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The Manhattan Project was a program of research and development undertaken during World War II to produce the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States in collaboration with the United Kingdom and with support from Canada. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Nuclear physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory that designed the bombs. The Army component was designated the Manhattan District, as its first headquarters were in Manhattan; the name gradually superseded the official codename, Development of Substitute Materials, for the entire project. The project absorbed its earlier British counterpart, Tube Alloys. The Manhattan Project grew rapidly and employed nearly 130,000 people at its peak and cost nearly US$2 billion (equivalent to about $26 billion in 2022). Over 90 percent of the cost was for building factories and to produce fissile material, with less than 10 percent for development and production of the weapons. Research and production took place at more than 30 sites across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada.
|Disbanded||15 August 1947|
|Branch||U.S. Army Corps of Engineers|
|Garrison/HQ||Oak Ridge, Tennessee, U.S.|
|Anniversaries||13 August 1942|
|Manhattan District shoulder sleeve insignia|
The project led to the development of two types of atomic bombs, both developed concurrently, during the war: a relatively simple gun-type fission weapon and a more complex implosion-type nuclear weapon. The Thin Man gun-type design proved impractical to use with plutonium, so a simpler gun-type design called Little Boy was developed that used uranium-235. Three methods were employed for uranium enrichment: electromagnetic, gaseous and thermal. In parallel with the work on uranium was an effort to produce plutonium. After the feasibility of the world's first artificial nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1, was demonstrated in 1942 at the Metallurgical Laboratory in the University of Chicago, the project designed the X-10 Graphite Reactor and the production reactors at the Hanford Site, in which uranium was irradiated and transmuted into plutonium. The Fat Man plutonium implosion-type weapon was developed in a concerted design and development effort by the Los Alamos Laboratory.
The project was also charged with gathering intelligence on the German nuclear weapon project. Through Operation Alsos, Manhattan Project personnel served in Europe, sometimes behind enemy lines, where they gathered nuclear materials and documents, and rounded up German scientists. Despite the Manhattan Project's tight security, Soviet atomic spies successfully penetrated the program.
The first nuclear device ever detonated was an implosion-type bomb during the Trinity test, conducted at New Mexico's Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range on 16 July 1945. Little Boy and Fat Man bombs were used a month later in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively, with Manhattan Project personnel serving as bomb assembly technicians and weaponeers on the attack aircraft. In the immediate postwar years, the Manhattan Project conducted weapons testing at Bikini Atoll as part of Operation Crossroads, developed new weapons, promoted the development of the network of national laboratories, supported medical research into radiology and laid the foundations for the nuclear navy. It maintained control over American atomic weapons research and production until the formation of the United States Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC) in January 1947.
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