You are on page 1of 5

Srinivas Pullela

1 March 2016
The Manhattan Project
Imagine the inhabitants of an urban setting carrying out their daily routine
one minute, and being burned to the ground the next. This is exactly what
happened on August 6, 1945 when American B-29 “Flying Fortress”, Enola Gay,
dropped the uranium bomb “Little Boy” on the city of Hiroshima and a plutonium
bomb called “Fat Man” days after on Nagasaki, wiping out thousands of people and
creating uninhabitable dead zones for decades. These devastating events are
clearly portrayed in The Manhattan Project by Rush, which is a passionate song on
the repercussions of the project to create nuclear weapons which would change the
world forever (Lerner 248).
The Manhattan Project was created in the United States of America during the
era of World War II with the sole purpose of creating the world's first nuclear
weapon, and “[its] conception was driven by the fear that one of the Axis Powers
(especially Nazi Germany) would create the weapon first and use it to gain a swift
and decisive victory over the Allied Forces.” The project's lifespan was
approximately four years and involved some of the world's greatest physicists and
mathematicians at the time, with a budget of 20 billion dollars, and also involved
the construction of vast facilities in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Hanford,
Washington, which would have negative repercussions on the environment for years
to come (Lerner 245). On the whole, the Manhattan Project pioneered a new era of
warfare with an extremely destructive weapon which would revolutionize world
policies on future international interactions as well as war. The basis of the atomic
bomb would be nuclear fission. It was first discovered by German physicists in late

1938. However, Germany and England (which also experimented with fission) were
quickly preoccupied with the issues of World War II, leaving isolationist United
States to spend its time and resources to undertake the project to develop the
world's first nuclear weapons (Benson, Brannen, and Valentine 950). The National
Academy of Sciences was appointed to evaluate the feasibility of constructing an
atomic bomb. The committee concluded that six months of research would be
needed to come to a decision, and on July 18, 1941 the first possibilities of creating
an atomic bomb came into being. Thus atomic bomb was pioneered during the
Manhattan Project. It involves the splitting of atomic nuclei (a process called nuclear
fission), and the most effective elements in enhancing the destructive process are
uranium and plutonium. U.S. President Roosevelt realized the necessity of
constructing the world's first nuclear weapon and allocated $6,000 to preliminary
investigations. The total sum had grown to $300,000 per year by 1941 with funds
channeled through the National Bureau of Standards to disguise the true purpose of
the money. Experiments were conducted in University of California at Berkeley,
University of Chicago, and a remote location in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during 19401941. Uranium isotopes were used for the bombs, and highly reactive and corrosive
materials disposed at the time continue to create problems of waste disposal and
health impacts to this day (Cheek 135).
The Manhattan Project created four bombs. Of the two known nuclear
weapons, Little Boy used explosives to crash uranium particles together in order to
produce a chain reaction. Fat Man, on the other hand, was a plutonium bomb that
required a neutron emitting source to initiate the chain reaction within a series of
concentric spheres. An explosive lens system surrounding the absorber shell served
to prevent a rapid pressure drop that could result in interference with the implosion.

This bomb was much more difficult to design than Little Boy. The uranium bomb had
a simple design, and scientists were confident in its chance of success. However,
they had other thoughts about the complicated implosion trigger mechanism
employed by the plutonium bomb, and testing was required. The testing was
conducted using a bomb called "Gadget" and the location was a remote area near
Alamogordo, New Mexico. Welder's glasses and suntan lotion were the only
protective measures implemented, and the blast observed was roughly equivalent
to 20,000 tons of TNT causing total destruction in a 1-mile radius (Lerner 246). On
August 6, 1945, an American B-29 "Flying Fortress," the Enola Gay, dropped the
uranium bomb over Hiroshima. The effects were devastating: “sixty thousand
people were killed instantly, and another 200,000 subsequently died as a result of
burn and radiation injuries. Three days later, a plutonium bomb was dropped over
Nagasaki. Although it missed its actual target by over a mile, the more powerful
plutonium bomb killed or injured more than 65,000 people and destroyed half of the
city. Ironically, ground zero, the point under the bomb explosion, turned out to be
the Mitsubishi Arms Manufacturing Plant, at one time the major military target in
Nagasaki.” The fourth bomb remained unused, and that concludes the legacy of the
Manhattan Project (Lerner 247).
The Manhattan Project by Rush depicts the true consequences of the project
using graphic imagery and hyperbole. This is epitomized by the lines of the chorus
“The big bang took and shook the world/Shot down the rising sun” which clearly
exaggerates the scale of the atomic bomb to emphasize the extent of its
destruction. Although the atomic bomb cannot shake the world itself or shoot down
the sun which is far out of its reach, its destructive effects are very vast and
impactful and should not be taken lightly. Additionally, the imagery portrayed by the

lines “The end was begun and it hit everyone/When the chain reaction was done” is
that of thousands of innocent people dying and huge tracts of once-lively land being
razed and reduced to nothingness. These lines are very thought-provoking and urge
the audience to consider the true power of nuclear weapons, what should be done
to contain it effectively, and what might happen if it were exploited. On the whole,
The Manhattan Project truly puts into perspective the unfathomable force that is
nuclear weaponry.
The Manhattan Project was a vastly influential project in that it created the
basis for the most destructive weapons on planet Earth, capable of wiping out
thousands. It drew upon many resources such as land, money from the state
budget, a huge workforce, and time. It also negatively impacted the environment by
creating toxic wastes that would last for decades afterward. Furthermore, the global
effects of the project were even more resounding, culminating in the bombing of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki and destroying both land and claiming countless innocent
lives. The projects depth and the reality of its impacts are aptly portrayed in The
Manhattan Project by Rush, who uses stark imagery and graphic hyperbole to
increase the audience’s awareness of nuclear weaponry and how they should make
a conscious effort to use its power wisely. In conclusion, the Manhattan Project was
an event that changed the face of warfare and the world forever.
Works Cited
Benson, Sonia, Daniel E. Brannen, Jr., and Rebecca Valentine. "Manhattan Project."
UXL Encyclopedia of U.S. History. Vol. 5. Detroit: UXL, 2009. 950-52. U.S.
History in Context. Web. 9 Mar. 2016.

Cheek, Dennis W. "Atomic Bomb." Encyclopedia of Science, Technology, and Ethics.
Ed. Carl Mitcham. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005. 134-37. U.S.
History in Context. Web. 11 Mar. 2016.
Lerner, Brenda Wilmoth. "Manhattan Project." Encyclopedia of Espionage,
Intelligence and Security. Ed. K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. Vol.
2. Detroit: Gale, 2004. 245-48. World History in Context. Web. 7 Mar. 2016.
"Rush Lyrics." AZ Lyrics. AZ Lyrics, 2000. Web. 4 Apr. 2016.