By Colonel Wes Martin

Never before in history has the world so quickly gone from one era into another as it did in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945. At 5:30 a.m. the atomic age blasted itself onto the earth.

It was described by Hans Bethe as, "a giant magnesium flare which kept on for what seemed a whole minute but was actually one or two seconds. The white ball grew and after a few seconds became clouded with dust whipped up by the explosion from the ground and rose and left behind a black trail of dust particles. The rise, though it seemed slow, took place at a velocity of 120 meters per second. After more than half a minute the flame died down and the ball, which had been brilliant white, became a dull purple. It continued to rise and spread at the same time, and finally broke through and rose above the clouds which were 15,000 feet above the ground. It could be distinguished from the clouds by its color and could be followed to a height of 40,000 feet above the ground."

Another key member of the then secret Manhattan Project, Enrico Fermi stated, "Although I did not look directly towards the object, I had the impression that suddenly the countryside became brighter than in full daytime."

With the exception of the first Saturdays of October and April, when the gates to Ground Zero are opened for public visits, a stillness broken only by the desert wind casts an eerie silence. During these open days it is not uncommon to find representatives of every nation visiting this site and standing by the monument. This is appropriate, considering it represents the accomplishment by people of many heritages who led to the conclusion of an international war. Bethe and Fermi are prime examples.

Bethe left Germany in 1933 as Hitler was closing his political fist on the government and the German people. Like Einstein and many other intellectuals who left Germany, Bethe saw the darkness that was settling over the Fatherland. He had no desire to contribute to the scientific effort to strengthen the power of that darkness.

Enrico Fermi's departure from Fascist Italy was more dramatic. Benito Mussolini reluctantly agreed to allow Fermi to go to Sweden to receive the Nobel Prize in physics. The condition placed on Fermi was when receiving the award he was to render the Fascist Salute to the King of Sweden. On stage, Fermi inside bowed to the King, followed by using the monetary award that accompanied the Nobel Prize to purchase boat tickets for his entire family. The destination was America, where he and his family could start a new life. Four years later Fermi created the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction.

On December 7, 1941 the United States was hurled into the bloodiest and most crucial was that mankind had ever known. Admiral Yamamoto, who engineered that attack on Pearl Harbor, recognized the danger of having awakened the sleeping giant. Yamamoto knew that time was now his second greatest enemy. The longer the United States remained in the war, the greater the danger to the Axis powers. However, the same was true concerning Germany's longevity of opposing the Allies. Germany was racing to develop an atomic bomb.

Had Germany and Italy retained Einstein, Bethe, Fermi and the scores of other scientists, the race might have been greatly shortened and have ended differently. Fortunately for mankind, many of those scientists joined forces with Robert Oppenheimer. To the west of Santa Fe, in the mountains of New Mexico, they commenced working on what would be titled the Manhattan Project.

Senator Harry Truman discovered enormous funding of a program no one could explain. Truman was prepared to open a congressional investigation, until he received a visit from General George Marshall. Truman was advised that the project was legitimate, but could not be explained. Well aware of Marshall's integrity and commitment to national security, Truman withdrew his concern.

Yamamoto's prediction that sleeping giant will awaken and be left with a terrible resolve proved to be true. American warriors were soon fighting on distant seas, African deserts, island shores, and European plains. At home American workers mobilized for the war effort. Farmers were producing the food that would not only feed their own country and its military, but were now feeding many nations caught up in the war.

Allied bombers severely crippled German war making capabilities, including resources needed to produce an atomic bomb. Allied ground troops ripped into Germany so fast that Hitler never had time to refine and deploy his super weapons. The Manhattan Project scientists did not know until Germany had collapsed the progress, or lack of progress, of Hitler's ambition to develop a nuclear weapon. After Allied victory in Europe was achieved did the scientists in New Mexico learn their combined work had far outdistanced their German competition.

The Manhattan Project was an accurate reflection of our country. From all over the world, men and women have come to live and work in America for many reasons. Our history is a testimonial to the many outstanding people who bonded together to develop and defend the greatest nation ever.

Oppenheimer designated the explosion site as "Trinity" for the Hindu triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. In this triad, nothing is destroyed, it only changes form. The same can be said of the energy of this nation.

A visit to the Trinity site is well worth the effort. But when you walk upon the silent ground, think not just of the fact that this is where the first atomic explosion took place. Honor the dedicated scientists who came together from many nations to race against time in the pursuit of save mankind from uncontrolled tyranny. Because of the combined heroic efforts and successors of those who served on many fronts, we live in a world not symbolized by crooked crosses and fascist salutes.

©2021 Wes Martin