He advanced the bombing of Hiroshima by at least a year! (Nov, 1946)

If the bombing had been pushed back a year, do you think the war would have lasted? If not, then you could make the case that Japan got nuked because this guy was trying to build a uranium light bulb.

Also, I find the exclamation point at the end of this sentence strangely disturbing:

(Little did they realize that their know-how would one day give America a head start in the race towards history’s grimmest goal!)

He advanced the bombing of Hiroshima by at least a year!

This is a “now it can be told” story of wartime research.

It started back in post World War I days when Dr. Harvey C. Rentschler, Director of Research for the Westinghouse Lamp Division, and Dr. J. W. Marden, an associate, decided to determine the melting point of a rare mineral . . . uranium.

In his unending search for an improved electric lamp filament, Dr. Rentschler wanted to find out if uranium would give better service than tungsten.

So Dr. Rentschler and his associates worked for about a year before they found a way to make pellets of pure uranium from which the melting point could be determined. Although uranium’s melting point made it unsatisfactory for a lamp filament, Westinghouse continued to supply tiny amounts of the precious metal to colleges and research laboratories for experiments in nuclear physics.

(Little did they realize that their know-how would one day give America a head start in the race towards history’s grimmest goal!) For the most devastating war of all time had meanwhile blazed throughout the world—and scientists in many countries were feverishly trying to discover a method for unleashing the incredible energy concealed within the atom.

Then, early in 1942, Dr. Rentschler received a telephone call. The director of the atomic experimentation project at the University of Chicago wanted to know how soon Westinghouse could supply three tons of pure uranium!

Dr. Rentschler and his co-workers immediately went into action. They set up a miniature uranium “factory” in the Lamp Division laboratory— ultimately increasing their production of pure uranium from 8 ounces to 500 pounds daily, cutting its cost from $ 1,000 to $22 a pound.

And within a few months, Westing- house had supplied more than three tons of the vital metal to the Chicago Metallurgical Project Office… where the famous “atomic pile” experiments were conducted. They also supplied uranium to physicists at Princeton University who did much to the pioneering work on the atomic bomb.

….. It all started as an obscure experiment to find a better lamp filament—like many another quest for product improvement that goes on constantly in the great Westinghouse research laboratories.

But, today, Dr. Rentschler’s work of 20 years ago is given full credit for advancing America’s atomic bomb activities by at least a year!

12 comments
  1. Firebrand38 says: December 15, 20094:07 pm

    The war was going to end one way or another. I still like the idea that we didn’t have to invade Japan.

  2. Zyzzyva says: December 15, 20095:53 pm

    Seconded – Downfall/Olympic/Coronet would have been apocalyptic.

  3. Neil Russell says: December 15, 20098:57 pm

    I agree with FB and Z, operations Olympic and Cornet would have been far more horrific for both sides than dropping the bomb. I don’t focus on the means of what the A-bomb could and can do, at the time it was something big that went boom and stopped the Japanese empire in its tracks.
    I’ve also always believed that by demonstrating what atomic weapons could do, other nations may have been a lot less likely to release the genie later on.
    It was tough on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it wasn’t a picnic in Dresden or London or Shanghai either.

  4. JMyint says: December 16, 20099:33 am

    At the time the A-Bomb was dropped my father and 3 of my uncles were in the midst of the preperations to invade Malaysia.

    A few points that people don’t think of when the atomic bombs were used:

    An average of 10,000 people a day were dying in combat in Southeast Asia, China, and the Western Pacific.

    Japan had threatened to kill all POWs if the home islands were invaded.

    The atomic bombs did not end combat, nor did the emperor’s surrender message. Two large battles were fought after the surrender message, Kotou China and Kuril Islands.

  5. John Savard says: December 17, 20096:16 pm

    Yes, given the number of lives of American servicemen that were saved – and that America did not choose its war with Japan, but this war was the result of Japanese agression, it’s not surprising that the achievement of the atomic bomb by the Manhattan Project would be regarded as almost an unmixed blessing, even if it is “grim”, being a death-dealing weapon.

    It’s hardly ghoulish to want to survive and be free.

  6. JMyint says: December 18, 20093:01 pm

    John my father and uncles were not ‘American’ servicemen, but his experiences during the war prompted my father to emmigrate to the U.S. My father was a combat engineer in the Indian army

  7. KHarn says: December 19, 200912:00 am

    It’s little know today that Japan also had a nuclear project. The REAL tragedy of “the bomb” was that there were several COMMUNISTS working at various tasks in the Manhatten Project and they reported EVERYTHING they could discover to their communist contacts.

  8. Toronto says: December 19, 200912:11 am

    Uranium at $22 a pound? That’s less than Red Mercury!

  9. Charlie says: December 20, 20092:02 pm

    Er, KHarn, I think you mean there were several Soviet spies, though the only one at Manhattan I can think of was Klaus Fuchs. Communism is just a political system, it doesn’t automatically make you an agent of a foreign government.

  10. Firebrand38 says: December 21, 20091:02 am

    Charlie: It’s also an economic system, but unfortunately the evidence is overwhelming that the US Communist Party was indeed acting as agents of the Soviet government with their on again/off again support for Germany at the beginning of WW2 http://en.wikipedia.org…

    Thanks to the Venona intercepts we can appreciate the extent of Soviet espionage for that period https://www.cia.gov/lib… and beyond.

    It’s interesting that the overall commander of the Soviet atomic bomb project was Lavrentia Beria head of Stalin’s secret police. The best history I ever tread of Soviet espionage and the atomic bomb (way beyond Klaus Fuchs) was in Richard Rhodes “Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb

  11. Nikola says: October 20, 201010:46 am

    I wonder how melting uranium went :P

  12. Firebrand38 says: October 20, 201011:12 am

    Nikola: “they found a way to make pellets of pure uranium from which the melting point could be determined”

    Sounds like it went OK.

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