Taught by Michael A. Dennis at Cornell University, Spring 1998 

 Required Books

 Outline of Topics

Description and Textbooks back to top

This is a course about the 'fallout' from the history of nuclear weapons. We are interested in understanding how these weapons, to which few people have had access, have become part of our political and popular culture. Beginning with the debate over the Smithsonian's Enola Gay exhibit, we revisit the history of the Manhattan Project and the use of the atomic bomb to end World War II. We will then study the development of the post war nuclear complex, including the development of the hydrogen bomb, the Oppenheimer case, and the evolution of the U.S. military as the bomb became part of the American arsenal. We also want to understand the bomb's cultural and social effects, as well as the way the bomb affected U.S. society and culture. To that end we will use a variety of materials-- books, newspapers and magazine articles, motion pictures, and novels. Students are encouraged to bring materials of interest to the professor's attention. A class web page [] will offer other resources. 

Requirements: Attendance at lecture is essential for understanding the class and the materials. Given that the class is larger than ever before this term, there are two optional discussion sections. These are optional, but students should find them helpful in completing the course's writing assignments. There will be three graded writing assignments, including the take home final examination/essay. Students are also required to keep a journal, consisting of a single entry for each week of the semester. Students may write on whatever topics interest them, preferably related to the course in some way. In other words, you write a page each week on the readings, the movies we view, or your general thoughts on the course. Journals will be collected without warning, so you should bring your journal to class. You can keep it in on your computer, but print it out each week and bring it with you. Although journals will not be graded, a record will be kept of those who perform this important task. 

Required Books back to top

Available at the Campus Store or

Philip K Dick, The Man in the High Castle 

John Hersey, Hiroshima 

Michael Hogan, Hiroshima in History and Memory

Philip Nobile, Judgment at the Smithsonian

Nevil Shute, On the Beach 

E.B. Sledge, With the Old Breed 

H.D. Smythe, Atomic Energy for Military Purposes

Leo Szilard, Voice of the Dolphins 

Fred Kaplan, Wizards of Armageddon

J. Samuel Walker, Prompt & Utter Destruction

Course Packet 

Outline of Topics back to top

Week 1
19 January    Introduction
21 January    Why all the Fuss? The Enola Gay Controversy

Start reading the script in Nobile; also, related articles in Reader. 
On the Enola Gay Exhibit there are several excellent sites: 
Enola Gay Perspectives offers an excellent chronology of the events. 
The cyberexhibit  of the canceled exhibit has been mounted by the major Japanese television network. 
The Air Force Association, which led the attack on the planned exhibit, has a web site with a comprehensive display of their perspective and a detailed chronology of events with links to important texts. 
     Compare the original script with the current Enola Gay exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum. 

Week 2
26 January     The Politics of History (I)
Finish script in Nobile; Hogan and Boyer essays in Hogan. 
28 January     The Politics of History (II) 
Walker in Hogan; Clippings in Reader. 
28 January     Film: ABC Documentary on Enola Gay Controversy; The Atomic Cafe 

     Jayne Loader, who made The Atomic Cafe has also made a fascinating CD-ROM about the nuclear era, Public Shelter, which is well worth checking out. Two other CD -ROMS that might interest members of the class are: 
     The Atomic Age
     Critical Mass, from Bill Gates' Corbis
     Voyager's The Day after Trinity.

Week 3 
2 February     Imagining the Bomb
Heinlein in Reader. 
4 February     Physics becomes Destructive
For some rudimentary physics, including a visual discussion of fission, see Atomic Archive Site
Also of interest are materials at the Trinity Site
4 February Film: Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie 
Also see the site from the film's producers. 

Week 4
9 February      Deciding the Build a Bomb
Conant in Reader. 
11 February    At Work in the Fields of the Bomb 
   1.Sherwin, A World Destroyed [Reserve], Part I. 
11 February Film:  Why We Fight

Week 5 
16 February     Building Manhattan
Walker, 1-19. 
18 February     No Class-No Sections this week. 

Week 6
23 February     Other Countries, Other Bombs
25 February     The War in the Pacific
Sledge; Jones in Reader. 
25 February     Film: Them!

Week 7
2 March     War in the Pacific/Manhattan Makes Ready 
Finish Sledge; Walker, 20-52; Bernstein in Hogan. 
4 March     What to do with Japan 
Bernstein in Nobile; Walker, 53-75; Bix in Hogan. 

Week 8
9 March     Using the Bomb
Walker, finish; Hersey, first half. 
11 March    On the Ground
Finish Hersey; Seimes and Leighton in Reader. 
11 March Film:   Black Rain

Week 9   Spring Break 

Week 10
23 March     Immediate Impacts 
Cousins to Ridenour in Reader; 
25 March     One World or None?
25 March Film:    Atomic Attack

Week 11
30 March     The Strategic Bombing Survey 
Survey and Bernstein, Stimson, and Compton in Reader. 
1 April          New Weapons, New World 
Kaplan, Chapters 1-4. 

Week 12
6 April     The Problems of Super
Kaplan, Chapters 5-7; Galison and Bernstein [R]. 
8 April     Oppenheimer and the Problem of Secrecy
Bernstein [R]. 
8 April Film:  Dr. Strangelove 

Week 13
13 April     Strategy in the Missile Age
Cohn in Reader; Kaplan, Chapters 8-17. 
15 April     The New Apocalypse
Start Shute. 
15 April  Film:   Fail Safe

Week 14
27 April     Fictional Worlds 
Finish Shute, Dick. 
29 April     Enola Gay Reconsidered
29 April   Film:   On the Beach

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