US-Russia relations at their ‘worst since Cold War’ warns expert
In 1939, the Manhattan Project was born at the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico. The research and development proposal was undertaken by the US, the UK and Canada to develop atomic weapons during World War 2. Engineers under the direction of nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer designed two fission bombs – the Little Boy and Fat Man that were later dropped on Japan.
Professor Bruce Cameron Reed has published five textbooks and over 50 journal papers on the top secret mission – and he says there were “multiple factors” behind Washington’s controversial decision.
He told Express.co.uk: “First of all, it was showing the Japanese it was not a one-shot deal – these things could be made in quantity.
“But it sent a political message to Russia that America was going to be the dominant power at the end of the war.
“They weren’t going to develop it at a cost of $2billion and then not use it.
The US planned for the destruction of Moscow
Mr Oppenheimer headed up the project
“Another bomb was also ready to be dropped about a week after Nagasaki, but Harry Truman gave orders to stop any more bombing after that.”
According to declassified files, there were plans for a third bomb to be dropped on August 19, 1945, had the Japanese not surrendered – and some say Tokyo would have been its target.
But while the military prepared for another strike on Japan, President Truman asserted control.
When he was later asked why he halted the plans, he said the thought of wiping out another 100,000 people was “too horrible”.
Prof Reed added: “It was a surprise to me until I began digging into this and looking at it in more detail.
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The Little Boy bomb was dropped at the end of the war
“I didn’t realise how many bombs they were expecting to have by the end of 1945.
“General [Leslie] Groves was anticipating 18-20 weapons being available by the end of the year.
“It drilled home that if a country is going to start making these from scratch, you’re not going to just make one.
“It wasn’t like hand-making a car, you develop the infrastructure to make thousands.”
But even more surprising to the physicist was how early plans were prepared for war with the Soviet Union.
He explained: “If you read some of the considerations of the committees, they were well aware at the highest level that there would probably be a post-war arms race.
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General Leslie Groves
“They knew any advanced country would be able to develop these things and there was a sense that we needed to stay ahead of Russia.
“I recall coming across a document that had fairly detailed plans of attacking Russia as early as 1946.
“They identified a couple of hundred cities and industrial sites that were of interest in a possible war.
“That planning began very soon after World War 2.”
Between 1945 and the USSR’s first detonation of a nuclear device in 1949, the Pentagon developed at least nine nuclear war plans targeting Soviet Russia, according to US researchers Dr Michio Kaku and Dr Daniel Axelrod.
The plans, dubbed Operation Dropshot, were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act and showed the US military’s strategies to initiate a nuclear war with Russia.
Atomic bombing of Nagasaki
For a long period of time, the only obstacle in the way was that the Pentagon did not possess enough atomic bombs.
But in the Fifties, this did not appear to be a problem.
The ‘Strategic Air Command (SAC) Atomic Weapons Requirements Study’ of 1956 showed the most detailed list of nuclear targets that has ever been declassified.
It was made public as a result of a request by William Burr, a senior analyst at George Washington University’s National Security Archive, who directs the group’s nuclear history documentation project.
He wrote: “Their target priorities and nuclear bombing tactics would expose nearby civilians and ‘friendly forces and people to high levels of deadly radioactive fallout.
“The authors developed a plan for the ‘systematic destruction of Soviet bloc urban-industrial targets that specifically and explicitly targeted ‘population’ in all cities, including Beijing, Moscow, Leningrad, East Berlin, and Warsaw.”
Harry Truman stepped in to stop more bombings
The primary aim of the US plan was eliminating the Soviet Union’s airpower – which was regarded as key in their strategy to deploy their own nuclear weapons – since today’s long-range missiles and submarine launchers did not exist.
The files read: “The requirement to win the air battle is paramount to all other considerations.”
The SAC documents, declassified in 2006, include lists of more than 1,100 airfields in the Soviet bloc, with a priority number assigned to each base.
SAC also listed over 1,200 cities, from East Germany to China, also with priorities established.
Moscow and Leningrad were priority one and two respectively.
Moscow included 179 Designated Ground Zeroes (DGZs) while Leningrad had 145, including “population” targets.
Prof Reed spoke of the impacts of the Manhattan Project
In both cities, SAC identified airpower installations, such as Soviet Air Force command centres, which it would have devastated with thermonuclear weapons early in the war.
There were plans to follow that up with a series of “final blows” delivered by atomic bombs eight times the yield of the “Little Boy” bomb dropped in Japan.
Prof Reed has now had his new book ‘Manhattan Project: The Story of the Century’ published to answer crucial questions on the fascinating mission.
The book does not only portray the history and scientific implications but also provides brief biographies of key figures like the head of the Los Alamos Laboratory, Mr Oppenheimer.
Through a variety of illustrations and diagrams, the text chronicles the history of nuclear weapons from the discovery of X-rays to the drop of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
You can buy a copy here.