The Issue of the Atomic Bomb

Since the development of the atomic bomb and for centuries yet to come, historians, philosophers, scientists, and everyone in between have and will debate the morality of the use of the atomic weapons.

Atomic bomb blast over Nagasaki, Japan, 1945/0809

The Notre Dame Archives holds materials that also straddle both sides of the issue.  Notre Dame, as with in previous wars, made significant contributions to the war efforts during World War II, from the Naval training on campus to the development of cutting-edge scientific and engineering advancements.  Several Notre Dame faculty members played key roles in the Manhattan Project, including Bernard Waldman, Bernard Cullity, and Henry Bolger.

Scholastic Magazine Issue 11/30/1945 article regarding Notre Dame’s involvement with the development of the Atomic Bomb

Waldman was in Tinian, the island base of the Enola Gay Bomber, in August 1945 and was one of the few civilians to witness the bombings from a supporting plane.  His collection contains many materials regarding his involvement with the Manhattan Project, including photographs and video footage.

The Enola Gay B-29 Superfortress Bomber on her return to Tinian from the Hiroshima Mission at 3pm, 1945/0806

With the end of the war, Notre Dame officials and science faculty members focused their research on the possibilities of the uses of nuclear energy during peace time.  The physics department received and upgraded electrostatic accelerator (atom smasher).  In 1946, Notre Dame philosophy professor Rev. Leo Ward, CSC, was appointed to Atomic Bomb Committee established by Atomic Associates Inc. at the University of Chicago.  University President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, represented Vatican City with the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1957-1970.  The Radiation Laboratory moved into its own building in 1963.  Chemistry professor Milton Burton, with funding from the US Atomic Energy Commission, established the radiation program at Notre Dame in 1949.


As can be imagined, there are many books, pamphlets, documents, and other anti-war materials in the Notre Dame Archives’ Catholic Collections.

Flyer from the American PAX Association regarding key passages from Pope John’s Message to Humanity, c1966

Below are a few of such collections with materials regarding peace and war:

Catholic Peace Fellowship
Pax Christi USA
Center on Conscience and War
National Assembly of Religious Women (US)
George Fulcher Papers
Eileen Egan
Gerard Vanderhaar
Gordon Zahn
Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

Flyer advertising an informational meeting for those interested in attending a Rally for Nuclear Disarmament in New York City. The meeting was held in 122 Hayes Healy Center, 1982/0427.


Scholastic, 1945/1130
PNDP University Press Releases:  Keywords Atomic and Nuclear
CEEG 1/01
PNDP 30-Pr-n02

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