Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project: Overcoming wwii and Conquering Over Japan

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Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project: Overcoming WWII and Conquering Over Japan

Bailey Gage

Junior Division

Historical Paper

Paper Length: 2,489 words

Robert Oppenheimer and his huge contribution to the Manhattan Project created such an impact on the world, that it affects how humans live today. His exploration of solutions that would force Japan to surrender ended WWII while his exchange of ideas created a different way of viewing America and it’s power.

WWII started in 1933 when Adolf Hitler was elected as leader in Germany.

In 1938, three chemists in Berlin made a marvelous discovery that would eventually change the world. That marvelous discovery was the splitting of the Uranium Atom.1 The energy that was released when this happened was powerful enough to create a deadly weapon.

Einstein became concerned and worried and wrote a letter to President Roosevelt. Einstein’s letter helped begin the United State’s effort to construct the Atomic Bomb slowly, but surely.

In 1939, Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister of Britain declared war on Germany. Although war was declared on Germany, several other countries were involved. At this time, America refused to ship goods to Japan, due to the war. Japan became furious because they were already going through job losses and natural disasters, so then Pearl Harbor was destroyed by Japan. This also angered America, and we decided to fight back.2

This is where Oppenheimer comes in. Robert Oppenheimer was a brilliant Physicist that was elected leader of a project called The Manhattan Project, a project that would eventually end WWII and conquer Japan. Without Oppenheimer’s brilliant work, we may not have won WWII.

During the construction of the bomb, Oppenheimer had to explore different and successful ways to force Japan to surrender, and for the massive weapon that they would create to cause major destruction. While constructing this weapon, an Atomic Bomb, the other physicists encountered disagreements of failures of ideas. Materials would sometimes turn out unusable, or sometimes people would disagree on materials to use, or methods to construct the Bomb. Although there were plenty of negative encounters, there were positive encounters, too. Test detonations would turn out successful, like the test detonation at White Sands, New Mexico.3 As a final point, Oppenheimer’s work changed our world in such a huge manner, that without his work, people’s lives wouldn’t be the same today.

As a child, Oppenheimer wasn’t similar to other children. He wasn’t very athletic, preferred to stay inside, and avoided physical activity. Once, the principal at his school sent Oppenheimer home with a note that said, “Please teach your son to walk upstairs; he is holding up class.” At age 11 Oppenheimer was elected to the New York Mineralogical Club because of his fascinating papers he wrote about rocks and minerals. Robert eventually moved on to study crystallization and the refraction of light.4 Lastly, Oppenheimer wasn’t like other children, and his interests would help him in the future.

All through school, Oppenheimer was a studious, successful student. Throughout Middle School, Oppenheimer’s love for chemistry gradually grew. Oppenheimer went to College at Harvard’s but was unsure on which topic he should study. A friend replied, “Study Chemistry; there are always Summer Vacations.”5

As Robert followed through with college he took six courses at a time so that he would graduate in 3 years. Oppenheimer eventually knew several languages including Spanish, interested in not experimental, but theoretical physics.6

Oppenheimer accepted an invitation from Max Born to study with him at the University of Göttingen, Germany. At Göttingen Robert worked with Max Born, Paul Dirac, Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg, and Edward Condon.7 Max and Oppenheimer (Co-Publisher) published a paper about the Quantum Theory of Molecules. Even though at the time Oppenheimer was only 22, his reputation as a theoretician was growing.8

In 1923, Oppenheimer received his doctorate degree from Harvard’s. Oppenheimer was inspired by professor Percy Bridgman, an experimental physicist who taught at Harvard. Even though Oppenheimer majored in chemistry he had a deep passion for the study of physics. Robert became accepted to be a “founding father of the American school of theoretical physics.”9 In 1929, Robert’s main interest was the Theory of Continuous Spectra, which was unexplored territory.10 Robert also did meaningful research on nuclear physics, astrophysics, quantum field theory, and spectroscopy.11 In college, Oppenheimer explored a lot. During studying he explored ways to succeed in his work, and while learning, he explored ways to succeed in his work as well.

People were often jealous of Oppenheimer’s successes. Throughout school Oppenheimer also encountered struggles. Assignments would turn out to be maybe a little hard, but Oppenheimer always found a way to succeed. Oppenheimer also encountered good things throughout his education. For example, Oppenheimer wrote several informative papers on things like Quantum Mechanics and other related topics.

Exchange also had a big role in Oppenheimer’s education. Information was exchanged through Oppenheimer and his Professors or Colleagues. This helped Oppenheimer’s intelligence grow, and helped him become more successful in his work. His work helped him exceed in life as a physicist because with all of the information he had gained in school and at Harvard he would eventually create the world’s most deadly weapon and conquer Japan. Jennifer Fandel, the author of the book, The Atomic Bomb, says, “Oppenheimer was driven by a desire to make a scientific discovery.”12 With these points given, Oppenheimer was very successful at Harvard, and his work helped him exceed in life as a physicist. Oppenheimer’s exploration, encounter, and exchange changed his life and would soon change the life of many others.

Seventeen years after graduating from Harvard, in 1942, the Manhattan Project was established. The Manhattan Project was funded by the Government and lead by Leslie R. Groves. Groves was unimpressed with the project because he didn’t understand the science behind the bomb. His confidence quickly grew, though. “[Oppenheimer’s] a genius… and a good hard worker. He can talk to you about anything you bring up. Well, not exactly. He doesn’t know anything about sports,” 13says Groves. Robert was appointed as the scientific director by Groves. He was expected to gather the smartest people he could find. Those included people such as Enrico Fermi, Hans Bethe, Richard Feynman, Victor Weisskopf, and several others.14 Oppenheimer and other physicists such as Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Hans Bethe, and many others got permission from Franklin D. Roosevelt, our president at the time to start the project and construct the Atomic Bomb. The physicists in the Manhattan Project tried to finish the bomb as quickly as they could because in Germany Adolf Hitler and others were in the process of constructing their own Atomic Bomb. They had found this information from spies they had sent to Germany.

There was now no time to waste; the race was on. Oppenheimer and the crew were so rushed because back in Germany Adolf Hitler and others were in the process of constructing an atomic bomb, too. If Hitler succeeded, he would use his creation on other countries and make WWII more violent than it was already. The assembly of the bomb was lots of long, hard, work. The bomb would be constructed with Plutonium, a radioactive element with an atomic number, 94, and was discovered in 1940. Plutonium had not existed four years earlier so nobody knew what the bomb would do when it detonated. Enrico Fermi thought that the bomb might set fire to the Earth’s atmosphere and create large fires around the world.15 When constructed, the hemispheres of the plutonium in the atomic bomb were slightly bigger than a tennis ball.16 On July 16, 1945, an atomic bomb, Trinity had been created and detonated at a test site, White Sands in New Mexico. At this test detonation, an atomic bomb, Trinity, had detonated successfully. When it exploded, with the force of 10,000 tons of TNT, it formed a mushroom cloud that rose to 41,000 feet, which is 11, 971 feet taller than Mount Everest.

Enrico Fermi wrote a memo about the time of the explosion. He claims, “Although I did not look directly towards the object I had the impression that suddenly the countryside became brighter than in full daylight.” Enrico says that his face was protected by a large board with a dark piece of welding glass that had been inserted.17 Anything else exposed received a sensation of heat when the bomb detonated. At around 40 seconds after the bomb exploded the blast of hot air reached the crowd. A man named Sam Allison did the countdown and advised everybody to look away when the bomb detonated even though they were 20 miles away.18 Oppenheimer told a journalist about a passage he was reminded of that moment. It is from the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu book of scripture: “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.” 19 The heat of the explosion was 100,000,000 ˚F.

During the assembly of the Atomic Bomb, exploration was a big part of a lot of things. The physicists had to explore different ways to construct the bomb without having anything go wrong or having the bomb ending up not working after so much money had already been spent. Ideas were exchanged, and everybody encountered disagreements at a point or two. People would argue over certain materials to use or methods of construction. Oppenheimer was responsible for the design and the research of the Atomic Bomb.20 Nobody thought the Manhattan Project would be successful even though there were geniuses in the program.21

The Manhattan Project was the largest scientific program ever, having over 100,000 people around the ages of 20-30 working on the bombs’ development! There were also a wide variety of people that had a contribution in the project from College Professors to High School Girls! There were also many spies, and some even spilled out some secrets.22

During the construction of the Atomic Bomb, letters were exchanged with the President and physicists, asking them to join the project. For example, on Thursday, March 11, 1948 Oppenheimer wrote a letter to Enrico Fermi inviting him to come to the Los Alamos Laboratory and contribute to the Manhattan Project. He sent the same letter to Robert Bacher, Hans Bethe, Felix Bloch, and several more. Oppenheimer said, “The background of our work is complicated, and information in the past has been so highly compartmentalized, that it seems that we shall have a good deal to gain from a leisurely and thorough discussion. We are still a little vague on how complete the living arrangements at the site will be and how soon we can get things going there.”23 Overall, Oppenheimer’s work in College turned out to be very meaningful during the formation of the Manhattan Project and the construction of the Atomic Bomb.

Three years later, two Atomic Bombs, Little Boy and Fat Man, were successfully completed and ready to be detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The jets that dropped the two bombs names’ were Enola Gay and Bock’s Car. Enola Gay dropped Little Boy and was a Boeing B-29 Super fortress bomber. Bock’s Car was also a B-29 Bomber and dropped Fat Man. Nuclear bombs are made usually by two designs, an implosion design or a gun-type assembly. Little Boy would hit Nagasaki, and Fat Man would hit Hiroshima. Little Boy, a uranium gun-type bomb, weighed 9700 pounds and the bomb was dropped at 8.15 AM at 31,000 feet and hit the city of Nagasaki with the force of 15,000 tons of TNT. Fat Man, a Plutonium implosion bomb, weighed 10,800 pounds and was dropped on the city of Hiroshima at 11:0124

Oppenheimer thought that the threat of bombing Japan was enough to make them surrender, but he was incorrect, and the bombs were dropped. In a letter written to Japan titled, “Announcement To The People of Japan,” the crew states, “We are going to break all aspects of the military that protracts this useless war.”25 Once detonated, the bomb destroyed 5 square miles and 140,000 died at the end of 1945. The amount of damage the two bombs combined made was unimaginable and massive. The hypocenter of the explosion was 7,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and the mushroom cloud could be seen 360 miles away. The detonation also destroyed things from miles away. Roofs from a distance were melted, and things were destroyed by the wind speed the bomb gave when it detonated, 620 mph. Matter weighing as much as a paper clip generated the explosion at Hiroshima. Anybody who survived the explosions would later on die from radiation exposure. In fact, 60,000 people in Hiroshima died of Radiation Poisoning. In a matter of 5 days 138,661 people died, and 150,000 estimated people died in 5 years due to radiation exposure. Journalists and Servicemen came to the scene and saw horrifying images like people coughing up and urinating blood. After the detonation of the two bombs, Japan surrendered and WWII was finally over.

Now that WWII was over, people now saw how much power America had and saw how our determination and successes made us a better, more powerful country. Gordon McDonough, an expert on the Manhattan Project says, “WWII was a horror unlike any ever seen on earth before.”26 Steve Sheinkin, the author of the book, “Bomb,” says, “I think [Oppenheimer] was trying really hard to end the war, but when he realized the US and other countries were going to continue making atomic weapons, he probably wished he’d never helped create this weapon.”27 By the end of WWII about 9,000,000 people, soldiers, and combatants throughout Europe died. In the end, Oppenheimer’s life-changing work became a success, like he planned it would, and impacted the lives of others and changed America’s history. Without his intelligence and determination in this huge project, our lives wouldn’t be the same today.

To conclude, Oppenheimer’s work in the Manhattan Project impacted people’s lives, and because of his work people now see America as a successful and determined country. I believe that my evidence has proven that Robert Oppenheimer and his huge contribution to the Manhattan Project created such an impact on the world, that it affects how humans live today. His exploration of solutions that would force Japan to surrender ended WWII while his exchange of ideas created a different way of viewing America and it’s power.

Annotated Bibliography
Primary Sources
Bethe, Hans A. "J. Robert Oppenheimer." Bibliography Memoirs. Hans A Bethe, 1997. Web. 19 Nov. 2015. 
Hans A Bethe, a person who had a role as a physicist in the Manhattan Project, wrote this article. He provided a lot of information that was witnessed by him! This helped my research a lot.
Fermi, Enrico. "My Observations During the Explosion at Trinity on July 16, 1945 - E. Fermi." My Observations During the Explosion at Trinity on July 16, 1945 - E. Fermi (n.d.): n. pag. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. 
Enrico Fermi was also very intelligent and had a huge role in the Manhattan Project, too. After reading this document written by Enrico Fermi himself, gave me an idea of just how destructive these bombs actually were! His descriptions provided great visual details, which will help a lot when it comes to writing my paper.
Oppenheimer, Julius Robert. Letter to Enrico Fermi. 11 Mar. 1943. MS. 325 Le Conte Hall, Berkeley, California. 
This letter written by Robert Oppenheimer to Enrico Fermi was one of the most important letters exchanged during WWII. This letter asked Enrico Fermi for permission to work in the Manhattan Project with him. When I read this I learned how big of a deal this letter was, and exactly what Oppenheimer said.
Secondary Sources

ABC News. "How Do You Make a Nuclear Bomb?" ABC News. ABC News Network, ? Web. 07 Dec. 2015. 

After reading this website it helped me understand how difficult it actually was to construct an atomic bomb, and how deadly the materials inside the bombs were.
Adams, Simon. Pages 58 and 59World War II. USA: Sunita Gahir, 2007. 58-59. Print. 
When I read this book I saw that WWII was a very important war, and it impacted how we live today.
AMNH Staff. "The Manhattan Project." AMNH. AMNH Staff, n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2015. 
When I read this article written by AMNH the website gave valid information on important events leading up to WWII.
"Atomic Bomb Facts: 17 Facts about Atomic Bombs ←FACTSlides."Atomic Bomb Facts: 17 Facts about Atomic Bombs ←FACTSlides." N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2015. 
This website, which provided interesting facts gave me information on how the Manhattan Project impacted our future and how it impacted others lives in that span of time.
Barrow, Mandy. "World War Two (WW2) for Kids." World War Two (WW2) for Kids. Mandy Barrow, 2013. Web. Jan. 2016. 
This website written by Mandy Barrow helped me better understand why exactly people were becoming angry at other countries and how WWI was such an important event in American History.
"Bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki." A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. Sept. 2015. usually always provides tons of information on whatever you're researching, and it did today when I researched about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I saw some facts that I haven't saw before, and that helped a lot with my sources and their information.
Bradbury Science Museum. Announcement to the People of Japan. Los Alamos, NM: Bradbury Science Museum, n.d. Print. 
Bradbury Science Museum has experts that provide a lot of useful information. After finding a paper with what Robert Oppenheimer and his co-workers announced to the people of Japan, I gained so much more information on how Japan was warned.
Bradbury Science Museum. Little Boy and Fat Man. Los Alamos, NM: Bradbury Science Museum, n.d. Print. 
After reading this paper I learned so many things about the bombs Little Boy and Fat Man. I learned their materials, how deadly they were, and the affects that happened after they detonated. Without this source I wouldn't be able to explain how the bombs were made or how deadly they were.
Carnes, Mark C. "About J. Robert Oppenheimer." About J. Robert Oppenheimer. Mark Carnes, n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2015. 
This website not only gave me great details on the Manhattan Project, but it also gave me a lot on information on events leading up to WWII and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Chris Truman. "Manhattan Project." History Learning Site. Chris Truman, n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2015. 
When I read this website I was surprised to find tons of information on how significant this event was, how it impacted history, and how it impacts our lives today. I also found a lot on facts and information on important events leading up to the Manhattan Project.
Cynthia Kelly. "J. Robert Oppenheimer." Atomic Heritage Foundation. Cynthia Kelly, n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2015. 
After carefully reading this very informative website, it gave me a better understanding of Oppenheimer's life and how he affected others. I trust this website greatly, because it provided a ton of information from professionals' points of view.
E-mail interview with Steve Shienkin. 28 Nov. 2015. 
This Interview helped with my NHD project because I received a lot of information from Steve Sheinkin, a historical fiction writer, who gave me lots of great facts, and some biased information.
E-mail interview with Jennifer Fandel. 29 Nov. 2015. 
Jennifer Fandel wrote a very informative book about the Manhattan Project, so that is why I decided to interview her. She gave me information that I hadn't known, and now having that knowledge, I think it will really make my project a lot better.

E-mail interview with Gordon McDonough. 30 Nov. 2015. 

Gordon McDonough is an expert on Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project. He works at the Bradbury Science Museum in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He gave me a LOT of information on Oppenheimer's life, as well as biased information. He also sent me some brochures and copies of Primary Sources.
Fandel, Jennifer. The Atomic Bomb. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, 2008. Print. 
The Atomic Bomb is a book that one of my interviewers wrote, and it provided information that she even said herself, and some that didn't. It also gave me information on Japan before and after they were bombed and their reaction. Staff. "Atomic Bomb." HISTORY. Staff, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 24 Nov. 2015. is a great website to use, and it helped me a lot with my research. also had lots of different articles that all related to my topic.
"J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904 - 1967)." J. Robert Oppenheimer. Carrie Rossenfield, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2015. 
On various Google searches this article written by Atomic Archive kept coming up on my searches. After I read it I learned more about Oppenheimer's life as a child and how his interest inspired him to do what he does.
"J. Robert Oppenheimer Biography." N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Sept. 2015. gave me a lot of information on events leading up to the Manhattan Project and Oppenheimer's past life. This helped me learn about the Manhattan Project's significance and how much it actually impacted history.

"J. Robert Oppenheimer." Famous Scientists. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Oct. 2015. 

This website gave me useful and specific information on Oppenheimer's early life, his achievements, and many other things.
Kelly, Cynthia C. The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of Its Creators, Eyewitnesses, and Historians. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal, 2007. Print. 
This very informative book provided lots of biased and true facts, and also gave things for others to argue about. It helped me understand how a biased historical paper should sound.

Larsen, Rebecca. Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb. New York: F. Watts, 1988. Print. 

Rebecca Larsen's book was packed full of very useful information. It had so many interesting facts I just had to read until the end. It helped a lot in my research!
NNDB Staff. "Robert Oppenheimer." Robert Oppenheimer. NNDB STAFF, n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2015. 

This Website gave a lot of information, not only about Oppenheimer, but other people who had a role in the Manhattan Project. It gave others who disagreed something to argue about and provided a lot of useful facts and information.

Prouty, Doug. "Timeline - The Race to Build the Atomic Bomb." Timeline - The Race to Build the Atomic Bomb. Doug Prouty, n.d. Web. 23 Sept. 2015. 
Like the name of the website states, this is a timeline, and it turned out to be very useful, too! This Timeline gave me information on events leading up to the Manhattan Project, and events afterwards.
Scherer, Glenn, and Marty Fletcher. J. Robert Oppenheimer: The Brain behind the Bomb. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Book, 2008. Print. 
This book gave a lot of information on the significance of Oppenheimer's life and how he created an impact on others. I learned about his childhood, the construction of the atomic bombs, and events afterwards like awards Oppenheimer was, and his death.
Sullivan, Edward T. The Ultimate Weapon, The Race to Build the Atomic Bomb. New York: Holiday House, NY. Print. 
Edward Sullivan gave me lots of knowledge on The Manhattan Project and about Oppenheimer himself. He also gave me information on other who were a part in the Manhattan Project, and that helped a lot in my research.
Truman, Chris. "The Manhattan Project - History Learning Site." History Learning Site. Chris Truman, n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2015. 
This very informative website gave me tons of information on bombs themselves, Los Alamos, Oppenheimer's personality, Test Detonations, etc. this website has proven to be a very valuable source!



3 My Observations During the Explosion at Trinity on July 16, 1945 –E Fermi, July 16, 1945

4 Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb, Rebecca Larsen, 1988

5 Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb, Rebecca Larsen







12 Interview with Jennifer Fandel, author of The Atomic Bomb

13 The Ultimate Weapon and The Race to Build the Atomic Bomb, Edward T Sullivan




17 My Observations During the Explosion at Trinity on July 16, 1945 – E. Fermi


19 J. Robert Oppenheimer: The Brain Behind the Bomb, Glenn Scherer and Marty Fletcher



22 The Manhattan Project, Cynthia C Kelly, 2009

23 Letter written to Enrico Fermi from Robert Oppenheimer, March 11, 1948


25 Announcement To the People of Japan, letter

26 Interview with Gordon McDonough, November 30, 2015

27 Interview with Steve Sheinkin, November 28, 2015

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