Monday, August 9, 1945: Part 2

August 9 marks the 65th anniversary of the atom bomb’s use against the Japanese at Nagasaki (August 6 at Hiroshima). As Robert Oppenheimer observed, “We knew the world would not be the same … We have made a thing, a most terrible weapon that has altered abruptly and profoundly the nature of the world … a thing that by all the standards of the world we grew up in is an evil thing.” Since August 6, 1945, many people have tried to come to terms with that thing. Here are a few library materials to help in that process (more mentioned in part 1):

Picturing the Bomb: Photographs from the Secret World of the Manhattan Project by Rachel Fermi and Esther Samra. A great collection of photos about the development of the atomic bomb—snapshots of the scientists at Los Alamos, pictures from the labs, an atomic ‘pile’ under construction, the Trinity site before and after the first explosion and declassified pictures of the Oak Ridge and Hanford manufacturing sites. Includes photographs of the first Russian spy in the project, the brilliant Hungarian physicist who first visualized the bomb and the Army manager of the whole Manhattan Project.

The General and the Bomb: a Biography of General Leslie R. Groves, Director of the Manhattan Project by William Lawren. Leslie Groves was not the most attractive figure in the a-bomb story.  He was a driven, forceful man referred to as the ‘angriest man in the Army.’ Fresh from constructing the Pentagon, Groves was tasked with the Manhattan project, overseeing not only the research to develop the bomb, but also the construction of uranium and plutonium factories, the construction of worker housing and management of transportation. All aspects of the enormous undertaking were marked by his aggressive, hyper-competent, but arrogant, personality.

Hiroshima by John Hersey. First published as an issue of the New Yorker in August, 1946, Hersey’s description is based on first-person accounts of the bombing and narratives from some of the survivors. It seems that nobody could really grasp the totality of the impact of the atomic bomb on the world. Development of the philosophy of deterrence as a foreign policy had to have been the product of minds not exposed to the actual dreadfulness of the weapon.

The Manhattan Project: An Interactive History by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of History and Heritage Resources. Still under development, this website promises to bring together many currents associated with the atomic bomb, including the technical developments, personalities, industrial projects and the spiritual challenges which the weapon continues to offer today. This resource includes many excellent photos.

Brotherhood of the Bomb: the Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller by Gregg Herken. One of the most interesting aspects of the development of the Manhattan project was the personalities of the principal researchers. Differences between Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller and Ernest Lawrence had as much do to with their temperaments as to their beliefs about the weapon they were creating.


~John S.

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