Marking the Manhattan Project 75 years on

Truman always said that attacking Japan with a-bombs saved many lives on both sides; estimates for the invasion of Japan were that it could take a year and result in 250,000 to 500,000 US deaths.

President Harry S. Truman (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
President Harry S. Truman
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
On August 6, we marked 75 years since the US dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later another bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. It is estimated that the two bombs killed a total of between 129,000 and 226,000 people, most of them civilians.
The US dubbed the development of the bomb The Manhattan Project in a nod to its head, US Army Corps of Engineers officer James C. Marshall, keeping its headquarters on New York City’s Broadway. From 1942 to 1946, this “project” was in existence, employing more than 129 workers.
The administration of US president Franklin D. Roosevelt confirmed this project. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945, with his vice president Harry S. Truman becoming the new President of the United States immediately after Roosevelt’s death.
It is no secret there was enmity between Roosevelt and Truman. Truman was not even invited to the closed-door cabinet meetings and knew nothing about the bomb.
Shortly after taking the oath of office, Truman, who had left a Kansas City bank job to work the family farm in Missouri, spoke to reporters: “Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know if you fellas ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me what happened yesterday, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me.”
Upon assuming the presidency, Truman asked all the members of Roosevelt’s cabinet to remain in place, telling them he was open to their advice. He emphasized a central principle of his administration: He would be the one making decisions, and they were to support him. Although Truman was told briefly on the afternoon of April 12 that the Allies had a new, highly destructive weapon, it was not until April 25 secretary of war Henry Stimson told him the details.
Truman benefited from a honeymoon period after Roosevelt’s death and from the Allies’ success in Europe, ending the war against Nazi Germany. Truman was pleased to issue the proclamation of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) on May 8, 1945, his 61st birthday. In the wake of the Allied victory, Truman journeyed to Europe for the Potsdam Conference alongside the USSR and the UK. It was there that he learned the Trinity test – the code name of the first detonation of a nuclear device – on July 16 had been successful. He hinted to Soviet leader Joseph Stalin that the US was about to use a new kind of weapon against the Japanese. Although this was the first time the Soviets had been officially given information about the atomic bomb, Stalin was already aware of the bomb project, having learned about it through atomic espionage long before Truman did.
In August, the Japanese government again refused surrender demands as specifically outlined in the Potsdam Declaration. With the invasion of mainland Japan imminent, Truman approved the schedule for dropping the two available bombs. What a heavy weight and momentous decision lay on Truman’s shoulders: In less than five months after taking hold of the presidency, he had to make the biggest decision of his life.
Truman always said that attacking Japan with a-bombs saved many lives on both sides; military estimates for the invasion of mainland Japan were that it could take a year and result in 250,000 to 500,000 US casualties. Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki three days later. The Soviet Union declared war on Japan on August 9 and invaded Manchuria. Japan agreed to surrender the following day, on August 10, 1945.
In today’s day and age, a nuclear-armed Iran poses a direct threat to Israel. Iran’s leaders have repeatedly declared that the Jewish state should “be wiped from the world map.” Given the immense power of the nuclear weapon they seek, former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani once gruesomely characterized diminutive Israel as a “one-bomb country.” America’s Arab allies in the Gulf, such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, are deeply alarmed at Tehran’s aggressive regional policy. A nuclear-armed Iran could spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East that would further destabilize this volatile region.
If Iran were allowed to continue to develop nuclear weapons, the threat it poses would increase dramatically. We must avoid this possibility and do all we can to prevent the proliferation of nuclear bombs.