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Essay/Term paper: Examining history

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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It is imporatant to carefully examine history in order to learn from

previous mistakes, and also to ensure that the same mistakes are not

repeated. The Manhattan project is an excellent example. This program

allowed the United States to unleash the power of the atom, thus,

introducing a new and devastating element into warfare. Although they

managed to come in first in the race with Germany, the U.S. bears the

responsibility of having introduced the atomic bomb, and have the blood on

their hands from the use of it. It is obvious that the U.S. reaped the

benefits by introducing the bomb, because no one else had the chance to use

it on them. However, it is imperative to realize that when they dropped the

bomb they became hypocrates. They did not want it used on them, but were

eager to use it on another country. Actually, the U.S. had trouble deciding

who to use it on. However, when a target was selected, the results were

devastating. There were 170,000 people killed in Hiroshima alone and in

Nagasaki, estimates say, nearly 70,000 died. After the bomb was dropped, the

resulting radiation killed nearly 70,000 people. The Manhattan Project and

the use of the atomic bomb were unfortunate products of a scientific

breakthrough and a frantic race; which resulted in a revolution in warfare.

The Manhattan Project originated from the Army Corps of Engineers, this

division was originally named the Manhattan District. The later name, The

Manhattan Project, encompassed the district, the scientific, the

governmental and the strategic aspects (4:9). In 1941 President

Roosevelt and several American scientists began work on the project (1:1).

The bomb was never reffered to as the "atomic bomb" it was referred to as

"a new weapon of unusual destructive force" (13:74). The main hub of

acivity for this project was in New Mexico, the program lasted from 1942 to

1946. The total cost was nearly 2 billion dollars (1:3).

Another important aspect to this program was the secrecy invovlved.

It was said that "loose lips sink ships" (13:37). According to Roosevelt

the only people who knew about the program at it's conception were Vice

President Wallace, the Speaker of the House, the Democratic Leader of the

Senate Mr. Barkley, and the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee for

the House and Senate (11:27). As time went on it was still kept very quiet,

most cabinet members and even more congressmen did not know about it (1:3).

In fact, the money had to be smuggled into the War Department budget (1:3).

Roosevelt eventually told Stalin about the project, he said, " I casually

mentioned it to Stalin that we had a new weapon of unusual destructive

force. The Russian Premier showed no special interest. All he said was

that he was glad to hear it and he hoped we would make good use of it

against the Japanese (13:75)." All of this secrecy contributed to the

success of the program and the bombing of Japan.

The most challenging part of this project was not smuggling the

money into the budget or maintaining secrecy, it was devising a way to

obtain enough Uranium and Plutonium to create the bombs (11:27). Roosevelt

established a committee in October of 1939 in an attempt to locate sources

of the elements. Alfred Nier began to study isotopes of Uranium, he was also

the first to discover the U-235 content in natural Uranium. The next step

in this process was to determine whether it was the U-235 or the U-238

isotope of Uranium that would enable them to create the bomb (4:190).

Uranium contained only 1% U-235, while the other 90% of Uranium ore was

composed of U-238. As luck would have it, they discovered that it was only

the U-235 that could be used to create the bomb.

Once these isotopes had been discovered, it was time to begin

separation. There were several ways to go about this. The first was to use

magnetic separation. This was made possible by Ernest O. Lawerence who

invented the Cyclotron. The process occurs "when a Uranium Tetrachloride

mixture is electrically charged". "It is then passed through a magnet on

180 degree arc (4:10)." The lighter U-235 passes through and collects. The

heavier U-238 would simply pass through. Yet, due to delays and flaws this

process was phased out. The next method was created by General Leslie

Groves. He constructed a Uranium separation plant in Tennessee. This plant

used gaseous diffusion. It separated the two istopes from each other. The

process requires that uranium ore be sprayed with fluorine; which in turn

forms Uranium Hexafluoride gas. It is then injected through filters with

fine matrices, which allowed the lighter U-235 to pass through faster. This

was determined to be an excellent and very effective method of U-235

collection. The final method was quickly abandoned. It was to use a

centrigue, a high speed spinning device, to separate the U-235 isotope from

the U-238 isotope. Unfortunately, the race with Germany would not allow

further testing of this process, so it was thrown out(4:10).

Another breakthrough occured when in 1941, Glen Seaborg discovered

Plutonium. He observed that the isotope P-238 was amazingly more unstable

than the isotope he had discovered. He soon realized that this isotope

would be perfect for the fission reaction that was necessary to create the

bomb (4:10). Enrico Fermi joined the effort and he created a reactor to aid

in succesfully manufacturing a controllable chain reaction. This model

quickly became prototype for five reactors that would be built. Thus, it

paved the way for the creation of the "Fat Man" (4:10).

The next vital part of creating an atomic bomb is fission. Fission is

defined as the splitting of an atom. In further detail, it is a nuclear

reaction which causes the atom to split into pieces of near equal mass. The

approximate energy yeild is 100 million units. This is what causes the

blast. (4:199) The physicists who fled Europe due to Hitler joined the

United States' cause. They were the first to successfully split a Uranium

atom. This occured in 1938 at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin


From all of these experiments two types of bombs were created. "Fat

Man" was an implosion bomb composed of plutonium (13:13). The second bomb

created, "Little Boy", was a "guntype" Uranium bomb (11:63). Both bombs

were ready in mid July (11:174,254). Yet still more tests remained.

According to Oppenheimer's report, "...bomb material itself leathal enough

for a billion deadly doses...the weapon would give off raioactivity...bomb

was set to explode in the air...[would deposit] a large fraction of either

initial radioactive material or the radioactive products in the immediate

vicinity of the target; but the radiation...will of course, have an effect

on exposed personnel in the target area(1:5)." He went on to state that it

was unpredictable as to what would happen to the radioactive material. His

assumptions were: "It could stay for hours in a cloud above the place of

detonation. If the bomb explodded during rain or high humidity and thus

caused rain most of the active material will be brought down in the vicinity

of the target area (1:5)."

To confirm or disprove these assumptions, they decided to test a

bomb. Trinity Test Site was chosen. The time selected was four in the

morning, on July 16. However, it began to rain and had to be postponed

until 5:30. At around 4:45 the weather began clearing and final orders for

detonation at 5:30 were given (11:194-195). When the countdown began,

machines took over at minus 45 seconds (11:196). There was no turning back

now, the moment of truth was soon arriving.

It is through eye witness accounts that these stories are told. Mr.

Kistiakowsky stated that, " All of a sudden the entire desert for miles and

miles, and the mountains, about ten miles away, were lighted with an

intensity the like of which one had never seen before. I was partially

blinded." He continues, " When my sight returned, the whole atmosphere was

showered with a violet light. ...At that time we didn't know what was

happening...and then a long time afterward, about ten minutes or so, the

blast wave traveled six or seven miles and hit me...throwing me to the

ground (11:196)." Mr. Hornig tells his account in a more emotional way,

" The fire ball was already beginning to turn in the sky...I was completely

entranced by the spectacle. Aside from being tremendous it was the most

aesthetically beautiful thing I have ever seen. Tremendous billows and

colors would unfold from the interior of the cloud. It would darken in

places and open in a new burst of luminous gas that came to the surface...I

just stood there completely captured (11:197)." The final account comes

from Mr. Oppenheimer, it is rather sentimental, " We waited until the last

had passed, walked out of the shelter and then it was extremely solemn. We

knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people

cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu

scripture. The Baga Gita: Vinshu is trying to persuade the Prince that he

should do his duty an to impress him he takes his multi-armed form and

says,'Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds..' I suppose we all

thought that one way or another. There was a great deal of solemn talk that

this was the end of the great wars of the century (11:197)." Perhaps it is

better to invision it this way, through someone's eyes, the devastaion and

power suddenly becomes real.

The final step in this process is to use the bomb. Selecting a target

was not an easy ordeal. As is common, a committee was formed. It was

composed of Groves, Army and Air Force men, Gen. Lauris Norstad, and

scientists such as John Von Neumann. The new outlook on war was to kill as

many civilians as possible. They decided that they would choose large urban

areas that were not less than three miles in diameter. On April 27, four

cities were named: Hiroshima, Yawata, Yokohama and Tokyo (1:4). There were

seventeen other possible cities, among them were, Kawasaki, Tokyo Bay,

Kyoto, and Nagasaki (1:5). Although, the original target had been Germany,

but Roosevelt and Churchill had decided it would be more effective if used

on Japan (1:2). During the third meeting, itwas decided that the three

targets should be Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Nugata(1:5). However, upon further

consideration, Kyoto was spared due to the relics that are held in that city

(1:9). At the last meeting the final cities were chosen. THey were

Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Neither city was "purely military" and were bombed

mainly due to population and projected effect.

Truman never doubted whether the bomb would be used or not (1:3). There

was so much bureaucratic force driving this operation that it was never

questioned. The first bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945 by the Enola Gay.

Hiroshima was the unfortunate recipient (7:71), the death toll totaled

around 200,000. The second bombing, which from nearly all evidence seems to

be unjustified, occured August 9, 1945 at 11:00 a.m. Nagasaki was the

target this time (3:1). The bomb missed the target though, only 70,000 were

killed this time. The cable that Truman received from Stimson read,

"Operated this morning. Diagnosis not yet complete, but results seem

satisfactory (13:73)."

There were many alternatives that could have been used, but weren't

and the result was thousands dead. It was a brutal, almost unjustifiable

occurance. The blood is on American hands and cannot be washed off. Not

only were nearly 300,000 civialians murdered, a lasting impact was made on

the world and our reputaion. America began the atomic age and is still

paying the price for it today, everyday. New advances in technology have

made weapons of mass destruction easily obtainable, and by the wrong people.

If America had refused to allow the bomb to be developed, the world would be

a much different place, and a much better place. It was a frantic race with

Germany, and "American lives had to be saved". The rest of the world was an

afterthought. War continues, and so does the struggle. The blood and

burden is on American hands forever.


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