Bombing of Japan one of main reasons for nuclear race
On August 29, 1949, the Soviet Union successfully detonated First Lightning – its own nuclear device – taking the Cold War to a new level.
“The world had changed,” Vladimir Gubarev, writer, said. “The nuclear race had started. Within years, the arsenals of the US and Soviet Russia could have destroyed the world many times over.”
The USSR had been researching atomic weapons from the early 1940s. But it had lagged behind the US – something that became frighteningly clear after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
With the US and the USSR becoming ever more hostile, the Soviets realized that at whatever cost they had to catch up to remain on par with American technology.
“Mercury was needed for nuclear experiments, and the state gathered all the mercury it had,” said Theodor Gladkov, special services historian. “For four years afterwards, no new thermometers were made in the Soviet Union.
At once, scientists were assembled at a secret town in Southern Russia.
Yury Trutnev, nuclear scientist, recalled the conversation with his superiors.
“They told me: Tomorrow, go to the airport. When there, stand by the statue of Stalin. Our people will put you on an airplane. I said, ‘Hold on. I haven't had the chance to pack my bags.’ They said: It doesn't matter. You must be there.”
Despite every effort, it took help from researchers who developed the American A-bomb to complete the Soviet nuclear project.
Many were Communist sympathizers, and passed vital information on to the Soviets.
“It is no secret that the first Soviet bomb was a copycat of the one dropped on Hiroshima by the Americans,” Gubarev explained.
Two years later, the Soviets tested their own-design nuclear weapon. Nuclear parity had been achieved.
In the decades until the collapse of the Soviet Union the peaceful resolve of both sides was tested. On several occasions the world seemed to have teetered on the edge of nuclear annihilation.