The Manhattan Project
When looking through history, it seems any new invention or discovery is eventually used to satisfy a military purpose. The aeroplane was used in the First World War barely 10 years after man first flew, which was perhaps the most important breakthrough before the Second World War. It was this conflict which saw science used for a horrific purpose. It wasn’t the first time, and it wouldn’t be the last.
In August 1945, the execution of a plan which had been in construction since before the war was carried out. In the space of three days, two American B-29 bombers dropped the first atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of firstly Hiroshima and, secondly, Nagasaki.
Both cities were raised to the ground, over 100,000 people were killed instantly and thousands more would suffer horrendous radiation poisoning in the years following. It was a decision taken to force Japan into a surrender, but it did so at the cost of thousands of civilian lives.
The decision to use the A-bomb was taken by President Harry Truman. It was made possible by the Manhattan Project which had started before the second world war. The project was orchestrated by a group of American scientists, many of whom had fled from fascism in Europe, who had become concerned at the possibility of Nazi Germany using nuclear power to build devastating weapons. By 1940, the US government had begun investigating the possibility of making these weapons for itself.
On 16 July 1945, the first successful test was carried out at the project base in New Mexico. Less than a month later, they would unleash hell on innocent Japanese civilians.
By the time this first test had taken place, Germany had been defeated and the war in Europe was over. However, Japan was determined to fight on, despite little possibility of victory over the USA in the pacific. Japan rejected the allies’ request for a surrender, and in response the allies threatened total destruction as a way to finally put an end to the war in Asia.
The initial plan to end the Japanese military aggression was to carry on regular, aggressive bombing of the country and to follow this up with an extensive invasion. This would force Japan to surrender as american troops advanced towards Tokyo. It was also a plan favoured by many of the US army leaders, including General Douglas MacArthur.
The generals also advised President Truman that such an invasion could result in up to one million US casualties. Upon hearing this, Truman turned his attention to the work of the Manhattan Project. He wanted a swift end to the war and a conclusion which would reduce the chances of high american casualties. With the A-bomb, the President got his wish.
The use of nuclear weapons in war is always controversial. Since the use of the Atom bomb on Japan, the situations where nuclear weapons have been used in war have increased; with each having devastating consequences.
In 1945, the USA used it to blow Japan into submission. They did it to save American lives, but killed thousands of civilians at the same time. It brought to an end a chapter in history which saw humanity at its worst, but it did so in the most inhumane way possible.
It is likely that, had the bombs not been dropped on Japan, the war would have been drawn out longer; at the cost of potentially hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides. Most of these casualties would have been soldiers, but undoubtedly many civilians would have been caught up in the bombing of towns and cities. As it turned out, it was the A-bomb and the deaths of approximately 120,000 civilians and the long term damage of thousands more.
Was Japanese leadership responsible for the deaths of their own people? They certainly have blood on their hands for refusing to surrender even when victory over the USA looked impossible.
However, the mere fact that an atomic bomb could be designed, constructed, and then dropped on civilians in the space of five years is a failure of humanity in general. It shows the terrifying ability which mankind has, how we are able to use the wonders of science to achieve true evil. Weaponizing science started long before the Second World War and, sadly, it will continue to be for years to come.