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The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the…
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The Manhattan Project: The Birth of the Atomic Bomb in the Words of Its… (2007)

by Cynthia C. Kelly

Other authors: Richard Rhodes (Introduction)

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The Manhattan Project is an ambitious undertaking, taken on by Kelly, the president of the Atomic Heritage Foundation in D.C. Her brief was to present the story of the atomic bomb from the discovery of fission through to today's possibility that terrorist organizations could control this means to destroy the world. The 70 year span includes letters, speeches, eyewitness accounts and oral histories. These last are the most compelling: scientists enmeshed in the overwhelming process of creating a top secret government project describe what it was like to live with the horrifying results of their work.

The chief physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer and the army's head of the program, Gen. Leslie R. Groves, are the main characters here, two compelling personalities determined to carry out their project in a limited time and bring an end to WWII. The army built three top secret sites in Tennessee, Washington State and Los Alamos, New Mexico where scores of the west's most brilliant scientists and their families lived, assisted by army personnel, most of whom had some scientific background.

The team faced a massive, dangerous task and produced atom and hydrogen bombs in a relatively short time. This "can do" tone changes once the bomb is dropped and much of the second half of the book centers on the aftermath: the morality of dropping the bomb, the horrible effects of destruction and radiation on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the need for arms control as more and more countries develop their own nuclear programs.

President Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" speech at the UN is startling in its eloquence and Oppenheimer's speech to his fellow scientists titled "You Have Done Excellent Work" warns them that their work will be criticized for generations to come.

Questions about whether the bomb should have been dropped on Japan surfaced almost immediately after the event. The creation of the Manhattan Project was due to the Allies' concern that the Nazis were developing a nuclear program; once it was determined in 1944 that no program existed, several MP physicists wanted the project to be abandoned. Some left, appalled that the bomb would be dropped on Japan, a country that never had a nuclear program. Others leaked secrets to the Soviets, fearing a post war world in which one country - the U.S. - could potentially control and threaten all the others.

President Truman and Secretary of War Henry Stimson rationalized that an invasion of Japan could have cost 1 million American lives, a number that was immediately criticized.

The book presents both sides of the argument. Interestingly, Secretary Stimson wrote in 1948: "History is often not what actually happened but what is recorded as such."

Of all the accounts in this book, the most compelling for me was that of John Martin Taylor, whose father was a Los Alamos scientist. Hearing his friends talk about what their fathers did in the war, the 12 year old asked his dad about his war experience:

"He quietly took John Hersey's 'Hiroshima' from the bookshelf and handed it to me.
'Read this.'
The story has haunted me ever since, and my dad has always refused to talk about the work he did as a young chemist on the Manhattan Project."
1 vote NarratorLady | Jan 29, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Cynthia C. Kellyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Rhodes, RichardIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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"Mia Montrose, archaeological linguist, has discovered that the Black Madonna is a code used by secret societies throughout time for the lost key to an ancient power source: the Sphere of Amenti. Kali, inter-dimensional Queen of the Anunnaki -now fully merged with the youngest Dragon Queen, Tamar Devere - has less than a year to rehabilitate her Fallen kindred who desire inter-galactic domination. Ashlee Granville-Devere, and the Dragon Queens must pool their talents to open the twelve Stations of the Signet Grid and unlock the Halls of Amenti lest the Fallen succeed in using time-travel technologies to destroy humanity. From the ancient past to the distant future, from Montsg ur to the way-stations of the universe, from the Underworld of the Kali Rift to the Otherworld of the Ranna Time Flow - the inter-time war must be won for the sake of the future."--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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