Atomic Bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Honors English 9
April 29 2013
Atomic Bomb: Hiroshima and Nagasaki The atomic bombings on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the first and only use of nuclear weapons in war. These two bombings were both conducted by the United States in an attempt to force surrender from Japan. It is estimated that as many as 200,000 Japanese civilians died as a result of the two bombings, thousands more were also killed by radiation poisoning following the actual bombing. This violent act of war by the United States was so destructive, that not one country has since used it in war. America, knowing the bombs capability to create mass destruction, continued the complicated process of creating and using the bombs. Long before the actual decision to drop the bomb came, President Roosevelt was originally the one who ordered the process of creating a nuclear weapon. In late 1941, the American plan to design and build an atomic bomb was underway and it received its code name, the Manhattan project (The Manhattan Project 1). This began a long and painful process of trying to develop the first atomic weapon, eventually for the use of practically destroying the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Little did America know that this act of war would soon lead to a nuclear arms race throughout the world. The start of world war two brought upon many new advancements in the field of science. Both the allies and the axis powers had many scientists dedicated to developing new weapons in hope that they would be used in the war. Scientists Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi were both scientists during the war. Einstein was able to flee Nazi Germany, and Fermi escaped fascist Italy, both who decided to move to the United States (The Manhattan Project 1). While they were in Europe they heard that German scientists had learned the secrets of splitting the uranium atom. This caused them and many other people fear that Germany would use the energy from this discovery to produce a weapon capable of unspeakable destruction (The Manhattan Project 1). In response to hearing this news, Einstein wrote a letter to President Roosevelt urging him to create an atomic research program later that year. Roosevelt eventually agreed, and the research program for the atomic bomb started in 1941 (The Manhattan Project 1). At first the project received little funds and was only based at a few universities; Columbia University, The University of Chicago and The University of California at Berkeley were among those were the research took place. “A breakthrough occurred in December 1942 when Fermi led a group of physicists to produce the first controlled nuclear chain reaction under the grand stands of Stagg Field at the University of Chicago” (The Manhattan Project 1). Soon more funds were being made and people began to believe in this project. More research facilities were made and the project advanced rapidly. The main plant was at Los Alamos, New Mexico, were Robert Oppenheimer was put in charge of putting the pieces together. “After the final bill was tallied, nearly $2 billion had been spent on research and development of the atomic bomb. The Manhattan Project employed over 120,000 Americans” (The Manhattan Project 1). Keeping the 120,000 scientists quiet would not be easy, and secrecy was a must. The United States received help from England and Canada building this bomb. They decided to keep Stalin in the dark because he was communist and they didn’t fully trust him. Since secrecy was essential, only a small portion of the 120,000 employees actually knew about the development of the bomb, the rest had no idea what they were really building. Even vice president Truman didn’t know of the Manhattan Project until he eventually became president after President Roosevelt died due to polio (The Manhattan Project 2). This was perhaps Americas best kept secret in the war, and maybe even ever, since if even one axis country found out about it, it could destroy America’s hope of defeating them. Throughout the entire project, not one country became suspicious of America developing a weapon like the atomic bomb. England, Canada and America were the only countries that knew of the Manhattan Project, although one country came close to discovering the secret. “American leaders later learned that a soviet spy named Klaus Fuchs had penetrated the inner circle of scientists, but Russia remained unaware of America’s true efforts. America spent the next four years producing the key materials for nuclear fission; uranium-235 and plutonium -239. They brought them to Los Alamos where scientists led by Oppenheimer worked to turn these materials into a workable atomic bomb (The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 2). After several years of research, America finally had a bomb ready for testing. They brought the bomb (nicknamed “Gadget”) to Alamogordo, New Mexico, ready to test. “Early on the morning of July 16, 1945, the Manhattan Project held its first successful test of an atomic device- a plutonium bomb- at the Trinity test site at Alamogordo, New Mexico” (The Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 2). The bomb worked! It created a huge explosion heard and seen from miles away. Now that America had a working atomic bomb they could begin the process of planning an attack. By the time the allies had successfully developed an atomic weapon, Germany had already surrendered. However, the pacific war was still going on against America, and Japan vowed to fight to the bitter end (The Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki 2). Now that the original purpose for the bomb was gone, so America made plans to use it against the Japanese. It was a hard decision to make, especially for President Truman. He just took office after Roosevelt died, and he had just begun to learn about the bomb. He knew a bombing this massive would be under much debate and still wasn’t absolutely confident with his decision to drop the bomb. After much thought he felt it was necessary to do, that it would save thousands of American lives by doing so. General Douglas MacArthur and other top military commanders favored bombing Japan with non- nuclear weapons, and then following up with a massive land invasion. After they advised Truman that such an invasion would result in up to 1 million American casualties, Truman refused to continue with that plan and ordered the use of the atomic bomb in order to save Thousands of American lives. “His stated intention in ordering the bombings was to bring about a quick resolution of the war by inflicting destruction, and instilling fear of further destruction, that was sufficient to cause Japan to surrender” (The Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima 1). Truman then warned Japan that if they didn’t surrender, he would force surrender upon them. The Japanese refused to surrender, even though it was almost guaranteed that they would lose the war, based on their lack of soldiers. They continued to fight in the Pacific, not knowing the true destruction that would follow.