Manhattan Project

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Manhattan Project was the program based in the United States which tried to make the first nuclear weapons. The project went on during World War II, and was run by the U.S. Army. The head of the project was General Leslie R. Groves, who had led the building of the Pentagon. The top scientist on the project was Robert Oppenheimer, a famous physicist. The project cost $2 billion, and created many secret cities and bomb-making factories, such as a laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, a nuclear reactor in Hanford, Washington, and a uranium processing plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The project was a success, and the United States created two nuclear bombs which they used against Japan in 1945.

Espionage[change | change source]

Uncle Sam has removed his hat and is rolling up his sleeves. On the wall in front of him are three monkeys and the slogan: What you see here / What you do here / What you hear here / When you leave here / Let it stay here.
A billboard encouraging secrecy among Oak Ridge workers

The Manhattan Project operated under a blanket of tight security. This was to prevent the Axis countries, especially Nazi Germany, from accelerating their own nuclear projects or undertaking covert operations against the project.[1] The possibility of sabotage was always present. At times, people suspected sabotage when equipment failed. While there were some problems believed to be the result of careless or disgruntled employees, there were no confirmed instances of Axis-instigated sabotage.[2] However, on 10 March 1945, a Japanese fire balloon struck a power line, and the resulting power surge caused the three reactors at Hanford to be temporarily shut down.[3]

Maintaining security was difficult because so many people worked on the project. A special Counter Intelligence Corps detachment handled the project's security issues.[4] By 1943, it was clear that the Soviet Union was trying to penetrate the project. Lieutenant Colonel Boris T. Pash, the head of the Counter Intelligence Branch of the Western Defense Command, investigated suspected Soviet espionage at the Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley. Oppenheimer informed Pash that he had been approached by a fellow professor at Berkeley, Haakon Chevalier, about passing information to the Soviet Union.[5]

The most successful Soviet spy was Klaus Fuchs. Fuchs was member of the British Mission who played an important part at Los Alamos.[6] The 1950 revelation of Fuchs' espionage activities damaged the United States' nuclear cooperation with Britain and Canada.[7] Subsequently, other instances of espionage were uncovered, leading to the arrest of Harry Gold, David Greenglass and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg.[8] Other spies like George Koval remained unknown for decades.[9] People will never know the value of the espionage. One reason was that the Soviet atomic bomb project was held back by a shortage of uranium ore. The consensus is that espionage saved the Soviets one or two years of effort.[10]

References[change | change source]

  1. Jones 1985, pp. 253–255
  2. Jones 1985, pp. 263–264.
  3. Jones 1985, p. 267
  4. Jones 1985, pp. 258–260
  5. Jones 1985, pp. 261–265
  6. Groves 1962, pp. 142–145.
  7. Hewlett & Duncan 1969, pp. 312–314.
  8. Hewlett & Duncan 1969, p. 472.
  9. Broad, William J. (12 November 2007). "A Spy’s Path: Iowa to A-Bomb to Kremlin Honor". The New York Times: pp. 1–2. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/12/us/12koval.html. Retrieved 2 July 2011.
  10. Holloway 1994, pp. 222–223.

Further reading[change | change source]

General, administrative, and diplomatic histories
Technical histories
Participant accounts

Other websites[change | change source]