All About History




While the Soviet Union most likely could not have developed an atomic weapon before the US, one possibilit­y is that the Nazi project may have been successful before either of them. Nuclear fission was discovered in Berlin in 1938, creating panic in America that the Nazis were on their way to weaponisin­g this discovery. Kurt Diebner was in charge of the project but several scientific miscalcula­tions meant the project lagged behind its American counterpar­t. The Nazi project relied on expensive heavy water and when the key plant producing this material was destroyed, the project lagged even further behind.


On 6 and 9 August 1945, the United States detonated two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing thousands. The next day the Japanese government agreed to a surrender. The decision by President Truman to use atomic weapons, not once but twice, remains a controvers­ial and divisive one. However, if the Soviet Union had been able to develop an atomic weapon first, during World War II, would we have seen the devastatin­g weapons detonated over Europe?


The United States’ monopoly on nuclear weapons after the end of WWII meant it could rely on the nuclear threat to help defend Europe. Indeed, during the Berlin blockade of 1948-49, a number of B-29 bombers were transferre­d to the area to demonstrat­e the willingnes­s of the United States to use nuclear weapons against the Soviet Union if necessary. However, although David J Holloway suggests the US would always have been able to develop the number of weapons necessary for a monopoly, would they have been able to secure this hold on Europe?

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