On August 6, 1945, United States military forces dropped the first atomic bomb used in combat on Hiroshima
, Japan. The bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy," destroyed extensive areas of the city. Experts estimate the immediate human casualties at 100,000 to 140,000 people. Three days later, on August 9, 1945, the U.S. military dropped another atomic bomb, "Fat Man," on Nagasaki, Japan. The world had officially and brutally entered the "Atomic Age.
The "Atomic Age" evolved in stages. In the United States, scientists first began exploring the possibilities of atomic weaponry through the Manhattan Project, a top-secret government research project that began in the late 1930s. As World War II progressed, the urgency to develop an atomic bomb--especially before the Germans did--intensified. When President Franklin Roosevelt died suddenly in April 1945, Vice-President Harry Truman took over the White House and quickly felt pressure to find an end to the long war. The atomic bomb offered one quick, yet complicated, solution. The decision to drop the bomb on a weakening Japan was not without controversy. Truman pressed forward with the decision based on his belief that it would quickly end the war and save the lives of thousands of American troops. On the fiftieth anniversary of the bombing in 1995, historians continued to debate Truman''s reasoning. These debates intensified when the Smithsonian Institution decided to modify its exhibit about the bombing and remove documentation about the damage that it caused the Japanese. This recent controversy illustrates the continuing ambivalence that Americans and historians experience about this pivotal and tragic event of twentieth-century history.
For this assignment, you will write a 5-page paper in which you will explore this historic period the perspective of a scientist from the Manhattan Project.The perspective is described in detail below. Your paper will involve investigative research using the primary and secondary sources compiled within each section below. You do not need to do additional outside research for this paper, but are free to do so if you choose.
In the writing phase of the assignment, you should adopt a creative writing style, yet also present a historical argument through the voice of the person you are portraying. The perspective involves a dilemma which you have to explore and about which you must make a decision. Keep in mind, however, that there is not one "correct" answer for each position. It is more important, in other words, to present adequate historical evidence for your argument (whatever that argument is) than to simply choose a solution that seems "correct."
Here is the descriptions of the perspective. After you have chosen the perspective you would like to pursue, follow the links for access to the primary and secondary materials.
1) A Scientist from the Manhattan Project. You are a scientist who is hired to work on the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb. Early on, you are excited to be included in this important and challenging effort. You are working with many of the premier physicists in the world. As the research and development continues, you witness the bomb tests at the Trinity site in Los Alamos, New Mexico. You begin to realize the frightening power of atomic weaponry and wonder if you can, in good conscience, continue on the project. You also recognize that in a world at war your enemies, especially the Germans, might be developing similar weapons. Some of your colleagues begin to express similar ambivalence and ask you to draft a petition about your concerns.
In this paper, you have to decide: 1) if you will agree to draft the petition and 2) what the petition will say if you do agree to draft it. If you decide not to draft it, you must write a letter to your colleagues explaining why.
Many of the sites below focus on Leo Szilard, since he was one of the most prominent scientists who came to repudiate the use of the bomb. As part of his commitment to eliminate the weapon he helped to create, in 1962 Szilard founded the Council for a Livable World http://www.clw.org/pub/clw/welcome.html,
a group dedicated to the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. A brief bio of Szilard is available from the Szilard papers'' home page
Your paper will involve investigative research using the primary and secondary sources we have compiled in the links below. You do not need to do additional outside research for this paper, but are free to do so if you choose. In the writing phase of the assignment, you should adopt a creative writing style, yet also present a historical argument through the voice of the person you are portraying. Each of the four perspectives involves a dilemma which you have to explore and about which you must make a decision. Keep in mind, however, that there is not one "correct" answer for each position. It is more important, in other words, to present adequate historical evidence for your argument (whatever that argument is) than to simply choose a solution that seems "correct."
I have decided to draft the petition.
"Atomic Age": Excerpts from a Time article of August 20, 1945 which discusses the development of the technology needed to create the bomb.
"The Legacy of Trinity": A history of the first atomic bomb test.
The Leo Szilard Home Page: This is a key site for this perspective. It contains biographical information about Szilard, information about his scientific work, materials on his insistence that scientists accept moral responsibility for their work, primary documents about the decision to drop the bomb, interviews with Szilard, and information about his efforts to stop the use of the bomb on human targets. It also includes Making the Decision to Use The Atomic Bomb
an impressive list of primary documents related to the decision to drop the bomb.
Please go to all the links given on the sites and all the links on those sites.
I looked at some of the sites, links and their links and found some stuff that are helpful:
Petition to Demonstrate Bomb on Non-Human Target: An petition sent by concerned scientists to President Truman. It must be noted that Truman never saw this petition or the others like it. General Groves held these petitions in his office until it was too late for them to influence the President. Later, these petitions would be classified as top secret and they would not be read again until years later.
"The Nation":Time article on the history of the Bomb.
"A Physicist Remembers His Work on the Bomb": Physicist Bernard Feld describes his reservations about the second use of the bomb.
Please look at all the available sites.
This paper is worth 40 percent of my grade!
Back up all your arguments!
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