Review by Sid Perkins
Atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki 64 years ago this month, bringing World War II to an end. The research and development program that spawned those weapons had been officially launched only three years earlier. Historic Photos of the Manhattan Project is a captivating pictorial chronicle of this supersecret race to develop atomic weapons.
The book is jam-packed with images from the National Archives, Library of Congress and the Department of Energy, among other sources, and includes photos of all the Manhattan Project’s familiar characters. More interesting, perhaps, are images of the welders, technicians and, yes, even switchboard operators who toiled in closed-lipped anonymity in what Joseph describes as “the most significant and far-reaching challenge the United States ever embarked on.”
Aerial images of Manhattan Project facilities in New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington reveal the magnitude of the effort. Many of the largest facilities were built even before the processes used to separate bomb-grade uranium from its ore were fully developed. Despite the grand scale and unprecedented technology developed during the project, some milestones were surprisingly low-key: The plutonium core of the bomb tested in the New Mexico desert in July 1945 was ferried to the blast site in the back seat of a ’42 Plymouth.
Overall, Joseph’s book provides an extensive, behind-the-scenes look at a project that changed the course of human history.
Turner Publishing, 2009, 205 p., $39.95.