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Manhatten Project

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The Manhattan Project

The Manhattan Project was a significant turning point for the United States in World War II. The rumors of the creation of an atomic bomb put the Allies on edge; each wanting to be the first to create such a destructive technology. The reason behind why the US chose to execute this project, the processes and events that took place, and the subsequent effects of the project depict the importance of this major US event. To fully understand the importance of the Manhattan Project, it is first imperative to understand the reasoning behind why the United States chose to pursue the project. In 1939, Allied scientists had fears that Nazi Germany might develop nuclear weapons (The Manhattan Project). At this point in the War, Hitler was at his most powerful. He had one of the largest followings in history and his reign was producing devastating outcomes for the Jewish population (The Manhattan Project). Once the scientific community discovered that German physicists could split a uranium atom, action needed to be taken (The Manhattan Project). Albert Einstein, who fled Nazi Germany to live in the US, felt as though President Roosevelt should be made aware of the dangers of atomic technology being in the hands of Hitler (Ushistory). A letter written by Einstein was received by Roosevelt, yet the President found no reason to immediately respond to such a situation (Ushistory). However, 1941 began the American effort to construct an atomic bomb (The Manhattan Project). Initially, Roosevelt set up the Advisory Committee on Uranium, which consisted of both civilian and military representatives (The Manhattan Project). This team studied the current state of research on uranium and gave recommendations on an appropriate role for the government to take. In June of 1940, Roosevelt set up the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), which was essentially the voice for the scientific community (Ushistory). The NDRC eliminated military membership and had more influence and direct access to funding for the nuclear research (Ushistory). The Army Corps of Engineers’ Manhattan District was assigned management of the construction work, since most of the research had been previously conducted at Columbia University (Ushistory). The project’s codename was derived from the location of where the idea of the bomb was initially developed: Columbia University located in Manhattan, New York City.
Along with Einstein, Enrico Fermi also fled Italy and came to the United States (The Manhattan Project). In December of 1942, Fermi led a group of physicists who produced the first controlled nuclear chain reaction (The Manhattan Project). After this milestone, funding became readily available, which led to the construction of the bomb development locations (The Manhattan Project). Although the main ideas were formulated in New York, the physical development of the bomb had three main locations consisting of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Hanford, Washington, and Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Colonial Leslie Groves was called in from oversees to oversee the project as a whole (Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth). In the fall of 1942, Groves asked Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer to specifically oversee the Los Alamos operations. Along with Groves and Oppenheimer, Fermi was also involved in operations (Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth). It should also be noted that the families of all scientists involved in the project were both relocated and confined to government property, or the information of the project was never disclosed to them (Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth).
As previously stated, there were three main location facilities where the Manhattan Project was constructed and tested. Washington DC became the headquarters of the Manhattan Project (Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth). Groves operated the Project out of a two-room office on the fifth floor of the New War Building, which is today known as the home of the Department of State (Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth). Along with DC, the Carnegie Institute of Washington was also involved with the Project (Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth). The Institute had resources and facilities that were focused on helping the war effort. The National Defense Research Committee met at the Institute between 1940 and 1941 (Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth). The NDRC met there to organize and coordinate the resources to be used in the development of the Project (The Manhattan Project).
Oak Ridge, Tennessee was where the uranium enrichment plants, the liquid thermal diffusion plant, and the pilot plutonium production reactor were located (Making the Atomic Bomb). In 1942, Groves appointed Oak Ridge to be the site for the pilot plutonium plant and the Project engineers were tasked to quickly build a town to accommodate 30,000 workers along with state-of-the-art complexes (Making the Atomic Bomb). 59,000 acres were purchased and several families were asked to leave the remote area (Making the Atomic Bomb). Transportation, communication, and other needs of the town and production plants were appropriately met (Making the Atomic Bomb). The original name granted to Oakridge was “Site X”, later changed to the Clinton Engineer Works, and ultimately named Oak Ridge after the war (Making the Atomic Bomb).
Four production facilities were constructed and located in valleys away from the town. They were distant from the town specifically for security and as a precautionary measure against an accidental explosion. The plutonium separation facilities were located south and west of Oak Ridge and was given the name “X-10 Graphite Reactor” (Making the Atomic Bomb). The X-10 was built after a successful experiment held at the University of Chicago, and housed the world’s first plutonium production (Making the Atomic Bomb).
The last noteworthy Project site is Hanford, Washington. This site housed the full-scale plutonium production, famously named the “B Reactor”. Scientists needed an area of 225 square miles for pile reactors and chemical separation complexes where all towns, railways, and highways were located even further away (Making the Atomic Bomb). The B Reactor was built and operated by DuPont and was the world’s first production-scale nuclear reactor (Making the Atomic Bomb). It was 36-feet tall and built out of graphite blocks. It was designed to produce 250 million watts and was water-cooled (Making the Atomic Bomb). On December 25th, 1944, the first irradiated slugs were discharged from the B Reactor (Making the Atomic Bomb). The slugs were sent to a chemical separation facility and by the end of January 1945, purified plutonium was sent to a chemical isolation building where all other impurities were removed (Making the Atomic Bomb). From here, Los Alamos, New Mexico, the test site of the Project, received the first plutonium in February of 1945 (Making the Atomic Bomb). Each of the previously discussed locations had an important role in creating the numerous components involved in the Project. Los Alamos, New Mexico was where all of those components came together to create a weapon of mass destruction. The Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory was the site where the atomic bomb was designed and fabricated. In 1942, the project began and was nicknamed ‘Project Y’ (The Trinity Test, History). Scientists and engineers spent over two years fabricating the experiments and worked ten to twelve hours days, six days a week so medaling with highly dangerous explosives (The Trinity Test, History). In July of 1945, a burst of light exploded over the desert (The Trinity Test). This explosion was the Trinity Test, and it was the first successful atomic bombing in US history. The explosion emitted 18,000 tons of TNT, a yield that all scientists were proud about (The Trinity Test). At Postdam, President Truman, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin were all informed of the successful test and preceded to make the executive decision that the remaining manufactured bombs would be dropped on Japan (The Trinity Test). After years of deliberation, scientific calculation, and uncertainty, the United States had created an atomic bomb to be used on Japan to expedite unconditional surrender. On August 6th 1945, the ‘Little Boy’ bomb was dropped on Hiroshima (The Atomic Bomb). It was the first detonated uranium-based bomb carried by a B-29 airplane named the ‘Enola Gay’, piloted by Colonel Paul W. Tibbets (Truman Is Briefed). The explosion caused over 66,000 deaths instantly (The Atomic Bomb). Dr. Michihiko Hachiya, the director of Hiroshima Communications Hospital described the bombing in his journal: “Suddenly, a strong flash of light startled me-and then another…A profound weakness overcame me, so I stopped to regain my strength. All over the right side of my body I was cut and bleeding. A large splinter was protruding from a mangled wound in my thigh, and something warm trickled into my mouth…” (Truman Is Briefed). This vivid description of the bombing of Hiroshima expounds what so many civilians experienced on that day. On August 9th, just three days after the first bomb was dropped, the ‘Fat Man’ was dropped on Nagasaki (The Atomic Bomb). The weapon of mass destruction was carried by the ‘Bock’s Car’, piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeny (Truman Is Briefed). Initially, this bomb was to be dropped over Kokura, but inclement weather made the initial mission impossible (Truman Is Briefed). Major Sweeny then made the executive decision to drop the bomb on the secondary target, Nagasaki (Truman is Briefed). The bomb was plutonium-based and killed 35,000 Japanese civilians and destroyed 44% of the city (Truman Is Briefed). On August 15th, Japan’s Emperor Hirohito announced his country’s unconditional surrender in World War II (Truman Is Briefed). The initial deaths caused by these two bombs were devastating. Over 100,000 people died instantly from the explosions, but this total does not take radiation poisoning into consideration (The Atomic Bomb). However, the long-term effects of these bombings were considerably worse for the Japanese population. After the acute effects of radiation have subsided, radiation damage continues to produce harmful, physical effects. For example, there was an increase in anemia (lack of red blood cells) among Japanese civilians exposed to the bomb (The Atomic Bomb). In addition to anemia, civilians also suffered from cataracts, keloids, and malignant tumors (The Costs of the Manhattan Project). Radiation is carcinogenic, meaning exposure has the potential to cause cancer (The Costs of the Manhattan Project). It was found that there was a direct correlation between exposure level and degree of incidence for thyroid, breast, lung, and salivary gland cancer. Such radiation exposure affected subsequent populations as well because of radioactive fallout, which is the radiation that continues to linger after the explosion (The Costs of the Manhattan Project). After the bombings of Japan, the radioactive fallout continued to pose a threat for five years after the attack (The Costs of the Manhattan Project). Although the bombs were an essential part of the ending the war with Japan, many Americans viewed atomic energy as a threat and were afraid for the future. After the bombings, hardly any publicity, especially print, was written. William O. Morse was one of the first American citizens to write a letter to the editor in the New York Times expressing his opinions on atomic technology. He wrote, “ It is my opinion that only a minority will occur in that verdict [eventually we shall feel shame toward the atomic bomb] and certainly on my own behalf I want to protest vigorously against even an implication of being included among the ‘we’ who subscribe to any such view” (Compton, Arthur H). Many Americans felt that war was senseless and brutal, especially in WWII. A later Gallup poll then exposed that American’s did in fact see the bombing of Japan as a good wartime decision (Compton, Arthur H.). In order to prepare for the future, we much understand the past. The Manhattan Project was a long, artfully crafted project that ultimately ended the war in Japan. Atomic technology made the United States a force not to be reckoned with. More importantly, it could be assumed that the US is as powerful as it is today because of the technology and force we exhibit during past and present wars. The reasoning behind why the US chose to execute this project stemmed from a rumor that Germany was constructing a bomb, and eventually led to the US dropping the bombs in Japan. The processes, technology, and events that took place during the construction of the bombs were truly ahead of there time. The scientific technology and perseverance of the engineers showed the dedication to creating the technology. The effects of the project, although devastating for Japan, explain the hardships and deadliness of World War II and war in general. The Manhattan Project will forever be remembered as a turning point for America in WWII as well as the beginning of a scientific revolution.

Works Cited
Compton, Arthur H. "Memorandum on "Political and Social Problems" from Members of the Metallurgical Laboratory" of the University of Chicago." Letter to Secretary of War Mr. George Harrison. 12 June 1945. National Security Archive. William Burr, 5 Aug. 2005. Web. 28 Oct. 2015. PRIMARY
"The Costs of the Manhattan Project." The Brookings Institution. Web. 2 Nov. 2015.
Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth. "Manhattan Project." Espionage, Intelligence, and Security. 2004. 28 Oct. 2015
"The Manhattan Project -- Its Story." The Manhattan Project -- Its Story. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.
"Manhattan Project: The Trinity Test, July 16, 1945." Manhattan Project: The Trinity Test, July 16, 1945. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
"The Manhattan Project." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
"The Trinity Test." History.com. A E Networks, 2010. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.
"Truman Is Briefed on Manhattan Project." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.
"The Manhattan Project: Making the Atomic Bomb." Manhattan Project Chronology. Aj Software and Multimedia. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.
"The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II: A Collection of Primary Sources." The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II: A Collection of Primary Sources. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

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