Apocalypse Now: The Manhattan Project Quiz

By: Nathan Chandler

What was the primary purpose of the Manhattan Project?

During World War II, America scrambled to develop new weapons to beat back the Axis powers. The Manhattan Project was meant to create the world's first nuclear weapons.

What specific reason caused the Allies to begin the Manhattan Project?

The Allies were worried that the Nazis would develop and use a nuclear weapon first -- and thus, enslave the entire planet to do Hitler's bidding.

How did the Allies learn of Nazi atomic plans?

Albert Einstein, the famed scientist, caught wind of the dastardly Nazi plans and composed a letter to U.S. officials. They took his warnings seriously.

Which country did NOT help America with the project?

Mexico wasn't part of the project. But both Britain and Canada offered tons of support in an effort to expedite the project's progress.

The project took on great importance during World War II. When did it begin?

The project's first inklings came to reality in 1939, just as World War II was getting underway. In 1942, as the war worsened, the government funneled many more resources to speed up the project's development.

The project's research occurred at one laboratory.

There were dozens of research labs in the U.S., Britain and Canada that worked on the project. Some of the biggest breakthroughs, however, came at a few special labs in America.

Los Alamos Laboratory was a secret lab at the center of the project. It's located where?

Los Alamos Laboratory is located in a desert area of New Mexico. The location was selected in part because it was in a remote area that allowed for maximum secrecy.

If much of the work occurred in New Mexico, why was it called the Manhattan Project?

The project's first beginnings were in New York, thus the name. The project's leaders wound up recruiting the best and brightest scientific minds they could find.

As the Axis grew ever stronger, the project took on great importance. At its peak, how many people were working on the project?

The Allies weren't messing around. They eventually committed about 130,000 people to the Manhattan Project. Billions of dollars were committed to the effort.

Einstein wanted to work on the Manhattan Project but was denied access.

Einstein's warning sparked the project, but U.S. officials wouldn't let the genius take part in research. They were afraid that his political leanings might have been affected by the Nazi agenda.

When the project began, how did scientists perceive the idea of a nuclear bomb?

Scientist thought the bomb was possible … in theory. But no one had ever even attempted to assemble an atomic bomb, so no one knew if it would work.

The project received the highest possible priority rating from the government.

In reality, the project wasn't at the very top of government priorities. It was given the same priority as several other weapons-related facilities.

The Los Alamos lab was also known as what?

The now-famous lab was a secret during the war, and it was often called simply Project Y. It conducted some of the most classified research of the entire war.

The work at Los Alamos mostly revolved around what?

The fissile materials were created in other labs. Then, the plutonium and uranium were shipped to Los Alamos, where the bombs were built.

What was the name of the first-ever atomic bomb test?

Trinity was the name of the first atomic test. It created a huge blast on July 16, 1945, in the desert area near Socorro, New Mexico.

The bomb used for the Trinity test acquired which nickname?

The awesome technology was simply referred to as "The Gadget," an innocuous name for a horrifying weapon.

In the end, how many bombs did the project yield?

The frantic project ended in success. It produced four nuclear weapons, two of which were actually used during the war.

The project was top-secret. Workers who disclosed project details were threatened with which punishment?

Anyone caught sharing secrets about their work could be thrown in prison for 10 years and fined $100,000. Many people didn't even understand the real purpose of their work.

Authorities were exceptionally successful in guarding the secrecy of the project.

Given the scope and importance of the project, it's amazing that there weren't more leaks. Before the bombs were dropped on Japan, very few people understood the real meaning of the Manhattan Project.

What was the project's initial cover name?

Need a boring name for your nuke project? Try the Development of Substitute Metals. No one, not even the Nazis, will know what you're really up to.

About half of the project's metallurgists and chemists were taken off of the project. Why?

Researchers were subjected to routine health checks, and some exhibited scary signs of plutonium in their bodies. They were removed from the project, lest their long-term health become compromised.

The Axis managed to sabotage several aspects of the project.

Government secrecy and Allied security won out. There were no confirmed acts of sabotaged committed by the Axis to slow or stop the project.

The RaLa Experiment became one of the most important parts of the project. What did the experiment explore?

Before finalizing a bomb design, researchers need to better understand shockwaves. The RaLa Experiment explored the inner workings of shockwaves.

How was the Trinity test conducted?

The test bomb was carefully (oh, so carefully) raised to the top of a 100-foot tower. This was intended to better mimic the effects of a bomb that would eventually be dropped from a bomber aircraft.

The Trinity blast created a mushroom cloud that went how high in the sky?

The tell-tale mushroom cloud stretched more than 7 miles into the atmosphere, an ominous sign that humanity had reached new heights of dangerousness.

Women played a vital role in the program.

Women were recruited and deployed through the project's various work sites. They did a lot of grunt labor, but they also took only highly technical jobs critical to bomb development.

Once the bomb was ready, bomber pilots were told that in the event of aircraft problems, they should crash where?

Scientists were worried that a crash landing in the ocean might spread radioactive material far and wide. So, in the event of an emergency, pilots were told to crash on land.

The Germans eventually succeeded in creating their own atomic bombs during the war.

Where the Allies succeeded, the Nazis failed. Einstein later said that if he had known that the Germans would fail to produce a bomb, he never would have alerted America to the threat.

The first-ever atomic bomb was dropped on which city?

The bomb named Little Boy was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Three days later, Fat Man was dropped on Nagasaki.

The Allies dropped two nuclear weapons on Japan. About how many people died from the blasts?

Roughly 200,000 people (mostly civilians) died from the two blasts. The bombings convinced Japan to finally surrender, an act that dropped the curtain on World War II.

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About This Quiz

Under fire from the Germans and the Japanese, the Allies decided to up the ante -- they started work on the Manhattan Project. This famous World War II project changed human history, and maybe not in a good way. How much do you know about the program?

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