Countdown to The Cold War: B-17 Flying Fortress (Videos)

On May 10, Anna flew on a B-24. Doug flew on the B-17 during its stop at the Lyon Air Museum. If you’re interested in seeing these aircraft, check the Collings Foundation SCHEDULE. If you can’t see them in person, here are videos from Doug’s B-17 ride. Though the Collings Foundation’s B-17 was built in April 1945 and, therefore, didn’t see combat, it has been … Continue reading Countdown to The Cold War: B-17 Flying Fortress (Videos)

Countdown to The Cold War: J. Robert Oppenheimer

On this date in 1904, Julius Robert Oppenheimer was born in New York. Forty years later, he became the head of the secret nuclear weapons laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and, therefore, also became instrumental in the countdown to The Cold War. We’ve written about Oppenheimer before, and we’ve visited Los Alamos a few times to walk in his footsteps. Here, we talk about … Continue reading Countdown to The Cold War: J. Robert Oppenheimer

Countdown to The Cold War: March 1945

The Manhattan Project boiled down to two enormous manufacturing problems: explosive materials and explosive devices. Each of these problems was eventually resolved in its own binary fashion. The explosive material, or, more appropriately, fissile material, came in two flavors: uranium and plutonium. Owing to their different physical properties, it was necessary to create an individual explosive device, or bomb, for each of the two radioactive … Continue reading Countdown to The Cold War: March 1945

Countdown to The Cold War: February 1945

In February 1945, the end of war in the European theatre of operations was still a few months off in the future. Nonetheless, Allied leaders felt that the war’s end was close enough that they could begin to anticipate the post-war era. To that end, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin met in Yalta—a city on the Crimean peninsula overlooking the Black Sea—on February 4-11 to discuss … Continue reading Countdown to The Cold War: February 1945

Countdown to The Cold War: January 1945

We’re continuing our review of the August 1944-1945 timeline of the Manhattan Project with a look at the month of January 1945. In Richard Rhodes’s award winning The Making of the Atomic Bomb, he says, “[T]he first stage of the enormous K-25 cascade was charged with uranium hexafluoride on January 20, 1945.” There’s an enormous amount of complexity that’s secreted away in that relatively compact … Continue reading Countdown to The Cold War: January 1945

Countdown to The Cold War: October 1944

In the book, Hanford and the Bomb: An Oral History of World War II, author S. L. Sanger gives perhaps the most straightforward description of Hanford’s role in the Manhattan Project: In simplest terms, Hanford’s job was to make plutonium inside the nuclear reactors by bombarding uranium fuel with neutrons, and to separate the plutonium from the irradiated uranium. The first step was nuclear; the … Continue reading Countdown to The Cold War: October 1944

Countdown to the Cold War: September 1944

In the last couple of posts, we’ve begun our Countdown to the Cold War by talking about the reorganized at Los Alamos in the fall of 1944 to develop a method known as implosion. You can read the last post in the series by clicking HERE. The next step on the Manhattan Project’s Countdown to the Cold War occurred on September 22, 1944, and was … Continue reading Countdown to the Cold War: September 1944

Countdown to The Cold War: August 1944 (3)

In our post two weeks ago, we mentioned implosion as an assembly method for a critical mass. The critical mass is the amount of fissile material—in the form of uranium or plutonium—necessary to set-up the uncontrolled fission chain reaction that’s at the heart of a nuclear weapon. Implosion was one of three original assembly methods evaluated during the Manhattan Project: autocatalysis, the gun method, and implosion. … Continue reading Countdown to The Cold War: August 1944 (3)

Countdown to The Cold War: August 1944 (2)

Our first “Countdown to The Cold War” post appeared LAST WEEK, so you may want to start there. In the vernacular of the Manhattan Project scientists and engineers, assembly is the process of transforming a subcritical mass of either uranium or plutonium into a supercritical mass, an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction resulting in an explosion. In the earliest days of the project, most of the … Continue reading Countdown to The Cold War: August 1944 (2)

The Next Year: Countdown to The Cold War, Cancer, and Space Exploration

August 6, 1945: An atomic weapon named “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. An estimated 70,000 people—almost one-third of the city’s population—and more than 90% of the physicians and nurses were killed by the bombing that day. In the days, months, and years after that event and the bombing of Nagasaki three days later, others died as a result of radiation exposure and related … Continue reading The Next Year: Countdown to The Cold War, Cancer, and Space Exploration