The first atomic bomb is to be dropped on Germany. What would be Britian's level of involvement

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by viperjock, May 1, 2017.

  1. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Britain's top expert in shaped charges did the detail work with Parsons designing the implosion device for the Plutonium bombs. A Polish refugee was a contributing expert in detonators. I've retrieved my copy of Rhoades book & will look up the names.

    Sizlaird was a Hungarian refugee, Fermi left Italy, Oppenheimer a refugee, can't remember where Tizlaird came from.
     
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  2. viperjock Well-Known Member

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    According to Wikipedia Penney was head of the British delegation for The Manhattan Project. He attended the target selection meeting in Washington. He recommended Hiroshima and Nagasaki as targets because they were surrounded by hills which would maximize the affects of the blast. The US team tried to recruit him to stay with the nuclear program permanently. Cheshire and Penney were denied the chance of going on the Hiroshima mission and joined The Nagasaki mission at the last minute. I found an article on atomicarchive.com written by William Laurence of The NY Times in 1945. It says Cheshire was the official observer for the British government chosen by Churchill originally and now representing Attlee.
     
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  3. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    George Kistiskowsky; Russian emigre, obtained advanced chemistry degree in Germany, found work in US at Princeton then Harvard. Headed critical chemistry development in the Mahatten Project.
     
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  4. DerWonderWaffles Well-Known Member

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    Not to mention the fatalities he gives for bombings are way too high. 150k dead with another 150k from a fireball? Please. 300k dead didn't happen with Japan. Nagasaki killed 70 to 80k so a German city being bombed would easily be less than half that due to the abundance of strong concrete structures.
     
  5. PlasmaTorch Well-Known Member

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    This didn't seem to be a major concern for the americans, despite their claims made after the war! I was astonished to learn that they had occupied the mittelwerk site (where V-2 missiles were produced), before promptly turning it over to the russians... Without removing all the parts, tools, and documents which the germans stored at that site!

    I would actually argue for the opposite case, and make greater investments in uranium enrichment. The americans could absolutely have an atomic bomb ready for use about 5-6 months earlier than OTL. Their principal mistake was in projecting that the Y-12 plant (electromagnetic separation) would be enough for the job. They hemmed and hawed on the K-25 plant (gaseous diffusion) and wasted time on mere details. They didn't even get around to building the S-50 plant (liquid thermal diffusion) until a year later!

    Construction on the Y-12 plant began on february of 1943. Construction on the K-25 plant began on october of 1943. Construction on the S-50 plant began on july of 1944. If the americans are to get a uranium bomb earlier than OTL, they simply need to construct all three plants in parallel at roughly the same time (I.E, early 1943).
     
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  6. Catsmate Well-Known Member

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    I disagree, your scenario would yield sufficient HEU for (maybe) one bomb with a second uranium bomb not ready for at least four months[1], so the sequential bombing factor wouldn't be there. The production rate would be far slower than the plutonium route. Historically the uranium path consumed vastly more resources[2]. for far fewer bombs[3].

    One reasonable possibility is a HEU implosion design, an idea that wasn't pursued in the Manhattan Project. This would be far more efficient in it's use of HEU and allow for production of four bombs instead of one. Of course pure plutonium or plutonium/HEU composite are even more efficient use of resources.

    Now if the eight months lost in faffing around in the early stages hadn't happened 105-B (the plutonium production reactor) might have been started in JAN1943, been operating in FEB1944 and producing plutonium in May with the "D" and "F" reactors operational in June. So Los Almos would have their first reactor plutonium in JUN1944 and enough to construct a first core for testing in DEC1945 (happy xmas!) with the first four operational MK3 analogues ready for delivery by the end of January 1945.

    [1] Historically the first MK1 was available in mid-July of 1945 and the second was projected (for tactical use in support of Downfall) for early December.

    [2] Electricity, silver, construction materials and money. Of the $1.9 billion (1945 dollars) cost of the Manhattan Project the Oak Ridge facility consumed $1.2 billion for the uranium separation operation while Hanford (plutonium) cost $390 million. The remainder was: materials ($103 million), Los Almos ($74 million), general R&D ($70 million), heavy water ($27 million) and government administration and overheads ($37 million).
    A further breakdown of the Oak Ridge elements is:

    K-25 (Gaseous Diffusion) $512 million
    Y-12 (Electromagnetic) $478 million
    S-50 (Thermal Diffusion) $16 million
    Laboratories $27 million
    Engineer Works, HQ and central utilities $156 million

    [3] Approximately 30-to-1 in fact.
     
  7. stodge Member

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    Thank you for the kind word. I've not got the figures to hand but cities like Leipzig and Munich saw an influx of refugees from more heavily-bombed cities and from ethnic Germans retreating from areas already overrun by the Russians.

    We talk a lot (a bit too much perhaps) but destruction and yes wooden structures burn well and collapse quickly but while brick structures might (and I stress might) stand up, between flying glass and flammable materials and gas/electric pipes there's plenty of things to catch fire and burn and this is a sudden attack without warning. An air raid shelter becomes a tomb under the right conditions of oxygen going out and carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide going in and I would argue in more industrial and urban areas (in contrast to Japan) there's plenty of things to kill despite the absence of wooden structures.

    The other macabre point is that brick buildings allow people to get trapped in the rubble and there won't be anyone to rescue them for some time. The method, manner and timing of death might not be the same as Hiroshima or Nagasaki but an atomic strike on Leipzig or Munich in 1945 will still kill lots of people.
     
  8. Saphroneth Just don't ask me to write a normal world

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    The MAUD report could have been being worked on in the US months earlier (it was ignored at first). That gets you several months, and having the Brits on board from the start is helpful too as they'd made a lot of right guesses.
    Quick point on this - if there was a major impact from the blast we'd expect buildings directly under the blast to do better than buildings a little way off. The bomb directly overhead would produce vertical shock loading on the structure, all compressional (and so concrete would be fine) but if the blast impetus has a sideways component it would do more damage.
     
  9. Ingsoc Tony did nothing wrong

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    In terms of Britain's level of involvement, I hadn't seen the Quebec Agreement referenced here, so I'll just paste the text below

    The bolded part was manifested in Britain needing to give approval for dropping the bomb on Japan. So I guess if Churchill thought nuking Germany was excessive he'd nix it.
     
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  10. DerWonderWaffles Well-Known Member

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    Im not denying it wont kill a lot of people. But the conditions you present would happen under the most perfect circumstances and coincidences for the rubble and dust to kill that many people you propose.

    Take Hamburg bombing in July 1943 for example, it was only a firestorm due the summer of 1943 being driest in so many years for Germany. That's why so many people died. For attacks to take place in a different time, place and weather the casualties would drop dramatically. Even then its suspect that the nukes would produce so high casualties.

    Would you mind telling me what would catch fire to enable the unusually high casualties you mentioned before?

    EDIT: Another thing to mention, the rescue services would be quite effective as they have the industry to produce trucks to remove the rubble in a certain amount of time in order to save lots of people.
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2017
  11. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for posting this. Save me from digging back through Rhoades yet again. The reason for starting parallel bomb projects had been the inability in 1942 to say with confidence which route would actually work. The physicist were fairly confident the more costly Uranium route would work, but the Plutonium had too many unknowns that were not settled until well into 1943. The decision was one of hedging bets.

    The many months delay early on (eight months the report sat on a desk?) is a interesting question. Lets assume the report was returned with a answer in only four weeks or less. This suggests the Brits may have already had a research site operating in Canada & production facilities in early construction when the decision is made to share the development with the US. This would likely make the development a much more joint project. Perhaps also the questions concerning the practicality of a Plutonium bomb answered sooner.

    If anyone can point to a detailed account of the British work between the vetting of the MAUD report and handing over the work to the US it would be appreciated.

    Details on the USN atomic research would be useful as well. In 1939 the Navy initiated a atomic power project. This may have been aimed at power plant uses but I lack details. Whatever the Navy accomplished along the way I can't say. Their project was rolled into the MANHATTEN organization in 1942.
     
  12. Catsmate Well-Known Member

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    Exactly. If there was more knowledge about plutonium, for example if it had actually been produced in 1934 or 1938, there would have been more knowledge about it's fissile properties and perhaps more confidence about that path.

    Very interesting possibilities there.

    I'd have to hit the books for that I'm afraid.

    Ah, this I do know a bit about. You're not quite correct about the USN research being absorbed into the MP; in fact the Naval Research Laboratory continued to work in parallel with (and in competition with) the Manhattan group until 1946. As you say it was aimed at nuclear energy for maritime propulsion, specifically for submarines. (Shades of Rickover).
    In fact the NRL developed the isotopic separation system using liquid thermal diffusion of uranium hexafluoride. Back in March 1939 Fermi had met with the Navy (and also the US Army) about the idea of nuclear energy, both explosive and as a power source. This meeting got Dr. Ross Gunn to apply for to the Chief of the Bureau of Engineering (Admiral Harold Bowen) for funding. Gunn had been interested in nuclear energy since the first information on fission had been published in 1937.
    There's a fascinating PoD here: what if the Navy had been put in charge of the Manhattan Project? After all they were already working on the concept been the MP was formed. And FDR had Navy connections.
    Even when the MP was formed it was the NRL that actually produced the initial batched of uranium hexafluoride for the first experiments in isotope separation. They weren't replaced (by Harshaw) until October of 1941. Likewise they built the initial thermal diffusion test plant and were (in autumn of 1942) ready to built a working pilot plant.
    But in December 1942 Groves put a stop to most of the NRL work. Gunn was furious. However limited Navy research continued at Philadelphia Navy Yard until again the MP intervened in June of 1944 and reduced the plant to a training facility.

    Hope this helps.
     
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  13. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    What source do you recommend for reading on the Navy program?
     
  14. Catsmate Well-Known Member

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    I'm travelling and on my tablet atm but I'll dig one out tomorrow.
     
  15. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Thanks. There wis a one page item on this in Naval Institute Proceedings. Did not name any names, did mention the initial budget for this in 1939 was all of $1500. I imagine that grew fairly quickly.
     
  16. Catsmate Well-Known Member

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    Probably the best quick reference is: The United States Navy’s Early Atomic Energy Research, 1939–1946, by Joseph-James Ahern, published in the International Journal of Naval History in April 2002. It's pretty brief, eight pages including citations, and is available as a PDF here. It's a useful summary as much of the detailed information is buried in various books and articles, many difficult to source.
    Unfortunately much of Volume VI of the Manhattan District History, which covers Liquid Thermal Diffusion and the steps that led to the S-50 plant remain classified. This has (I believe) much useful material on the NRL work in this area.
    If you can find a copy, I don't believe it justifies purchase, Uncle Phil and the Atomic Bomb, by Philip Abelson's nephew John Abelson has some useful details on the Navy's project from his perspective.
     
  17. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    Thanks. It's a understudied subject.
     
  18. Catsmate Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, Groves and others deliberately underplayed the USN's involvement in the development of nuclear energy and the WW2 work tends to be overshadowed by Rickover.
     
  19. viperjock Well-Known Member

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    How about this for a compromise:
    What if Groves is in Charge of the Manhattan Project but has a Navy deputy? Could that slice a couple of months of the project?
    Now to get back to the main subject of British involvement.

    If the bomb is going to be used against Germany then what if Cheshire is attached to the 509th to help Tibbetts plan the mission and act as liaison to the RAF?
     
  20. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    More important would be the Brits getting a 6 - 8 month earlier start, & have some.R& D facilities up and running way