'Woe is me': why the US prevented Einstein from building the atomic bomb and how he reacted to Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Dmytro IvancheskulLife
Einstein was among the physicists who urged the United States to develop the atomic bomb before the Nazis did

The United States developed the atomic bomb on a fast track during World War II because a group of physicists, including the famous Albert Einstein, warned Washington that the Nazis might be the first to get such a weapon. But despite being a brilliant physicist, Einstein was not allowed to work on the atomic bomb in the US.

As Interesting Engineering recounts, the U.S. doubted Einstein's trustworthiness. The cautions were so serious that the brilliant physicist was not even allowed near scientists working on the atomic bomb.

Physicists Albert Einstein, Leo Szilard and Eugene Wigner sent a letter to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939, after Germany had invaded Poland, warning that the Nazis might develop a nuclear bomb. In the letter, the physicists called for urgent action because Germany's development of such a weapon would have catastrophic consequences for humanity.

In the same letter, they expressed the view that it was the United States that should be the first to develop a nuclear bomb as a deterrent. As a result, Roosevelt ordered the creation of the Manhattan Project.

It would have been logical that Einstein himself, as one of the recognized geniuses of physics, would have become a participant in such a large-scale project, but everything turned out differently. As a result, the bomb was developed by scientists led by Robert Oppenheimer, who hoped never to see its use. Einstein himself remained only a key participant in the formation of the project itself.

The reason was that U.S. officials feared Einstein's left-wing political views, believing they could pose a threat to the country's security. It got to the point that in July 1940, they denied him the security clearance necessary to work on a project to develop the atomic bomb.

Moreover, he was even forbidden to advise the physicists chosen by Oppenheimer to work on the project.

The Manhattan Project was formed in August 1942. And on July 16, 1945, Oppenheimer and his team conducted the first test explosion of nuclear weapons in the history of mankind.

Less than a month later, the Allied forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing about 200,000 people.

Einstein, upon learning of this, said, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, "woe is me".

"If I had known that the Germans would not have succeeded in creating an atomic bomb, I would not have lifted a finger," the physicist noted.

Szilard and Wigner were of the same opinion.

Even Robert Oppenheimer, who led the development of the bomb, hoped that it would never be used.

Recalling what he saw during bomb testing, Oppenheimer said he recalled a line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita: "Now I have become Death. The destroyer of worlds. "

Earlier OBOZREVATEL also told about the memories of the participants of the first atomic explosion in history.

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