Atomic Bomb Island: The Race Begins | Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours

Atomic Bomb Island: The Race Begins

Atomic Bomb Island book coverOur historian, Don Farrell’s book Tinian and The Bomb was reissued under the title, Atomic Bomb Island: Tinian, the Last Stage of the Manhattan Project, and the Dropping of the Atomic Bombs on Japan in World War II. As soon as Tinian and The Bomb was printed, Don sent copies to the best atom bomb critics he could reach and asked them for a critical review. Their comments have been addressed in this new edition. Don also received a new batch of photos from Los Alamos, many of which were incorporated.

As noted in a review by Richard Frank, author of Downfall: The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire:

“Atomic Bomb Island is a triumph. It is based on extremely deep research that provides a new and vivid account of the servicemen and scientists who prepared and delivered of the atomic bombs to Hiroshima and Nagasaki from Tinian. It is packed with details and important insights about this vital, but little understood component of the Manhattan Project. The narrative makes many individual participants come to life and devolves into some highly fraught clashes among them that had material consequences in the course of history.”

Read an excerpt from chapter one of Atomic Bomb Island, “The Race Begins.”

The Race Begins

December 1938 – December 1934

It is unfortunate that the noble contest among 20th Century scientists to unravel the secrets of the atom collided with an ignoble race among militant totalitarians for global domination. The result was cataclysmic.

The nuclear era was born on December 17, 1938 when the German chemist Otto Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann, working at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin, published the results of their experiments — bombarding uranium atoms with slow neutrons. In the publication, they described how the uranium atoms appeared to transmute into much lighter elements rather than nearby elements on the periodic chart. The highly respected Austrian-Swedish, theoretical physicist lIes Meitner and her newphew Otto Robert Frisch, also a professor at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, reviewed the Hahn – Strassman data. In a January 1939, publications, they announced that Hans and Strassman had achieved fission, with the release of extra neutrons, each capable of splitting another atom. The world of physics sat up and paid attention. When the French physicists Frederick Joliot-Curie and his colleagues Lew Kowarski and Hans von Halban replicated the experiment, they reported in the April 22nd edition of Nature that 3.5 neutrons were released from every nuclear fission. The possibility of a nuclear chain reaction became something more than theoretical. The conclusion were clear. Untold amounts of energy could be produced through a nuclear chain reaction, for good or bad. A controlled nuclear reaction could produce electricity. An uncontrolled nuclear reaction could result an explosion. Because of the escalation military situation in Europe, building a bomb took precedence. Thus, the nuclear arms race began in 1939, not after Hiroshima.

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Travel on the War in the Pacific Tour

Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours has had additional seats become available on our War in the Pacific Tour with Iwo Jima Reunion of Honor for March 2024. This exclusive tour always has a waitlist, so this is an exceptional opportunity.

Our War in the Pacific Tour with Iwo Jima Reunion of Honor is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You will travel with our historians, experts on WWII, to the islands where the battles raged during the War in the Pacific—Hawaii, Saipan, Tinian, Guam, and Iwo Jima—and learn about how the American and Japanese strategies actually played out. 

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