On this day in history, President Truman announced in his annual message to Congress that the United States had developed a hydrogen bomb. The speech was made just two weeks before General Eisenhower would be inaugurated as President of the United States. [Note: The President’s message was read aloud by clerks in both Houses of Congress and was broadcast to foreign countries.]
His announcement wasn’t replete with details. He said:
… the progress of scientific experiment has outrun our expectations. Atomic science is in the full tide of development; the unfolding of the innermost secrets of matter is uninterrupted and irresistible. Since Alamogordo we have developed atomic weapons with many times the explosive force of the early models, and we have produced them in substantial quantities. And recently, in the thermonuclear tests at Eniwetok, we have entered another stage in the world-shaking development of atomic energy. From now on, man moves into a new era of destructive power, capable of creating explosions of a new order of magnitude, dwarfing the mushroom clouds of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”
By tests at Eniwetok (in the Marshall Islands), he referred to the detonation in November, 1952 of the hydrogen bomb named “Mike.” Mike was not a deliverable weapon: it was contained in a building standing over 20 ft. high, and it weighed at least 140,000 pounds, with an additional 24,000 pounds in cooling equipment.
The explosion proved to be over 450 times the power of the bomb dropped onto Nagasaki. Truman had initially wanted to keep the test secret, but as word to the media was leaking out, he decided to include the announcement in his January 7 speech.