The Atomic Bomb WWII

Volume 4 - The Atomic Bomb

The Atomic Bomb –The End or the Beginning?  traces the development of atomic bomb, code named the Manhattan Project. The video introduces key players, including Leo Szilard, Albert Einstein, General Leslie Richard Groves, Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Dr. Klaus Fuchs. The types of top-secret research conducted at the facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico, are also discussed. The program addresses the development of the B-29 aircraft to carry the bombs nicknamed “Little Boy” and “Fat Man.”

The video explores the conflicting political opinions over staging a test of the atomic bomb, which is conducted at Alamogordo, New Mexico, code named “Trinity.” President Harry S. Truman waits at the Potsdam Conference in Germany for results and acts swiftly to deploy the new weapon when Japan refuses to surrender. The program follows Colonel Paul Tibbets and his crew on their flight in the Enola Gay to drop the first bomb over Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and the flight of Captain Charles Sweeney and his crew in Bock’s Car three days later to bomb Nagasaki.


The devastation and casualties in both cities are staggering, and the decision to drop the atomic bombs remains controversial. Japan agrees to surrender, the United States and the Soviet Union emerge as world powers, and the Cold War begins.


 Learning Objectives

∙  Evaluate the United States’ decision to use nuclear weapons against Japan.

∙  Explain the origins of the Cold War and nuclear politics and assess their impact on the world today.

·  Evaluate the war’s impact on science and technology.


Viewing Questions
Answers appear in italics.

1. What role did Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard play in America’s development of the atomic bomb? (He learned that German scientists had discovered how to split the atom; he persuades Albert Einstein to co-sign a letter to President Roosevelt encouraging him to begin atomic weapons research in order to develop them before the Germans.)


2. Who was Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer? (He was a physicist appointed by General Leslie Groves to direct the Manhattan Project.)


3. Who was Dr. Klaus Fuchs? (He was a Soviet spy who infiltrated the top secret Manhattan Project.)


4. In addition to development of the atom bomb, what other technological advance was required? (Development of an airplane capable of delivering the bomb to the Japanese mainland; Boeing developed the B-29, or Superfortress, which was 25% faster than the existing B-17, could carry a 20,000-pound bomb load and fly more than 4,000 miles.)


5. What military objective had to be obtained in order to deliver the bomb? (To provide an airbase close enough to Japan’s industrial centers so that the B-29 could attack; the U.S. Marines target the Mariana Islands.)


6. Who was to lead the top-secret bombing mission? (Colonel Paul Tibbets.)


7. Describe the two bombs that were being developed. (A uranium-235 bomb nicknamed “Thin Man” was developed in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; its name was changed to “Little Boy” when advances in the bomb’s physics allow it to be shortened from 17 to nine feet. A plutonium implosion bomb nicknamed “Fat Man” was developed by scientists in New Mexico; this bomb is more efficient and can be manufactured more quickly because of the abundance of plutonium.)


8. Who became president upon the sudden death of Franklin Roosevelt on April 12, 1945? (Harry S. Truman, who had been vice president for only 82 days and had no knowledge of the atomic bomb.)


9. What is the significance of Trinity? (The atom bomb was successfully tested at the Alamogordo site; it was the largest chemical explosion ever deliberately denoted up to that time.}


10. What did President Truman demand of Japan in the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945? (That Japan proclaim unconditional surrender of all Japanese forces or face “prompt and utter destruction.”)


11. How did the Japanese government respond? (With silent contempt, which leaves Truman and his advisors no choice but to proceed with the atomic bombing of Japan.)


12. What was the name of the plane that flew the first atomic bombing mission? (Enola Gay, named after Colonel Tibbets’ mother.)

13. What action did President Truman take after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima? (He makes a statement to the American people justifying the bombing.)


14. Why did Japan not surrender after the bombing of Hiroshima? (Because their military code requires death in preference to surrender.)


15. What events eventually forced Japan to surrender? (The Soviets declared war on Japan and invaded Manchuria, and the United States dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki on August 9.)


16. What one condition of surrender was Japan granted? (That Emperor Hirohito stay in power.)


17. What event officially ended World War II? (General Douglas MacArthur’s acceptance of the Japanese surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay.)


18. What controversy surrounds the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? (Whether the bombings could have been avoided or were a necessary military decision.)


19. What begins the Cold War? (At the end of World War II, with the emergence of the United States and Soviet Union as the world’s greatest powers and the beginning of the nuclear arms race.)


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