The United States, Britain and Germany started to research of the atomic bomb at the beginning of World War II. When Americans got it, the war in Europe was over and the bomb was only used against Japan.

Is it known what both sides wanted to do with the bomb if they had got it earlier? Bombing German and British cities? Destroying industrial complexes? Bombing concentrations of troops? Sinking whole navies?

If plans aren't known, or if they hadn't been made before developing the bomb, any scholar research on what would they have done with the bomb will be welcomed.

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    It was not expected in time so there was probably no plans. They started discussing the plans only after the first test, which was after the end of the war in Europe. There was no point in making any plans before the test. – Alex Feb 24 '18 at 1:22
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    @Alex I'd expect governments to have in mind some practical application for any device before spending billions of dollars developing it in times of scarcity. And I would be surprised if the issue hadn't been researched by historians. – Pere Feb 24 '18 at 15:02
  • There was a targeting committee for Japan to decide which cities were suitable. I’d have to dig into books to determine when the committee started work. – Jon Custer Feb 24 '18 at 15:48
  • @Pere: this is a prime example of a risky investment. Nobody knew whether it will work. – Alex Feb 24 '18 at 22:15
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    @Alex: Don't conflate plutonium and U-235 bombs! The Uranium bomb was so simple no test was ever considered - but would only be available at 2-3 per year until a more efficient enrichment process had been perfected. The Plutonium bomb was a much more complex design and required the Trinity test, but would be available at 2-3 per month from late August on (assuming Trinity tested successfully). – Pieter Geerkens Feb 26 '18 at 1:30

According to this answer, it wasn't until very late that the Americans decided whether to bomb (in Japan) a military/industrial/transportation city, or a capital city.

They did decide it had to be a city (not a smaller target), because they had very few bombs and aiming was uncertain:

Minutes of the second meeting of the Target Committee Los Alamos, May 10-11, 1945

It was agreed that for the initial use of the weapon any small and strictly military objective should be located in a much larger area subject to blast damage in order to avoid undue risks of the weapon being lost due to bad placing of the bomb.

Also, "Psychological Factors in Target Selection" says it was intended as a strategic weapon i.e. to affect morale, not just supplies and matériel.

I guess people didn't start to think about (or, at least, making plans for using) "tactical" nuclear weapons until they had a lot of them (maybe starting in the early 1950s).

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