The use of the atomic bomb to end WWII was one of the most controversial events in human history. This Emmy-winning 1989 miniseries brings the conflicts to life in wrenching performances by ... Read allThe use of the atomic bomb to end WWII was one of the most controversial events in human history. This Emmy-winning 1989 miniseries brings the conflicts to life in wrenching performances by a stellar cast.The use of the atomic bomb to end WWII was one of the most controversial events in human history. This Emmy-winning 1989 miniseries brings the conflicts to life in wrenching performances by a stellar cast.
Day One is actually three sequential and somewhat overlapping stories. The first story could be labeled "the Nuclear Theoreticians and Dreamers". It is essentially the story of Leo Szilard, Enrico Fermi, Edward Teller and a few other academics, mostly European Jews who fled to the west as refugees from the Europe that Adolf Hitler was taking over and threatening. Their interest was essentially a nuclear weapon that could be used to counter the one they expected Hitler to develop.
Almost from the moment the United States government began taking a serious interest in their work, just prior to the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941, commenced "the Project". With this commenced a series of major experiments in applied science and industrial engineering for purposes of creating the raw materials of atomic weapons -- Plutonium and Uranium 235 -- and for designing and building the actual bombs and trigger mechanisms needed to turn scientific theory into nuclear explosive reality. This succinctly describes the Manhattan Project, code name for the biggest and best kept secret in history, operated at a vast, hidden desert facility near Los Alamos, New Mexico under control of the brilliant Dr Robert Oppenheimer and the hard driving US General Leslie Groves.
From about the time Harry S Truman succeeded the dead Franklin Roosevelt as US president in April 1945 -- three months before the day of Trinity -- codename for the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico in the early morning hours of July 16, 1945 -- the project came under full control of the civil and military leadership of the wartime United States: Truman himself, secretary of state James Byrnes, secretary of war Henry Stimson, chief of staff George C Marshall, Fleet Admiral William Leahy and a few others, formed into a committee to decide national policy for the use of the shortly expected super weapons. General Groves and Dr Oppenheimer were members of this select committee, and their suggestions drove the policy that committed the United States to actual use of the bombs against Japan, which still fought on after the death of Adolf Hitler and the complete destruction of National Socialist Germany. But the true controlling power was in the hands of Byrnes and Truman himself. They were determined to end the bloody war against Japan -- and gain diplomatic mastery over Josef Stalin's Soviet Union -- through use of the most overwhelming weapons in human history. Besides, they argued, how could the Truman administration justify to the United States Congress spending the then-princely sum of $2 billion and deploying scores of thousands of manpower, developing a weapon that we could never dare use against a real enemy -- at a time when there was one American combat casualty for every two Japanese on every island that this country had invaded over the past two years? The horror of it is that it is still a compelling argument even today, 55 years later. So, against the futile arguments of some of the early nuclear theoreticians, the ultimate weapons were used -- for the first and so far only times -- twice in one week in August 1945 and thereby instantly ended World War II
Day One is told in the remorselessly cold and nondramatic style of documentary history. The dialogue from the meetings presided over by Byrnes and Stimson was taken direct from the released historical records. The color film of the Trinity explosion in New Mexico was real, not re-created. The film of the flight of the Enola Gay, the B-29 bomber that released the Hiroshima bomb, was the authentic black and white film made during the flight. The voices over the plane's intercom -- "My God, what have we done?" -- are all real. The utter reality of it all has glued me to my seat and riveted my attention through three or more viewings.
- Arnold Harris
- Jun 23, 2000