The Manhattan Project

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The Manhattan Project

Introduction: The events surrounding the invention and use of two atomic weapons by the United States on Japan during WWII are among the most controversial and significant developments in modern American history. In response to developments in Germany, President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the creation of an atomic weapon.  Dubbed the Manhattan Project, this secret endeavor brought together scientists and engineers in a $2 billion effort that led to the creation of two atomic weapons and ushered in the nuclear age.

After the fall of Germany, on July 26, Truman and other Allied leaders issued the Potsdam Declaration outlining terms of surrender for Japan. It was presented as an ultimatum and stated that without a surrender, the Allies would attack Japan, resulting in "the inevitable and complete destruction of the Japanese armed forces and just as inevitably the utter devastation of the Japanese homeland". The atomic bomb was not mentioned in the communication. On July 28, Japanese papers reported that the declaration had been rejected by the Japanese government. The statement was taken by both Japanese and foreign papers as a clear rejection of the declaration. On August 6th and 9th, 1945 the atomic bombs were released on Hiroshima and Nagasaki causing catastrophic wide spread devastation of Japan. On August 10th Japan surrendered to the Allied leaders.

Atomic Bomb: Go to the following website. Read the information presented to you and answer the following questions.

What is an atomic bomb? How does it work? What is nuclear fission?

What isotopes are typically used in an atomic bomb?

Manhattan Project: Go to the following website. Read the information presented to you and answer the following questions.

What is the Manhattan Project?

What president was in office at the beginning of the Manhattan Project?
How much money was set aside for this project?
Who is Enrico Fermi and what did he contribute?
Where did testing and design of the atomic bomb take place?
Who directed the building efforts in the U.S.? Who were the scientific minds behind the efforts?

Race to build the Atomic Bomb: Go to the following website. Read the information presented to you and answer the following questions by clicking on corresponding title.

In what year did nuclear development begin? How did it start?

When did Enrico Fermi complete the first nuclear fission?
Who applied for a patent on the atomic bomb? When did this happen?
What is important about Dec. 19, 1938?
What and when did Albert Einstein contribute to the Manhattan Project? (what was his letter about and who was it to?)
What happened on Dec. 6, 1941?
What happened May 7, 1945?

What happened August 6 and 9, 1945?


Who else was racing to make an atomic bomb? What do you think would have happened if they succeeded?

Exodus of Scientists:

Due to the Nurenburg Laws, many scientists left their native country. List the famous scientists who emigrated due to religious persecution.


What are the names of the bombs produced by the Manhattan project?

What isotopes were used in Little Boy? Fat Man?
Those Responsible:

What role did Harry S. Truman play?

Who was Gen. Leslie S. Groves?

View the following photos and read their captions. What are your comments and concerns for the people taking those photos?

Independent research:
Why is it said that Albert Einstein died of a broken heart over the Manhattan project?
In Harry S. Truman’s letters to the public after the bombing of Japan, he calls for strict controls over nuclear technology? Why? And do you agree with his ideas?
How does nuclear technology influence our daily lives (in medicine, power, other technology)?
What is your opinion on the development of nuclear technology? Is it more helpful or harmful in today’s world?

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