The Manhattan Project was the United States-led effort to develop the atomic bomb during World War II and played a central role in ending the conflict. It resulted in the creation of Earth's first nuclear weapons, (PROSE: Atom Bomb Blues, Come Friendly Bombs...) with massive implications for the Cold War. (PROSE: Endgame, TV: Cold War, et al)

History Edit

Early nuclear development Edit

In the years following World War I, Germany played host to a vast scientific community, working in establishments such as the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. (AUDIO: The Alchemists, PROSE: Just War) Among these scientists were physicists Werner Heisenberg and Wolfgang Pauli. Their work in the field was followed by American scientist Professor Robert Oppenheimer while he was studying at Göttingen in Germany. Oppenheimer later returned to the United States and began teaching was he had learned at Caltech and Berkeley. (PROSE: Atom Bomb Blues)

When Adolf Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Albert Einstein and Fritz Haber were among the scientists which fled to the US. Scientists at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute also learned how to split the atom. (AUDIO: The Alchemists) In 1937, alien observer Professor Linus Woolf at Sedgwick College argued that humanity was becoming too violent and feared what may happen if a man such as Hitler developed atomic weaponry. Woolf's college and rival Professor Charles Lewis objected on the grounds that evidence showed humanity had actually become overall more peaceful. The First Doctor also objected, claiming there was no proof Hitler would ever develop such weapons. (AUDIO: Entanglement)

By the first month of the Pacific War in Asia in August 1937, the Tong of the Black Scorpion had secretly constructed a nuclear reactor inside the mountain of T'ai Shan in Shangdong province, China, as part of a plot to capture Magnus Greel. This technically made the Tong the world's first nuclear power. Sung-Chi Li, a double agent working for the Imperial Japanese Army, almost made the reactor go critical but the Fourth Doctor stabilised it. He and Romana I then buried the reactor inside the mountain beneath a few hundred tonnes of cement transported by the TARDIS. (PROSE: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang)

The War Lords and the War Chief attempted to help Germany win the war by devising a winning strategy. Under the guise of the Black Coven, the War Lords constructed a primitive nuclear reactor in the basement of Heinrich Himmler's private castle of Drachensberg. The Coven aimed to create nuclear weapons the Germans could use to neutralise the larger landmasses of America, Russia and China. Shortly after the beginning of the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Seventh Doctor made the reactor go critical and the castle was obliterated, wiping out the Coven and ending their influence on the war. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Exodus)

The world war and the nuclear arms race Edit

On 7 December 1941, the United States entered World War II when the US Navy in Pearl Harbor was attacked by the forces of the Japanese Empire. (PROSE: Only Connect) The Americans thus found themselves in a race against the Germans to develop atomic weaponry. The Seventh Doctor described the race as "a close-run thing". (AUDIO: Colditz) The Americans recruited Robert Oppenheimer to their own programme, the Manhattan Project, for his expertise. He was tasked with calculating the critical mass of uranium 235. (PROSE: Atom Bomb Blues)

Earth's first official nuclear reactor was built under a sports stadium in Colorado in 1942. (PROSE: The Shadow of Weng-Chiang)

In the same year, Louisa von der Eck, a vengeful member of the Imperial German nobility, attempted the complex process of extracting plans for an atomic bomb from a Utopia window. She created a virtual universe in which an extremist Winston Churchill had the blueprints imprinted in his mind via hypnosis. She planned to hand them over to Hitler so Germany could get revenge for World War I. The Ninth Doctor and the real Winston Churchill shattered the Utopia window and Lady Louisa was ripped to shreds trying to save it. The Doctor then removed the blueprints before Churchill could insist on using them for Britian's benefit. (AUDIO: I Was Churchill's Double)

The Allies assembled a team of three dozen physicists and engineers to work on the Project (PROSE: Come Friendly Bombs...) which included Americans, British, (PROSE: Endgame) Germans (AUDIO: The Alchemists) and Hungarians. The team was led by Oppenheimer (PROSE: Atom Bomb Blues) and Niels Bohr. (PROSE: Come Friendly Bombs...) They set up a research facility in Los Alamos in New Mexico, in a compound built around the converted Los Alamos Ranch School, known as The Hill. (PROSE: Atom Bomb Blues)

One Saturday evening in March 1943, the Third Doctor materialised the TARDIS in Bohr's office. He inspected Bohr's notes and then administered discrete corrections, ensuring the Project would succeed. (PROSE: Come Friendly Bombs...)

In October 1944, the Seventh Doctor and Ace arrived at Colditz Castle. The Nazis confiscated Ace's Walkman, which contained anachronistic laser technology useful to the German nuclear research programme. The arrival of Elizabeth Klein from an alternate future alerted the Doctor to an impending change in the timeline. He made sure to recover the Walkman before he departed to deny its secrets to the Germans. (AUDIO: Colditz) In 1945, the Allies invaded Germany (PROSE: Made of Steel) and overran the nuclear research facilities and V1 and V2 rocket sites. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Exodus). The Third Reich surrendered in May 1945. (PROSE: Just War, AUDIO: Just War)

Now enjoying a monopoly on the nuclear project, the Americans prepared to test the new bomb in July 1945. Hungarian scientist Edward Teller was worried by his theory that the detonation of such a weapon would ignite all the hydrogen atoms in Earth's atmosphere and result in an chain reaction that would destroy the planet. He had heated arguments with Oppenheimer on this issue. Oppenheimer respected Teller but was prepared to take the risk. Teller took this as a snub and an insult.

The test detonation, codenamed Trinity, took place at 45 seconds past 5:29 am on Monday, 16 July 1945 in the Jornada del Muerto desert. It was a complete success, signalling the completion of the Manhattan Project. (PROSE: Atom Bomb Blues)

Deployment Edit

Big Momma

Big Momma, one of the first atomic bombs. (PROSE: Sky Jacks)

Despite Germany's defeat, Japan continued to fight on in the war's Pacific theatre. The Allied scientists and politicians debated whether the newly developed bomb should be deployed against the Japanese. Some of the scientists, aware of the bomb's destructive power, argued a demonstration on an uninhabited island may be enough to convince the Japanese to surrender. A counter-argument was concerned with the observed Japanese fanaticism and feared the continuation of conventional warfare could extend the Pacific War for up to five years. President Harry S. Truman ultimately decided to deploy the bomb against Japanese cities. (PROSE: Endgame)

Three bombs were assigned Japanese targets: Big Momma against Kyoto, Little Boy against Hiroshima and Fat Man against Nagasaki. The first of these bombs were lost en route on 5 August but the two subsequent bombs struck their targets killing a quarter of a million Japanese people between them. Japan surrendered on 2 September 1945, marked as Victory in the Pacific Day, (COMIC: Sky Jacks) bringing an official end to World War II. (PROSE: Base of Operations)

Legacy and controversy Edit

The Manhattan Project created the world's first nuclear weapons, which went on to characterise much of the later 20th century political climate.

Some of the Manhattan Project scientists regretted the use of the bomb against Japan and secretly passed on their research to the Soviet Union. In 1949, the Soviets developed their own atomic weaponry, breaking the US monopoly. During the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur advocated dropping atomic bombs on China. President Truman removed him from his post for the suggestion. (PROSE: Endgame) The resulting nuclear standoff characterised the Cold War, which promised mutually assured destruction should it ever escalate into a nuclear war. (TV: Cold War)

Despite creating the weapon which won the war, Oppenheimer never won the trust of his own government, owing to the onset of the Cold War. Before World War II, Oppenheimer had been drawn towards radical politics during his relationship with Jean Tatlock. His marriage to Kitty Oppenheimer later moderated his ideology but the US wanted to avoid the risk of a communist leading the nuclear programme and Oppenheimer was put on trial over the matter of his security clearance after the war. Edward Teller even testified against him at the trial and the two became mortal enemies. Teller, for his own part, had stuck to his apocalypse theory right up until the moment of the Trinity detonation. When he was proved wrong, he was deeply embarrassed. This totally transformed his ideology, turning him from an ardent opponent to an ardent proponent of nuclear proliferation. He continued working with the Americans to bring this about and later became known as the father of the hydrogen bomb. (PROSE: Atom Bomb Blues)

In the 1950s and 1960s, Harold Macmillan in Britain and Charles de Gaulle in France developed their own countries' nuclear programmes. Counter-cultural opposition to nuclear weapons manifested in the form of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, some members of which expressed a preference for a prolonged war against Japan as opposed to living in a world in which nuclear weapons existed. (PROSE: Come Friendly Bombs...) Peter Morley thought of Oppenheimer as someone who was so caught up in his work that he never stopped to consider what he was doing. (PROSE: The Scales of Injustice) Barbara Wright was horrified by the prospect of nuclear war, despite her conservative outlook; she claimed to have a very conservative view of the bomb as well. (PROSE: Nothing at the End of the Lane)

The Project also heralded the dawn of the nuclear age. People in the immediate post-war period were optimistic about the prospect of cheap and efficient nuclear power. By the 1970s, however, Jo Grant was disappointed by its failure to materialise. Indeed, the reactor of the Durlston Heath nuclear power plant quickly grew expensive and obsolete and was likely to be decommissioned. (PROSE: Harvest of Time)

Numerous extraterrestrial forces notes the destructive powers unleashed by the Manhattan Project brought humanity into an age in which it could destroy itself. Several species attempted to exploit this towards their own ends, including the Timewyrm, (PROSE: Timewyrm: Exodus), Hades among the Immortals (PROSE: Deadly Reunion) and the Horofax. (AUDIO: Storm of the Horofax) The Master tried to spark World War III by firing the nuclear-powered Thunderbolt missile at the World Peace Conference, (TV: The Mind of Evil) the tensions of which were very narrowly defused by Sir Reginald Styles at a second conference. (TV: Day of the Daleks)

The Doctor's own attitude towards the Manhattan Project remained more nuanced. A number of his later incarnations expressed disapproval at the deployment of the atomic bombs. The Eighth Doctor was not convinced by the argument that the shortening of the war justified Hiroshima. (PROSE: Endgame) The Eleventh Doctor called the bombing "needless", although Captain Lasseter of the Sky Jack objected. (COMIC: Sky Jacks) The Seventh Doctor named Hiroshima in particular as one of the horrors of the Second World War on numerous occasions. (PROSE: Timewyrm: Exodus, Just War, Atom Bomb Blues)

However, with regard to the Manhattan Project itself, the Doctor seemed more accepting. The Seventh Doctor expressed revulsion for the fate of Hiroshima and the future nuclear proliferation, but he was nevertheless willing to assist the scientists with their calculations and root out groups seeking to interfere with the Project towards nefarious ends. (PROSE: Atom Bomb Blues) The Third Doctor harboured a philosophical outlook. He told Jo Grant that there may come a time in human history where nuclear weapons become necessary, hence his own motivation to nudge the Project along in March 1943. He told Jo that as long as human morality kept pace with advances in technology, then the invention of the atomic bomb was no more a black mark on human history than the invention of the knife or the firearm before it. (PROSE: Come Friendly Bombs...)

Alternate timelines Edit

In an alternate timeline which branched off from the German confiscation of Ace's Walkman in at Colditz in October 1944, they examined the device and used the laser technology to accelerate their own nuclear programme. The Reich invented nuclear weapons first and bombed New York City and Moscow, forcing the United States and the Soviet Union to surrender, and won World War II. This timeline was averted after Johann Schmidt, an alternative version of the Doctor's eighth incarnation, manipulated Elizabeth Klein into travelling back in time to October 1944, altering the Seventh Doctor to the divergence. (AUDIO: Klein's Story)

Parallel universes Edit

One parallel universe, in which the Manhattan Project played out very similarly, was infiltrated by a Japanese-American doomsday cult from N-Space, led by Imperial Lee and Lady Silk, based at the Chapel of the Red Apocalypse. Their pawn, Ray Morita, was forced to infiltrate the Manhattan Project with a view to making Edward Teller's theory a reality by applying doomsday particle calculations to the Trinity detonation. They hoped to ignite not just the world but the whole universe in an explosive chain reaction so large, it would reverberate throughout the multiverse and alter the history of the war in every other universe to one in which the Japanese Empire emerged victorious.

The Seventh Doctor and Ace thought the plan absurd, the former very much doubting its viability but getting involved anyway just to be on the safe side. Through the Doctor's own interference in the Manhattan Project, the scientists were left with enough uncertainty to delay Trinity by one day. It occurred Tuesday, 17 July 1945 at 5am. Unaware of the change, the cult attempted their plans to early and either fled or died trying to escape the facility.

The Doctor's own motive for visiting this universe had been to convince Teller that his calculations were wrong. The Doctor wanted save him from his embarrassment and thereby spare the world from the nuclear proliferation in which he was to play a leading role. In this, the Doctor failed. (PROSE: Atom Bomb Blues)

In the virtual universe created by Louisa von der Eck's Utopia window, Britain came to terms with Germany after the latter gained the upper hand in the First World War, and was occupied by the Germans in the 1920s. The US was still researching nuclear weaponry by 1942, which the extremist partisan Churchill hoped he could use to overthrow the German conquerors of Kaiser Wilhelm III and General von Moltke. (AUDIO: I Was Churchill's Double)

Known Worlds Edit

Among the Known Worlds of Germania, parallel universes in which the Nazis won the Second World War, several worlds saw Germany win the race to develop nuclear weapons. Germania LD was among them, where an atomic bomb was used to destroy Leeds in a demonstration and Coventry was threatened with another, leading the British to surrender. On the Terra Optimus, Germania I, Leeds and Coventry were both bombed, reducing them to radioactive craters.

They were also introduced into the rogue Germania LXVIII after the Greater German Reich deposed of the native Hitler's communist regime. An atom bomb was dropped on Stalingrad, despite the standing alliance between Germany and Russia.

On another Germania, the bomb was used to obliterate the German-occupied City of London at the suggestion of August Hitler when the Empire of Empires' Roman Expeditionary Force invaded during the Second Time Front. The Roman legions defeated the Germans but tended to avoid this world afterwards.

On over half of the Germania worlds, the United States did not become involved in World War II. (PROSE: Warlords of Utopia)

Behind the scenes Edit

According to the non-narrative book Doctor Who The Official Annual 2011, in an alternate timeline in which the Eleventh Doctor never discovered the Ironsides, (TV: Victory of the Daleks) they turned the tide of World War II and took the fight to Germany. After the war was won, Winston Churchill was pressured by Joseph Stalin and Harry Truman into having the Ironsides destroyed by a nuclear bomb.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Stream the best stories.

Fandom may earn an affiliate commission on sales made from links on this page.

Get Disney+