Top 10 Cool Facts About the Manhattan Project
The birth of the use of nuclear weapons in the United States was during WW2. It started on May 12th 1942, with The Manhattan Project. It was a top secret project that was signed into action during the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt. This project was considered to be the answer to the nuclear weapons race that was occurring during this time, where Germany, Japan and Russia were also developing their own nuclear weapon capabilities. In an attempt to be the first to win the nuclear race, the US began the project to create a nuclear weapon. The project was led by Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie R. Groves along with a team of scientists from the United States, Great Britain and Canada.
It was secretly carried out in three main locations with in the United States. Hartford, WA, Oak Ridge, TN and Los Alamos, NM. The purpose of The Manhattan Project was the development of the atomic bomb, which was later used on the country of Japan during the later portion of WW2. Its secrecy was to protect the nuclear technology that was in development from potential enemy spies, which in turn, could be placed in enemy hands and help aid in their further research in the development of nuclear weapons. This could have posed a potential threat to the United States and could have changed the course of events in the future.
There are many interesting facts about The Manhattan Project. Some of which, much of the general public may know, and some that are simply quite cool. So, here are the top 10 cool facts about The Manhattan Project.
10. The Manhattan Project is the Stuff of Science Fiction
There was a novel published in 1914, by the author H. G. Wells called “The World Set Free.” This, in itself, is not totally cool, as there were a lot of novels published during this time. What made it extra cool is that it predicted the use of nuclear weapons in the 21st century. In fact, it is part of a series of books that leads to a nuclear future. Although, the story is science fiction, it tells of the details of a pending nuclear future for the planet. It speaks of the making of nuclear weapons, the potentially horrific power of these types of weapons and the changes it would create in world society as a whole. This book was read by one of the leading scientists of The Manhattan Project, Leo Szilard in 1932 and has been believed to have been one of the influences for his work in atomic physics, and his work on The Manhattan Project itself.
The science in the book itself was based on the author’s already known knowledge of the real science of atomic physics and radium, which already had its history known in the science community for a number of years. In fact, the book is praised by other scientists within the community of atomic physics. Although, not a directly known scientific influence to The Manhattan Project, it did help bring light to the nuclear age with a vivid description based on real science. The events of The Manhattan Project, and its completion almost mirrors this intriguing book, and it is a must read for anyone interested in nuclear weapons.
9. Defectors from Germany Helped the Project
There were many influential people and notable scientists that participated in The Manhattan Project. They also came from a few of the allies of the United States that were also fighting and participating in WW2. What isn’t widely known is that the majority of these scientists were German defectors and other scientists that fled the impending war movement before and during WW2. With them, they brought their own knowledge of nuclear physics and weapons development from German nuclear projects, as well as individual works and knowledge.
These scientists were not in agreement with what the Germans did during the war, and in protest, came to the assistance of the United States and The Manhattan Project. The discovery of nuclear fission by the Germans in 1938 was a factor that prompted the mass exodus of scientists to the United States.
Who were some of the notable scientists that came to the United States? One was Leo Szilard, a Hungarian physicist and inventor who attended college in Berlin. Another was Hans Bethe, a German born theoretical physicist, came to the United States and obtained his citizenship in 1942. He was later recruited to work on The Manhattan Project and was the lead of the Theoretical Division. Unfortunately, there were some of these defectors that were also spies. One of the most notable spies was Klaus Fuchs. He worked on the The Manhattan Project after he came to the United States through Great Britain. He was later discovered delivering classified information on nuclear weapons programs to the Soviet Union.
8. Albert Einstein Played a Part, But Not a Big One
Lodimup / Shutterstock.com
Contrary to popular belief and having the title of being “The Father of the Atomic Bomb,” Albert Einstein did not directly participate in The Manhattan Project. He was, however, part of the project in its infancy with his long penned atomic theory. This not only was an influence in the scientific community in general, it also paved a path towards nuclear weapons development.
Einstein fled Germany in its beginnings of WW2 and came to the United States, ultimately becoming an American citizen in 1940. Becoming aware of the destructive power of his atomic theory, Einstein was openly opposed to the making and use of nuclear weapons. However, in light of the potential of Germany being successful in developing its own nuclear weapons, he wrote a letter in collaboration with Leo Szilard to the President in 1939. In it, he warned of the dangers of nuclear capabilities and what they could mean to the United States if it did not take action. This, in turn, was his only direct influence on The Manhattan Project.
Because of his pacifist views, he was essentially denied the security clearance to participate in the project. He may have opened the doors to the world of the atom, but ultimately did not participate in its use. Einstein both feared and respected what his discovery started, but he worked towards ending the further use of nuclear weapons. Peace and diplomacy where his hopes for the world.
7. The Project Duration Was Many Years
Even though the science that has led to the discovery of the atom, then to its development took decades to discover, The Manhattan Project was formally approved by Franklin D. Roosevelt in January, 1942
The project officially began on May 12th, 1942 and officially ended in August of 1947. However, the science of nuclear usage began a few years prior to 1942. The discovery of nuclear fission in 1938 by Germany, captured the attention of physicists and scientists around world, and the nuclear weapons race began. However, the United States did not enter it until 1942 with The Manhattan Project. The time for The Manhattan Project to build, test and create a successful atomic bomb took roughly four years to accomplish, but before it was done, Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away and Harry S. Truman became his successor. Four months after the death of Roosevelt, the first atomic bomb was used in warfare. It worked successfully and paved the path to end the war shortly afterward with the surrender of Japan on September 2nd, 1945.
Towards the end of The Manhattan Project, The Atomic Energy Act was signed into law by Harry Truman on August 1st ,1946. That placed the use of nuclear energy in the private sector and out of military control. The United States Atomic Energy Commission was then established, further keeping this great power under control.
6. Flying Fortresses Were a Part of the Manhattan Project
Within The Manhattan Project was also Project Silverplate. Project Silverplate was a separate project that over saw the plans of specially designed B-29 bombers, which were aptly nicknamed the “flying fortresses” due to the plane’s immense size. From the testing phase to the actual use in WW2, it was ultimately decided that these planes would be used to carry the bombs.
Once this phase of The Manhattan Project was complete, there was also Project Alberta. Also known as Project A, this part of The Manhattan Project addressed the issues of where the delivery targets of these bombs would take place once they were built and ready to be used. There were two aircraft that were built and used for the purpose that these two projects declared. The most well-known of these was the Enola Gay, which was named after the mother of the pilot, Colonel Paul Tibbets. The other aircraft was named Bockscar, which was derived from the name of its commander, Captain Frederick Bock. They were two of the fifteen B-29 bomber “super-fortresses” that were used and redesigned specifically for The Manhattan Project. The Enola Gay delivered the first atomic bomb that was code-named “Little Boy” on the city of Hiroshima in Japan on August 6th, 1945. The Bockscar delivered the second atomic bomb, code-named “Fat Man,” on the Japanese city, Nagasaki on August 9th, 1945.