It was just before 5:30 a.m. on this day, July 16th, back in 1945 that the United States tested their first atom bomb successfully. The enormous explosion, which took place in Alamogordo, New Mexico, brought an end to the Manhattan Project.
The concept of the atom bomb started in early 1939, when Allies started to wonder about the use of fissionable materials for military practices. Enrico Fermi, an Italian émigré physicist, first met with Navy officials at Columbia University, where they had a meeting discussing the possibilities. As popularity with the “atom bomb” grew, more scientists and theorists began to give their two cents about the idea. One of those being Albert Einstein, who wrote a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt in support of the idea that weapons of mass destruction can be useful.
Research really started to take off in early 1940, when the federal government approved $6,000 to go towards research over this topic. However, it wasn’t until 1942 that they felt more of a need to get this project finished. With the United States now at war with nations known as the Axis powers, they needed this project to start making strides. With Germany also working on the same project, the United States made it a top priority and ended up removing any and all limits on the amount of resources they had.
Now being led by Brigadier-General Leslie R. Groves, it was upon him to join together the greatest brains and theorists the Allies had to offer in hopes of using science to find a means to end the war they found themselves in. The project would officially take on the name “Manhattan Project,” in roots of where it all began. They would travel around as they worked on the project, with one stop being the University of Chicago. There, Enrico Fermi managed to set off their first fission chain reaction, which proved to be a major turning point for the project.
In 1943, the project took a huge leap forward when Robert J. Oppenheimer took over Project Y in Los Alamos. Project Y would be where the group would take the theories they had compiled and put it to real life use. This is also where everything was finally worked out. They began testing their theories in the desert of New Mexico.
After a long wait, the Allies had finally set off and detonated the first atomic bomb successfully. It was on the morning of July 16th about 120 miles south of Santa Fe where a group of scientists saw the first atomic bomb go off. Located 10,000 yards away, the group watched as the cloud took a mushroom form, stretching nearly 40,000 feet high into the air. The explosion it caused was compared to nearly 15,000 to 20,000 tons of TNT, which is a really big explosion in case you didn’t know.
When detonated, the tower that the bomb was perched up on was completely vaporized, leaving nothing behind. This was a huge turning point in our weapons history.