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From Fear to Fallout, The Manhattan Project and the Dawn of Nuclear Weapons

Amidst WWII, United States Authorities feared that Hitler would get his hands on nuclear weapons before them. As a result, President Roosevelt started the Manhattan Project to make the first atomic bomb.

Scientists figured out that if they split an atom in half, it released a lot of energy. On July 16, 1945, a scientist named Julius Robert Oppenheimer, also known as the father of the Atomic Bomb, and a few other scientists successfully made the first Atomic Bomb and named it Trinity. They set off the bomb in a remote desert in New Mexico. It had a blast force equivalent to 18,000 U.S. tons of TNT. Although Oppenheimer was happy that his creation was successful, he also feared its potential to create mass destruction.

By the time they made the bomb, Germany had already surrendered, and WWII was over in Europe, but Japan refused to surrender. President Truman decided to drop the bomb on Japan after estimating the U.S. would lose around 500,000 to 1 million soldiers if they tried to invade the country. Even though Oppenheimer disagreed he had to prove his loyalty to protect himself and his family. On Aug. 6, 1945, a bomb named Little Boy, which was around ten feet in length and weighed 10,000 pounds, was dropped by a B-29 bomber plane named Enola Gay on Hiroshima, Japan.

The blast wiped out nearly the whole city, and tens of thousands of people died.

Despite the destruction, Japan still refused to surrender. Three days later, a bigger bomb named Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan. Six days later, Japan finally surrendered. After the war had ended, thousands of people around the world protested to prevent military control of atomic energy. Julius Robert Oppenheimer himself sent a letter to the secretary of war to have nuclear bombs banned because he was concerned about the bomb being used against humanity.

After the war, Oppenheimer served as an adviser to high-ranking government officials. However, in 1954, he was accused of treason for opposing nuclear weapons and brought to court. The judge found him not guilty but shut down his role in the U.S. government. Oppenheimer later retired from the Institute of Advanced Study and died on Feb. 18, 1967.

Atomic bombs are incredibly powerful weapons. Their prior use serves as a reminder of their tremendous power and capabilities and a lesson about the past and the intense battles fought during the time.

[Source: World War II for kids, Encyclopedia Britannica]

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