"The Atomic Secret of 1945"

What the Government Didn't Want You to Know




On August 6, 1945 the world officially entered the nuclear age. With the dropping of the atomic bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy," on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, America displayed its might and willingness to end World War II at any cost. Sixteen hours later with Truman's announcement, America slowly began to learn about the secret massive effort that went into developing the atomic bomb, a program known as "The Manhattan Project." This six year, two billion dollar project was kept secret from the American public from 1939 until 1945. That is, if the writers of the Superman newspaper strip didn't reveal it first.


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In an odd set of circumstances, a 1945 storyline in the Superman comic strip threatened to expose this atomic program ahead of schedule. In "Episode 34: The Science of Superman," a science professor attempted to test Superman's powers using a cyclotron, or as he called it, an "atom-smasher." This was April 14, 1945. The scientist described that the device was capable of bombarding "electrons at a speed of 100 million miles per hour and [was] charged with three million volts" of electricity. Granted, this strip did not give away the detailed plans of the atomic program. However, in a period where anything atomic-related was censored, the Superman strip created a story that blazened atomic power across the country in hundreds of newspapers.


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The governmental reaction was swift, but too late. When it came to their attention, the secret service stepped in to pressure DC to pull the story. However, the censorship came too late, and most papers had already published the strip. The FBI then contacted Jerry Siegel, who they believed had written the story. However, it was not Siegel, but his ghostwriter Alvin Schwartz, who had penned the tale. Schwartz had no knowledge of the atomic program, but had learned of cyclotrons from reading Popular Mechanics. The War Department asked the McClure Newspaper Syndicate, which published the Superman strip, to drop stories related to atomic energy, and requested that DC Comics monitor their own comic stories as well


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Months afterwards, once the atomic secret was fully out, Newsweek, Time, and the Independent News ran stories about how Superman managed to scare the Office of Censorship.


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References and for more information:
World Famous Comics
The Superman Homepage