When World War II started, the United States decided to not get involved and stay neutral. They intended to simply provide support to the Allied Powers, mainly France and Britain. On December, 7th, 1941, Japan, one of the Axis Powers, attempted to remove the U.S. Navy threat from the Pacific. They attacked Pearl Harbor and killed many U.S soldiers and Navy personnel. As a result, the United States declared war. The Japanese made a huge mistake bombing Pearl Harbor that would cost them and the rest of the Axis Powers the war. Hiroshima and Nagasaki would eventually have a similar fate, but in a much more devastating fashion.
The Axis Powers lose World War II
In 1945, the Axis Powers lost the war and began to surrender to the Allies. Both Germany and Italy had surrendered already, but Japan kept fighting and refused to surrender. At this point, the United States’ option was to send troops to fight and invade Japan. Allied military leaders estimated that almost one million soldiers would lose their lives in an invasion. This was completely unacceptable since the war was already won. There had to be another solution to resolve the problem of Japan and the United States had the alternative.
A German Scientist provides the solution!
When World War II started, scientists had already figured out that if they succeeded at splitting the atom, a massive explosion would happen. The resulting explosion would be able to destroy big cities with a single bomb!
The scientist who had the idea of the atomic bomb was Albert Einstein. During his visit to the United States in 1933, Einstein learned that the Nazi Party had gained control over Germany. Being born to Jewish parents, Einstein knew that he would not be able to go home now.
The Manhattan Project starts
Einstein wrote to the United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, letting him know about his theories about the atomic bomb. He also explained his fears of having the Nazis learn about it and attempt to make it first. President Roosevelt gathered top scientists to work on making the atomic bomb and as a result, started the Manhattan Project. The Manhattan Project was the codename for the program established to develop the atomic bomb.
The U.S. government kept adding to the team of scientists working on the Manhattan Project to achieve their goal sooner. In addition, they kept spending more and more money on the project as final budget estimates were $2 billion! There were 200,000 people working on the Manhattan Project.
In July 1945, the Manhattan Project team successfully tested the first atomic bomb in the desert of New Mexico. When President Harry Truman received the news, he wrote that the U.S. had discovered the most terrible weapon in the history of the world. The explosion was equal to 18,000 tons of TNT and the temperature in its center was three times hotter than the sun!
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
To save the lives of hundreds of thousands of soldiers who would die invading Japan, President Harry Truman chose to take the drastic measure of using the atomic bomb. The first bomb, named Little Boy, was dropped on the city of Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945. The city was immediately destroyed and tens of thousands of people were killed. The plane that dropped the bomb was the Enola Gay and was flown by pilot Colonel Paul Tibbetts. Little Boy weighed 10,000 pounds and needed a parachute on it to slow it down in order for the Enola Gay to fly away in time.
Ignoring the destruction this bomb caused to the city, the Emperor of Japan still refused to surrender. This forced the United States to drop another atomic bomb, named Fat Man, three days later on the city of Nagasaki. Once more, the destruction was devastating and tens of thousands more people died. Six days after the second bombing, the Japanese forces surrendered to the United States. The Japanese Emperor announced his surrender over the radio, which was the first the Japanese people had ever heard his voice!
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