This Day in History (2-Dec-1942) – Enrico Fermi Creates a Self-Sustaining Nuclear Chain Reaction for the Manhattan Project

American scientists, many of them refugees from fascist regimes in Europe, took steps in 1939 to organize a project to exploit the newly recognized fission process for military purposes. In the summer of 1939, Albert Einstein was persuaded by his fellow scientists to use his influence and present the military potential of an uncontrolled fission chain reaction to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In February 1940, $6,000 was made available to start research. After the U.S. entry into the World war II, the War Department was given joint responsibility for the project. In June 1942 the Corps of Engineers’ Manhattan District was initially assigned management of the construction work (because much of the early research had been performed at Columbia University, in Manhattan). “Manhattan Project” became the code name for research work that would extend across the country.

Only method available for the production of the fissionable material plutonium-239, was developed at the metallurgical laboratory of the University of Chicago. In December 1942, Enrico Fermi, the Italian-born Nobel Prize-winning physicist, finally succeeded in producing and controlling a fission chain reaction in this reactor pile at Chicago.  Upon succesful completion of the experiment, a coded message was transmitted to President Roosevelt: “The Italian navigator has landed in the new world.”

The large-scale production reactors were built on an isolated tract on the Columbia River north of Pasco, Washington—the Hanford Engineer Works, for the quantity production of plutonium-239. By the summer of 1945, amounts of plutonium-239 sufficient to produce a nuclear explosion had become available from the Hanford Works, and weapon development and design were sufficiently far advanced so that an actual field test of a nuclear explosive could be scheduled. By this time the original $6,000 authorized for the Manhattan Project had grown to $2 billion. The first atomic bomb was exploded at 5:30 am on July 16, 1945, at a site on the Alamogordo air base 120 miles (193 km) south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, followed by Hiroshima and Nagasaki explosions in the next month.


This Day in History (6-Aug-1945) – Hiroshima Day

At 8:15 a.m., August 6, 1945, a single atomic bomb erased an entire family. “The baby boy was safely born. Just as the family was celebrating, the atomic bomb exploded. Showing no mercy, it took all that joy and hope along with the new life.”

A little boy managed somehow to survive, but the atomic bomb took his entire family. This A-bomb orphan lived through hardship, isolation, and illness, but was never able to have a family of his own. Today, he is a lonely old hibakusha. “I have never once been glad I survived,” he says, looking back. After all these years of terrible suffering, the deep hurt remains.

The Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law defines hibakusha as people who fall into one of the following categories: within a few kilometers of the hypocenters of the bombs; within 2 km of the hypocenters within two weeks of the bombings; exposed to radiation from fallout; or not yet born but carried by pregnant women in any of these categories. As of March 31, 2013; 201,779 hibakusha were recognized by the Japanese government, most living in Japan. The government of Japan recognizes about 1% of these as having illnesses caused by radiation.

A woman who experienced the bombing at the age of 8 months suffered discrimination and prejudice. She did manage to marry, but a month later, her mother-in-law, who had been so kind at first, learned about her A-bomb survivor’s handbook. “‘You’re a hibakusha,’ she said, ‘We don’t need a bombed bride. Get out now.’ And with that, I was divorced.” At times, the fear of radiation elicited ugliness and cruelty. Groundless rumors caused many survivors to suffer in marriage, employment, childbirth—at every stage of life.

Indiscriminately stealing the lives of innocent people, permanently altering the lives of survivors, and stalking their minds and bodies to the end of their days; the atomic bomb is the ultimate inhumane weapon and an absolute evil. The hibakusha, who know the hell of an atomic bombing, have continuously fought that evil.


This Day in History (15-Jul-1916) – Boeing Co (Pacific Aero) formed by William Boeing in Seattle Wash

In 1916 William Boeing and Navy engineer Conrad Westervelt founded the Pacific Aero Products Company in Seattle, and they built the B&W seaplane. When one year later Westervelt was recalled to active service in World War I, the company was renamed to the Boeing Airplane Company. During World War I the company manufactured aircraft for Navy training and patrol. Next to building airplanes the company at first also exploited an airline, and in 1919 they started the first international postal line between Seattle and Victoria in British Columbia. In 1927 Boeing built its first commercial airplane, the Model 40. In 1929 Boeing merged with engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, and they founded the United Aircraft and Transport Corporation. Its growth was spectacular and it subsequently purchased several regional airlines, and in 1931 it was renamed to United Air Lines. But in 1934 they had to deal with federal antitrust actions and were required to split up the company into three different companies; the Boeing Airplane Company, Pratt & Whitney and United Airlines.

During World War II Boeing produced hundreds of the B-17 Flying Fortress, that became the main U.S. bomber. This airplane was cherished by the pilots, because even half shot to pieces it would still manage to remain in the air and safely return. By 1944 the Seattle factory produced sixteen B-17 aircraft per day! Another aircraft was the B-29 bomber, the most famous of which was the Enola Gay, that carried the first atomic bomb to Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. It was followed in 1952 by the B-52 bomber. In 1958 it brought out the 707, which would prove to be a huge commercial success, and this model was succeeded by the 727, the 737 and the 747. In 1979 it extended to the 767, in 1990 to the 777. Its most recent offspring is the new 787 Dreamliner.

Boeing is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial and military aircraft, and it controls more than half of the market for jet aircraft, next to military jets and helicopters, missile systems and space technology.  Boing is the largest exporter in the United States by dollar value.