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Nuclear warfare


Subject History » Military History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631168485.1994.x


The use of the two nuclear bombs at Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 and at Nagasaki on 9 August took the history of warfare into a new phase. Research into atomic fission had been underway before 1939 but political upheavals in Europe and then the war itself brought the majority of the scientists involved to Britain and the United States. In 1942 the United States, fearful of the development of the atom bomb in Germany, established the Manhattan Project, a top secret plan to develop and build the first nuclear device. The Manhattan Project brought together all the scientists then involved in atomic fission so that their work could be directed and controlled centrally. By 1945 the Manhattan Project had produced three devices; the first was used in an experimental test at Alamogordo, New Mexico, the second, ‘Little Boy’, a uranium device was used at Hiroshima, and the third, ‘Fat Man’, a plutonium device like that used at Alamogordo, was employed at Nagasaki. ‘Little Boy’ was a ‘gun-type’ weapon with a detonating mechanism which shot one piece of enriched uranium into another in order to create a supercritical mass and an explosion. ‘Fat Man’ used a different mechanism, the ‘implosion method’, with a ring of 64 detonators shooting segments of plutonium together in order to obtain critical mass. At Hiroshima about 80,000 were killed with many more dying in the following days from radiation ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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