On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped the first ever atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan, effectively bringing the beginning of an end to World War II on the Pacific front. Test your knowledge of the atom bomb with these trivia questions...
Why Was the Bomb Developed? Just before the start of World War II, Albert Einstein and Physicist Leó Szilárd wrote a letter to President Roosevelt making him aware of the potential for “extremely powerful bombs” by the creation of “a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium.” Roosevelt took the threat seriously and - after launching a series of committees set to further investigate the threat - eventually authorized the development the bomb by the United States Army Corps of Engineers Manhattan District. In what became dubbed “The Manhattan Project,” J. Robert Oppenheimer led the development effort based in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Who Knew About the Bomb’s Development? Given the obvious need to keep Germany and Japan in the dark, very few people knew of the development of the atom bomb. Even then-vice-president Harry Truman did not know about the Manhattan Project until after he took office following Roosevelt’s passing. Einstein, who brought the idea to Roosevelt initially, had no knowledge either. The project was a joint effort between the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Canada and actually employed over 120,000 Americans, so keeping the project quiet required immense secrecy. Roosevelt did not even tell Stalin until mid-1945 at the Potsdam Conference.
What Was the Effect of the Bomb on Hiroshima? On the morning of August 6, 1945, a B-29 plane called Enola Gay took off on a 6-hour flight to Japan. It reached its location and dropped the bomb at 8:15 am. The results were, of course, devastating: an estimated 140,000 died as a result of the bomb (with 90 percent of those coming within two weeks). 92 percent of the 76,000 buildings in Hiroshima were destroyed as well.
Why Did the U.S. Follow-up with the Bombing of Nagasaki Two Days Later?
Despite the massive devastation, the bombing of Hiroshima was not enough for the Japanese War Council to accept unconditional surrender to the Allied forces. As a result, the U.S. moved forward with the second bombing on August 9, 1945. Had Emperor Hirohito not authorized unconditional surrender at that point, the U.S. was prepared to drop a third weapon on August 17-18.