not seriously considering nuclear warfare at the time.
In 1940, the German army invaded the country of Denmark. Denmark was home to one of the leading scientists in atomic research in the world, Niels Bohr. The Allies feared that Germany would overtake Denmark and his home, and then forced to work for Nazi Germany in order to build an atomic bomb for Germany. Before he could be captured, the British Secret Service helped him escape to Sweden, which allowed him to escape to the United States so he could escape the takeover of Nazi Germany. Throughout 1940, Germany and their scientists were working on a project similar to the Manhattan Project. If the German scientists were to have achieved their project before the United States, the war could have ended in a disaster for the Allies.
On June 18, 1942, Brig. Gen. Wilhelm D. Styer told Col. James Marshall to form an Army Corps of Engineers District to occupy and fuse atomic bomb development. During August of 1942, Marshall formed a new District group with the purposeful deceptive name “Manhattan Engineer District,” which is now known as the Manhattan Project.
Although the Manhattan Project was formed in August, the real work did not begin until September. Groves’ aggressive, forceful behavior did not make him a fan among the scientists that were working on the Manhattan Project. Many of the scientists hated Groves and his technique. However, after the war, many of the scientists appreciated Groves and his attitude because they realized how important his executive and decision-making intelligence was to the Manhattan Project. Scientists from all over the world helped with the Manhattan Project in order to help dismantle the Axis Powers under the command of Groves. Scientists from the United States, Hungary, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Britain, and Italy worked on the Manhattan Project in order to build an atomic bomb. Winston Churchill, leader of Britain, and President Roosevelt were both worried about the possibility of Germany producing a nuclear weapon before the Allies did. The possibility of Germany obtaining nuclear weapons worried many leaders of the Allies. The two leaders, Roosevelt and Churchill, met in Canada in August 1943. At the meeting, it was determined that they needed to do all they could in order to disrupt Germany’s race to obtain nuclear arms.
In February 1943, Special Operations Executive saboteurs accomplished a bomb plant in the Rjukan nitrates industrial unit in Norway. After the plant was rebuilt, 150 United States planes successfully bombed the plant, thus destroying it once more. In January of 1944, a Norwegian resistance group sunk a Germany boat that was carrying many vital resources for a nuclear program.
In 1944, work on the Manhattan Project was in full throttle. The process was to achieve the actual development of the weapons, fissile matter construction, and the transportation of the weapon. In July 1944, the Manhattan Project achieved first priority project in the United States. The project cost two billion dollars in order to obtain the necessary materials and equipment in order to make the Manhattan Project a success. The Manhattan Project had many laboratories, but three of the main ones were Hanford, Washington, Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Each of these was provided with different responsibilities throughout the Manhattan Project. The laboratories at Oak Ridge were to provide the element of Uranium-235, while the scientist at Hanford were providing the United States with plutonium used for weapons. The Los Alamos laboratory was the essential site used to put together the nuclear weapons used to the war. Four of the atomic bombs that were produced by the United States were produced at Los Alamos, New Mexico.
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Uranium-235 is the main component in making an atomic bomb. Chemically, uranium-235 cannot be separate from its more profuse cohort, uranium-238. The only way that these two elements can be separated from one another is physically. The Manhattan Project looked for many different means in splitting the two elements, deciding on two of the processes. One mean of splitting the two elements is by the electromagnetic process. This process of splitting the elements was discovered by Earnest Orlando Lawrence at the University of California. The other process is the process of diffusion was made available at Columbia University. Both of the processes mentioned require huge, difficult facilities and buildings, and the processes both require extreme usages of electricity in order to achieve the processes. The diffusion method particularly needed large amounts of electricity in order to be successful. Both processes need these facilities and large amounts of power to only produce a small amount of the separated element, uranium-235. A third process was created by Phillip Abelson called thermal diffusion, which was used for a time in separating the elements. These methods were used primarily at the Oak Ridge facility in Tennessee.
Another essential element in the atomic bomb making process is plutonium-239. The method for obtaining this element was produced by Arthur Compton at a laboratory at the University of Chicago. The procedure involves the alteration in a reactor mound of uranium-238. In December 1942, Enrico Fermi eventually achieved in making and managing a fission chain reaction in this reactor pile in Chicago. Value production of plutonium-293 required the building of large size and energy that would discharge 25,000 kilowatt-hours of heat for each gram of plutonium that was made. It included the making of chemical removal methods that would work in a way that was never done before. A middle step in making this process was based solely on the production of the laboratory at Oak Ridge, while the larger reactors were being built at the laboratory in Washington at the Hanford Engineering Works.
During the summer of 1945, the Manhattan Project finally received enough plutonium-239 in order to produce a quality nuclear explosion from Hanford Engineering. The advancement in the development of the weapons and the innovation of the design of the weapon, along with obtaining the necessary elements for the nuclear bomb were completed enough to where a test of the nuclear weapon could be planned. The test was not simple to achieve, having to obtain complicated and highly structured equipment that had to be constructed and assemble in order to achieve a success on the atomic bomb test run.
In 1945, the Manhattan Project achieved its goal of producing an atomic bomb. After six years, the scientists working on the Manhattan Project were able to harness and control the reaction of nuclear fission. With the efforts of many individuals throughout these years, the first nuclear test bomb was produced. With the code name Trinity, the first nuclear bomb test went off on July 16, 1945 in New Mexico, which lead into what is now known as the Atomic Age.
The first atomic bomb was set off at 5:30 AM on July 16, 1945, which was known as the Trinity test. The test occurred on a military base in Alamogordo, New Mexico, which is located nearly 120 miles from the city of Albuquerque. The atomic bomb was set off on top of a steel tower that was encircled by scientific equipment in order to obtain information about the nuclear explosion. Scientists and military personnel viewed the atomic explosion from a bunker that was placed nearly ten thousand yards away. When the atomic bomb was set off, there was an intense flash of light, an unexpected surge of heat, and then an incredible as a shock wave roared throughout the basin and the air base. Then, a ball of fire suddenly rose quickly, trailed by a mushroom cloud that went up to 40,000 feet in the air. The blast was equal to nearly fifteen to twenty thousand tons of dynamite and TNT. The tower on which the bomb was placed on did not exist anymore after the explosion and the ground that surrounded the tower fused to glass due to the bomb. The Trinity test provided the proof and testing need to assure scientists, government, and each of the workers on the Manhattan Project that their work was not in vain. The test provided the evidence needed to assure everyone that both a uranium and plutonium bomb was possible to create.
The tests during the Trinity test allowed scientists to continue with their plan to use the nuclear weapons in World War II in order to defeat the Axis Powers. However, by the time that the tests went off successfully, Germany had already surrendered to the Allies. Nearly seventy scientists had signed a petition to not be used on the grounds of morals and ethics. The scientists did not morally believe that the nuclear weapons should be used. However, President Harry S. Truman ignored the warnings and the petitions of the scientists. President Truman decided to use the bombs on Japan in order to send them a message that the United States had these weapons and were willing to use them. On August 6th, 1945 the United States used a B-29 bomber in order to drop an atomic bomb by the name of “Little Boy” on Hiroshima. It was estimated that sixty-six thousand people died instantly as “Little Boy” detonated. The destruction totaled Over the years, it has been guess that up to two hundred thousand people died from the attack on Hiroshima. When Japan’s surrender never came, the United States dropped another atomic bomb on the island of Nagasaki three days later. On August 10th, 1945, Japan surrendered thus ending World War II.
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