Under fire from the Germans and the Japanese, the Allies decided to up the ante -- they started work on the Manhattan Project. This famous World War II project changed human history, and maybe not in a good way. How much do you know about the program?
During World War II, America scrambled to develop new weapons to beat back the Axis powers. The Manhattan Project was meant to create the world's first nuclear weapons.
The Allies were worried that the Nazis would develop and use a nuclear weapon first -- and thus, enslave the entire planet to do Hitler's bidding.
Albert Einstein, the famed scientist, caught wind of the dastardly Nazi plans and composed a letter to U.S. officials. They took his warnings seriously.
Mexico wasn't part of the project. But both Britain and Canada offered tons of support in an effort to expedite the project's progress.
The project's first inklings came to reality in 1939, just as World War II was getting underway. In 1942, as the war worsened, the government funneled many more resources to speed up the project's development.
There were dozens of research labs in the U.S., Britain and Canada that worked on the project. Some of the biggest breakthroughs, however, came at a few special labs in America.
Los Alamos Laboratory is located in a desert area of New Mexico. The location was selected in part because it was in a remote area that allowed for maximum secrecy.
The project's first beginnings were in New York, thus the name. The project's leaders wound up recruiting the best and brightest scientific minds they could find.
The Allies weren't messing around. They eventually committed about 130,000 people to the Manhattan Project. Billions of dollars were committed to the effort.
Einstein's warning sparked the project, but U.S. officials wouldn't let the genius take part in research. They were afraid that his political leanings might have been affected by the Nazi agenda.
Scientist thought the bomb was possible … in theory. But no one had ever even attempted to assemble an atomic bomb, so no one knew if it would work.
In reality, the project wasn't at the very top of government priorities. It was given the same priority as several other weapons-related facilities.
The now-famous lab was a secret during the war, and it was often called simply Project Y. It conducted some of the most classified research of the entire war.
The fissile materials were created in other labs. Then, the plutonium and uranium were shipped to Los Alamos, where the bombs were built.
Trinity was the name of the first atomic test. It created a huge blast on July 16, 1945, in the desert area near Socorro, New Mexico.
The awesome technology was simply referred to as "The Gadget," an innocuous name for a horrifying weapon.
The frantic project ended in success. It produced four nuclear weapons, two of which were actually used during the war.
Anyone caught sharing secrets about their work could be thrown in prison for 10 years and fined $100,000. Many people didn't even understand the real purpose of their work.
Given the scope and importance of the project, it's amazing that there weren't more leaks. Before the bombs were dropped on Japan, very few people understood the real meaning of the Manhattan Project.
Need a boring name for your nuke project? Try the Development of Substitute Metals. No one, not even the Nazis, will know what you're really up to.
Researchers were subjected to routine health checks, and some exhibited scary signs of plutonium in their bodies. They were removed from the project, lest their long-term health become compromised.
Government secrecy and Allied security won out. There were no confirmed acts of sabotaged committed by the Axis to slow or stop the project.
Before finalizing a bomb design, researchers need to better understand shockwaves. The RaLa Experiment explored the inner workings of shockwaves.
The test bomb was carefully (oh, so carefully) raised to the top of a 100-foot tower. This was intended to better mimic the effects of a bomb that would eventually be dropped from a bomber aircraft.
The tell-tale mushroom cloud stretched more than 7 miles into the atmosphere, an ominous sign that humanity had reached new heights of dangerousness.
Women were recruited and deployed through the project's various work sites. They did a lot of grunt labor, but they also took only highly technical jobs critical to bomb development.
Scientists were worried that a crash landing in the ocean might spread radioactive material far and wide. So, in the event of an emergency, pilots were told to crash on land.
Where the Allies succeeded, the Nazis failed. Einstein later said that if he had known that the Germans would fail to produce a bomb, he never would have alerted America to the threat.
The bomb named Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Three days later, Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki.
Roughly 200,000 people (mostly civilians) died from the two blasts. The bombings convinced Japan to finally surrender, an act that dropped the curtain on World War II.