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The Atom Bomb Key Events Maps Transcript Webography

Page 123456

The Development of the Bomb

You Decide: Was President Truman correct in his decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

The Manhattan Project was the code name of the top-secret effort to develop the atomic bomb. Very few Americans, other than those directly involved, knew of its existence. The remarkable story of the bomb's development included differing opinions about whether the bomb, once developed, should be used in combat.

[The atomic bomb is] "the greatest achievement of organized science in history."

-- President Harry S. Truman

[The atomic bomb] "...was merely another powerful weapon in the arsenal of righteousness."

-- President Harry S. Truman

"President Truman, faced with one of the great moral decisions of human history, was denied access to the petitions of many American nuclear scientists who opposed the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima without warning."

-- U.S. government report, 1963.

Photo: Major General Leslie R. Groves

Several key scientists on the Manhattan Project wanted to release a petition calling for a demonstration of the bomb's power before it was used in combat. The group included Leo Szilard, who, with Enrico Fermi, devised the chain reaction system that made the atomic bomb possible. The petition never became public because General Leslie R. Groves, who headed up the Manhattan Project, had the scientists' petition classified, and then made sure it was not shown to the president.

"If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos [where the bomb was developed] and of Hiroshima."

-- Manhattan Project scientist, J. Robert Oppenheimer, 1945

The United States spent $2 billion dollars developing the atomic bomb, and there was great pressure from some of President Truman's top advisors and from Manhattan Project officials to get the bomb into production before the war in the Pacific was over.

Was President Truman correct in his decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?


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