The Nuclear Era Begins: A Brief Background on the Trinity Project
The 20th Century unleashed a fury of new technologies and discoveries that changed the course of the world. Developments in physics led the charge with the likes of Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch who, in 1939, demonstrated and coined the process of fission. Potentially, no individual discovery influenced the course of history like the development of nuclear fission. With the world at war, and the Axis forces winning on multiple fronts, the United States chose to utilize these latest discoveries to create the most devastating weapons this world had ever seen, the nuclear bomb. These theories of physics and engineering initially became a reality in New Mexico, and eventually led to the deployment of two nuclear bombs in Japan; thus, swinging the tide of World War II to the Allies’ favor.
The top secret development, construction, and testing of these technologies is known as the Trinity Project and changed the world forever. From 1945 to 1962, the United States government, through the Manhattan Engineer District (MED) and its successor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), conducted 235 tests of nuclear devices at sites in the United States and in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. In total, an estimated 220,000 Department of Defense (DOD) participants, both military and civilian, were present at the tests. Project TRINITY, the war-time effort to test-fire a nuclear explosive device, was the first atmospheric nuclear weapons test (Lansing, 1965).
Establishment of a United States Nuclear Program
Prior to World War II, the United States of America had very little interest in the development of a nuclear weapon. German forces seized control of Belgium in May 1940, prompting the Belgians to forward their uranium holdings to the United States (Lansing, 1965). The isolation of the plutonium element in early 1941, followed by a report from the British Government that a nuclear weapon was feasible, pushed the United States towards a nuclear development. It was not until the U.S. received reports of a German nuclear weapon and a letter from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt, pleading for nuclear development, that the United States instituted a nuclear program. President Roosevelt established the S-1 Committee on 6 December 1941, to identify and recommend that the United States develop a nuclear weapon. The S-1 Committee submitted a recommendation to President Roosevelt for an expedited nuclear program with the intention of establishing a nuclear weapon by July 1944 (Lansing, 1965).
Beginning Stages of the Trinity Project
In September 1942, the War Department, tasked with developing the nuclear weapon, assigned the task to the Army Corp of Engineers. The Manhattan Engineer District (MED) was born and the project was code named, the “Manhattan Project”. The Manhattan Project constructed facilities throughout the country, one of which was in New...