When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, they basically presaged their own demise, with the United States dropping two atomic bombs on the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945. The two bombs caused unimaginable devastation to the cities and caused injuries and death to tens of thousands of people, making Japan surrender unconditionally. Not many of us know that there was supposed to be a third bomb that earned the moniker “demon core” because it tended to kill anyone who did not handle it with the greatest care.

Third Bomb

The Little Boy Bomb and the Fat Man Bomb, as they were called, were designed and produced in the Manhattan Project, a research and development operation during World War II. The project was headed by the United States and supported by the United Kingdom and Canada. It was Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army Corps of Engineers who oversaw the project from 1942 to 1946, while it was nuclear physicist and Los Alamos Laboratory’s Robert Oppenheimer who designed the actual bombs.

Little Boy nuclear bomb with casing open. (US Government – Manhattan Project, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

The Manhattan Project started in 1939 with 130,000 people and about 2 billion USD cost, a huge chunk of which was for building factories to produce fissile material from uranium and plutonium, which were hard to produce at that time. The research and production took place in over thirty sites across the US, United Kingdom, and Canada, so it would be unbelievable to think that the plan was to create only two atomic bombs. And it indeed was incorrect.

The Atomic bomb project consumed 25% of the US defense budget in WWII and remains the most expensive weapons system ever developed in history.  In terms of man-hours and money, it was the equivalent of undertaking the 20-year Panama Canal project, building it in a single year, and doing it four times