Fat Man and Little Boy over Nagasaki and Hiroshima

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Fat Man and Little Boy over Nagasaki and Hiroshima

The droppings of the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki Japan in August of 1945 were the most destructive attacks in human history. They also ended the most devastating war in human history. The bombs that killed tens of thousands of people ended a war that resulted in the deaths of 60 million people (1). A minority of people have contested that the use of nuclear weapons on Japan was a crime against humanity. However, most believe it was completely necessary to end a war with a country that was defeated, yet refused to surrender. For President Harry S. Truman and the United States government is was the only option. There would not be an invasion of Japan that would have resulted in an unknown thousands of deaths. Instead, they would rely on a new form of weapons technology that would force the Empire of Japan into utter submission (1).

In 1939, even before the United States entered the war, Albert Einstein wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt voicing his suspicions that the Nazis were possibly trying to develop nuclear weapons. The United States government would start a research group called the Manhattan Engineer District. What started out as a small assembly of researchers, eventually grew into a project that employed over 130,000 people and cost what would be equivalent to $22 billion today. The research would be done in over 30 locations across the United States, Canada, and The United Kingdom. The results of the mass amount of research and testing were two bombs; one Uranium bomb, codename: “Little Boy”, and one plutonium, codename: “Fat Man” (5).

The bomb codenamed Little Boy would be dropped over Hiroshima, Japan
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on 6 August 1945 by the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, The Enola Gay. The massive power if Little Boy came from the nuclear fission of uranium 235. It would be the first ever explosion of a uranium bomb and the second nuclear explosion after the Trinity nuclear testing in New Mexico less than a month earlier. The design of Little Boy had not been tested before unlike Fat Man’s more complex plutonium design. At the time uranium was hard to come by and it was felt by its creators that the more simple design was not something that absolutely had to be tested on a large scale beforehand (5).

The simpler method of explosion is known as the “gun method” where a hollow uranium projectile was driven into a target spike which then resulted in a nuclear explosion. The method was so simple that the developers were confident when Little Boy was ready to be deployed that it would be a success. However the design was almost too simple. Due to the simplicity of the actions needed to cause an explosion, the bomb was deemed unsafe and susceptible to accidental detonation. It was necessary for Little Boy to be certain to work, but after its success, the next bomb would be plutonium based (5).

As the name implies, Fat Man was more than twice the width as Little Boy (although only 15% larger in overall size). This bomb would be dropped by the B-29 ‘Bockscar’ over Nagaski, Japan, just three days after Little Boy devastated Hiroshima. Unlike the previous atomic bomb, Fat Man was an implosion-type device using plutonium-239. Also unlike the simpler Little Boy bomb, this type of bomb needed to be tested first. This testing on 16 June 1945 would be what is

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known as the Trinity testing. Before everyone involved could be confident that this bomb-type would be successful under combat conditions, the bomb would have to be tested in a remote area in New Mexico. The plutonium bomb type was much more complicated in structure and consisted of an implosion type device and subcritical sphere of plutonium in the center of high explosive. When detonated, the explosion was equivalent to 20 Kilotons of TNT and left a crater in the sandy desert floor 10 feet wide and over 1,100 feet wide. The shockwave from the blast would be felt over 100...
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