The race to build the bomb

THE RISING SUN


From 1937 to 1945 scientists in five countries – Japan, Germany, the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union – were pursuing the quest to split the atom and build the bomb

1937:
Japan invades China. Ultranationalist military leaders justify plan to occupy China, Manchuria and Korea under pretext of Hakko Ichiu – ancient Shinto concept of “all the world under one roof”, ruled by Japan’s divine Emperor. Invasion sets Japan on course for World War Two

1938:
German scientists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman demonstrate nuclear fission – splitting the nucleus of a uranium atom and converting some of its mass to energy. Japanese atom bomb project begins under direction of physicist Yoshio Nishina. Japan purchases cyclotron – to enrich uranium – from University of California

1939:
Germany starts project to build atom bomb. Rival teams led by physicists Kurt Diebner and Werner Heisenberg explore uranium and plutonium devices

Aug:
Scientists led by Albert Einstein write to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, warning of Nazi Germany’s A-bomb project. Letter recommends that U.S. develops its own atom bomb – Manhattan Project is born

BLITZKRIEG

Sep:
Adolf Hitler invades Poland. Britain and France declare war on Germany. Britain begins GEN75 project to build atom bomb

1940:
Heisenberg’s protégé, Carl Friedrich Freiherr von Weizsäcke, proposes use of eka-rhenium as nuclear explosive. Eka rhenium – now called neptunium – decays into plutonium

1941:
Heisenberg’s team files patent for plutonium bomb in Germany

Dec 7:
Japan attacks Pearl Harbour, bringing U.S. into war

1942:
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin learns of U.S. and German A-bomb projects. Soviet atomic weapons programme begins under leadership of physicist Igor Kurchatov.

1944:
In U.S., Manhattan Project employs almost 129,000 people – including British and Canadian atom scientists – under leadership of Robert Oppenheimer

RAIN OF STEEL

1945, Apr 1:
U.S. invades Okinawa – last stepping stone on road to Japan – 81-day battle claims more than 110,000 Japanese and 14,000 American lives. U.S. firebombing of Japanese cities forces Tokyo’s A-bomb project to be moved to Hungnam, in what is now North Korea

Apr 12:
Roosevelt dies, Harry S. Truman becomes U.S. president. Briefed on Manhattan Project, Truman sees bomb as way to end war quickly and save American lives

May 7:
Allied armies accept unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany – Pacific war continues

Jun 18:
Truman approves plan to invade and occupy Japan. Invasion will employ 2.7 million U.S. troops

Jul:
Two atomic bombs – uranium-fuelled Little Boy and plutonium-fuelled Fat Man – are transported to Tinian in the U.S.-occupied Marianas

Jul 16, Trinity Test:
After $2 billion of research ($26.3bn in current value), prototype plutonium device is detonated in New Mexico desert. It yields four times more energy than scientists had thought possible. Oppenheimer quotes Hindu Bhagavad Gita: “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”

Jul 26, Potsdam Declaration:
U.S., Britain and China demand that Japan surrender or face “prompt and utter destruction”. Japan ignores declaration

Aug 6, 8:15am:
B-29 bomber Enola Gay, flying at 9,150 metres, drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima, killing almost everyone within 1,000m of ground zero

Aug 9, 11:02am:
U.S. drops plutonium bomb on Nagasaki, killing 40,000 people instantly

Aug 14:
Japan surrenders

Source: Read Full Article