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The Manhattan Project Essay

1958 words - 8 pages

As recently as 1930, even famous physicists like Ernest Rutherford and Albert Einstein knew there were huge amounts of energy inside of atoms, but didn’t have any way to release it. Things started to change quickly starting in the 1930s. In 1932, Sir John Cockcroft and Ernest Walton were able to cause a nuclear reaction for the first time by artificially accelerated particles, and then in 1934, Irene Curie, Frederic Curie, and Enrico Fermi separately made artificial radioactivity by colliding atoms with alpha particles and neutrons. Coupled with the possibility of a chain reaction for a tremendous amount of energy release, people began to realize that nuclear fission could be used as a ...view middle of the document...

The friendliness between Britain and the United States allowed this new finding to be shared between the two nations, but Lyman Briggs made no effort of sharing this information with his physicists. Briggs' failure then led to the atomic weapon research program to be transferred directly under NDRC's chief Vannevar Bush, in Nov 1941. Briefly, the headquarters of the research project was located at 90 Church Street in Manhattan in New York City. Although it was soon moved, the name Manhattan remained with the project.
William J. Broad October 2007
When the United States entered the war in December 1941, research efforts accelerated. In early 1942, University of Chicago Metals Lab joined in to study plutonium (which had just been discovered by Glenn Seaborg in Feb 1941) while physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer of the University of California at Berkeley took over the research for calculations that had to do with the weapon detonation. John Manley was assigned to help Oppenheimer with his research efforts of over thirty different research sites scattered across the United States. Evan though there were numerous locations, the main research and production was largely carried out at three top secret locations, the knowledge of these locations was not made known until the end of the war.
• The facilities at the remote Los Alamos, New Mexico held the main group of researchers and were responsible for final assembly of the bombs. This location was code named "Site Y".
• The facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which had access to hydroelectric power, provided uranium 235 and plutonium research. This location was code named "Site X".
• The facilities at Hanford Washington, which were near the Columbia River and supplied water to cool reactors, produced plutonium. This location was code named "Site W".
All three locations were carefully located far enough in land to minimize potential air attacks from Germany or Japan.
Historylearningsite.co.uk 2000/NAPF 1998
When he tried to coordinate the weapons research, Roosevelt placed the US Army Corps in charge of the operation. The first officer in charge was James Marshall, who failed to get enough material for research and production. Replacing him was Leslie Groves, who was overseeing the large construction of the Pentagon building. Groves appointed Oppenheimer as the scientific director of the project, which surprised many due to Oppenheimer's radical political views. Groves renamed the project the Manhattan District. He was also promoted to the rank of brigadier general so that he would have enough authority to deal with issues on the project.
While the research continued, the US Army searched out for more uranium. Groves gave the responsibility of searching out for more uranium to Kenneth Nichols, who then visited the New York City office of Edgar Sengier, who was the director of Union Minière du Haut Katanga, a company that owned the world's largest uranium mine in Congo. As it turned...

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