Friday, September 11, 2009


Further down the road, my interests turned more serious as I became curious about the atomic bomb's history. The mechanism itself, and the beleaguered souls burdened with the responsibility of creating it with the original purpose of getting it done before the Germans. Eventually intelligence revealed the Krauts didn't have what it took to get it done, but the Americans pressed on. After the victory in Europe, America focused it's bomb advancement as a tool to defeat the Japanese and end the war for good.

I inhaled information about the likes of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Tellar, Leo Szilard and others, the physicists who worked feverishly to create this most terrible and gigantic of weapons. They were a varied, maudlin, and sometimes mysterious group of guys from countries all over the world. Oppenheimer, who was put in charge of the top secret project ("Manhattan" as it was labelled) at Los Alamos, New Mexico by General Leslie Groves, had former ties to communism, but hard headed patriot Groves still thought "Oppie" was the man for the job.

In books like "The Bomb: A Life", "Shockwave", and the film "Fat Man and Little Boy" (named after the two types of atomic bombs the scientists at Los Alamos created) really illustrate the tense, yet bizarrely compelling atmosphere of working at that military installation. From the opening pages of "The Bomb", I was sucked into the non-fiction storyline.

Strangely, after the horrifically successful testing of the A bomb in the barren New Mexico desert, and before the subsequent use of Little Boy on Hiroshima, a group of 39 scientists led by Leo Szilard, the man whose mind first gave birth to it's very concept, drafted a petition to stop it from being used. I like to believe I would have gladly signed that document. The petition never made it to President Truman and Hiroshima was the first victim of atomic devastation. Even secretary of war Harry Stimson strongly pushed an idea to demonstrate the bomb on an area where no one would be killed to frighten Japan to surrender. This also was not an accepted method to the brass, doubtful though it may be that the scare tactic would work. Even 3 days after Hiroshima's nightmarish annihilation, the stubborn Japanese were still discussing their options. The meetings stopped after Fat Man detonated over Nagasaki.

These terrifying strings of events occurred long before my birth, and at the time of my doomsday fears I knew little to nothing about them. Had I, my anxieties probably would have tripled in my adolescence, knowing that these things not only could, but actually already had happened. Not a lot of people, including myself until seeing the fantastic film "Thirteen Days" and reading a lot of "Red Scare" material, knew how close we came to mutual button-pushing during the Cuban Missile Crisis. As a kid, I was scared to death of the nuclear fiend, but I had feared it as a down the road apocalyptic nightmare, not a horror story with pre-planted seeds. As a maturing adult I'm glad those childhood apprehensions were not dipped in the fertilizer of historic fact that would quite possibly have made them out-and-out paranoia.


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