One cannot see the nuclear-explosives production facilities built during the Manhattan Project without experiencing a sense of awe at what was accomplished. The scientific, engineering, managerial, labor, and logistical challenges that were met and overcome are separately impressive but, taken together, simply astonishing. It is all the more incredible that this was done in the context of a desperate and bitter war that had already strained the nation’s manpower and resources as never before. Yet appreciation of the monumental achievements of the Manhattan Project cannot be considered without a pang of regret at what it unleashed into the world. It is an enduring paradox and essential human tragedy that so much selfless devotion to cause, so much creative intellectual energy, and so many good intentions gave birth to such a monstrous reality. It is a reality that would threaten the survival of the very civilization that made it possible. Although the end of the Cold War significantly lessened that threat, humankind may never again be free of its shadow.
Words and images via Martin Miller