I read that Lawrence Johnston, one of the last survivors of the Manhattan Project, just died at the age of 93. I didn’t know Dr. Johnston. Never even heard of him. But I do know something about the Manhattan Project in White Sands, New Mexico. That’s where the atomic bomb was developed in 1945. The bomb that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima. That led to Japan’s surrender and hastened the end of the war in the Pacific. The bomb that opened the door to the Atomic Age of catastrophic warfare.
I did know Dr. Voskuyl, who also worked on the project. He was president of the college I attended. Years after I graduated, for my first serious piece of writing, I interviewed him about his part in the project.
Not long ago I read about the pilot of the Enola Gay, the bomber that dropped that first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The young lieutenant colonel, Paul Tibbets, watched in shock as a horrible boiling mushroom cloud enshrouded the city of Hiroshima. Afterward he wrote these words in his journal: “My God, what have we done?”
That’s what I wanted to know back when I interviewed Dr. Voskuyl. The question I posed to him was this: “If you had known then what that bomb would lead to, would you still have been a part of it?”
“We did know,” he said.
That dignified, white-haired man took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped gathering tears from his eyes.
“We did know. But what choice did we have?”
I never wrote the article.
“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
~Song lyrics by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson~