“I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture … 'And I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another.”
– Julius Robert Oppenheimer, speaking of the “Trinity” explosion (1945), the first nuclear detonation
The Americans were the first to acquire (and later use) nuclear weapons
In July 1945, the world's first nuclear detonation went off in the American state of New Mexico. The explosion was in the desert near Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range. (This area is now part of White Sands Missile Range.) This was near the end of World War II, and the Cold War had not yet begun at this time. But it would have massive importance in the coming struggle with Soviet Russia. In August 1945, the Americans dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which would have an even greater effect on the coming conflict. The frightening effects of these two bombs would haunt the world throughout the Cold War, as a chilling warning of what would happen if they were on the receiving end of a nuclear attack. Indeed, the nuclear weapons first introduced in 1945 were the most important aspect of the global confrontation now known as the “Cold War.” It is the biggest reason why the two major superpowers – which were the United States and the Soviet Union – did not directly engage each other in open conflict on a battlefield, except on a few rare occasions (which I will not elaborate on here).
“Trinity” explosion - New Mexico, United States (16 July 1945)
Why is it called the “Cold War,” when there were so many “hot wars” within it?
The reason that we call it the “Cold War” is that most of the time, the conflict did not involve actual shooting; which would be more characteristic of a “hot war.” Instead, it was usually just a “cold war” with the threat of a nuclear holocaust – although there were some notable exceptions where actual shooting occurred. (Such as the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Soviet war in Afghanistan; which were all part of the larger “Cold War.”) This post will not attempt to cover these “hot wars” within the Cold War, and it will not attempt anything like an overview of this massive worldwide conflict. Rather, it will focus on the most important aspect of it, which is nuclear weapons. (Although if you're interested in the other parts of the Cold War, I cover some of them elsewhere on this blog here, for anyone that is interested.) Despite the problems caused by nuclear weapons since their first introduction in 1945, it is well that the Americans (and the free world generally) got this technology before the Nazis or the communists did, sine the prospect of these regimes getting the bomb first would have been chilling indeed. (And the Nazis almost did get it before the Americans did.)
Hiroshima and Nagasaki explosions, 6 and 9 August 1945