Thomas Graham’s Diary – 6th August 1939

This entry discusses the mobilisation of millions of German troops near the Polish border, and Thomas’s pessimism regarding the outlook of events. By the end of the month, Hitler had commanded the engagement of these troops, to embark on a relentless campaign by land, sea and air to invade Poland, thus officially beginning the conflict, and realising Graham’s long held fears.

The sanity of Hitler is also commented on, which as the war progressed and more was understood of his beliefs and intentions, became an increasing concern.

A significant chain of events was also set in motion elsewhere in the world just a few days previous to Graham’s entry, which would shape the outcome of the war exactly six years later. Advancements in science lead to the discovery and reporting of nuclear fission at the beginning of 1939, and Hungarian physicist Leó Szilárd  realised that the process could be used to generate vast amounts of energy for electric power or, more sinisterly, to create atomic bombs. Szilárd, along with other scientists, was concerned that Germans in their field may have the same realisation and try to develop one. It was decided to inform the Belgians as the Belgian Congo was the best source of uranium ore, as well as President Roosevelt, as the United States was where many of the scientists were based and able to undertake further research.

A letter was conceived by Szilárd, written by Eugene Wigner, signed by Albert Einstein and delivered to the President by Alexander Sachs. This became known as the Einstein-Szilárd letter and lead to the eventual bomb development programme – The Manhattan Project. The research was aided by the further discovery in Britain that a bomb could be made small enough to be dropped from the air.

Whilst the war in Europe was officially over in May 1945, it raged on until August when the world’s first atomic bomb was released by the United States on Hiroshima, Japan, followed a few days later by Nagasaki, with devastating consequences. Japan surrendered after this second fatal attack and the war in the Pacific and World War Two overall, was brought to a conclusion. Many individuals involved in some capacity with the creation of the bomb later expressed regret at the scientific discovery being exploited in this way which brought such fear and suffering.

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