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July 16: General Interest
                1945 : Atom bomb successfully tested


On this day in 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m., the Manhattan Project comes to
an explosive end [sic] as the first atom bomb is successfully tested in
Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Plans for the creation of a uranium bomb by the Allies were
established as early as 1939, when Italian emigre physicist Enrico
Fermi met with U.S. Navy department officials at Columbia University
to discuss the use of fissionable materials for military purposes.
That same year, Albert Einstein wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt
supporting the theory that an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction had
great potential as a basis for a weapon of mass destruction. In
February 1940, the federal government granted a total of $6,000 for
research. But in early 1942, with the United States now at war with
the Axis powers, and fear mounting that Germany was working on its own
uranium bomb, the War Department took a more active interest, and
limits on resources for the project were removed.

Brigadier-General Leslie R. Groves, himself an engineer, was now in
complete charge of a project to assemble the greatest minds in science
and discover how to harness the power of the atom as a means of
bringing the war to a decisive end.  The Manhattan Project (so-called
because of where the research began) would wind its way through many
locations during the early period of theoretical exploration, most
importantly, the University of Chicago, where Enrico Fermi
successfully set off the first fission chain reaction.  But the Project
took final form in the desert of New Mexico, where, in 1943, Robert J.
Oppenheimer began directing Project Y at a laboratory at Los Alamos,
along with such minds as Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, and Fermi.  Here
theory and practice came together, as the problems of achieving
critical mass - a nuclear explosion - and the construction of a
deliverable bomb were worked out.

Finally, on the morning of July 16, at the Alamogordo air base, 120
miles south of Santa Fe, the first atomic bomb was detonated.  The
scientists and a few dignitaries had removed themselves 10,000 yards
away to observe as the first mushroom cloud of searing light stretched
40,000 feet into the air and generated the destructive power of 15,000
to 20,000 tons of TNT.  The tower on which the bomb sat when detonated
was vaporized.

The question now became-on whom was the bomb to be dropped? Germany
was the original target, but the Germans had already surrendered.  The
only belligerent remaining was Japan.

A footnote: The original $6,000 budget for the Manhattan Project
finally ballooned to a total cost of $2 billion.
history.com/tdih.do

Cold War
1945 : United States conducts first test of the atomic bomb
history.com/tdih.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=2730

Literary
1951 : Catcher in the Rye is published
history.com/tdih.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=4034

Vietnam War
1965 : McNamara visits South Vietnam
history.com/tdih.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1970
1973 : Senate begins investigations into secret bombing of Cambodia
history.com/tdih.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=1971
Wall Street [sic]
1918 : Russia's Romanov family executed
history.com/tdih.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=816