July 16, 1945 ~ The Birth of the Atom Bomb
July 16, 1945 – The United States conducted its first test of an atomic bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Early in World War II, the United States learned that Nazi Germany was working to develop an atomic weapon.
This revelation raised more than a few red flags and led to the establishment of the Manhattan Project in August 1942.
Manhattan brought together the best scientific minds of the generation to study the feasibility of building an atomic bomb capable of unimaginable destructive power.
By July 1945, a prototype weapon was ready for testing.
Although Germany had surrendered months earlier, the war against Japan was still raging, so time was of the essence.
The device, informally nicknamed “The Gadget”, was of the same design as the Fat Man, the bomb later detonated over Nagasaki, Japan.
On July 16, The Trinity Test was conducted and the Gadet was detonated in the desert near Los Alamos.
The Gadget’s detonation released the explosive energy of nearly 22 kilotons of TNT.
Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, director of the project, watched the mushroom cloud rise into the Nevada sky and recited a Hindu passage from the Baghavad Gita.
“Now I am become death, destroyer of worlds.”
News of the successful test was relayed to President Harry S. Truman, who was meeting with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Potsdam to discuss the postwar world.
According to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Truman was elated.
Truman and many other U.S. officials hoped that possession of the atomic bomb would be America’s trump card in dealing with the Soviets after the war.
Less than a month later Truman would make the decision to use the weapon against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki bringing a swift end to World War II.
The American atomic monopoly did not last long, though.
By 1949, the Soviets had developed their own atomic bomb, marking the beginning of the nuclear arms race.
The test site for the Gadget was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1965, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places the following year.
Thousands visit the landmark each year.