the birth of the bomb: the true story

Uncle Sam’s New Clothes, part 1 - what we don’t know is killing us

America’s historic slip is showing in the history of nuclear weapons

July 16th month marked the 75th anniversary of the first known test of an atomic bomb, the Trinity test at Alamogordo, New Mexico on July 16, 1945.

It was the culminating experiment of America’s quest to create the world’s first atomic bomb. It needed to be ready before the war ended. They got it done in record time.

President Harry Truman called the bomb “the greatest scientific gamble in the history of mankind.” The Manhattan Project became the very icon of success, An April 2019 article in Forbes says

The Manhattan project represented a high point of American technological might. It created a super weapon to end World War II. Led by scientists (though overseen by the military), the Manhattan project did not seek any social, economic, or political changes in American life. R&D was done in controlled environments, shielded from the public domain.

The bomb did not end World War II. The Project was authorized and overseen by governmental officials. In fact, almost all of the top military leaders were opposed to the bomb. The common history of the bomb is riddled with deliberated deception.

The debate about whether or not the project had intentional social, economic or political aims has yet to take place. It certainly had impact on all these areas, not just in America but throughout the world.

The threat of nuclear war is not the only problem. This essay closes with links to articles on the millions of people, in the U.S. and around the world, whose lives have been destroyed by the effects of nuclear testing. In February 2020, the Bulletin of American Scientists announced the time on the Doomsday Clock: 100 seconds to midnight. The bomb is one of the main concerns, both as a weapon and as an environmental hazard.

Research and development in “controlled environments, shielded from public domain” is a charming euphemism for “conspiracy.”

Even the men who created the bomb called it evil and wicked, yet (not surprisingly) no one identifies the Manhattan Project as the world’s greatest — largest, most awesome, most impactful — conspiracy of all time; but that is just more proof of how successful it has been at concealing itself. The story has all the hallmarks of conspiracy: a small group of powerful men, a secret plan, an objective that may be illegal or bring harm to others, to achieve an outcome they deemed beneficial.

Most the Americans who worked for the Project had no idea what they were working on. Many lived in one of three fenced-in ‘secret cities’, where travel and telephone communication was controlled and mail was censored. The Press honored a code of ‘voluntary’ self-censorship that was enforced by the Office of War Information. Words were banned. Mentioning uranium, for example, might lead someone to guess that the U.S. was building an exponentially powerful weapon (of mass destruction).

The ironic idea of a “Manhattan Project” for climate change shows just how little we really know about the history of the nuclear bomb. For example, the U.S. military downplayed the dangers of atmospheric fallout from nuclear tests for years; but in Be Very Afraid, sociologist Robert Wuthnow notes that dairy farmers across the country changed the way they fed their cows after publication of the August 29, 1959 Saturday Evening Post article, “Fallout: the Silent Killer”. Wuthnow says

One of the most troubling aspects of the new information was that as many as 40 million U.S. children under the age of ten had been exposed for four or five years to higher than normal doses of radiation from drinking milk.

A recent Smithsonian documentary, Atomic Age Declassified, follows the standard narrative with regard to the origin of the bomb, but reveals unsavory facts about the cold war era. The video ends with nuclear experts pondering how the United States of America came to create a weapon that had the potential to destroy the world. It is not a flattering picture. We think of ourselves as the good guys but “as so often in the atomic age, declassified secrets tell a very different story.”

All nuclear information is ‘born secret’, but classified documents are only part of the reason the nuclear narrative doesn’t match the facts. The truth is, the story of the bomb was deliberately manufactured to sell the project to the public. Imagine — 100,000 civilians are killed by one bomb and the story is about the scientific feat.

History professor William Johnston could not have foreseen the current state of world affairs in August 2016 when he pointed out the importance of knowing our history, with all of its “ambiguities”.

Our country today faces many national security threats, from terrorism to global warming. A healthy democracy requires a well-educated populace, and history plays a major role in that education.

The history of the bomb is a classic example of the old African proverb: as long as the story is being told from the perspective of the men who created the bomb, it will glorify the bomb and its makers. But as long as the story glorifies the bomb, we will wrestle with, and fail to reckon with, its fallout — radioactive, economic, social, moral, international, environmental, healthwise and otherwise.

Until the story of the hunt is told by the lion, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter

The truth is, nobody’s life mattered to the men who masterminded the creation of the atomic bomb. They had bigger fish to fry. Literally.

BLM is everybody’s business.

The moral of nuclear history is much like the message we should be learning from COVID-19; from climate change; from the racial climate in the U.S. and across the world; from the fate of undocumented immigrants (i.e., refugees) the world over; from the health threat / low pay combination facing our ‘essential’ workers’; from school systems that are not required to teach children to read; from lead in a city’s water; from cities left to shift for themselves after devastating hurricanes and other natural disasters; and that message is simple: if anyone’s life is expendable, all lives are expendable.

The following links identify various groups whose lives have been shattered by the bomb in one way or another. The first comes from the Congo, where the U.S. obtained the uranium used in the bomb. Other victims of nuclear proliferation include American veterans; residents of St. Louis, Missouri; the Polygon People of Russia; the Marshall Islanders; the Downwinders, including John Wayne, the famous actor, who was exposed to radiation on a movie set.

The link between uranium from the Congo and Hiroshima: A story of twin tragedies

US nuclear tests killed American civilians on a scale comparable to Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Pictures: Effects of Nuclear Bomb Testing in Kazakhstan

BBC World Service — The Documentary, The Polygon People


The Clock Winds Down On The West’s Nuclear Downwinders

This is Marshall Islander Darlene Keju’s speech to the World Council of Churches in 1983

7 more nuclear waste “hot spots” found in St. Louis suburb

Radioactive Snow? South St. Louis Man Busts Out Geiger Counter, Gets Worrying Results

Statement and poem by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Climate Summit 2014 — Opening Ceremony

Radioactive fallout maps

Pres. Clinton’s Remarks on Human Radiation Experiments (1995)

The Lucky Dragon Incident

It is time for a change.

I’m blessed to be a blessing. Listen: I’ve got something to say.

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