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History of the Atom Bomb

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The History of the Atom Bomb

The atom bomb was one of, if not the greatest discoveries of mankind. It led to the end of World War II and changed the face of war forever. Its original development and purpose was to defeat the Nazis, but the U.S. used it to defeat Japan and end the war early. Once discovered, many scientists were afraid of the power of the weapon and went to great lengths to discourage its use. However, no one really knew how destructive it would be, and the massive effects it would have on the world.

The bomb was originally developed to create a new instrument of war that would be able to defeat the Nazis. In 1938 in Germany, scientists first discovered the concept of nuclear fission. This led to direct research of nuclear and atomic technology by the Germans. Eventually, Albert Einstein got wind of this research and wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, explaining to him the potential of such nuclear technology. Einstein said that ‘it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated” (Einstein, 1). He eventually goes on to say that this ‘phenomenon’ as he calls it, would lead to the construction of bombs and they may be very powerful. By 1941, Roosevelt finally approved the weapons research and the Manhattan Project was underway.

One main purpose of researching this technology was to develop a bomb before Germany did, and then to use it to defeat them. However, the war in Europe was over before the bomb was finally ready, so the U.S. ultimately decided to use it on Japan. This was a very controversial decision and is still debated today because of the many benefits as well as negative aspects of dropping the bomb. The positives included being able to avoid landing U.S. troops on the mainland of Japan, as well as save half a million U.S. troops and end the war immediately. Also, millions of citizens’ tax dollars were put into the Manhattan Project, and they wanted them to be used to save American lives. The atomic bomb was built for this purpose.

The negatives were that it would cause incredible destruction, and the U.S. was unsure of whether they wanted to destroy complete cities. Another negative was that the side effects of the bomb such as radiation were not clearly known, and civilians, not only military installments were going to be inevitably killed.

After President Roosevelt’s death, Harry S. Truman came to power and learned about the atomic bomb for the first time. He appointed the ‘interim committee’ to advise him on the use of the bombs. The interim committee was made of up several of the brightest scientists of the time. The chair of the committee was Henry L. Stimson. They finally came up with the three following suggestions: the bomb should be used as soon as possible on Japan, it should be used on a dual target, a military installation and houses or buildings susceptible to damage, and it should be used without warning (Stimson, 2). However, many other suggestions were debated. One suggestion was to demonstrate the bomb to the United Nations, not only the Japanese. If everyone saw how dangerous and lethal it could be, countries would either set off on an arms race to develop the bombs, or realize how deadly they are and renounce the use of them (Franck Report, 3). Eventually it was concluded that a test of that magnitude still might not convince the Japanese to admit defeat and they needed a “shocking blow” to their military, economy, and will power to surrender. Also, the U.S. had only two bombs, which meant that to waste one on a demonstration that was not convincing enough or a failed demonstration was not an option they were willing



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