The Adventure of the Manhattan Project



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Sample Manuscript Speech with Outline—using a chronological order
The Adventure of the Manhattan Project”

Cited from Payne p. p. 106-109


Purpose: The purpose of this speech is to inform the class about the exciting race from 1939 to 1945 to build the first atomic bomb.
Thesis: Although it was part science and part history, the story of the Manhattan Project is also an adventure as exciting as anything Hollywood could produce.
Occasion & Audience Analyses:

  • An American History course oral report

  • A 5-6 min. speech on a major incident in the 20th US history.

  • Library research materials required, 1 week prep.

  • Audience: fellow students and instructor, the only evaluator

Strategy:

  • Interesting topic (the invention of the atomic bomb)

  • Quality research (data, quotes, key events, statistics noted)

  • Chronological organization, with analogy, story-telling techniques

  • Effect Delivery

Outline


The Adventure of the Manhattan Project”
Thesis: Although it was part science and part history, the story of the Manhattan Project is also an adventure as exciting as anything Hollywood could produce.


  1. Introduction

      1. Comparing the Manhattan Project to a movie script

      2. Thesis

  2. The Beginning of the Adventure—1939

      1. The German research

      2. Enrico Fermi’s realization

      3. Einstein’s plea to President Roosevelt

  3. The Development of an Atomic Pile

      1. The need for a controlled chain reaction

      2. Comparing the reaction to stacking dominoes

      3. The materials used in the secret project

  4. Producing Nuclear Materials for the Bomb

      1. Three methods used

      2. Statistics on the cost

  5. Los Alamos—1944-1945

      1. The purpose of the Los Alamos laboratory

        1. The results

        2. 20,000 tons of TNT

        3. Oppenheimer’s reaction

  6. The End of the War

      1. Truman’s decision

      2. The results of the Hiroshima bomb and the Nagasaki bomb

      3. The [Japanese] surrender

  7. Conclusion—The Race Was Over

      1. Total cost

      2. A new kind of war

      3. First heroes of the atomic age

References

Kevles, Daniel J. The Physicists.

Manchester, William. The Glory and the Dream.

The Encyclopedia Britannica

Todd, Lewis Paul and Merle Curti. Rise of the American Nation. New 2nd Ed.



Manuscript

The Adventure of the Manhattan Project”

For just a moment forget that you are a student of history.

Imagine you are a Hollywood director responsible for a multi-million dollar movie like Terminator II or Aliens III. The Script you are given has this plot: A huge war is raging between an evil army and a good army. The war has engulfed the entire civilization. As the war continues to take millions of lives, the most brilliant scientists on each side are racing to build a top secret super-weapon, a weapon so terrible and destructive that it will guarantee victory to whoever has it—if it doesn’t destroy both sides. At the end of the script, the good army achieves a breakthrough, an in a display of power unlike anything in history, the super-weapon ends the war in eight days.

Does it sound like science fiction? Too far out to make a good movie? Too unrealistic? The plot may be too far out for Hollywood, but it is the true story of the Manhattan Project, America’s incredible development of the first atomic bomb during World War II. Although it was part science and part history, the story of the Manhattan Project is also an adventure as exciting as anything Hollywood could produce.
Although it was part science and part history, the story of the Manhattan Project is also an adventure as exciting as anything Hollywood could produce.

It is hard to say where the adventure starts. Scientists throughout the first part of the twentieth century had been exploring the atom. In the late 1930s, however, a German and an Austrian published a scientific paper which set minds in America to thinking. The Germans, who had already begun their conquest of Europe, had shown that an atomic bomb was possible. One scientist who read the paper in 1939 was Enrico Fermi, who had left Italy to escape Hitler’s ally, Musoolini. According to another scientist who shared Fermi’s New York office, Fermi gazed out over New York City, Spread his arms as if he held an imaginary ball, and remarked that a bomb that size could make the whole city disappear. The race to build the bomb—and possibly to win the war—was on.

The race to build the bomb—and possibly to win the war—was on.

But how could the scientists convince the politicians to begin the long and costly research? Into the adventure stepped the 20th Century’s greatest scientist. On August 2, 1939, Albert Einstein met with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and warned him of the new weapon and Nazi Germany’s research. F. D. R. approved spending $6,000 to begin an investigation into the possibility of building an atom bomb. Three years later the project started. It was code-named the Manhattan Project.

Before a bomb could be built, a controlled chain reaction had to take place. That means that enough atoms had to split to cause more atoms to split, and so on until the process kept itself going. Like a very complicated arrangement of dominoes, one atom caused several others to split and release their energy. Fermi and the scientists working at the University of Chicago started a secret project near an abandoned athletic field at the university. Using 400 tons of graphite (which is like the lead in a pencil), 12,000 pounds of uranium metal, and 100,000 pounds of uranium oxide, the scientists succeeded in creating a controlled chain reaction.

Using 400 tons of graphite (which is like the lead in a pencil), 12,000 pounds of uranium metal, and 100,000 pounds of uranium oxide, the scientists succeeded in creating a controlled chain reaction.

The original $6,000 investment ballooned into $400,000,000 investment. The money was needed to fund three different plans of producing the nuclear materials for the bomb. Scientists did not know which method would work, so all three had to be tried. Each project worked as fast as possible. One source called the three project competition a “nightmarish horserace.” One project alone required 28,000,000 pounds of silver worth $400,000,000. The silver was borrowed from the U.S. Treasury.

Many scientists worked in several different locations to turn out the materials for the bomb. The greatest challenge, however, lay with the scientists working in Los Alamos, New Mexico. J. Robert Oppenheimer was in charge of a staff of the most talented physicists and engineers in America. It was their job to build and test the bomb itself. The project was so secret that birth certificates of babies born to the scientists’ families had no real place of birth listed.

The project was so secret that birth certificates of babies born to the scientists’ families had no real place of birth listed.

Working on problems no scientists had ever confronted before, the staff raced to complete the bomb. The war in Europe was over, but the war in the Pacific still claimed American lives.

On July 16, 1945, before sunrise, the first experimental A-bomb was detonated. First, a flash of light brightened the darkness. Next, a shock-wave and a huge roar tore at the onlookers more than 10,000 meters away. The scientists had predicted a blast equal to 5,000 tons of TNT. Instead, the blast was equal to 20,000 tons of TNT.

Scientists had no way of knowing exactly what was happening at the center of the explosion, but Oppenheimer observed the scene and recalled a line from a Hindu holy work: “I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.”

Scientists had no way of knowing exactly what was happening at the center of the explosion, but Oppenheimer observed the scene and recalled a line from a Hindu holy work: “I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.”

President Harry Truman (who had not even been briefed on the Manhattan Project until he became President when Roosevelt died) decided that the atom bomb could force a Japanese surrender. On August 6, 1945, a United States B-29 named Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb, code-named Little Boy, on Hiroshima, Japan. Everything in the immediate vicinity of the blast was completely destroyed. An area of 4.4 square meters was completely burned out. Between 70,000 and 80,000 people died.

On August 9, a second bomb, code-named Fat Man, was dropped on Nagasaki with similar results.

On August 10, eight days after the first bomb, the Japanese surrendered. The war was over.

And the race was over. The Manhattan Project ushered in the Atomic Age.

And the race was over. The Manhattan Project ushered in the Atomic Age.

After two billion dollars, six years, countless work hours, and more scientific genius than had ever been accumulated at one time in human history, the script was written.

And a new kind of war more horrible than ever before had been invented. In 1947, Secretary of War Henry Stimson summed up how the Manhattan Project had changed our lives:



“The face of war is the face of death….War in the 20th century has grown steadily more barbarous, more destructive, more debased in all its aspects. Now, with the release of atomic energy, man’s ability to destroy himself is very nearly complete. The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended a war. They also made it wholly clear that we must never have another war.”

Despite the controversy over nuclear weapons, one thing is sure. The Manhattan Project is a story of men and women committed to scientific discovery and patriotism. It is a story worth retelling.

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