When President Obama and others say they want to end America's dependence on foreign oil, the vision is usually presented in terms of "a new Manhattan Project." So what really was the Manhattan Project? According to James Delgado, at the start of the project in 1942, the element plutonium only existed in microscopic quantities. By June 16, 1945, the date of the world's first nuclear bomb test, America had a fully-operational plutonium industry capable of producing hundreds of pounds of the fissionable material. In just three short years, nuclear weapon technology had progressed from infancy to the world stage.
Delgado, the co-host of the National Geographic Television series "The Sea Hunters," tells the breathtaking story of the original Manhattan Project and its aftermath. While most previous authors have focused on either the scientific or the social history of the events, Delgado's is the first to spotlight the military and political phases of the atom bomb. In crisp prose, he covers the background of the bomb in the labs in Europe, Britain, and America, but the story picks up speed after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war by America.
While most people recognize Robert Oppenheimer as the father of the bomb, readers of Nuclear Dawn will be surprised to learn that gave birth more in the sense that Henry Ford gave birth to the auto industry. In Delgado's narrative, Oppenheimer's role as master organizer and astute business manager is emphasized. What's more, few before Delgado have understood how deeply involved the US Army was in the project. From the very beginning, the program was run by army officers, financed by secret wartime military funds--to the tune of billions of dollars, staffed by army engineers and scientists, and made possible by army bureaucracy. Delgado also shows that without the army's ordnance expertise at Los Alamos, Oppenheimer's team could not have turned nuclear technology into a workable bomb.
Several other unique aspects of Nuclear Dawn turn on the military's role in the project. For example, Delgado tells the full story of the army air force's 509th fighter battalion, which was headed by an iconoclastic colonel named Paul Tibbets. Tibbets' battalion consisted of over 1,200 pilots and crew dedicated to a singular task: delivering an atomic bomb to Japan. Delgado tells how as part of their training, the Utah-based crews would fly practice sorties to Cuba and back, over and over again.
Another little-known aspect of the Manhattan Project drawn out be Delgado is the post-war bickering that quickly arose between the army and navy over who would control the bomb. James Delgado's new book fills a very important gap in our understanding of the enormous changes that the United States military underwent during WWII.
From the Hardcover edition.
Featured in the December 2009 Foreword Footnotes
Winner - Choice Magazine's Outstanding Academic Title
"A splendid introduction to the complex dilemmas of our atomic world." - F.M. Szasz, Choice Magazine (March 2010)
"Nuclear Dawn is a 'must' for any military library and for general history collections strong in World War II and nuclear bomb history. It offers a fully illustrated book surveying the development of the bomb, from early attempts to tests and advances in technology. An added bonus: it considers how the US Air Force had development capacity to delivery the weapons and considers the sites where such developments took place." -Midwest Book Review (February 2010)
"This fascinating book covers the pre-atomic age, the development and delivery of atomic bombs to their targets in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, international reaction to the attacks, and post-war atomic testing at Bikini Atoll. It then analyzes nuclear proliferation and deterence and the bomb's legacies, which have touched virtually every aspect of human affairs." -Colonel Gordon W. Keiser (Ret), US Naval Institute Proceedings (February 2010)
"Now, I am not much of a scientist. I am especially ignorant when it comes to the hard sciences, such as physics. It thus came as a bit of a surprise to me that the history of what is largely an area of research in physics could be so remarkable. Delgado, however, knows the craft of writing as well as any historian and he makes his subject both meaningful and exciting for even a casual reader...Reading Nuclear Dawn makes the atomic bomb far more accessible as a concept to the average reader than any other book on the subject I have read." - David Mitchell, BiblioBuffet (November 2009)
"Nuclear Dawn is a breathtaking story written in crisp, highly readable prose. Fully illustrated, this comprehensive book fills an important gap in our understanding of the enormous changes that the United States military underwent during World War II." -Sir Read-a-Lot/sirreadalot.org (October 2009)
From the Hardcover edition.