Photography Essay Research Paper THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT


Photography Essay, Research Paper



Atomic bomb imagined

The New York Press reports: “New hope for releasing the enormous stores of energy within the atom has arisen from German scientists”. World famous Niels Bohr of Copenhagen and Enrico Fermi of Rome, both Nobel prize winners, acclaim this experiment as one of the most important in recent years. Fermi now realized that his new element 93 had been a product of splitting the uranium atom. At this time the release of nuclear energy was at once recognized for its potential use in an explosive weapon. Fiction was soon becoming fact (Yass 20).

Fear of Nazi Germany

Otto Hahn writes a paper to Fermi stating that: “if technology to split uranium was discovered it would lead to the construction of bombs which would be extremely dangerous in general, and particular in the hands of certain governments”. Everyone knew which government he meant. This was a chance the Nazis were not likely to overlook. At this time Hitler stopped exports of uranium ore from nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia and ordered every scientist in the field of physics, chemistry and engineering to drop all research and devote themselves to this work (Yass 21).

Fermi approaches the U.S.A with the help of Albert Einstein

Enrico Fermi, with his knowledge of Italian dictatorship, was desperate to convince Allied defence authorities of the dangers of Nazi Germany’s work on nuclear fission. Fermi approached Einstein and Einstein signed a long letter to President Roosevelt calling for intensive research into a possible bomb: “Some recent work by E. Fermi and L.Szilard?leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the near future?It may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power?would be generated?It is conceivable that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed”. It became evident that the enemy should not produce it first. Before Roosevelt read Einstein’s letter in October, 1939, England and France had declared war on Germany. Despite the major breakthrough, and despite the war in Europe, President Roosevelt merely set up an Advisory Committee on Uranium. Two years passed before Roosevelt ordered intensive research (Yass 22).

British Progress (Maud Committee)

Meanwhile, in England, in 1939, work on atomic fission had gained a slightly better start. A Sunday Express journalist wrote that if a nuclear chain reaction could be produced, “the outpouring of energy would exceed anything ever known in the world. The uses to which it might be put are appalling. A nation at war might be able to wipe out another nation right off the face of the earth”. Britain had a group of scientists which was code named the Maud committee which devoted their time to “the use of uranium for a bomb”. They now believed they could “make an effective uranium bomb which?would be equivalent, as regards destructive effect, to 1800 tons of TNT., and would release large quantities of radioactive substances which would make places near to where the bomb exploded dangerous to human life for a long period”. (Yass 23-25)

Hitler invades Russia / U.S.A and Britain join forces

German armies were sweeping everything before them. It became evident that Britain and America must join together in their research of creating a uranium bomb. The plant to extract uranium had been agreed to be to be set up in the U.S.A since England was vulnerable to German Air attack (Yass 26)

Japan attacks U.S.A

On December 7, 1941 the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, this attack brought Japan and U.S.A into active war. The war reinforced the president’s decision to back the atomic research (Yass 32).


In January 1942, a British scientific mission boarded the submarine infested Atlantic. They were sailing to America to discuss the atomic fission project with their new Allies. Prime Minister Churchill and President Roosevelt agreed to pool one others information, and work on equal terms. Henceforth, work on the bomb project would be pursued as a combined Anglo-American effort. The name chosen for this project was agreed to be the “Manhattan project” (Yass 33-35).

The “Secret City”

In September 1942 a site was found at Clinton in the Tennessee Valley. It later became known as Oak Ridge, a ’secret city’ of prefabricated homes built for those working on the separation of uranium. (Yass 35).

Enrico Fermi creates first successful nuclear chain reaction

On December 2 ,1942 Fermi achieves nuclear chain reaction in Chicago. It had been produced, kept under control, and stopped. A month later the first plutonium plant was created in the nearby village of Richland (Yass 38).

Quebec Agreement

On January 14, 1943 Churchill complains to Roosevelt at Casablanca that America is excluding Britain from atomic research projects. During this time Britain and America signed the “Quebec Agreement”, on August 19 1943, which stated: ” the tube Alloys project would never be used against each other or against a third party without the other’s consent (Yass 40).

Los Alamos: the third “secret city”

This was the third secret city built for the Manhattan District. While pure U.235 was extracted at Oak Ridge and plutonium produced at Hanford, the bomb itself was made at Los Alamos. Scientists, engineers and all workers and their families, were forbidden to tell their families in the outside world were they were (Yass 41-43).


Norwegians, trained in England for Sabotage

Germany’s invasion of Norway gave Hitler access to the Norsk Hydro heavy water plant, which meant the Germans were building atomic piles. The British were determined to sabotage German effort. At last, in February 1943, a Norwegian team safely demolished the most important parts of the heavy water apparatus with explosives (Yass 48)

First explosion of atomic bomb in New Mexico (”Fat Man”)

In July 1945, in a remote section of the Almagordo Air Base, New Mexico, the first full scale test was made of the implosion type atomic fission bomb. For the first time in history there was a nuclear explosion. It was estimated that the energy generated to be in excess of the equivalent of 15,000 to 20,000 tons of T.N.T?a huge ball of fire was formed which lasted several seconds. This ball mushroomed and rose to a height of over 10,000 feet before it dimmed. “Fat Man” had been successfully tested. The scientists were certain that “little boy” would explode. In any case uranium 235 was so precious and took so long to produce that it could not be spared for a test (Yass 54-56).

Bohr writes letter to Roosevelt cautioning him on the atomic bomb

Bohr, in desperation wrote a long memorandum to president Roosevelt: “A weapon of unparalleled power is being created?Quite apart from the question of how soon the weapon will be ready for use and what role it may play in the present war, this situation raises a number of problems which call for most urgent attention. Unless, indeed, some agreement about the control of the use of the new active materials can be obtained, any temporary advantage, however great, may be outweighed by a perpetual menace to human security” (Yass 57).

April 12, 1945 Roosevelt dies and Truman becomes U.S president (Yass 59).

European war is over/Truman calls Japan to surrender

Germany surrendered unconditionally in 1945. Hitler committed suicide in Berlin. Truman announced the Allied victory on May 9th, and then “called Japan to surrender unconditionally, otherwise, utter destruction awaited them” (Yass 59).

Decision to bomb Japan

Discussion arose whether it might be possible to arrange a non-military demonstration of the bomb in such a manner that the Japanese would be so impressed that they would see the uselessness of continuing the war. This idea was not accepted since if the test failed to bring surrender, the chance would be gone to give chance of surprise. So the Interim committee wanted to hit Japan without warning. Further, it should be dropped on a combined military and residential target to produce the maximum psychological shock (Yass 60).

July 1945 Truman tells Stalin (Neutral Germany) about the Atomic bomb (Yass 67).


July 26, 1945 Truman gives ultimatum to Japan/Japan refuses

Truman gives Japan an opportunity to end the war. Truman stated that: “We call upon the government of Japan to proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all the Japanese armed forces ?The alternative for Japan is complete and utter destruction”. Japanese Prime Minister Suzuki rejects the ultimatum. At this point there was nothing left to do but use the bomb. Truman orders Commanding General of the United States Army, General Spaatz to drop the bomb as soon as possible after August 3rd 9 (Yass 68-69).

Dropping the first atomic bomb

At 2:45 A.M. local time , the Enola Gay, a B-29 bomber loaded with an atomic bomb. Six and a half hours later, the Bomb was dropped and it exploded a minute later at an estimated altitude of 580 +-20 meters over central Hiroshima

The Hiroshima bomb (SEE FIGURE 1)

Size: length-3 meters, diameter-0.7 meters.

Weight: 4 tons

Nuclear material: Uranium 235.

Energy released: equivalent to 12.5 Kilotons of T.N.T.

Code name: “Little Boy”

(Yass 72-73).


Initial Explosive Damage

Maximum temperature at burst point: several million degrees centigrade. A fireball of 15- meters radius formed in 0.1 milliseconds, with a temperature of 300,000 degrees centigrade. The atomic cloud reached an altitude of 17,000 meters in one second. Radioactive debris deposited by “black rain” fell heavily for over an hour in a wide area.

At the time of the bombing Hiroshima was a prosperous city of nearly 320,000. The bomb exploded almost directly over the center of the city. Two square miles of the city were completely leveled by the bomb, and intense heat generated by the explosion started fires as far as two miles from ground zero (Marx 13). (SEE FIGURE 2)

(Figure 2)

Announcement of casualties in Hiroshima

In February, 1946, Supreme Allied Headquarters announced the casualties in Hiroshima as a result of the atomic bomb were: dead 78,150, still missing 13,983, seriously wounded 9,428, slightly injured 27,997. Half the victims had died from the blast of the explosion, thirty percent from radiation burns and the rest from other radiation effects (Yass 85-86).

U.S.A Propaganda leaflets

Three million American leaflets (translated by Japanese prisoners) were dropped over Japan. The letters stated the U.S possession of the atomic bomb and it’s destructive effects, which Hiroshima had already experienced. The leaflets concluded asking the people to petition the emperor to end the war. Japan then hesitates in their decision to end the war (Yass 89).

Nagasaki: 2nd bombing (SEE FIGURE 3)

On August 8th “Fat Man” was loaded into the B.29 called Brocks Car. Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki (Marx 22).


Though Fat Man was nearly twice as powerful as little boy, its damage was less extensive, due partly to the geography of the Nagasaki area and partly to the fact that the bomb was dropped about 2 miles off target. Casualties in Nagasaki were 45,000 dead and 25,000 injured (Marx 24). (SEE FIGURE 4)


Japan Surrenders

The Japanese war council had just received word of the bombing of Nagasaki and to make matters worse on August 8th, 1945 Russia had declared war on Japan. Premiere Suzuki had finally come to terms with putting an end to the war, with the condition that the emperor should be allowed to remain. The Americans accepted his offer but the Japanese rebels had continued the war. The rebellion came to nothing and the Emperor accepted Truman’s conditions and broadcast his decision to the Japanese people (Yass 95-96).

The impact/public reaction reaction/effect that the atomic bomb has had on society

The Immediate impact the use of the bomb had on people throughout the world

People in favor of the bomb: In Britain one woman told an interviewer: “I think it’s marvelous. It’s just what we want isn’t it?” (Yass 87).

People opposing the bomb: Another interviewer heard a man tell his family that after the B.B.C bulletin, “I watched all your faces the whole time and I could see nothing but dismay. One would think that the Japs had invented it” (Yass 87).

The journalist Kingsley Martin commented in the New Statesman: “The B.B.C. announcers have all adopted a tone of solemn jubilation in reading the news of the atomic bomb success?I very much doubt whether this chimes with the mood of the public. Obviously, we are all relieved that the Germans didn’t drop it on London, but apart from that, everyone I’ve met was plunged into gloom by the news of the invention. While we are told officially of ‘excellent results,” I find everywhere an increasing moral revulsion” (Yass 88).

A long poem by an American poet caught the prevalent mood so well that it went into a dozen editions in a few months. One passage read:

When the bomb fell on America it fell on people.

It didn’t dissolve them as it dissolved people in Hiroshima.

It did not dissolve their bodies.

But it did dissolve something vitally important.

To the greatest of them and the least.

What it dissolved were their links with the past and with the future?

It made the earth that seemed so solid, Main Street that seemed so well paved,

A kind of vast jelly, quivering and dividing underfoot?

What have we done, my country, what have we done? (Yass 89).

As it seemed fairly obvious that the citizens of the world did not approve of the atomic bomb the governments of the world believed they should possess this “great invention”.

Before the Korean War was over the British in 1952 exploded their own atomic bomb (Yass 109).

On August 12, 1953 the Russians announced the explosion of their first hydrogen bomb (Yass 110).

Once again the public were not in favor of the testing of bombs, since Stronium 90, a radioactive fission product, could be carried into the upper air from a nuclear blast and fall on the earth thousands of miles away. Due to this and many other side effects The Labour Party of Parliament in London formed a campaign for Nuclear disarmament to London from the atomic research establishment at Aldermaston, Berkshire (Yass 111).

The modern day reaction towards the Atomic Bomb

The threat of atomic warfare is much more dangerous than in the past. As the arms race continued. “Escalation” had become a fashionable word; as each country has been rushing to build bigger and better weapons than the other side (Yass 112). Although Nazi Germany no longer seems to be a threat to the world, there is now a modern day Hitler who has been the instigator of war during the 1990’s. This man is Sadam Hussein. The Iraqi arsenal of mass destruction is claimed to include the following agents:

Botulinum Toxin: Iraq has acknowledged to make 3,117 gallons of enough toxin to wipe out the earth’s population several times over.

Anthrax: Iraq has acknowledged making 2,226 gallons of anthrax, enough to kill billions.

Warheads: Investigators suspect that 25 germ war -toxin filled warheads could be used with missiles, which have a range of 400 miles.

Bombs: Iraq admits to have 157 bombs filled with germs and toxins (


A statement taken from an interview of Mass Observation, Peace and the public best describes society’s outlook on atomic warfare. An interviewer was quoted saying: “Sooner or later one country’s going to use it against another. Maybe in 20 years, maybe in 100 years. Maybe not for 200 or 1,000 years. But sooner or later it’ll be too much of a temptation?You can just blow a corner off the world. Eventually it’ll be just like one of those fantastic tales?Just a few people left in caves. It’ll reduce the whole of so-called civilization to living in caves (Marx 225).