Writing history is always provisional. While my original research indicated that the atomic bombings did indeed shorten the war, recent scholarship in Japanese, American, and Russian archives has revealed that the atomic bombings served a secondary role in forcing Japanese surrender. The ultimate turning point was Russian entry into the war in the Far East on August 8. Joseph Stalin, wanting to extend the sphere of Soviet influence into Japan itself, was planning to invade Manchuria on August 15. After seeing the first film footage from Hiroshima and expecting an immediate Japanese surrender to the US, he moved up the Soviet invasion date. When the Russians came in, the Japanese leadership, whom even the atomic bombings had not yet convinced, finally understood that their country was defeated. We may be grateful the Japanese surrendered when they did. The US had more atomic bombs in the pipeline; the next target was to be the Japanese railway system, which would have cut off the food supply to an already starving population. Thousands of British and American prisoners of war in Japan were starving as well.
The World Set Free is a novel by H. G. Wells, first published in 1914. Continuing a theme of Wells's work - that of the history of technological advancement by humans, The World Set Free tells of a war fought with the most destructive weapon the world has ever seen - an atomic bomb. The novel's solution to the threat of these weapons is a one world government. Set in motion by the King of Britain, very few of the leaders of the world resist, and those that do are defeated.Thereafter, there is a creation of a utopian society, and with atomic energy solving the problem of work, the vast majority of the population are artists.
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Never before in the history of warfare had there been a continuing explosive; indeed, up to the middle of the twentieth century the only explosives known were combustibles whose explosiveness was due entirely to their instantaneousness; and these atomic bombs which science burst upon the world that night were strange even to the men who used them.
Certainly it seems now that nothing could have been more obvious to the people of the earlier twentieth century than the rapidity with which war was becoming impossible. And as certainly they did not see it. They did not see it until the atomic bombs burst in their fumbling hands [...] All through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the amount of energy that men were able to command was continually increasing. Applied to warfare that meant that the power to inflict a blow, the power to destroy, was continually increasing [...]There was no increase whatever in the ability to escape [...]Destruction was becoming so facile that any little body of malcontents could use it [...]Before the last war began it was a matter of common knowledge that a man could carry about in a handbag an amount of latent energy sufficient to wreck half a city.
The world was so little governed that with the very coming of plenty, in thefull tide of an incalculable abundance, when everything necessary to satisfyhuman needs and everything necessary to realise such will and purpose asexisted then in human hearts was already at hand, one has still to tell ofhardship, famine, anger, confusion, conflict, and incoherent suffering. Therewas no scheme for the distribution of this vast new wealth that had come atlast within the reach of men; there was no clear conception that any suchdistribution was possible. As one attempts a comprehensive view of thoseopening years of the new age, as one measures it against the latent achievementthat later years have demonstrated, one begins to measure the blindness, thenarrowness, the insensate unimaginative individualism of the pre-atomic time.Under this tremendous dawn of power and freedom, under a sky ablaze withpromise, in the very presence of science standing like some bountiful goddessover all the squat darknesses of human life, holding patiently in her strongarms, until men chose to take them, security, plenty, the solution of riddles,the key of the bravest adventures, in her very presence, and with the earnestof her gifts in court, the world was to witness such things as the squalidspectacle of the Dass-Tata patent litigation.
The gaunt face hardened to grimness, and with both hands the bomb-throwerlifted the big atomic bomb from the box and steadied it against the side. Itwas a black sphere two feet in diameter. Between its handles was a littlecelluloid stud, and to this he bent his head until his lips touched it. Then hehad to bite in order to let the air in upon the inducive. Sure of itsaccessibility, he craned his neck over the side of the aeroplane and judged hispace and distance. Then very quickly he bent forward, bit the stud, and hoistedthe bomb over the side.
Never before in the history of warfare had there been a continuing explosive;indeed, up to the middle of the twentieth century the only explosives knownwere combustibles whose explosiveness was due entirely to theirinstantaneousness; and these atomic bombs which science burst upon the worldthat night were strange even to the men who used them. Those used by the Allieswere lumps of pure Carolinum, painted on the outside with unoxidised cydonatorinducive enclosed hermetically in a case of membranium. A little celluloid studbetween the handles by which the bomb was lifted was arranged so as to beeasily torn off and admit air to the inducive, which at once became active andset up radio-activity in the outer layer of the Carolinum sphere. Thisliberated fresh inducive, and so in a few minutes the whole bomb was a blazingcontinual explosion. The Central European bombs were the same, except that theywere larger and had a more complicated arrangement for animating the inducive.
What happened when the celluloid stud was opened was that the inducive oxidisedand became active. Then the surface of the Carolinum began to degenerate. Thisdegeneration passed only slowly into the substance of the bomb. A moment or soafter its explosion began it was still mainly an inert sphere explodingsuperficially, a big, inanimate nucleus wrapped in flame and thunder. Thosethat were thrown from aeroplanes fell in this state, they reached the groundstill mainly solid, and, melting soil and rock in their progress, bored intothe earth. There, as more and more of the Carolinum became active, the bombspread itself out into a monstrous cavern of fiery energy at the base of whatbecame very speedily a miniature active volcano. The Carolinum, unable todisperse, freely drove into and mixed up with a boiling confusion of moltensoil and superheated steam, and so remained spinning furiously and maintainingan eruption that lasted for years or months or weeks according to the size ofthe bomb employed and the chances of its dispersal. Once launched, the bomb wasabsolutely unapproachable and uncontrollable until its forces were nearlyexhausted, and from the crater that burst open above it, puffs of heavyincandescent vapour and fragments of viciously punitive rock and mud, saturatedwith Carolinum, and each a centre of scorching and blistering energy, wereflung high and far.
That battle went on for three days all over a great stretch of country betweenLouvain on the north and Longwy to the south. It was essentially a rifle andinfantry struggle. The aeroplanes do not seem to have taken any decisive sharein the actual fighting for some days, though no doubt they effected thestrategy from the first by preventing surprise movements. They were aeroplaneswith atomic engines, but they were not provided with atomic bombs, which weremanifestly unsuitable for field use, nor indeed had they any very effectivekind of bomb. And though they manœuvred against each other, and there was rifleshooting at them and between them, there was little actual aerial fighting.Either the airmen were indisposed to fight or the commanders on both sidespreferred to reserve these machines for scouting....
Secretly the Central European power had gathered his flying machines together,and now he threw them as a giant might fling a handful of ten thousand knivesover the low country. And amidst that swarming flight were five that droveheadlong for the sea walls of Holland, carrying atomic bombs. From north andwest and south, the allied aeroplanes rose in response and swept down upon thissudden attack. So it was that war in the air began. Men rode upon the whirlwindthat night and slew and fell like archangels. The sky rained heroes upon theastonished earth. Surely the last fights of mankind were the best. What was theheavy pounding of your Homeric swordsmen, what was the creaking charge ofchariots, beside this swift rush, this crash, this giddy triumph, this headlongswoop to death?
The drowned were under water that morning. Only here and there did a dead cowor a stiff figure still clinging stoutly to a box or chair or such-like buoyhint at the hidden massacre. It was not till the Thursday that the dead came tothe surface in any quantity. The view was bounded on every side by a gray mistthat closed overhead in a gray canopy. The air cleared in the afternoon, andthen, far away to the west under great banks of steam and dust, the flaming rederuption of the atomic bombs came visible across the waste of water.
And one at least of those who were called to this conference of governmentscame to it on foot. This was King Egbert, the young king of the most venerablekingdom in Europe. He was a rebel, and had always been of deliberate choice arebel against the magnificence of his position. He affected long pedestriantours and a disposition to sleep in the open air. He came now over the Pass ofSta Maria Maggiore and by boat up the lake to Brissago; thence he walked up themountain, a pleasant path set with oaks and sweet chestnut. For provision onthe walk, for he did not want to hurry, he carried with him a pocketful ofbread and cheese. A certain small retinue that was necessary to his comfort anddignity upon occasions of state he sent on by the cable car, and with himwalked his private secretary, Firmin, a man who had thrown up the Professorshipof World Politics in the London School of Sociology, Economics, and PoliticalScience, to take up these duties. Firmin was a man of strong rather than rapidthought, he had anticipated great influence in this new position, and aftersome years he was still only beginning to apprehend how largely his functionwas to listen. Originally he had been something of a thinker upon internationalpolitics, an authority upon tariffs and strategy, and a valued contributor tovarious of the higher organs of public opinion, but the atomic bombs had takenhim by surprise, and he had still to recover completely from his pre-atomicopinions and the silencing effect of those sustained explosives. 2b1af7f3a8