The Development of Nuclear Warfare


During World War 2, and during the 20th century, many technological advancements were made in the science world. Inventions and discoveries were beginning to make a positive impact in the world, but they also came with a price. Weapons also advanced, and so nuclear weapons came to be one of the greatest fears of science.

 The Beginning of the Atomic Age

Just after WW2 had begun in Europe, the President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, received a letter from Albert Einstein and his colleague. The letter stated that they had come across the technology to create an extremely powerful bomb through nuclear fission. The two scientists had actually fled Europe in order to escape Hitler and his regime, but they feared his scientists could be the first to create an atomic bomb. If he could get his hands on this sort of technology, he would be able to destroy the world.
Albert Einstein: The Greatest Physist of His Time
Albert Einstein: The Greatest Physist of His Time




In order to be the first to create the atomic bomb, Einstein pushed the United States into the nuclear weapons race. Over the next four years, a secret operation called "The Manhattan Project" was launched that employed over 200,000 workers, as well as thousands of scientists and engineers. Finally, on July 16, 1945, the first atomic bomb was tested in a New Mexico desert. The destruction of the bomb completely stunned all those that had spent those four years creating it, and the United States realized how much power they actually held.

Before the test had even happened, Germany had surrendered in the war and the fear of Germany destroying the world no longer existed. However, the war continued on in the Pacific, so Harry S. Truman (US President) decided to use the atomic bomb to force Japanese surrender. On August 6, 1945, the bomb was dropped in the city of Hiroshima, killing over 140,000 people. Many survivors had to suffer with heavy burns, radiation sickness, and even cancer later on in life (due to the radiation). This event marked a new way to fight wars, but also instilled a fear into the world as they realized how powerful nuclear technology was.

An example of American Nuclear tests, with a modern twist:







Largest nuclear bomb ever dropped:








Influence on the Cold WarThe Americans had broken the ice of nuclear warfare and proved that with atomic bombs, a war could be won quickly. Not only did this make America the superpower of its time, but it made Russia green with envy, especially Stalin. Some say that Stalin (Russian President) had absolutely no idea that the bomb was being built, or that it was even going to be used on Japan. So when he heard of the Hiroshima news he was enraged, and his scientists quickly began building their own atomic bombs. However, some believe that Harry Truman told Stalin of the bomb, so he built his own nuclear weapons in order to match America. The bombing in Hiroshima is also thought to have made Truman more aggressive - "I'm sick of babying the Soviets" (Truman). Ultimately, the creation of nuclear warfare brought about the inevitable, and nuclear warfare conflict.

A Russian nuclear parade:










Living Through the Development of Nuclear Warfare and the Cold War

Life during the development nuclear weapons was unchanged because the operation was top secret. However, the Cold War resulted because of the atomic bomb and living through the cold war for many people was a constant fear. For people who lived near ammunition factories or chemical plants, even more so because they were key targets for any missiles that could potentially be launched. Lifestyles changed for people during the cold war because many feared that their days were numbered. People built shelters, stocked up food and water, and even bought gas masks. Children were also given dog tags in case they were separated from their parents in an emergency. Here is an excerpt from an interview of a woman who grew up in the Cold War:

HA: Did you feel at all, that the Cold War divided people?
CG: Certainly. It created a very strong “us” and “them” mentality.
HA: By “us” and “them” who do you mean?
CG: America and Russia. Then again, I grew up in a very conservative immigrant family where my parents and grandparents were trying to assimilate; they loved this country and its opportunities. They voted Republican until Nixon was impeached; then they switched to the Democratic Party.
HA: What do you think was the biggest travesty during the Cold War?
CG: I would have to say the way we were sucked into altercations with other countries under the banner of “stemming the tide of communism.”
HA: What would you say is an example of that?
CG: The Vietnam War.
HA: How did you feel at the end of the Cold War?
CG: I felt very elated when the Berlin Wall came down and families could be reunited.

A video about the Chernobyl disaster:



Timeline of Nuclear Warfare

1933 - Leo Slizard discovers nuclear fission concepts
1939 - Nazi Germany begins the world's first nuclear program
1939 - Albert Einstein and Leo Slizard tell President Roosevelt about Germany's nuclear research
1939 - America starts a nuclear program
1942 - Russia starts a nuclear program
1945 - America explodes the first nuclear bomb, The Trinity
1945 - America uses the first ever nuclear bombs in warfare, they drop "lil boy" and "fat man" on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and effectively end World War 2
1949 - Russia explodes their first nuclear bomb, The Lightning
1951 - China and Russia create a nuclear arms treaty
1952 - Britain successfully detonates a nuclear bomb
1958 - America and Britain create a nuclear arms treaty
1961 - Russia detonates the largest nuclear bomb ever, The Tsar (as seen above)
1964 - China successfully explodes a nuclear bomb
1986 - The largest Nuclear disaster ever happens in Pripyat, Ukraine (Russia at the time) (as seen above) 300,00 people are evacuated from the surrounding cities