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tv   The Moment in Time  CSPAN  August 9, 2015 10:00pm-10:58pm EDT

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september 5 we are live from the nation's capital for the 15th annual national book festival, followed on sunday with our live in depth program with former second lady and senior fellow at the american enterprise institute lynne cheney. the tv on c-span2, television for serious readers. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> we will look back at the atomic bombings and the end of the war in the pacific. announcer: 70 years ago, the first atomic tom was tested near los alamos, new mexico, and a few weeks later, it was dropped on hiroshima, japan and nagasaki, japan. el america, a library of congress and los alamos coproduction from the year 2000 which tells the story of the
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bomb.o create the this includes interviews from some of the key manhattan project scientist and technicians. >> things change in time. in a moment in time in 1945, everything changed. the deserts of central new mexico, an area called "the journey of death," named by the spanish conquistadors, because if you ran out of water, you would not survive here. this place is now known as the trinity site. in a moment in time in this spot in july, 1945, things changed. in the instant of what happened here, the life of a war changed, along with the course of history.
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it began years before thousands , of miles away. [drumbeats] narrator: for years, adolf hitler had forced not to rule on nazirced the influence of rule on europe. the rest of the free world saw his intentions were war and brutality was his message. >> i came from hungary and germany. i have seen many things firsthand. i was dreadfully worried about my family and all of my friends, and i do not believe that people today realize how tremendous those things have been, because hitler indeed could have taken over the world.
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he had the power to do so. those of us who came from europe, we saw it came in stages. dr. bethe: from very early on, the jewish people were put in concentration camps. the loss of jobs was well-documented and kept getting worse. there was no question that i should emigrate. narrator: there were other scientists from the best universities and scientific institutions in europe seeking also to get away. theythey fled the nazis, brought with them and international relationship of friendships and acquaintances, along with research they had been doing on a relatively new field of nuclear fission.
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it had been discovered in germany in 1938, and was an emerging field that promised massive amounts of energy. there was also the thought that it could deliver energy in a bomb. a single, massive amount of energy that could destroy a city. dr. bethe: we knew that there were a number of enemies that were available, and so that made us concerned. that we might be too late. >> the war had begun four months earlier. at that time, this seemed fateful. mindmediately saw no one's was on anything. how could it be used for war?
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concern led the physicist to reveal the possibility to the government. together with albert einstein and edward teller, this doctor composed a letter to franklin roosevelt, telling of the terrible possibility that germany had the talent and the knowledge to research and develop an atomic weapon. delivering the letter to roosevelt on the scientists' behalf was dr. sachs. an economic adviser to the president. roosevelt said, alex, your goal the nazis don't blow us up. action, roosevelt said. intelligence reports from europe indicated that the nazis were working on such a weapon, but no one knew how much effort they were devoting to it. the one certainty was that if hitler developed the bomb, he would win the war. the letter to roosevelt paved
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the way for the creation of a top-secret military project, one that would have the highest priority and tightest security. it would be named the manhattan military engineering district. dr. teller: finally we became a -- we began to participate in the war effort. it was a relief. narrator: the project was massive, it designed and built a design that existed in theory from material that didn't exist in any quantity, under unprecedented's secrecy, many of who were not even u.s. citizens. it was known that the nucleus of one form of uranium would split when it absorbed a neutron. when this happens, energy is released and more neutrons were created that struck and split the nuclei. when it happens continuously, it is known as a chain reaction. no one knew at the start how much fissionable material would be needed to start an explosive chain reaction. that volume would be known as the critical mass.
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another element only discovered in 1941, by a berkeley chemist, properties to explode in a chain reaction under the right conditions. he named it for the ninth planet, plutonium. >> the isotope was plutonium 238. produced by a bombardment of uranium. one month later i was joined by another researcher and we identified in this room the isotope of importance and isolated it so that it could be, have its fission properties measured. measured at the 37 inch. narrator: general leslie grove of the u.s. army corps of engineers had just completed a major project, the construction of the pentagon.
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--was his decision to combat accept an assignment overseas. the superior officer to hold grove that the secretary of war had selected him for an important assignment in washington. he was appointed the head of the manhattan project. >> general grove was a very difficult man to sum up. but i can, the same thing appealed to me and him that appealed to oppenheimer. enormous devotion, determination to get the war over, to do what he could. physicist,nd italian working underneath chicago stadium, assembled a large pile of graphite blocks with natural uranium in them. in 1942, they succeeded in bringing about the first man-made controlled nuclear chain reaction. now that controlled fission had been accomplished, it could be studied and the next steps could proceed. robert oppenheimer was a highly respected 38 year old theoretical physicist in 1942.
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he had been closely examining the development of fission science. in october, he was at the university of chicago when grove came through on his first inspection tour. they discussed the need for a central facility. grove saw something in oppenheimer, a leadership, and an understanding of what needed to be done. >> i first met oppenheimer when i became a graduate student at berkeley. his reputation for clear explication was already strong. he had a reputation for being very quick, and easily able to quash a questioner or objectioner. dr. bethe: oppenheimer was a difficult human being. extremely intelligent, extremely quick.
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he understood everything when i had just a glimpse of what was being talked about. narrator: grove selected oppenheimer for the leader of the manhattan project to be brought together into one place. oppenheimer came to the project with an immediate controversy. his security was questioned because of college acquaintances within communism. dr. bethe: by the time of the start of the war, he had become very leftist. narrator: groves overrode objections and stayed with his selection. >> no one would undertake such a task, and when i met grove i realized they were very different persons. very different views. but they both had an intensity and determination and that is won over grove's. he could see oppenheimer was a
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man who understood the job and could get it done. narrator: groves what into compartment july's -- compartmentalize the department. oppenheimer immediately disagreed. to him, progress was made through interaction. science was discovered through collaboration. he held weekly colloquiums, scientific meetings among the different groups to exchange information and solve problems. dr. bethe: oppenheimer insisted that everyone should know and contribute. narrator: the new lab will be devoted to experiment. oppenheimer was a theorist. putting them in a framework yes, we knows us, how a star works. we know how a supernova explodes. but every single bit of physics that goes into understanding our universe, has first been tested
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out right here on planet earth. and that is what an experimentalist does. laws holdhether those up. they are not laws congress can repeal. narrator: the best scientific talent in the country and outside the country would the siking as site -- working at locale 200remote miles from a coastline or international boundary from safety from attack. room for testing, whether good enough for construction to proceed year round, and enough housing to accommodate the first group of scientists. dudley of the manhattan engineering district found a location in oak city in utah. there were too many residents, and too much farmland that would be evicted. oppenheimer was no stranger to the southwest. his family had a vacation cabin in the pecos wilderness of new mexico.
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the next prospect was another town in new mexico. oppenheimer and groves drove to new mexico to have a look. opinion, thesame narrow canyon walls were too deep for comfort space and security. oppenheimer remembered a place he had been to on a trip and returned. it was a place called los alamos. they drove there, and the students were out on their playing fields, and a light snow was falling. this is it, groves said. located on the eastern slope of the mountains, los alamos was -- had as occupants homesteaders. it was the dream of an extra rough rider named ashley pond. it was the school for the sons of wealthy families based on a vigorous life. students wore shorts year-round and slept in unheated sleeping porches. each student was assigned a
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horse to care for and pack trips into the mountains were common. the school had spent its time quietly since the late 1920's, but now the school was starting to come to an end. school officials started noticing a low-flying planes studying the area. cars and military vehicles appeared on the roads that lead up from the valley. on december 4, 1942, the school received notice from henry stimson, the secretary of war, that the school was being taken over. condemnation proceedings were used and it was decreed that all records of the acquisition be sealed from public view. almost 54,000 acres were required. almost 9000 acres were public land. the cost of acquisition was $440,000. >> after pearl harbor, we all knew that we were kind of playing an endgame. we would get out of school and we were off to war. and so in the beginning of the fall of '42, there was already
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surveyors around here from the government, and then they took it over. they brought around mega bulldozers to the place. there was actually fantastic construction in a very short period of time. we knew the school would be taken over, but we didn't know when. narrator: construction crews started throwing up buildings for administration, laboratories, housing, schools, and everything else the community needed to function. it looked more like a boom town than a wartime army camp. all mushrooming around the ranch school. >> at the end of all of this, before christmas these two dudes , show up here, the first one in a porkpie hat and the second one in a fedora. they were called mr. smith and mr. jones. it took two hours to know that this was oppenheimer and lawrence. we call them by those names
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among us kids right then, because we knew of them so well from our physics courses and things like that. we had pictures in our physics books. narrator: in 1943, the last graduation was held. new roads of unpaved streets became mud in the rain. define the new community. in 1943, the university of california was selected to operate the new laboratory. recruiting scientists was difficult, because prospective employees were already doing important work, and needed good reason to change their jobs. because of security, only scientific personnel could be told anything about the nature of the work. they were to tell no one about what they did, not even their families. laney, new mexico, 15 miles south of los alamos. -- southeast of santa fe. in the spring of 1943, they
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started arriving at the railroad station that looked like it was in the middle of nowhere. arriving from all parts of the country and europe were the best scientific minds in the world. niels bohr, edward teller, richard feynman, edward mcmillan. some came as consultants and the rest as permanent staff. santa fe, new mexico. to those who came into town en route from around the country, it was hard to see the small town is the state's capital. the first stop was in office at 109 east palace avenue, run by dorothy mckibben. it was the welcome and check-in for all of those who came to disappear up on the plateau. she arranged for transportation, housing, and hundreds of other little things that took away some of the apprehension of things to come.
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one wife said, >> i felt a kindred spirit with the pioneer women accompanying their husbands westward, alert to dangers, resigned to the fact that they journeyed into the unknown. narrator: after leaving santa fay, the dirt road was rough even for that day. once they crossed the bridge over the rio grande, they climbed up a steep road to the top of the mesa. there, they were met by the first security gate. once they made it in, it was a different world. dr. bethe: this was a desolate place. the buildings were just being built, and the one thing that was beautiful was the view of the sun off the cliffs on the other side.
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dr. teller: my wife and son came to or three weeks later and we stayed in a big house, and it was sort of a mess. it wasn't easy to sleep. ,omeone was beating his drum which i did not like. but apart from that, of course, the surroundings. i knew it was magnificent. >> it was wartime. it struck me as a military camp, with an influx of university people. i felt right at home. there were famous europeans who were common. narrator: the british were part of the project. they arrived as part of the mission to help work on the bomb. rows of work family houses stretched to the north, named sun homes. barrick send dormitories and trailers, everyone was a
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transplant from somewhere else. because of the mission, because of everything else on the hill, it became a tightknit community of scientists, spouses, children, and mers -- and military personnel. most people were in their 20's or 30's. the average age was 25. they were healthy and middle class. there was no unemployment. what you did at the lab dictated your social standing, as well as of your housing. >> from our point of view, it was wonderful. we couldn't have had a better waste to live. there was plenty of food to eat. a lot of the people there had pretty miserable times in their apartments, which were very shoddily constructed to the disappointment of many europeans and did not have bathtubs. separation of adjacent houses was feeble. you knew when your neighbors were having a party. narrator: some senior lab
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officials lived in homes previously used by the schoolmasters. it became known as the top row -- as bathtub row since they , were the only places that had them. in the beginning of april, 1943, oppenheimer assembled his staff, of about 30, to sum up the studies of the weapon from the previous summer in berkeley. it also incorporated research done on fission over the past year. it was determined that explosive means would do the job by taking a sub critical mass and making it critical so that the radioactive material would detonate. two methods to do that had been devised. one was a gunmetal, where two halves of sub critical material were shot together to form a critical mass, starting the nuclear detonation. it was discovered that the gun method would work with uranium, but not with plutonium. >> with plutonium, there was spontaneous-ish and. that produce neutrons all the time.
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fission.neous if you had a gun assembly, shooting two pieces together, before they got together and have a big explosion, they would re-detonate. dr. bethe: we had assembly which we made fun of and there was the idea of implosion, which in the end, turned out to be the way to do it. >> suddenly, the top priority shifted to the plutonium model. narrator: the gun method was the easiest, but the science of implosion would have to be developed, also. it required science and engineering that would enable scientific -- simultaneous and uniform compression of plutonium. because nothing like this had ever been created, the plutonium weapon would also have to be tested. it would be months for the first significant amounts of nuclear
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material would be delivered. before that could happen, there were many questions which came down to the central problem, how to make the fissionable serial -- material of uranium 235 or the plutonium 239 to release their energy efficiently in a casing that an airplane could deliver. one of the biggest problems of extracting u-235 or p-238 was the job of the plant at oak ridge, tennessee. a gas diffusion measured -- method was used, thousands of miles of piping was used. hundreds of acres of barrier produced metal from uranium enriched gas. also used were electromagnetic -- separation to produce and refine the material. oak ridge required thousands of workers. a team was assembled in chicago by seaborg to devise a method for extracting plutonium. hanford, washington was selected for the location of refining the plutonium.
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-- ond depended as much a chemical separation as the reactors. the chemistry was seaborg's, scaled up from his micro chemical work. dr. seaborg: we had been working with what you called tracer amounts, invisible amounts detected by its radioactivity, but we couldn't deduce the chemical properties with certainty that way. we needed to work with actual ponderable weighable amounts, , and that is why we produced weighable amounts of plutonium in this way. this meant we had to work, and i say we, the chemists working with me, on what they call an ultra-micro chemical scale. narrator: slowly, the materials started coming to los alamos in september, 1944. for those in loss elements who were not part of the project, life continued.
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all of the material came to po box 1663 in santa fe. everyone have the same address. babies born at the lab had it as their place of birth. it was the address on driver's licenses, bank accounts, income tax returns, and insurance policies. los alamos was an army post, one that had more civilians than met -- military personnel. 80 babies were born in the first year. by 1945, there were 300 infants on the site. it was so much of a concern that general groves almost literally oh -- ordered oppenheimer to stop the population explosion. the population doubled every nine months. housing would always be short, water scarce and electricity intermittent. the threat of structure fire was always in the back of everyone's mind. then there was security. residents could not travel more than 100 miles from los alamos. if you ran into a friend on the outside of the project, you had
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to give a detailed report to security. famous names were disguised. occupations were never mentioned and everyone was an engineer. the word physicist was for bitten. male was censored and long-distance calls were monitored, which was easy because there was only one phone line in 1943. by 1945, there were three. the entire project was surrounded by high, barbed wire fences and controlled by armed guards. work weeds were six days. -- work weeks were six days. 12-13 hour days were normal. saturday nights there were parties. they were big and small and an integral part of life on the mesa. >> young people had parties. we would go to dinner with six people. narrator: several affairs were usually scheduled every saturday night. single men and women scheduled dorm parties and the furniture was pushed back for dancing and
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parties often lasted well into the night. >> my wife and i enjoyed square dancing. at the lodge, they had a square dance about once or twice a month, >> we went to the mountains, we went to the indian pueblas, we went to the ruins -- pueblos, we went to the ruins, it was an intense time. we all worked. it would be fair to say 60 hour weeks. we worked on saturday by routine . sunday was the only day off. narrator: the work, governed by the urgency from events waged on the battlefields in europe and the pacific, never got easier. but those working on the bomb fell a have the science, it was the engineering that created the problem. >> partly regarding the circumstances, we thought about how difficult it was, what an intellectual feat it was.
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some of it was self-serving. the scientist like to say it, and it looked difficult, but it wasn't very difficult. dr. bethe: i entirely agree with phil morrison on this point. it was engineering. narrator: work on the gun weapon moved ahead, but the implosion weapon work was slow, frustrating and at times, , seemingly hopeless. detailed data on the effects of the weapon was needed. no one knew how powerful the weapon would be. in late 1943, planning for the test was begun. the site selected was on the alamogordo bombing range in new mexico. it was 210 miles south of los alamos, 27 miles from the nearest town and 12 miles from the nearest inhabitant. in november 1944, construction of the base camp again.
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the test was initially scheduled for the activity at the test july 4. site increased, despite things like snakes, scorpions, heat, and dust. herds of antelope and some range beef started to disappear, showing up on the menu. hunting often took place with the aid of submachine guns. on april 12, 1945, president franklin roosevelt died. flags across the country and around the world flew at half staff. including the flag at the test site named trinity by oppenheimer. sworn in to taken leadership of the country was then-vice-president harry truman. less than a month later, on may 8, the war in europe, which had been raging since 1939, ended with the surrender of the german forces. the race to beat hitler in building an atom bomb was at an end.
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as worried as the u.s. government was about germany developing a nuclear bomb,'s there had been no major as the allies advanced into germany, a team of paramilitary operators searched for evidence of a german nuclear effort. among their finds, germany could not have an atomic bomb and was not likely to have had had one anytime soon. but there was still the war in the pacific against the japanese. they work at los alamos continued. seth and other explosive experts had been laboring to discover the nature of creating a symmetrical implosion. lenses were created. explosive lenses that would focus the shockwaves inward to compress the subcritical mass to critical. at f site, near los alamos, high explosives were mixed to form a fissionable cocoon the material would rest in.
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the explosives had been cooled just right to prevent air bubbles. the lenses required precision casting with machine finishing. tolerances for the 100 or so pieces had to fit together within a few thousands of an inch. things still fell behind schedule. the test date was moved back. in order to accurately calibrate the instrumentation for the test, another test, one using only high explosives, was needed. a dress rehearsal of 100 tons of tnt was planned for. hundreds of crates of high explosives were stacked on a platform of a 20 foot tower. tubes of low-level nuclear material were scattered throughout the explosives to simulate the radioactive products of a nuclear blast. everything was set to a scale to match the expected effects of the nuclear test shot. on may 7, the high explosive was
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detonated. the orange fireball was seen 60 him miles away. but what if the real test was unsuccessful? the fissionable material might him be lost from the detonation of the high explosive surrounding it. the decision was made early on to contain any misfire inside a huge steel vessel. it was 25 feet along, 12 feet in diameter, 14 inches thick, and weighed 214 tons. it was called jumbo. by the time it was delivered, though, production of the material had increased and there was greater confidence in the success of the bomb. use of jumbo was canceled. instead, it was hung from a tower 800 yards from ground zero. a senior scientist started a betting pool on the bomb's yield. >> i bet on the number that they had predicted, maybe eight kilotons. >> edmond teller bet 45,000 tons.
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>> i bet i was the only one who lost the pool because i bet too high. [laughter] practically everybody else bet too low. >> norman bet low. >> i bet zero and i think that was the most intelligent because it included not only zero, but the first 35 generations of neutrons. >> i think it gives you a bit of a quantitative assessment how very doubtful we had been at that time. and, you know, i cannot see into the souls of other people. i was very much impressed. if not worried what would happen. >> los alamos started sending down those who need to be at this test site.
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as the test date grew closer, there was a nagging uncertainty on whether the bomb would work at all. in a meeting before the test, a description of all that was known about the bomb, and what wasn't. >> we overruled fermi, and that was a very dangerous thing to do because fermi was almost always right. but we overruled him, so i felt uncertain for that reason. >> during the war, very often, we kept saying, maybe they will come across some obstacle which prevents it from working. you can easily imagine those things. for example, a little delay in the emission of fast neutrons after fission. >> they would know only if the gadget detonated.
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three areas were of prime importance. first, impose and studies. the release of nuclear energy in the form of gamma rays. second was damage measurement. and third was blast effect. reinforced shelters had been built at 10,000 yards north, west, and south of ground zero for cameras to record and scientists to observe the blast. one camera rigged by berlin brixner would shoot color. the rest, black and white. besides running at normal speed, some would be running as fast as 8000 frames per second. >> it would take pictures and then it would fasten to a steel cable that could be used to pull those cameras out of that area, which would be too radioactive to go in at all at that time.
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>> on july 7, norris bradbury, who was group leader for bomb assembly, began putting the components through loading tests and assembly dry runs in los alamos. by the following thursday, the 12th, assembly of the high explosives sphere began at v site. the preassembled explosive unit left for trinity site. they were now working against time, along with everyone else still at los alamos. by now, plutonium delivered to los alamos had been shaped into hemispheres. on july 11, they made the trip to trinity, along with other components in the back seat of a well-guarded sedan. >> i remember being afraid of the fast-driving and woman who drove us down there with us in the convoy. it was a very high-speed pedal to the floor all the way driver. that was the scariest thing. >> at ground zero, a 100 foot
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prefabricated steel tower had been built. it was braced for an electric winch to haul the gadget to a platform at the top. friday, july 13, starting at 9:00 a.m., the pit was assembled in a sealed and thoroughly cleaned room near ground zero. before assembly began, a receipt was signed for the plutonium. value -- at least several hundred million dollars. at the moment the receipt was signed, the test shifted to military control. though the number of parts were few, assembly took several hours. the core was then taken to the tower. final assembly of the bomb began in a canvas tent at the base of the tower. there were a few moments of concern when the core did not fit in the center of the device. but once the temperature equalized, the pit slipped smoothly into place. the next day, the tent was removed and a gadget, with its core, was hoisted to the top of
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the tower. only the detonators had not been installed. the openings where they would be inserted gave the bomb a bandaged look. >> we made measurements of that thing every few hours to see if it was behaving properly. because it was the first time it had been left out of the laboratory for any length of time. so somebody was there and somebody in my group had to climb up and measure something and come back down again every few hours. >> the weather, still a concern, starting to turn dark with thunder and lightning as test day arrived. it started to rain. would the test be able to go on? >> extraordinary. very hard to sleep, very hard to get your mind off of all the things that could go wrong did but we were consumed in the job, especially this crucial one, a test fire to see if this whole idea would work. and that was in everyone's mind, i think.
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>> everyone was extremely excited to see if it would turn out to be that way because no one really knew whether the thing would work or not. >> by 2:00 a.m., the weather started to look better. they shot was postponed until 5:30. at 4:00 a.m., the rain stopped. at 4:45, an updated weather report came in showing improved conditions. the test was a go for 5:30. at 5:09:45, t minus 20 minutes the master switches were unlocked. at the viewing sites around trinity, everyone was told to lie facedown with their feet towards the blast and close and cover their eyes. >> we were given those glasses so we wouldn't be blinded. i took dark glasses in addition to those glasses.
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then i put some ointment on my face. and then i put on gloves. to be protected against all eventualities. >> they didn't allow many people, but they did allow me -- and i looked with one eye, i had one eye protected. i couldn't look with both eyes. so i was looking with just one eye. >> the three of us, one of the other people with us was ken, who went to cornell. he'd done his explosive work. and he was next to robbie on one side, i guess. yeah, next to him. he apparently was a couple over. and -- robbie was really getting quite excited. and gryson was very relaxed. robbie said, aren't you going to get excited? he said, no.
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he had been doing a lot of work with explosives. you get calm. i guess you have to. and he was fairly calm. and robbie said, tell me when you get excited. >> general groves had thoughts of his own. >> the quiet grew more intense. as i lay there, i thought of what i would do if the countdown got to zero and nothing happened. >> at the control point, general farrel, grove's deputy, wrote -- >> be seen inside the shelter was dramatic beyond words. it can be safely said that most everyone was praying. oppenheimer grew tenser as the seconds ticked off. >> at 45 second, the automatic timer was gutted. the test was now out of man's control. one physicist, who is normally equal headed one, changed his mind.
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>> -30 seconds, -15 seconds, gryson said to robbie, i'm excited. >> 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. [bomb explosion] >> in the dead silence of the morning, at 5:29:45 mountain time, the area was bathed in an intense flash of a light that man had only seen from the stars. >> most experiences in life can be comprehended by previous experience. but the atom bomb did not fit into any preconception possessed by anybody. norris bradbury. >> the light from the blast was the one place where theoretical calculations had been way off. in the instrument bunker at 10,000 north, berlin brixner was caught off guard. >> then i realized that the ball of fire was moving up, so i grabbed the controls of the camera and turned the camera up.
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and so you see it abruptly, it jerks straight up. >> i was looking straight at the bright spot that appeared at a very small point of light. and my first impression was, i very distinctly remember, is that all? >> you didn't look at the bomb. i'm looking the other direction. the mountains were like the sun had just risen. >> and then i started to see the point rising and spreading, i did take off the glasses. by that time, i knew it was big. i twisted the glasses and looked down at the sand behind me. you know the whole thing was at dawn, 6:00 a.m., barely light.
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as i looked down at the sand, it was like you are lifting the curtain in a darkened room. >> before i got my hand up to start adjusting the goggles, i felt something that i didn't know -- i hadn't been smart enough to interpret to figure out what was going to happen. nobody had thought of it, i think. it was a cool desert morning. the sun had not quite come up. the air was still. it had that curious chill of a hot place, which cools down over -- hot place at its coolest hour of the day. and suddenly on that cold background, the heat of the sun came to me before the sun rose. it was the heat of the bomb. not the light. but the heat was the first thing i could feel. >> physicist frank oppenheimer, standing next to his brother, robert, wrote -- >> and there was this sense of an ominous cloud hanging over us. it was a brilliant purple with all the radioactive glowing and it just seemed to hang there
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forever. of course, it didn't. it must have been a very short time until it went up. it was very terrifying. and the thunder from the blast, it bounced on the rocks and then it went, i don't know where else it bounced, but it never seemed to stop. not like an ordinary echo with thunder. it just kept echoing back and forth. it was a very scary time when it went off. and i wish i would remember what my brother said, but i can't. but i think we just said, it worked. i think that is what we both said, both of us. it worked. >> at 4:00 a.m. up on sandia crest, overlooking albuquerque, groups of people who had driven there up the winding dirt road thought the test had failed with nothing happened. those who stayed were amazed by what they saw. >> the world would not be the same. few people laughed. few people cried.
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most people were silent. i remembered the line from the hindu scripture, the bhagavad gita. vishnu was trying to persuade the prince that he should do his duty. and to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, now i am become death, the destroyer of worlds. i suppose we all thought that one way or another. >> the explosion caused excitement around the state. wire services were swamped with inquiries and the army was prepared. three weeks before the test, a release had been prepared and sent to the headquarters of the
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almagordo bombing range. it stated that an ammunition dump in a remote part of the range filled with high explosives, gas shells, and pyrotechnics had exploded. weather conditions affecting the content of gas shells exploded by the blast may make it desirable for the army to temporarily evacuate some civilians from their homes. not long after sunrise, what was left of the cloud had started to dissipate. there was concern that the irradiated dust and debris from the blast -- fallout -- would fall onto neighboring communities. at a few locations, detectors showed rises in radioactivity. but they dropped quickly. oppenheimer returned to base camp from 10,000 south. >> when he came back, there he was with his hat. you have seen pictures of robert's hat. he came to where we were in headquarters and his walk was, like "high noon."
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i think that is the best i could describe it. this kind of strut. he had done it. >> he looked very relieved, as to be expected. after all, it had worked. and the tension was over. >> later in the morning, fermi and herbert anderson wore surgical scrubs and rode into -- in two tanks to ground zero. fermi's got stuck. anderson went on and surveyed the bomb's crater through a periscope. the 100 foot tower had been pulverized. all that remained were the twisted stumps at the footing, which were anchored 20 feet into the ground. covering the ground was a green grass like substance. it would later be called trinitite. the bomb blast was estimated at 21 kilotons. the bet in the pool was 19 kilotons.
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he won. there was still a great deal of work to be done. >> we went up to los alamos and the interesting thing about that was the collapse of security in the dining halls. that evening. because everyone was exchanging experiences about the explosion. where they saw it from, where it was, and so on. not just a few people, but a roar. >> in potsdam, yugoslavia, president truman and british prime minister churchill were meeting with joseph stalin to decide how to end the war in the pacific. it was not their preference to include russia unless absolutely necessary. >> we were very -- to hear that when truman had asked stalin
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about our test, we were told, yes, truman had mentioned it and stalin had reacted -- in a noncommittal way. >> because he already knew. >> he already knew. >> after the successful test at trinity, the man who began what became the manhattan project was concerned that the weapon, which was made to stop hitler, should not be used. he and other scientists felt it should be demonstrated to japan to encourage them to surrender. he started a petition among the scientists to appeal to the president to consider alternative plans. >> even before the test, sometime i believe end of june, i got a letter from a very good
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friend, leo, whom i had driven to see einstein at the time and he signed the letter that got things going. and he had circulated a petition. that the bomb should not be dropped. before the japanese were first notified. would i please sign it and circulate it in los alamos? he was in chicago. i wanted to sign it. but i felt i could not circulate it without showing it to oppenheimer. that i did. and oppenheimer got very excited. that is completely wrong. we scientists have one job, to solve the technical problems. we don't know anything about the japanese, we don't know anything about politics, we should shut
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up about all those things. now, i had strong feelings about it and i wanted to sign it and i wanted to circulate it, but on the other hand, what oppenheimer said made a sense and he also had tremendous prestige with everybody, including me. i did not sign the letter. >> oppenheimer and others, maybe fermi, came together in a meeting and -- and decided they did not know any other way to use the weapon effectively than to actually drop it. and i retrospectively -- i
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agreed at the time that it should be dropped. and i agree even more today. >> you knew definitively one week later, when kenny gave his famous lecture on the effects of bomb at the colloquium on the thursday afternoon after the monday -- again, would probably end the war. >> but by then, the die was cast. the bomb was under control of the military and the targets had been selected. >> we are now prepared to destroy more rapidly and completely every productive enterprise the japanese have in any city. we shall destroy their docks, their factories, and the communications. let there be no mistake, we shall completely destroy japan's power to make war. it was to spare the japanese
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people from ultimate destruction that the ultimatim of july 26 was issued at potsdam. their leaders rejected the ultimatum. if they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this earth. >> a few hours before dawn on july 16, while the scientists at trinity site waited for the test in the new mexico desert, the primary components of the gun type uranium weapon were being hoisted aboard the indianapolis. the ship set sail. a few weeks later, on august 6, 1945, a b-29 named enola gay took off in the early morning hours. just after 8:00 a.m., it dropped the weapon named little boy,
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which exploded approximately a thousand feet over the japanese city of hiroshima. ♪ ♪ three days later, another mission carrying the plutonium implosion weapon named fat man detonated over nagasaki. ♪ a few weeks later, the war ended with the japanese surrender on the battleship missouri in tokyo bay. world war ii was over. >> let us pray that peace be now restored to the world and that
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god will preserve it always. these proceedings are closed. ♪ [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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>> in august 1945, american forces dropped two atomic bombs over japan. one in hiroshima, the other in not the sake. in about 10 minutes, benjamin beaters and recalls being sent los alamos new mexico to work on the manhattan project as a member of the special engineering detachment, completely unaware of his function at the salamis, he worked on designing the atomic bombs ignition switches. he also discusses the atmosphere is secrecy at los alamos and the scientists recruited to work


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