Tuesday, July 17, 2007

True American Heroes

When Albert Einstein was told that Hitler's scientists were looking into the possibility of building an atomic bomb he was alarmed enough to write to President Roosevelt imploring him to devote the resources of the United States to a similar program.

That program came to be called the Manhattan Project. It was headed by J. Robert Oppenheimer and one of the principal physicists working on the project was Edward Teller. Teller went on to invent the Hydrogen Bomb, a much more powerful nuclear device.

The Manhattan Project was successful in producing an atomic bomb which was dropped by a B-29 called Enola Gay on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945 and on Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945. The combined death toll of the two bombs has been estimated at 214,000. The bombing ended WWII without the need to invade the Japanese main island and suffer the project 1 million US casualties and the 10-15 million Japanese casualties that such an invasion was projected to entail.

So the atom bombing of two Japanese cities saved a million American and allied lives and several million Japanese lives.

After the end of WWII the United States and the Soviet Union began a more than 50 year long "cold war" in which the two sides fought each other bloodlessly through propaganda and stunts like each side's space program and through surrogates on battlefields ranging from Korea and Vietnam to Central America and Afghanistan.

Does anyone with an IQ in the double digits seriously doubt that if it hadn't been for the destructive potential of nuclear weapons that the US and the USSR would have gone to war directly? If WWII cost upwards of 50 million lives world wide how much would WWIII have cost? At least as much as WWII.

By that measure Oppenheimer and Teller and Einstein saved tens of millions of lives.

Unfortunately Oppenheimer and Einstein came to regret their parts in the development of atomic weapons. Their view was shortsighted in that they could not look past the potential destructive power of the weapons they created, or helped to create.

Only Teller kept his sight fixed on the fact that the sheer destructive power of the weapons he created virtually guaranteed that they would never be used and therefore took another world war off the table.

Whether they were sorry for what they had done or were proud of it the three men, Teller, Oppenheimer and Einstein, are heroes whose efforts saved more human lives than almost any other men in history.