The Seventieth Anniversary of the Atomic Bomb

August 6, 2015, is the seventieth anniversary of the dropping of the first atom bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, which occurred per the order of United States President Harry S. Truman. Japan refused to surrender, so a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. World War II ended with that second bomb.

What you’ve just read is what we were taught in school and what we saw on television. The truth, however, is far from being that simple, and the decision-making process was much more stressful than the public was led to believe.Silhouette fedora

Over the past three years, I have been researching for my forthcoming novel about the Soviets spying on the Atomic Bomb Project at Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico. I’ve discovered that few people in the world know the whole story behind the use of the atomic bombs and the behind-the-scenes activities. Today, seventy years later, the United States remains the only country in the history of the world to use atomic weapons. I venture to say that those people believing the use weapons of mass destruction was wrong, would quickly change their minds, if they knew the whole truth.

In advance of the release of my fact-based novel (which by definition is fictional), I’d like to share with you a few snippets of absolute truth that will shed a brief ray of light on the jarring decision making process.

Truman wanted to drop the atomic bomb on a purely military target; however, few valuable targets remained as a result of the fire-bombing campaign. The fire-bomb raids inflicted heavier casualties than either of either atomic bombs, but it created the psychological effect of a single weapon of such explosive force.

The wheels on this locomotion of destruction began five months earlier in April of 1945. On the morning of April 12th, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made one last effort to smooth out his delicate relationship with Stalin, but that afternoon, Roosevelt died, and Vice President Harry S. Truman became President. Up to that point, Truman had rarely seen Roosevelt and was not fully briefed on the War, or on the pending problems with the Soviet Union, or—more importantly—on the Manhattan Project. Truman thus required full briefing as rapidly as possible.

April also brought the invasion of Okinawa, an island on Japan’s doorstep. After two months of bloody land fighting, the stage was set for invasion of Japan’s main islands.

Hirohito believed that the US would ultimately invade mainland Japan, in order to finish off his country. Hirohito planned to detonate two dirty bombs over MacArthur’s mainland invasion fleet; therefore, he prepared a defense plan that would inflict terrible loss on the US army. At this point, he believed the US would negotiate a conditional surrender of Japan.

Japan had purchased uranium from Germany, which was being shipped in a German submarine that left Norway for Japan on April 15, 1945. When Germany surrendered on May 14th, the submarine turned and went to New Hampshire, where it surrendered all of its raw materials and data. Japan believed that, if they had surrendered first, they might have had a better political position for conditional submission. But now the US was ready to finish off Japan and would take nothing less than unconditional surrender. Despite the destruction of most of Japan’s war industry, on June 9, Japanese Premier Suzuki announced that Japan would fight to the very end, rather than accept unconditional surrender.

At the Potsdam Conference, principal allies the United States, the Soviet Union, and Great Britain met to discuss, among other things, ending the war. The chief representatives were President Truman, Premier Stalin, former Prime Minister Churchill, and newly elected Prime Minister Clement Attlee. While there, they formulated the invasion plan for Japan. Part of the invading army would include US Troops, plus Russian and Chinese troops. Naturally, this terrified the Japanese, who feared the ruthlessness of the the Russians and the Chinese, whom they had treated horrifically.

Truman was still at the Potsdam Conference when he received results of the atomic bomb test. He talked at length about the bomb with Churchill and General Eisenhower. Truman did not particular trust nor like Stalin and only mentioned that he had a new weapon that was very destructive. Stalin acted uninterested and replied that he hoped it would finish off the Japanese. My research shows that Stalin was already aware of process by his spies in New York and Los Alamos of the results of the test.

On August 8, Japan tried to persuade the Soviets to mediate surrender negotiations. Soviet Diplomat Molotov canceled the meeting with the Japanese. Because of this, President Truman believed he must move fast, with the likelihood of the Soviets entering the Pacific War to spread Communism. Thus, Hoover decided to drop the second bomb.

August 9th, Stalin announced that the Soviet Union would enter the war against Japan. Simultaneously, the Soviet forces invaded Manchuria and North Korea. That same night, Hirohito met with key staff members to discuss viable options. The morning of August 10, a diplomatic note was sent to Sweden and Switzerland, declaring Japanese surrender under one condition: Hirohito must remain in power.

What was unknown to but a select few US personnel was that the next atomic bomb would not be ready until about August 21st. Secretary of State George Marshall and General Leslie Groves believed two bombs would move the Japanese to surrender. On August 13, Major General John Hull telephoned an officer at The Manhattan Project on behalf of General Marshall, saying that the chief of staff wanted all future bombs reserved for tactical use in Operation Olympic, the invasion of Japan. The Manhattan Project officer estimated that seven bombs would be ready. Seven!

At noon on August 14, in Washington, DC, President Truman met with the Duke of Windsor and British Ambassador John Balfour and told them that the latest Japanese message indicated no acceptance of the surrender terms. He had no alternative but to order the dropping of an atomic bomb on Tokyo. Fortunately, at 4:05 p.m. local time, he learned that the Japanese had indeed surrendered.

On August 14, Emperor Hirohito announced to the people of Japan that they had accepted the Allies’ unconditional surrender. He was afraid that soon the US would use this new weapon on Tokyo. Later in the day, Hirohito contemplated two choices; the first his ritual suicide, and the second to resign in total humiliation.

President Truman saved many US soldier’s lives, as well as the lives of many Japanese. Some believe that he also prevented expansion of Communism into Asia, as well.

Atomic scientists then believed that the ground would be safe to walk on one hour after detonation of the a-bomb. Of course, we now know this is far from the truth, and that the far-reaching fallout of those mushroom clouds exists still today, as evidenced in the abnormally high cancer rate of those exposed to atomic radiation.

I never expected to discover these shocking—even harrowing—facts when I began researching this history that I believed I knew rather well. Digging deep to uncover little-known truths is a writer’s job, however, even when writing fiction. Did it surprise you, as it did me, to learn these facts? Or were you taught these events unadulterated? In light of this information, has your opinion of the incidents changed, and if so, how?WP_20150308_001

I’m interested your opinions! Please share with me in the comment section below any thoughts you may have. Who knows? Something you say, or a question you ask, might influence my forthcoming novel. If so, I’ll be sure to thank you in my acknowledgments!



Trinity Project – The Men who changed the World

I am currently writing a book about the Soviets spying on the United States. During my research of The Manhattan Project, in which the Soviets were spying on our development of the atomic bomb, I saw the stressful environment surrounding our scientists and President Truman. World War II was not going well for the Allies, and President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill had to take some radical steps to try to defeat the Axis powers.

Just after the beginning of World War II and extending into the early stages of the Cold War, the Soviets were focused on the United States’ project of building the atomic bomb, commonly referred to as The Manhattan Project. Although the Soviets were Allies with the United States and Great Britain during World War II, their relationship was tenuous, at best—full of distrust. As the Allies, United States and Great Britain, worked shoulder to shoulder on the Manhattan Project, they kept the other Ally, the Soviet Union, out—sort of. The Soviets snuck spies into Los Alamos to learn and steal all they could regarding the development process for the atom bomb, so they could build their own bomb.

There was at least one British scientist, Dr. Klaus Fuchs, at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratories, who was convicted of spying for the Soviets. Fuchs had been a German Communist who’d fled the German Fascists for England before World War II. The British were desperate for scientists with his qualifications, so they overlooked his background once the War started. At least two other scientists, Dr. Robert Oppenheimer and Dr. Hans Bethe, were closely watched by the Soviets throughout the development project.

Prior to the United States entering World War II, some of Germany’s top scientists wished not to help the Germany Nazi Government, nor did they wish to get trapped into helping the Soviet Union. Many of these Eastern European scientists slipped out on their own, going to London or the United States. In late 1942, President Roosevelt was persuaded to start what would become The Manhattan Project. He was convinced by several scientists who came out of Europe at the end of the 1930s, including Albert Einstein and Enrico Fermi. They advised him the Germans were frantically working to develop a super bomb based on atomic technology. Although Roosevelt had initially resisted, after watching the ruthlessness of the German Nazi war machine, he believed they would use the technology if they developed the bomb first, and it could easily tilt their advantage in the war.

Once Roosevelt relented, the United States went to great lengths to build secret laboratories at various locations. The most critical location was Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) in northern New Mexico. At LASL, The Manhattan Project scientists and technicians, directed by Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, investigated the theoretical problems that had to be solved before a nuclear weapon could be developed.Silhouette fedora

While the overall project was named The Manhattan Project, the experimental side at LASL referred to their test as Project TRINITY. Dr. Kenneth Bainbridge was named the director of the Project TRINITY organization, and he reported directly to Director Dr. Oppenheimer, the overall director of LASL. Major General Leslie Groves of the Army Corps of Engineers Manhattan Engineer District supervised the military side of the project.

So secretive was the research that some of the workers who came to Los Alamos were not told what their jobs would be or where they were going, but just to show up and go to work. The scientists and their families did not know what to expect at Los Alamos, and to make matters worse, when they arrived, some of the wives certainly did not find the living conditions to their liking.

As these scientists worked on this theoretical project, they were uncertain of the extent and effects of such a nuclear chain reaction, let alone the hazards of the resulting blast and radiation. Protective measures could be based only on estimates and calculations.

As the development of the bomb neared completion, scientists and engineers at the laboratory begin to wonder what would happen when the bomb was detonated. Some wondered if they would destroy the stratosphere around the blast. Some of the scientists even believed that the entire atmosphere would catch on fire burn up, and then the earth would burn up. Still others feared it would be a total dud, and nothing would happen. There was even a gambling pool at the facility regarding the results of the blast.

On July 16, 1945, the scientists and military finally detonated the device that had been given the code name The Gadget.

Military personnel passed out welder’s glasses for the scientists and military personnel to observe the atomic blast. Some of the scientists and lay on the ground, while others stood. The blast was so strong that it knocked down some of the observers over two miles away.

The TRINITY nuclear device was detonated on a hundred-foot tower with a nuclear yield equivalent to nineteen kilotons of TNT. The light from the explosion created a mushroom cloud that quick rose to over forty thousand feet. The ground beneath the blast turned into radioactive glass. The blast was so brilliant that some residents thought the sun came up twice. It was documented that a blind girl saw the flash, and she was 120 miles away. Naturally, the military had to cover up this development immediately, so they created a story explaining that a huge ammunition dump had exploded.

Reactions to the explosion were mixed: Isidor Rabi thought the equilibrium in nature had been upset, for the first time mankind  had become a threat to destroy its humanity. Robert Oppenheimer, though ecstatic about the success of the project, quoted a remembered fragment from the Bhagavad Gita. “I am become Death,” he said, “the destroyer of worlds.” Ken Bainbridge, the test director, told Oppenheimer, “Now we’re all sons of bitches.”

The world had entered the nuclear age.

On August 6th, the first uranium nuclear bomb, known as Little Boy, was dropped over Hiroshima, then three days later, the plutonium bomb, known as Fat Man, was exploded over Nagasaki. Fat Man was similar to The Gadget.

The United States had fire bombed Tokyo for more than a month, and this only caused the Japanese to become more determined. They developed a plan to defend the homeland, even if women and children had to die. The United States was preparing an invasion plan for mainland Japan, scheduled to begin in November of 1945.

Truman was desperate to end the war, so he decided to drop that bomb. Why was he desperate?

To complicate matters, the Soviets were moving into moving across China into Korea, all in accordance with agreements between Roosevelt and Stalin. However, Truman knew this was not a good development for either the United States or Japan. Truman knew he had to end the war as fast as possible.

On September 2, 1945, the Japanese Empire officially surrendered to the Allied Governments, bringing World War II to an end.

Still to this day, the United States is the only country in the world that has ever used controversial nuclear weapons. However, the use of the two nuclear bombs likely saved lives in the long run, both American and Japanese.

What do you think about this controversial event? Were we right to use nuclear bombs to prevent a worse war? Has America’s—and the world’s—response to this event been worthwhile in the end, or did we create more problems than we solved?