A resource guide created for the 75th anniversary of the Trinity Test near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. LA-UR-20-25085.
July 16, 1945:
On this day [...] the US detonated the world's first nuclear weapon, a plutonium-based device, near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Trinity, as the test was known, was successful. Three weeks later, a second successful detonation took place -- over the Japanese city of Hiroshima.
The power from the Gadget’s detonation was equivalent to around 21,000 tons of TNT and its mushroom cloud grew to about 3,280 feet wide, then rose in a column of smoke higher than 40,000 feet (from an internal LANL article).
The Decision to Employ Nuclear Weapons at Hiroshima and Nagasaki by Joe MajerusThroughout human history there may hardly be found any other single decision that still causes such high amounts of scholarly debate as does the dropping of Atomic Bombs upon the Japanese city of Hiroshima in August 6th 1945, and respectively, three days later upon the city of Nagasaki. These events have caused close to 100 000 casualties in the civilian population, and yet, it does not include all of those persons who would later succumb to radiation sickness or severe birth deformations.Historians still debate the alleged plurality of motives underlying this momentous decision. The debate's result is a polarized scholarly discord which by now virtually abounds in a multitude of different theories, and competing suppositions. On the one hand, there are those scholars who argue that the decision rested solely on grounds of military expediency, foremost on the necessity to shorten a gruelling war, and to save the lives of American soldiers.On the other hand, historians offer the explanation that American policy makers above all wanted to exhibit their country's enormous military potency, and therefore, Hiroshima and Nagasaki should demonstrate the vast destructive potential which presently solely the United States had at its command, and so, counter post-war ambitions of the Soviet Union.The author of this study analyses the contextual circumstances in the spring and summer of 1945, and moreover, the principal motives of the key American government officials. Accordingly, the author offers his own substantive and conclusive answer to the question that concerns the primary factors and/or ostensibly ulterior motives that led American decision makers to issue the consequential order to detonate Atomic Bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. First and foremost, the findings rest upon a critical and comprehensive engagement, and are based on the available documentary evidence from this time.
Hotspots by Sue R. RoffThe decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 was made on the assumption that all casualties would be standard explosion casualities... Any person with radiation damage would have been killed with a brick first. But a month later journalists were describing how people uninjured in the initial cataclysm were dying mysterious and horrible deaths from what they could only describe as the atomic plague. It took two full years to get the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission operational in the devastated cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Even then data collection was piecemeal and was brought within the parameters of existing assumptions about the effects of the atom bomb.
The Hanford Plaintiffs by Trisha T. PritikinFor more than four decades beginning in 1944, the Hanford nuclear weapons facility in southeastern Washington State secretly blanketed much of the Pacific Northwest with low-dose ionizing radiation, the byproduct of plutonium production. For those who lived in the vicinity, many of them families of Hanford workers, the consequences soon became apparent as rates of illness and death steadily climbed--despite repeated assurances from the Atomic Energy Commission that the facility posed no threat. Trisha T. Pritikin, who has battled a lifetime of debilitating illness to become a lawyer and advocate for her fellow "downwinders," tells the devastating story of those who were harmed in Hanford's wake and, seeking answers and justice, were subjected to yet more suffering. At the center of The Hanford Plaintiffs are the oral histories of twenty-four people who joined In re Hanford Nuclear Reservation Litigation, the class-action suit that sought recognition of, and recompense for, the grievous injury knowingly caused by Hanford. Radioactive contamination of American communities was not uncommon during the wartime Manhattan Project, nor during the Cold War nuclear buildup that followed. Pritikin interweaves the stories of people poisoned by Hanford with a parallel account of civilians downwind of the Nevada atomic test site, who suffer from identical radiogenic diseases. Against the heartrending details of personal illness and loss and, ultimately, persistence in the face of a legal system that protects the government on all fronts and at all costs, The Hanford Plaintiffs draws a damning picture of the failure of the US Congress and the Judiciary to defend the American public and to adequately redress a catastrophic wrong. Documenting the legal, medical, and human cost of one community's struggle for justice, this book conveys in clear and urgent terms the damage done to ordinary Americans in the name of business, progress, and patriotism.
Publication Date: 2020-02-25
Inevitably Toxic: Historical Perspectives on Contamination, Exposure, and Expertise by Janet BrodieNot a day goes by that humans aren't exposed to toxins in our environment--be it at home, in the car, or workplace. But what about those toxic places and items that aren't marked? Why are we warned about some toxic spaces' substances and not others? The essays in Inevitably Toxic consider the exposure of bodies in the United States, Canada and Japan to radiation, industrial waste, and pesticides. Research shows that appeals to uncertainty have led to social inaction even when evidence, e.g. the link between carbon emissions and global warming, stares us in the face. In some cases, influential scientists, engineers and doctors have deliberately "manufactured doubt" and uncertainty but as the essays in this collection show, there is often no deliberate deception. We tend to think that if we can't see contamination and experts deem it safe, then we are okay. Yet, having knowledge about the uncertainty behind expert claims can awaken us from a false sense of security and alert us to decisions and practices that may in fact cause harm.
Publication Date: 2018
Justice Downwind by Howard BallThis is the astonishing story of how the United States exploded atomic weapons on its own soil. For over a decade, from 1951 to 1963, the U.S. government used the Nevada Test Site to detonate above-ground atomic bombs as part of its postwar military nuclear testing program. "Only" 100,000 people lived downwind of the test site, for the bombs were set off only when the wind was blowing in an easterly direction, that, away from California of Las Vegas. By 1982, over 1,100 people had sued the government for causing injury and wrongful death because the Atomic Energy Commision had acted negligently in implementing the testing. Although scientific knowledge about the hazards of low-level radiation was not extensive at the time, enough was known to have warranted concern. Indeed, immediately after one set of tests in 1953, thousands of sheep and cattle died. But AEC officials, fearful that any public outcry might shut down the program, not only downplayed the significance of the animals' deaths but even went so far as to perpetrate "a fraud on the Court" by hiding evidence that suggested possible connections between the sheep deaths and the nuclear fallout. By 1978 the "downwinders" were no longer concerned with animal deaths. By then most scientific studies had shown associations between the epidemic of childhood leukemia and other cancers and radioactive fallout. This book tells the story of the clash between a group of deeply religious, politically conservative, fiercely patriotic citizens and an overzealous independent regulatory agency bent on exercising its own power in the name of national security. Pressing their case in the courts and in Congress, the downwind plaintiffs learned they were no match for a government even now extremely reluctant to admit its responsibility. About the Author: Howard Ball is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Science at the University of Utah and author of many books, including Federal Regulatory Agencies and Courts and Politics.
Restricted Data by Alex WellersteinThe first full history of US nuclear secrecy, from its origins in the late 1930s to our post-Cold War present. The American atomic bomb was born in secrecy. From the moment scientists first conceived of its possibility to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and beyond, there were efforts to control the spread of nuclear information and the newly discovered scientific facts that made such powerful weapons possible. The totalizing scientific secrecy that the atomic bomb appeared to demand was new, unusual, and very nearly unprecedented. It was foreign to American science and American democracy--and potentially incompatible with both. From the beginning, this secrecy was controversial, and it was always contested. The atomic bomb was not merely the application of science to war, but the result of decades of investment in scientific education, infrastructure, and global collaboration. If secrecy became the norm, how would science survive? Drawing on troves of declassified files, including records released by the government for the first time through the author's efforts, Restricted Data traces the complex evolution of the US nuclear secrecy regime from the first whisper of the atomic bomb through the mounting tensions of the Cold War and into the early twenty-first century. A compelling history of powerful ideas at war, it tells a story that feels distinctly American: rich, sprawling, and built on the conflict between high-minded idealism and ugly, fearful power.
Publication Date: 2021-04-09
Secret Mesa by Jo Ann Shroyer"It's easy to feel watched in Los Alamos," begins award-winning journalist Jo Ann Shroyer in this engrossing profile of life and work inside the world's most notorious science research center. Los Alamos is a world unto itself, rife with contradictions, haunted by its history, and yet bustling with an astonishing range of forefront science projects, from cancer research to the building of robotic ants. This is a town with the highest concentration of Ph.D.'s anywhere in the world; where children sometimes aren't allowed to know what their parents do for a living; and where weapons designers offer philosophical insights into why only deadly weapons can ensure lasting peace.
Publication Date: 1997-10-24
Super Bomb by Ken Young; Warner R. SchillingSuper Bomb unveils the story of the events leading up to President Harry S. Truman's 1950 decision to develop a "super," or hydrogen, bomb. That fateful decision and its immediate consequences are detailed in a diverse and complete account built on newly released archives and previously hidden contemporaneous interviews with more than sixty political, military, and scientific figures who were involved in the decision. Ken Young and Warner R. Schilling present the expectations, hopes, and fears of the key individuals who lobbied for and against developing the H-bomb. They portray the conflicts that arose over the H-bomb as rooted in the distinct interests of the Atomic Energy Commission, the Los Alamos laboratory, the Pentagon and State Department, the Congress, and the White House. But as they clearly show, once Truman made his decision in 1950, resistance to the H-bomb opportunistically shifted to new debates about the development of tactical nuclear weapons, continental air defense, and other aspects of nuclear weapons policy. What Super Bomb reveals is that in many ways the H-bomb struggle was a proxy battle over the morality and effectiveness of strategic bombardment and the role and doctrine of the US Strategic Air Command.
These items are available through the LANL Research Library. You can also use services such as WorldCat to check if another library near you has a physical or electronic copy of any of the materials on this guide.
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The atomic bomb : the story of the Manhattan Project : how nuclear physics became a global geopolitical game-changer by Bruce Cameron ReedThis volume, prepared by an acknowledged expert on the Manhattan Project, gives a concise, fast-paced account of all major aspects of the project at a level accessible to an undergraduate college or advanced high-school student familiar with some basic concepts of energy, atomic structure, and isotopes. The text describes the underlying scientific discoveries that made nuclear weapons possible, how the project was organized, the daunting challenges faced and overcome in obtaining fissile uranium and plutonium, and in designing workable bombs, the dramatic Trinity test carried out in the desert of southern New Mexico in July 1945, and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The History and Science of the Manhattan Project by Bruce ReedIn this book, a physicist and expert on the history of the Manhattan Project clearly explains the underlying science behind the development of the atomic bomb, including how atomic bombs work, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki missions, and the legacy of the Project. The development of atomic bombs under the auspices of the U.S. Army's Manhattan Project during World War II is considered to be the outstanding news story of the twentieth century. In this book, a physicist and expert on the history of the Project presents a comprehensive overview of this momentous achievement. The first three chapters cover the history of nuclear physics from the discovery of radioactivity to the discovery of fission, and would be ideal for instructors of a sophomore-level "Modern Physics" course. Student-level exercises at the ends of the chapters are accompanied by answers. Chapter 7 covers the physics of first-generation fission weapons at a similar level, again accompanied by exercises and answers. For the... Previous edition: 2014.
Publication Date: 2019
The Los Alamos Primer by Robert Serber; Richard Lee Rhodes (Editor, Introduction by)The classified lectures that galvanized the Manhattan Project scientists--with annotations for the nonspecialist reader and an introduction by a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian. In March 1943 a group of young scientists, sequestered on a mesa near Santa Fe, attended a crash course in the new atomic physics. The lecturer was Robert Serber, J. Robert Oppenheimer's protégé, and they learned that their job was to invent the world's first atomic bomb. Serber's lecture notes, nicknamed the "Los Alamos Primer," were mimeographed and passed from hand to hand, remaining classified for many years. They are published here for the first time, and now contemporary readers can see just how much was known and how terrifyingly much was unknown when the Manhattan Project began. Could this "gadget," based on the newly discovered principles of nuclear fission, really be designed and built? Could it be small enough and light enough for an airplane to carry? If it could be built, could it be controlled? Working with Richard Rhodes, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian of the development of the atomic bomb, Professor Serber has annotated original lecture notes with explanations of the physics terms for the nonspecialist. His preface, an informal memoir, vividly conveys the mingled excitement, uncertainty, and intensity felt by the Manhattan Project scientists. Rhodes's introduction provides a brief history of the development of atomic physics up to the day that Serber stood before his blackboard at Los Alamos. In this edition, The Los Alamos Primer finally emerges from the archives to give a new understanding of the very beginning of nuclear weapons. No seminar anywhere has had greater historical consequences.
Publication Date: 1992-03-02
The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Lee RhodesThe author recounts the story of how the atomic bomb was developed, from the discovery at the turn of century of the vast energy locked inside the atom, to the dropping of the first bombs on Japan during the Second World War.
Publication Date: 1995-08-01
Manhattan Project by Cynthia C. Kelly; Richard Rhodes (Introduction by)The definitive collection of writings on the Manhattan Project by the pre-eminent scientists, historians, and the everyday observers who bore witness to the birth of the modern nuclear age. Begun in 1939, the Manhattan Project eventually employed more than 130,000 people, including our foremost scientists and thinkers, and cost nearly $2 billion, while operating under a shroud of absolute secrecy. This groundbreaking collection of documents, essays, articles, and excerpts from histories, biographies, plays, novels, letters, and the oral histories of key eyewitnesses provides unique perspectives for the historian and student of history all compiled by experts at the Atomic Heritage Foundation. Photographs throughout depict key moments and pivotal figures. The Manhattan Project gives actual voice to a significant period in history.
Publication Date: 2007-09-17
Badash, L. American Physicists, Nuclear Weapons in World War II, and Social Responsibility. Phys. perspect.7, 138–149 (2005). https://doi-org.lanl.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s00016-003-0215-6
Bainbridge, Kenneth T. Series of interviews on the Trinity Test Site. LAMD-1972. Available on Los Alamos Authors.