The Detroit Origins of Atomic Bomb “Little Boy” via Wdet

Two out of the three locations to manufacture the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima were in metro Detroit.

At the corner of Mt Elliott and McNichols, in Northeast Detroit, there’s an unassuming machine shop that sits in the middle of an industrial landscape.


Roger Meade is a retired archivist historian for Los Alamos National Laboratory, the facility tasked with designing the two atomic bombs used on Japan.

Los Alamos was filled with scientists, a few engineers, but no one who could produce anything,” he says. ”And so they looked at Detroit for two reasons, one it was a huge labor pool for skilled labor particularly machinists and draftsman … and some of it was just the capacity to work on large pieces of steel.”

To give a sense of scale, the hemisphere, or tip, of the bomb was five feet in diameter.

Meade says Michigan played a significant role in manufacturing not only “Little Boy”, but also the atomic bomb’s counterpart “Fat Man” used in Nagasaki.

But Michigan manufacturers didn’t know what they were working on.


The Beginning of the Atomic Age

While the US devoted thousands of personnel and millions to the development of this revolutionary weapon – the atomic bomb – it was really only the beginning.

This was the first weapon people could cobble together, it had duck tape on it,” says Robert Jacobs, nuclear historian and professor at Hiroshima Peace Institute. “Once it was used and we saw that it worked that effectively, within 10 years we had weapons that had capacities to kill way beyond anything that you could understand by looking at this city.”

Jacobs says at the time of the bombing, Hiroshima was primarily populated by women, children and elderly people, because most of the adult men had gone off to fight.

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