Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
After Albert Einstein first informed President Roosevelt that it might be possible to create a super bomb by splitting the atom, the United States in 1942 set up the top-secret Manhattan Project to develop such a weapon. Three years later, an American B-29 bomber called the Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb used in warfare on Hiroshima, Japan. The explosion immediately killed an estimated 70,000 to 100,000 people and destroyed an area of about five square miles. Thousands more later died from injuries and radiation. Another, larger atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki three days later, after which Japan agreed to end World War II. An excerpt from The Post of Aug. 7, 1945:
By Edward T. Folliard
Mankind has entered a new age, the age of atomic energy.
President Truman proclaimed the world-shaking event yesterday in a White House statement announcing the first use of history's greatest secret weapon -- a single bomb that 16 hours before had dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, with a force greater than 20,000 tons of T.N.T.
"It is an atomic bomb," said the White House statement. "It is a harnessing of the basic power of the universe. The force from which the sun draws its powers has been loosed against those who brought war to the Far East."
The explosion of that bomb, the most terrible missile ever invented, a fantasy at last fulfilled, must have been felt the length and breadth of Japan. Three weeks ago, when it was first tried out in the New Mexico desert, it was heard 300 miles away. In Albuquerque, 120 miles away, the flash caused a blind girl to exclaim: "What was that?" The steel tower from which the bomb was dropped was transformed into vapor.
The bomb will certainly shorten the war against Japan, if it does not end it. And in the language of the War Department, it "may even be the instrumentality to end all wars."
Looking beyond the war, President Truman saw a day when atomic energy, its role of destruction fulfilled, would be released to usher in a new era, in which it may "supplement the power that now comes from coal, oil and falling water." But before that era comes, he said, there must be a long period of intensive research.
Japan, it was stated by Secretary of War Stimson, "will not be in a position to use an atomic bomb in this war."
The "tremendous weapon," as Stimson called it, is an Anglo-American secret, developed at a cost of two billion dollars in the United States, and apparently is not known to Soviet Russia or any of our other Allies.
The first test of the bomb was as little noted as the first flight of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, which signalized the last great revolution in warfare. A news story told about a terrific explosion north of Santa Fe, N. Mex., and reported that people had heard it for a distance of 300 miles. That was all.
But that blast heralded what President Truman called "the greatest achievement of organized science in history." ...
A War Department announcement, describing the epochal test, said:
"A revolutionary weapon destined to change war as we know it, or which may even be the instrumentality to end all wars, was set off and with an impact which signalized man's entrance into a new physical world.
"A small amount of matter, the product of a chain of specially-constructed industrial plants, was made to release the energy of the universe, locked up within the atom from the beginning of time."
Once the New Mexico test had ended in success, the Army lost no time in going into action with the new and awful weapon.