We had a third bomb. We used it for a test in the New Mexico desert to make sure the plutonium implosion design would work.
The problem for us in August 1945 was a lack of fissile material. We moved mountains (literally) to create the processing facilities to create as much fissile material as we had. Making weapons-grade uranium or plutonium takes either time or huge parallelism in the process.
If you go back and look at the records of the national expenditure on the Manhattan Project in terms of the national budget, you’ll see that we (as a nation) were pretty well spending as much as we could. What we produced was the result of a huge project with absurd amounts of money (considering we were fighting a two-front war) on the processing facilities at Hanford, WA (where the Pu was processed) and Oak Ridge, TN (the U-235 processing site).
There was a huge amount of construction done at both sites. Unless you go back and read a history of these places from an engineering perspective, the popularized accounts of these projects doesn’t give you a sense of the enormous scale of these things - just the physical plant construction alone at Hanford and Oak Ridge were quite the accomplishment for the period of time in which they were done. That they built these sites from raw land, created the first large scale (ie, something bigger than a lab reactor) plutonium reactor at Hanford, researched and tried at least two methods of refining U-238 into U-235 at Oak Ridge *and* created enough fissile material for two bombs in the time they had is nothing short of astounding.
The Hanford reactor was finally finished, loaded and started processing fuel in November, 1944 and shipped the first batch of Pu fuel in February, 1945 to Los Almos.
Oak Ridge had two lines of uranium enrichment going - gaseous diffusion (the more efficient method) and electromagnetic separation method. There was insufficient copper available for the vessels used in the electromagnetic processing line, so Oak Ridge borrows THOUSANDS of tons of silver from the US Treasury to create these units. The silver was returned after the war.
As it was, the test bomb in New Mexico used Plutonium and an imploding sphere design - this was the bomb design used on Nagasaki.
The Hiroshima design was never tested. Hiroshima was the test.
It would have been roughly November/December of 1945 before we had enough fissile material for another weapon.
"They shouldve dropped a third bomb on his ass then asked if he wanted to surrender."
Originally posted by drc43:
"BUT we did not have a third bomb ready.. It was a huge gamble that worked."
Originally posted by cynwoody:
"That's the story as I had understood it for a long time. However, it isn't true."
Have to agree with FR poster cynwoody, there was a little known third atomic bomb ready to go in August 1945. First as to the contention that after the US dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan that the US would not have another atomic bomb ready until the end of the year... The TRUTH is that there was a third atomic bomb being readied for a combat drop. Most people that read the common WWII histories do not believe this is the case, however it is just that it is factually incorrect.
The United States actually had three Atomic weapons ready for use near the end of WWII, two of which were dropped on Japan, the third was being readied for a mission by Col. Tibbets' unit - the 509th Composite Group, when Japan surrendered. The USA had two "Fat Man" plutonium Atomic weapons in its inventory at the end of calendar year 1945.
In an August 2002 interview with Studs Terkel published in the British Guardian newspaper, Paul Tibbetts recalled something similar: "Unknown to anybody else--I knew it, but nobody else knew--there was a third one. See, the first bomb went off and they didn't hear anything out of the Japanese for two or three days. The second bomb was dropped and again they were silent for another couple of days. Then I got a phone call from General Curtis LeMay. He said, 'You got another one of those damn things?' I said, 'Yessir.' He said, 'Where is it?' I said, 'Over in Utah.' He said, 'Get it out here. You and your crew are going to fly it.' I said, 'Yessir.' I sent word back and the crew loaded it on an airplane and we headed back to bring it right on out to Trinian and when they got it to California debarkation point, the war was over."
Source: Warbird Forum: The third bomb
Now about those future bombs to be added to the U.S. nuclear weapon inventory...
There WAS a multi-site production line set up to generate plutonium cores for the "Fat Man" model of the US nuclear stockpile. The US had not just invested 2 billion (1943) dollars just to make five atomic bombs in 1945, a production line was built... The only reason that the US did not go into wartime production mode on the 'Fat Man' plutonium cores is that the war ENDED. The "Little Boy" uranium gun-type atomic weapon first dropped on Hiroshima was a one-off model, never produced again. All of the other US atomic weapons were of the plutonium-implosion "Fat Man" model. So the first bomb was tested in the US during July 1945. Two more atomic weapons were dropped on Japan in August 1945. One more atomic bomb was being readied for Tokyo for late August 1945; it was never delivered. The fifth bomb was completed in November, 1945. At the end of calendar year 1945 the US had two "Fat Man" type nuclear weapons in its inventory out of the five produced in 1945, however if Japan had not surrendered the nuclear 'production line' was designed to produce 7 plutonium cored nuclear weapons per month. More than enough to take care of the Nazis and/or the Japs if WWII had lasted into 1946.
"A third bomb was being shipped from New Mexico, target Tokyo, when the war ended. Production was geared to seven per month with an expectation that 50 bombs would be required to assure that an invasion would not be required. Release of radiation from the untested Hiroshima bomb, designed as the original gun-type and made of uranium, was a surprise. The radiation range was expected to be within the blast radius, that is, a lethal dose of radiation would only kill those already dead from concussion. The Alamogordo bomb test and later production were of the more complicated plutonium, yet cleaner, implosion device."
The United States did feel the need to build more nuclear weapons in the immediate aftermath of WWII, since the demobilization of the 12.34 million Armed Forces of WWII had made the post-war US nuclear monopoly the first-line of defense for the United States and its interests. The expense of the $2 Billion Manhattan Project was amortized over the following production of US nuclear weapons from 1945 onwards.
Here are some numbers on the US atomic weapon stockpile from WWII onwards...
Source: Power Point Presentation USC Berkeley - History - 105, Dr. McCray "Early Nuclear Strategy" Slide #9. looks like this PPT link has disappeared...
Source: Complete List of All U.S. Nuclear Weapons The NuclearWeaponsArchive.org
Mr G’s father was a lovely gentle man who wouldn’t hurt a fly. Six months before he died his second wife told us that he had worked on the Manhattan project. We were stunned! He had never ever said one word about it, and when we asked him then (2002) all he would say is “That’s secret.” We came home and talked to my family about how closed mouth this man had been.
Fast forward 4 years to the death of my step father, another lovely gentle man who wouldn’t hurt a fly. After the funeral his brother told us that he had worked on the Manhattan project. He spent several years in New Mexico, only able to go into town every several weeks so he could call his wife. He never said a word to us, even after we talked about Mr G’s dad.
They amaze me, to be able to keep that kind of secret, even when everything has been put out in the open.