On August 6, 1945, the Japanese city of Hiroshima was evaporated by the first atomic bomb. Two days later, the second city, Nagasaki, was vaporized by another atomic explosion. The following month, September 2, 1945, the Japanese Empire surrendered. The man who was responsible for the core mechanics of the weapon was a Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer. What most people don’t realize is the anguish of making such a destructive weapon haunted him for the rest of his days.
Eight years and three months later, Oppenheimer was suspected of being a Communist. The government and most of his colleagues mistrusted him. He refused to let go of his clearance which the government wanted to revoke. Instead, he continued his work until they brought him before a court. People still debate whether it was a fair trial, or a result of mass-communist paranoia.
When the doctor came to the stand you could see the weight that had encumbered him. He had dark sags under his eyes. Wrinkles plagued his face. He was much too skinny and his white hair had been cut to a close shaved. Most notable, though, was the lack of life behind his eyes. Anyone could see that he was tired of politics and weapons.
In the documentary, The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the film shows the recordings of Mr. Oppenheimer’s trial with a small amount of commentary. It is a near exact video transcript.
There is a moment in the documentary, in particular, that speaks volumes about Oppenheimer’s view. He is asked what his reaction was when he witnessed the success of the bomb. The viewer can see his mind wander back to that moment as he says: “We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed. A few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu Scripture the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. I suppose we all thought that one way or another.”
It is a somber answer to a significant occasion in human history. A mighty weapon that he and others, created to stop the worst war mankind ever waged. Yet, he saw it as godlike destruction.
You quickly understand this from his first statement. He and his colleagues knew that this was big. Everyone part of the project knew they had just turned the course of history in a radical direction. A time that mankind had never explored.
He takes into account the polarity of the reactions around him. Some of his...