Japanese Atomic Bomb Program

Rumors are that a successful nuclear test was conducted on 12 Aug 1945, between the time of Hiroshima and Surrender. The scientists saw they were too late to save Japan and destroyed as much as they could of their work before the Russians arrived and to capture and send all the scientists to Russia where they were an added to the Soviet scientist working from nuclear research sent by atomic spys : Fuchs, Cohen, Rosenbergs and others, of the American efforts into a combined program that resulted in Soviet test of an atomic weapon on 29 August 1949.
As was customary in Japan, the Army and Navy had rival programs.

The Japanese fission project begin April 1941 when Lieutenant-General Takeo Yasuda, director of the Army Aeronautical Department's Technical Research Institute was ordered by Army Minister Hideki Tojo to investigate the possibilities of nuclear weapons. Yasuda passed the order down the chain of command to Okochi Masatoshi, director of the Riken Institute, who in turn passed it to Nishina, whose Nuclear Research Laboratory had been established to study high-energy physics in 1931 at Riken Institute (the Institute for Physical and Chemical Research). By 1941 Nishiuna had over 100 researchers.

Meanwhile, the Imperial Japanese Navy's Technology Research Institute had been pursuing its own separate investigations in a committee, including Nishina, between July 1942 and March 1943. It concluded in a report that while an atomic bomb was, in principle, feasible, "it would probably be difficult even for the United States to realize the application of atomic power during the war". This caused the Navy to lose interest and to concentrate instead on research into radar.

The Army was not discouraged, and soon after set up an experimental project, the Ni-Go Project. Its aim was to separate uranium-235 by thermal diffusion. By February 1945 they had produced a small amount of material. The separator project's building was destroyed the night of 9-10 March 1945 by the USAAF's biggest raid on Tokyo in which 334 B-29s dropping incendiaries destroyed 25% of the city. The Japanese requested materials from their German allies and 1,230 lb (560 kg) of unprocessed uranium oxide was dispatched to Japan in April 1945 aboard the submarine U-234, which surrendered to U.S. forces in the Atlantic following Germany's surrender. Japanese submarine I-29 sunk between Singapore and Japan 26July'44 on return from Lorient, France, with German jet engine technology is sometimes said to have also carried uranium ore (yellow cake).

In 1943 a different Japanese Naval command began a nuclear research program, the F-Go Project, under Bunsaku Arakatsu at the Imperial University, Kyoto, who had studied aboard under Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge and Albert Einstein at Berlin University. Next to Nishina, Arakatsu was the most notable nuclear physicist in Japan. His team included Hideki Yukawa, who six years later would become the first Japanese physicist to receive a Nobel Prize for work in partical physics.

At the end of the war US intelligence acquired information to the effect that Japanese scientists had planned to conduct a test of a nuclear weapon near Hungnam on 12 August 1945. However, this could not be verified as the Red Army occupied the site a few days later, before US occupation authorities could investigate.

In 1946 the Atlanta Constitution published a story by reporter David Snell, who had been an investigator with the 24th Criminal Investigation Detachment in Korea after the war, wrote in 1946 that the Japanese had successfully tested a nuclear weapon near Konan before being captured by the Soviets. He claimed his information was from a Japanese officer who had been in charge of counter-intelligence at Konan. There was strict censorship of all information about Japan's wartime interest in nuclear physics and chemical weapons.

In 1946 talking about his wartime efforts Arakatsu made the claim he was making "tremendous strides" towards making an atomic bomb and that the Soviet Union probably already had one.

The point is, any nation in desperate straights will use whatever means they can to bring a favorable end to their current war. Germany, the homeland of scientific inquiry, failed to pursue the atomic bomb because it could not be completed in time to be completed before the end of the war. Japan's army and navy each concluded the same thing. But scientific research continued even after the initial laboratories were destroyed, moved to northern Korea, and almost made it. The United States did pursue it to completion and had the wit to use it, this before the Japanese could weaponize their apparently successful efforts. But, the Soviets captured and continued the process.

Did it all end there?
On 24 March 2014, Japan agreed to turn over more than 700 pounds of weapons grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium to the United States.
"Japan's Secret War" by Robert K. Wilcox.
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