August 8, 1945, has become one of the more important atomic bombing dates in my mind over the years. It's after Hiroshima, but before Nagasaki. It's easy to ignore for that reason. But a few very significant things happened that day.

(A fairly shortish thread)
16 hours after Hiroshima was bombed, the US released Truman's statement about what had happened. The Japanese, of course, did not take it at face value, and sent a delegation of scientists to Hiroshima to confirm that it wasn't just firebombing or something else.
Because of the disruption, it took until the evening of August 8th for them to get to Hiroshima, inspect the damage, do some tests, and to report back to the Japanese high command:
It's also the day that President Truman was briefed by Henry Stimson about the damage at Hiroshima. It was the first time that any casualty estimates were made. And it's clear that Truman was really struck by them.
In my chapter published in the edited volume THE AGE OF HIROSHIMA (ed. Michael Gordin and John Ikenberry, Princeton U. Press), I argue that Truman possibly didn't understand that Hiroshima was actually a *city* until this moment. Here are the first few pages —
And you can read the whole thing by getting the book. Or looking up on ProjectMUSE, for those of you with access to that. (…
Either way, August 8th sees a turn in how the atomic bomb is talked about by Truman. His wording about it changes, and his narrative goes from "the greatest thing in history" to something more defensive (needed to it, will save lives, etc.).…
("But why does he go ahead with Nagasaki?" I hear you ask. I argue in the aforementioned chapter that it isn't clear he knew a second bomb was imminent. He got a garbled version of the "schedule" at Potsdam, and there was no advance notice given about the second attack.)
August 8th is also when Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov met with Japanese Ambassador Sato and told him that the Soviets were renouncing neutrality and declaring war. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's account of this is kind of amazing. ("The ol' Stalin switcharoo...")
I wrote a somewhat longer thread about this last year, if you want more details. August 8th is interesting to me because it's one of those places where, if you drill down, you find that the details of history don't always fit the popular narratives of it.

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Alex Wellerstein

Alex Wellerstein Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @wellerstein

8 Aug
In a dream I had last night, I was talking to someone about pitching a Shout and Murmurs about "buying your dream house," except "dream house" here meant the weird houses that appear in your dreams — those weird mashups of real and imaginary dwellings, with secret rooms, etc.
Separately, I've been thinking a lot about dream architecture lately — my brain clearly has "dream versions" of certain places that I dream about more than once, and they clearly represent real-life places, but are really different than the real ones.
I find them so odd because they have almost a "theme" of the original place (e.g., college, a house I lived in during grad school, a library I used to go to) but they end up being totally different (almost impossibly larger and grander, for example).
Read 4 tweets
7 Aug
"Key words and phrases that could indicate the presence of Restricted Data/Formerly Restricted Data"
The plot thickens
I looked into this a tiny bit more... according to Chuck Hansen, BURRITO was a code-name for a device tested at Upshot-Knothole Badger (1953), which was apparently a test of a mockup of the TX-16 ("Jughead") secondary. So it may, in fact, have been a frozen burrito.
Read 4 tweets
11 Mar
As probably the historian who has spent the most time researching World War II secret atomic parents, I can confirm that a) there is no single patent for the atomic bomb (there are many!), b) none of them have Hirohito listed as an author (ht @pashulman) Image
There are patent applications that cover the atomic bombs themselves. They are still classified and have never been granted. They can never be granted under the Atomic Energy Act, as it prohibits patents on nuclear weapons. Read my article for details:…
A while back I FOIAed the names/titles/dates for the still-secret "patents of the atomic bomb," and it's mostly the standard Los Alamos scientists you all know about. Oppenheimer. Bethe. Teller. Von Neumann. A few lower-level folks are the only surprises.
Read 5 tweets
19 Oct 20
This week in my nuclear class we looked at security and loyalty in the 1950s, and read and talked at length about the Oppenheimer security hearing. I asked the students whether they would have, based on the hearing transcripts, restored or stripped Oppenheimer's clearance:
As you can see, most thought they'd strip it, and even those in favor of restoring it did so on the basis that it was just a political hearing anyway, and had no real consequences (since his clearance was about to expire anyway).
As I said to them, I suspect they'd feel differently if I had framed it in a more pro-Oppenheimer way, the way it is usually portrayed popularly.
Read 5 tweets
6 Oct 20
For awhile I've thought the framing of the "crazy President" for nuclear use authority — e.g., in which a POTUS might get up one day and have VERY WILD ideas about nukes — was not a great one, because real mental illness doesn't suddenly appear overnight.
But I did not anticipate the current conditions of the Presidency — a POTUS who appears extremely in denial about being sick, self-discharging while on heavy drugs, essentially allowed to dictate his own care. COVID-19 does not go away in 3 days. He looks quite sick.
This is a completely bizarre situation. Short of the 25th Amendment — a huge decision under any conditions, obviously not one any of his cabinet or cronies are willing to invoke a few months from an election — it appears nobody has any control over this very sick man.
Read 7 tweets
23 Sep 20
About this time last year I was thinking very seriously about what the future of academic talks and conferences would be, if we took climate change seriously and stopped flying everywhere on jets so regularly.

Now we know! Better for the environment, for sure, but not as good.
As an aside, I would have thought, by now, that there would be a whole host of AMAZING software offerings for the "next gen" of teaching/conferencing online, given that engine of "disruption" that is Silicon Valley. But instead we just have Zoom, which is Skype for More People.
Where are the apps that will help replicate the need to have side conversations while listening with one ear to the main conversation? Where are the apps that will make us feel embodied and not just a bunch of floating heads?
Read 6 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!