Skip to comments.(On This Day in History) July 16, 1945 : U.S. Conducts First Test of the Atomic Bomb
Posted on 07/16/2007 8:10:27 AM PDT by DogByte6RER
1945 : United States conducts first test of the atomic bomb
The United States conducts the first test of the atomic bomb at its research facility in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The terrifying new weapon would quickly become a focal point in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.
The official U.S. development of the atomic bomb began with the establishment of the Manhattan Project in August 1942. The project brought together scientists from the United States, Great Britain, and Canada to study the feasibility of building an atomic bomb capable of unimaginable destructive power. The project proceeded with no small degree of urgency, since the American government had been warned that Nazi Germany had also embarked on a program to develop an atomic weapon. By July 1945, a prototype weapon was ready for testing. Although Germany had surrendered months earlier, the war against Japan was still raging. On July 16, the first atomic bomb was detonated in the desert near the Los Alamos research facility. Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the project, watched the mushroom cloud rise into the Nevada sky. "Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds," he uttered, reciting a passage from an ancient Hindu text. News of the successful test was relayed to President Harry S. Truman, who was meeting with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Potsdam to discuss the postwar world. Observers at the meeting noted that the news "tremendously pepped up" the president, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill believed that Truman almost immediately adopted a more aggressive tone in dealing with Stalin.
Truman and many other U.S. officials hoped that possession of the atomic bomb would be America's trump card in dealing with the Soviets after the war. Use of the weapon against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 demonstrated the destructive force of the atomic bomb. The American atomic monopoly did not last long, though. By 1949, the Soviets had developed their own atomic bomb, marking the beginning of the nuclear arms race.
Too bad it wasn’t ready to use againts Germany first.
My uncle served in the European Theater and was in transit to the South Pacific when the bomb was dropped. Good chance it saved his and countless other American lives.
So what did we do with Klaus Fuchs?
Good thing Hitler drove off his Jewish scientists and was never seriously in the game for developing one.
Makes for a science fiction novel to think what would have happened had Germany developed it before starting the war.
“Trinity” atomic bomb test on July 16, 1945:
“It’s a boy.”
Trinity - Birth of the Atomic Age
At 5:30 AM on the morning of July 16, 1945, the pre-dawn stillness of the New Mexico desert was shattered by the most momentous, man-made explosion of all time. At a site called Trinity, a plutonium bomb was assembled and atop a 100 foot steel tower.
The bomb was detonated, producing an intense flash and a fireball that expanded to 600 meters in two seconds. The explosive power was equivalent to 18.6 kilotons of TNT. It grew to a height of more than 12 kilometers, boiling up in the shape of a mushroom. Forty seconds later, the blast of air from the bomb reached the observation bunkers, along with a long and deafening roar of sound. And so began the ATOMIC AGE...
The uranium gun weapon, “Little Boy Bomb”, was a simple design and scientists were confident it would without testing. The “Fat Man”, or implosion bomb, was a more efficient design, using plutonium instead of uranium. Inside the very center of the bomb was an initiator, surrounded by a sphere of plutonium.
This sphere was encased within a set of symmetrically located, high explosive lenses, creating an implosion which forced the plutonium into itself, attaining critical mass. The blast instantly raised temperatures to ten million degrees, releasing a force of a million pounds of pressure, vaporizing the tower and desert life within half a mile.
The intensity of light was sufficient to cause temporary blindness to an observer half a mile away. Development and construction of the atomic bomb was the most closely guarded secret in scientific history. This was a culmination of centuries of step-by-step advances in the scientific quest to learn about the inner workings of the atom.
Finally, in July 16, 1945, a practical atomic bomb was completed. The first test, code named “Trinity” was exploded at Alamogordo, New Mexico. The “Trinity” test confirmed the implosion design used for the Fat Man bomb exploded over Nagasaki. Long before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States in late 1941 established a secret program, which came to be known as the Manhattan Project, to develop an atomic bomb, a powerful explosive nuclear weapon.
The aim of the project, directed by physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, was to build an atom bomb before Germany did. After Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, Harry S. Truman became president and inherited the bomb-development program. At this point, the new weapon had two purposes. First, it could be used to force Japan to surrender.
Second, possession of the bomb would enable the United States, and not the USSR, to control postwar policy. On August 29, 1949, the Russians detonated their first atomic bomb. This event, coming five years earlier than anyone in the West had predicted, was largely the result of one man, Klaus Fuchs.
Fuchs, a Los Alamos physicist, had passed detailed blue prints of the original Trinity design to the Russians. With the emergence of the USSR as a nuclear rival, the United States believed it had strong motivation for intensifying its program of nuclear testing.
Fat Man and Little Boy saved even more Japanese lives than American lives.
Traded him to the Russkies, to East Germany where he spent the rest of his days.
One of the plans was for the allies to drop atomic bombs just beyond the beaches to provide breaches in the Japanese defenses for the allies to funnel through. Can’t imagine the friendly casualties and shortened lives that would have caused.
I can’t attest to the accuracy of this statement but Oppenheimer’s younger brother (Frank - who was present at the Trinity test) simply said “It worked”.
And it saved milions of lives, both Japanese and American. More Japanese died in the fire raids we were conducting via convenstional bombing and more would have died. Operation Olympic, the invasion of the Japanese mainland, would have resulted in millions of casualties.
I found the above while doing some reading on history. didn’t sit right with me. The site is a fascinating source of WWII history. I usually consider this source credible but two things struck me.
1) the source of the information they based the opinion on. Of course they were going to surrender...........
2) Wasn’t the invasion of Japan planned for September or October, thus making the Dec 31 date a moot point? Willing to be corrected on this.
Since when is the "Trinity" site in Nevada?
Considering how fanatically they fought all the way north through the Pacific island-hopping campaign, I consider this assertion specious.
They fought, essentially to the last man elsewhere, and then they would just roll over and surrender the mainland of Japan itself?
Actually, Czarist Russian pogroms can be equally credited for “driving out” it’s Jews in the 1880s whose children and grandchildren worked on the Manhattan Project. My cousin who at the age of 21 was given responsibility for one component of the bomb. And sticking it to the Russians and communists has been a family pursuit ever since.
I am still relieved that America developed the atomic bomb and used it against Japan to end WWII. An invasion of mainland Japan would have cost hundreds of thousands of American lives.
There is also good reason to believe the use of the A-Bomb also saved the lives of many of the Japanese people. Without something so dramatic, the Japanese may have fought to the death.
The Japanese military leadership committed many atrocities, but the Japanese people were being dragged along into the maelstrom. It would have been very unpleasant having to fight them, because the loss of life would have seemed like genocide.
After the war, the United States helped the Japanese rebuild. Now, the Japanese are among our most loyal allies. They are also leaders in developing technology. The rebuilding of Japan has been a “win-win” proposition.
My great uncle worked in the Kaiser shipyards in California during World War II, and many many years later, he told a story to us about being offered an opportunity with a bunch of other welders to volunteer for a project which would take them out of state for about a month, pay them triple wages, but they had to be vetted and their backgrounds checked.
He told us that after being approved for this special welding project, they were put on a bus with blacked out windows and driven for God-knows-how-long, until they arrived at their destination, which was a bunch of tents out in the middle of nowhere, looked like a desert. They were provided with all the necessities, given blueprints, and told to build a new secret experimental ‘radio tower’, which they did, right to spec.
Back on the bus after about a month, and he said he had no idea what kind of damn radio tower they had built until after he saw pictures in LIFE magazine about the Manhattan Project (after the War), and he realized that it was the tower used at the Trinity test that he had helped assemble.
I’m very proud of him.
Nope. Can’t say I buy this. Every serious historian who has looked into this agrees that Japan was nowhere near surrendering.
In fact, they nearly did not surrender after the first two atomic attacks, with the military almost succeeding in confiscating the Emperor’s announcement recording before it was broadcast.
Japan’s military government could not come to consensus on surrender, especially the non-conditional surrender demanded by the Allies. They have prepared very, very strong defenses of core islands, expecting a miracle to save them or to die with honor intact.
That’s a correction that Hisory.com needs to rememdy.
Just as all don’t agree with the decision now, many did not then either. Pretty clear in my view that the use of the bomb saved lives.
I believe they still open the site to the public on certain weeks in April and October.
In reviewing the report again, Noticed the following:
“The present report was prepared by the Chairman’s Office under the editorship of Commander Walter Wilds, USNR. “
Would there be some inter service rivalry evident in the report which was quite common then and in my opinion a good thing? Competition is good even in the military.
Had this happened, a whole lot of people running around now wouldn't be running around now.
Here is a link. It is a long read.
IIRC it is open the first Saturday of April and October. It mentions the first Sat of October and that the site is open in April here - http://www.wsmr.army.mil/pao/TrinitySite/trinph.htm
It was open for the 50th anniversary on Sunday July 16, 1995. There were several hundred to a thousand tourists like myself and perhaps 50 protesters. Of course the media only focused on the protesters.
The only time I ever felt personally insulted by Rush Limbaugh was the Monday after when he dismissed all visitors there as protesters who had no jobs to go to and hence the time to visit there. (I’m still an avid fan and 24/7 subscriber though and hope he’ll apologize with a free nobel prize nominee mug or something:))
"A weapon of mass destruction can only be used for one thing. Now you might think it will ensure peace and freedom but I guarantee you it'll never have the effect you're hoping for until you use it at least once."
Military history ping
Thanks for the pings indcons!
Yes...I am aware of the October and April tour dates.
This is something that has been on my to do list for some time.
Here is a great website called “The Bureau of Atomic Tourism” -
It sounds like a crock. 45+ Japanese cities had been leveled by conventional incendiary bombing, still no surrender. And the Japanese didn’t surrender after the first atomic bomb. It took two atomic bombs to convince the Emperor. He assembled the warlords and said, look, this kingdom is what I will pass on to my son to rule after me, and unless the war ends now, there will be no kingdom. Even with that, there was a last-ditch attempt by some officers to stop the surrender order from going out.