Examining History

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