Just before the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Japan, a report went out to people at the highest levels of power. It predicted an arms race, a policy of mutually assured destruction, and it recommended that we keep the bomb secret. What if we had?
This report was given by physicist and now-Nobel-Laureate James Franck to the Interim Committee on nuclear energy. James Franck was a physicist who had been born in Germany and seen the First World War before fleeing the country shortly prior to the Second World War. It’s not surprising that the report he gave to the committee was leery of escalating militarism. The Franck Report warned that such a weapon would prompt other nations to construct their own, and that their production would spur the United States to make more and more weapons as well, until each had enough to annihilate each other. The report pleaded for the President to either only demonstrate this weapon on a deserted island for the United Nations, or to keep it secret forever.
Secrecy, at that point, didn’t matter. The Soviet Union had so effectively spied on the Manhattan project that they would have known that the United States had a bomb, and likely would have labored to make their own. But what if somehow, the Franck Report were a reality? What if the allies had won the war through conventional warfare, and the atomic bomb was a weapon no one knew about?
There’s a case to be made that the atomic bomb reshaped the mindset of multiple generations. The threat, whether real or imagined, of annihilation via political maneuvering changed the way we think about the world. Would more wars have been avoided or would more have been started? And if so, where would they have been? It’s very possible that, without the nuclear arms race, the many proxy wars that took place might have been actual wars between the Soviet Union and the United States. If that were the case, it’s doubtful that the “secret” weapon would have been secret for long. My Franck alternate history timeline is, if the United States had kept nuclear bomb entirely a secret, the arms race would have been entirely one sided, and would have been unleashed, not with the intent of demonstrating overwhelming military force, but with the intent of outright population reduction. It’s possible that the U.S. would have bombed everything communist until there wasn’t a population left to fight us.