On this day - The first atomic bomb detonated in 1945

On July 16, 1945, scientists successfully tested a plutonium implosion bomb at an airbase in the desert of New Mexico.
 
  • Atomic bomb detonating
    Tori Mayo
    By  
    Last updated: 06 August 2013, 07:26 BST

    At 5.30am on Monday, July 16, 1945, the atomic age began.

    In a race to prevent Adolf Hitler from building an atomic bomb, the US-led 'Manhattan Project' succeeded in detonating the world’s first nuclear bomb.

    The test, code-named 'Trinity', was the culmination of three years' planning and development lead by the US Government.

    In 1938, physicist Albert Einstein alerted US President Franklin D. Roosevelt to research on chain reactions using uranium and the possibility that this might lead to the development of powerful bombs.

    Einstein and fellow physicist Leo Szilard believed the Nazis were also conducting research in this area.

    Later to become known as the 'father of the atomic bomb', Robert Oppenheimer was appointed to lead a team of theoretical physicists.

    He worked with Major General Leslie R. Groves, who commanded the military side of the operation.

    Oppenheimer set up the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in northern New Mexico where the first atomic bombs were designed and fabricated.
     
    After several years of secret experiments and production, the American team beat Germany and the rest of the superpowers in creating the first atomic bomb.

    Scientists and high-ranking military personnel watched from 10,000 yards away as the first mushroom cloud of searing light stretched 40,000 feet into the air and generated the destructive power of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT.

    The tower on which the bomb sat when detonated was vaporised in an instant.

    Within a month, similar fates would befall the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    The destructive power of atomic weapons haunted many of the Manhattan Project scientists.

    Years later, Oppenheimer fought back tears as he recalled that first blast. He said it brought to mind a line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

    Tori Mayo
    By  
    Last updated: 06 August 2013, 07:26 BST

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