But it is a fact that the defeat of Japan was
preordained before even a bomb was dropped or a shot was fired
in anger on that infamous day, the 7th of December 1941. The attack
on Pearl Arbour would be the catalyst of a new era for the human
race... The Atomic Age.
In 1939, German scientists were way ahead of
other researchers and scientists around the globe when it came
to atomic research. Indeed, they were believed to have already
split the atom. Very little was achieved until the Maud report
in July of 1941, when a group of British scientists stated it
was possible to create an atomic bomb by the end of the war. President
Roosevelt approved American research into a weapon using atomic
power, and on the 6th of December 1941, the day before the attack
on Pearl Harbor, the Manhattan Project was born.
The project was assigned to the Army Corps of
Engineers, based in New York City -- thus its name, "The Manhattan
Project." The project was a combined effort between the United
States, Britain and Canada. Colonel Leslie Richard Groves, who
had recently overseen the building of the new Pentagon, was put
in charge of the project. Groves chose physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer
to head the research team. The project was moved to Los Alamos
in New Mexico, and sealed off from the outside world. The research
was carried out in a top-secret manner under tight security. Scientists
were given code names and all reference to the bomb was discouraged.
Instead it was referred to as "the gadget," "the gimmick," or
The research team worked on two different bombs,
the first using Uranium-235, and the other using Plutonium. Although
the team was confident with the design and potential of the Uranium-235
bomb, they were not sure about the Plutonium bomb. Would it work?
A test would be needed. The test was planned for the 16th of July,
1945, but looked in doubt due to an impending storm. President
Truman was attending the Potsdam Conference, and wanted the test
results to use against the Russians as a political lever. At the
conference table the Russians were becoming awkward over the division
The storm cleared and the test went ahead. On
the morning of the 16th of July, 1945, at 5.29am, the world's
first atomic bomb was detonated. The test, code named "Trinity,"
was carried out at Alamogordo in the New Mexico desert. The United
States had won the race for development of an Atomic Bomb.
Oppenheimer quoted from scripture: "If the
radiance of a thousand Suns were to burst at once into the sky,
that would be like the splendour of the mighty one. Now I have
become death. The destroyer of worlds."
The successful test results were sent to President
Truman, who took Stalin
to one side and told him of the bomb. Truman remained unaware
that security had already been breached: Stalin knew about the
U.S. development of the Atomic Bomb, but showed no emotion and
took the information in his stride, replying: "Good, I hope
the United States will use it."
Truman and Byrnes thought Stalin simply didn't
understand what had been said, and the implications... but Stalin
did understand. Quite well, in fact. The Soviet Foreign minister
Molotov recalled: "Truman decided to surprise us at Potsdam.
He took Stalin and me aside and, looking secretive, informed us
they had a secret weapon of a wholly new type, an extraordinary
weapon. It's difficult to say what he was thinking but it seemed
to me that he wanted to throw us into consternation." Stalin,
however, reacted to this quite calmly and Truman decided he hadn't
understood. The words 'atomic bomb' hadn't been spoken, but we
immediately guessed what was meant."
Dr. Klaus Fuchs, a German refugee and a member
of The Manhattan Project, had been supplying information to the
Russians about the scope and progress of the research project.
Fuchs was a physicist and a communist who had started work on
the bomb in England, and then joined The Manhattan Project. Fuchs
was one of many, including the young Ted Hall, supplying atomic
secrets to the Russians.
Ten days after the Trinity test, on the 26th
of July, the Allies announced from Potsdam their terms of surrender
for Japan: surrender unconditionally, or face prompt and utter
destruction. Japan ignored the declaration. All that remained
now was for the bomb to be delivered. That job would fall to the
509th composite group, a special U.S. Air Force unit. The first
time the atomic bomb would be used in combat would be on the Japanese
city of Hiroshima.