The a-Bomb: Planned, or a Reaction?

Topics: World War II, United States, Nuclear weapon Pages: 6 (2349 words) Published: March 11, 2013
Joel Schleicher
US history 173

The United States practiced isolationism for many years before entering World War II, until the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Government funded atomic weaponry research had begun not long before the attack, and this has led people to believe that the Manhattan Project, a descendent of the program, was a knee-jerk reaction to the bombing. According to writer Brenda Wilmoth Lerner in her article on the Manhattan Project for the Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security, Roosevelt ordered, in December of 1941, that research was to begin regarding the plausibility of building an atomic weapon, just following the bombing of Pearl Harbor (246). Although misconceptions exist that the Manhattan Project was a direct response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, it was not, as shown by the initiation of early government funded atomic research; the beginning of atomic weapons research well before the attack; and the establishment of the Manhattan Project significantly post Pearl Harbor. In order to stay uninvolved in future wars, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the Neutrality Acts, a series of laws intended to aid in maintaining the United States’ neutral position, between the years of 1934 and 1939. These laws enacted multiple regulations, such as embargos against trading all armaments or materials for the construction of weapons for any and all parties of wars the United States were not involved with. Later, changes allowed for warring nations to purchase US manufactured weapons if and only if they paid in cash and transported the goods themselves. These policies, however, were ended by Congress following the sinking of the Reuben James on October 31st, 1941, the first American Navy ship sunk in World War II. World War II began with the German Invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939. Two days after the invasion, the United Kingdom and France declared war on Nazi Germany and fascist Italy. Two months prior to the invasion, Germany and Italy cosigned the Pact of Steel, a declaration of military cooperation between the two nations in the event of war. By May 1940, German troops were marching their way into the nations of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. A month later, the Italians followed suit and declared war on the two allies, invading France. On June 22, 1940, France surrendered to the combined force of the Germans and the Italians, and was subsequently divided between the two victors. Using France as a launch site, the Germans began an aerial-suppression campaign against England, in preparation for a large scale ground invasion. However, the campaign failed, and the invasion plans were cancelled. In the United States, the navy was greatly increased in magnitude following Germany’s capture of the French capital city, Paris. In September of that same year, Germany, Italy, and Japan came together to sign the Tripartite Pact, and officially established the Axis Powers. The pact additionally declared that should any presently uninvolved country declare war on any one of the three allies, the other two would immediately respond with a declaration of war of their own. As the war expanded and swallowed up more and more of the planet, the countries of Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and Croatia would sign on to the pact as well. The Manhattan Project, technically named the Manhattan Engineer District of the United States Army Core of Engineers, was a highly secretive program established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt with the charge of developing an atomic weapon for use on Nazi Germany. The team of scientists, led by Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, built a total of 4 bombs, made using two different techniques; the gun-type bombs, and the implosions bombs. Gun type bombs work much like their namesake; the shockwave from an explosion, made with conventional explosives, would push two sub-critical mass pieces of Uranium-235 together into...
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