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Nagasaki and Hiroshima 75th Anniversary today but how did the US get the Atomic bomb?

By Wambua Sammy & Emmanuel Too | August 5th 2020

Hiroshima Atomic bomb survivor Kimie Miyamoto, 89, speaks during an interview at a retirement home she shares with other bomb victims, in this 2016 picture. 

Today is the 75th anniversary of one of the most terrible things, apart from the plagues, to happen to a people.

  We are talking of the atomic bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans on the 6th and the 9th of 1945 respectively.

Between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000 and 80,000 souls in Nagasaki were vaporised in the nuclear inferno. 

 Millions are still nursing the lifelong effects, seven and a half decades later.

The bombs were dropped after Japan refused to follow Nazi Germany’s footsteps and surrender which would have meant the end of the Second World War; this despite two ultimatums by the USA that it would a deploy a crippling weapon that would end the island nation’s ability to wage war.

Japan had in, 1941 humiliated the USA in a surprise attack on Pearl Habour, Hawaii, where its forces killed 2,403 Americans and wounded 1,178. 

All eight US Navy battleships in the harbour were damaged and four sunk. They say revenge is a dish best served cold. For Japan, it came four years later.

 The 75th anniversary of this grim chapter in the history of mankind will be commemorated today August 6, and 9, 2020 by four of the world’s leading interfaith organisations committed in a common mission on social justice, peace, and sustainability.

The event is officially called the Remembrance Broadcast of 75th Anniversary of Hiroshima/Nagasaki Bombings and brings together global nuclear experts.

 But how did the US acquire this apocalyptic weapon?

According to Wikipedia, “it all started with the discovery of nuclear fission by German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann in 1938.”

  A theoretical explanation of nuclear fission by Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch, “made the development of an atomic bomb a theoretical possibility.”

 In August 1939, Hungarian-born physicists Leo Szilard and Eugene Wigner drafted the Einstein–Szilard letter, which warned of the potential development of "extremely powerful bombs of a new type" and urged the US to acquire the weapons before the Germans did.

Hiroshima after the bomb.

  According to the on-line resource, the letter “urged the United States to take steps to acquire stockpiles of Uranium ore and accelerate the research of Enrico Fermi and others into nuclear chain reactions. They had it signed by Albert Einstein and delivered to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

 Enrico Fermi was an Italian (later naturalised American) physicist and the creator of the world's first nuclear reactor.

 Albert Einstein is the father of the Theory of Relativity and the famous equation E = mc2. The Jewish physicist had fled Nazi Germany in the wake of Adolf Hitler’s pogroms. He is considered as one of, if not the greatest scientist in history.

Regretting the destruction of the bombs in Japan,  Einstein  would say: "Had I known that the Germans would not succeed in producing an atomic bomb, I would have never lifted a finger."

 President Roosevelt took Einstein–Szilard letter seriously and named an advisory committee which reported back to him that uranium "would provide a possible source of bombs with a destructiveness vastly greater than anything now known.”

 In 1942, the US decided to buy as much uranium as it could and pursue what came known as the Manhattan Project. Most of it came from Congo, then a Belgian colony.

 This was the code name for the American team that was working to develop a functional atomic weapon during World War II.

 Wikipedia tells us “The Manhattan Project was a research and development undertaking during World War II that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada.”

 According to the on-line encyclopedia, the project was directed by Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army Corps of Engineers while Nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory that designed the actual bombs. 

 The Manhattan Project began modestly in 1939 but grew to employ more than 130,000 people and cost nearly $2 billion.

 The US Navy awarded Columbia University $6,000 in funding, most of which scientists Enrico Fermi and Szilard spent on purchasing graphite. 

 Wikipedia tells us “A team of Columbia professors including Fermi, Szilard, Eugene T. Booth and John Dunning created the first nuclear fission reaction in the Americas, verifying the work of Hahn and Strassmann. 

The same team subsequently built a series of prototype nuclear reactors (or "piles" as Fermi called them) in Pupin Hall at Columbia, but were not yet able to achieve a chain reaction.”

 But contrary to belief US was not the sole front runner in the development of the bomb. 

 According to the encyclopedia, “In Britain, Frisch and Rudolf Peierls at the University of Birmingham had made a breakthrough investigating the critical mass of uranium-235 in June 1939.”

In Physics, critical mass is “the minimum amount of fissile material needed to maintain a nuclear chain reaction.”

Frisch’s and Peierls’s calculations indicated that the critical mass within an order of magnitude of 10 kilograms,” which was small enough to be carried by a bomber of the day.”

Britain was carrying out its project. Later it would be discovered that “the American project was smaller than the British, and not as far advanced.”

Subsequently, British nuclear secrets were passed on to the US.

 The first atomic test near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, was successfully detonated creating an enormous mushroom cloud some 40,000 feet high and ushering in the Atomic Age.

 The test came to be known as the Trinity test. 

During the Potsdam conference (July 17-August 2, 1945) which was the last of the World War 11 meetings held by the “Big Three’ (Truman, Britain’s Winston Churchill and Russia's Josef Stalin) Truman mentioned to Stalin that the United States had “a new weapon of unusual destructive force but Stalin, according to the documentary The Moment in Time: The Manhattan Project, was not surprised. Russia had planted over 20 spies in the project!

 The Big Three jointly invited Japan on July 26 to surrender unconditionally or face “prompt and utter destruction” but they well may have saved their breath.

 With Japan not capitulating Truman gave the Army Air Forces to bomb the island nation.

 The US military had identified Hiroshima, Japan, as an ideal target for an atomic bomb.

 This was because of its size and the fact that there were no known American prisoners of war in the area.

 On August 6, 1945, a US bomber aircraft christened Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb named “Little Boy” which exploded 300 metres above Hiroshima, causing unprecedented destruction and death over an area of five square miles.

 Three days later, with still no surrender declared, on August 9th, the second bomb christened the “Fat Man” was dropped over Nagasaki, which housed a torpedo-building plant, flattening more than three square miles of the city.

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