A Necessary Deterrent – WABAC to Alamogordo

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Sherman My Boy, we are going to witness a scientific experiment that would change the course of history.”

July 16, 1945: US Explodes First Atomic Bomb (Trinity Test, Alamogordo)

July-16-1945-US-Explodes-First-Atomic-Bomb

Chilling History…

On July 16, 1945, Manhattan Project scientists held their breath as the clock ticked down to the first man-made nuclear blast in history.

Over a period of almost 6 years from its feeble first steps (3 years as a project in earnest), through 130,000 people working on the project and $2 billion taxpayer dollars the finest scientists in the world had developed methods of enriching uranium to a state where its nucleus could be split and creating plutonium, the 2 materials needed for the 2 different types of atomic weapons being considered.

The Crater of World Peace…

The uranium device would be a tube in which 2 chunks of enriched uranium would be launched at each other at  high speed by conventional explosives, causing a critical mass to form in the blink of an eye, triggering a nuclear blast.

The plutonium device would be a hollow ball of plutonium with precision explosives around the outside meticulously timed to blow up all at the same time causing the hollow sphere to implode, creating a critical mass in the blink of an eye and subsequently the desired nuclear blast.

(Note:  Obviously, the descriptions of how nuclear bombs work are greatly simplified and the above paragraph is paraphrased.)

President Roosevelt had been warned by Albert Einstein that Germany (and maybe Japan) would be working on developing nuclear weapons and that if the US and Allies did not want to get blown off the map, we better develop such weapons first.

At 5:30 am on July 16, 1945, the entire point of the Manhattan Project was on the line as a plutonium implosion device suspended 100 feet above the desert was exploded.  Although the nuclear physicists on the project were reasonable confident of their calculations, no one knew for sure how big the blast would be and whether or not the atmosphere would become part of the chain reaction, ending mankind.  When the brilliant fireball and mighty blast went off, the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT, it left a 250 feet wide crater in the desert (with sand fused to glass), a mushroom cloud 7 ½ miles high, and the blast could be felt 100 miles away.  People as far away as El Paso could hear the explosion.

The scientists and budget planners were right;  a practical bomb could be made, and it would be a city destroyer.  Now the question was, how and if to use it.  Despite some opposition, and some sentiment toward giving the world a demonstration over an unoccupied target, President Truman and his advisers decided Japan must have a city destroyed by an atom bomb to convince them to surrender.  The debate over whether or not this was necessary still rages today, with critics claiming the Japanese were on the brink of surrender anyway, and proponents saying that the terrible price paid to conquer Okinawa showed that an invasion of Japan would cost tens of thousands of American lives, probably hundreds of thousands.  Besides, the Soviets were poised to make a land grab of as much Japanese territory as possible, and US planners may well have intended to impress and intimidate the Soviets as much as the Japanese.

Less than a month after Trinity, 2 Japanese cities lay in smoking ruins, and over 100,000 Japanese were dead, and more were dying.

 

Unthinkable, Yet Necessary Deterrent

Ketchup is Optional – WABAC to Hot Dog Summit

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"Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Where is the WABAC Machine going to take us this time, Mr. Peabody?

“Even though I tire of these hot dog stories, let’s go to a pre-WWII meeting at Hyde Park NY and the home of President FDR.”

The Royal Hot Dog Summit of 1939

The Royal Hot Dog Summit of 1939

Pre-WWII meeting in America…..

On June 11, 1939, a picnic at which hot dogs were served helped re-establish the political closeness between the United States and Great Britain and introduced the traditionally American food to an international public.

Ketchup is optional……

With the threat of war and invasion looming, the British monarch, George VI of “The King’s Speech” fame and his wife, Queen Elizabeth, later known as the Queen Mother, or affectionately as Queen Mum, embarked on a tour to visit their dominion of Canada, the first time a reigning British monarch had visited the North American continent.

Upon hearing of the intended trip, American President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, extended an invitation to the royal couple to stop by at his private residence in Hyde Park, New York. His goal was to soften relations between the two countries which had often been tense since the Revolutionary War when the American colonies had declared independence from Great Britain. With Europe on the brink of War, FDR, not one to continue the American policy of isolationism, realized he needed to forge alliances with the leading European democracies. And so, wishing to dispel anti-British sentiment, he decided to entertain the King at a casual American-style picnic to ensure that the King would win the sympathy of the American people.

At the picnic hot dogs were served. The royal couple was a little bit perplexed, with the Queen whispering to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, “How do you eat this?” The question is somewhat funny if you consider that she came from the country that invented the sandwich after John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, had asked for a way to be able eat his meat at the card table without silverware. This, by the way, has been deemed Britain’s biggest contribution to gastronomy. The Queen, however, ended up deciding to eat her hot dog with a fork and knife (she probably didn’t want to soil her gloves), but the King ate his by hand and even had seconds!

The next day, the picnic made the front page of the New York Times, with the headline reading, “KING TRIES HOTDOG AND ASKS FOR MORE”. The simplicity of the event endeared the King and Queen to the American public who now saw them as regular people capable of casual dining rather than as evil colonial rulers. And sure enough, when Great Britain and its Dominions declared war on Germany in September of 1939, Roosevelt was able to convince Congress, and the American people, to support the British both diplomatically and financially, while maintaining American neutrality.

So, just how typically American are hot dogs? Well, just like George VI, hot dogs have their origins in Germany. They are derived from Frankfurters, also known as Wiener Wuerstchen, and were brought over to the United States by German immigrants. Initially eaten with mustard, potato salad or in soups in the Old World, in the New World, they become popular as vendor food and were placed in buns to allow for easier and less messy eating. Legend has it that one such vendor initially named them Dachshund Sandwiches after the long, German dogs they resemble, but that that name was too hard too pronounce, so it was shortened to Hot Dog.

At any rate, a variant of the hot dog should have been familiar to George VI, as he was ethnically German. His last name was originally Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but his father, George V, changed it to Windsor during World War I to distance the family from their German roots. His wife, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, on the other hand, was descended from Scottish nobility, so she gets a pass.

At any rate, the picnic and the importance of the hot dog as a turning point in Anglo-American relations are so great that the film, “Hyde Park on Hudson,” starring Bill Murray as FDR, was made on the topic and released in 2013, almost 75 years after the actual event. Let no one ever underestimate and trivialize the hot dog as common stadium food ever again! It is one of the most diplomatically significant foods in culinary history, and nowadays hot dogs can be found just about anywhere.

Ketchup is Optional – WABAC to Hot Dog Summit