tv Atomic Spies CSPAN October 11, 2014 8:20am-9:56am EDT
it was a great surprise to the american government when the tested their first atomic bomb in 1949. international spy museum hisser houghton -- hisser ran vince houghton talk how it may have led to development of the russian a-bomb. andinternational spy museum the smithsonian associates 90-minute event. >> we're delighted to have our own historian. i don't know if you have met him. dr. vince houghton, the his historian and curator of the museum. he has a degree from the theersity of maryland where research centered on u.s. scientific and technological intelligence. nuclear in the second world war and the cold war, which makes him ideally suited to deliver today's talk. he also got his masters degree focusing on the relationship between the u.s. and russia.
questionsy get some focusing on the current russia.ties with he has taught extensively, including at the university of of then history u.s. intelligence, diplomatic oftory, cold war, history science. u.s. army veteran. balkans where he assisted in both civilian and military intelligence activities. so we're just delighted to have you as our speaker, as the first speaker. please help me welcome vince houghton. [applause]
>> thank you, peter. thank all of you for coming here today. to get to talk about the atomic spies and nuclear intelligence, this is my field. this is also my passion. i try to do everything i can to talk about this to anyone who wants to listen. so it is nice to have people to listen. >> i really fell in love,
but i fell in love with the intricacies of the weapons system that is the worst the world has ever seen but the same time might be primarily responsible for us not having a major war in 70 years. that dichotomy is something that true me to the field. today we start with the atomic spies that spied on the united states. we start with background. united states was shocked to learn the soviet union detonated the first atomic bond. they nickname it first lightning. in the united states we call it joe-1. a little homage to joe stalin. it was made in kazakhstan. they wanted to keep the bomb secret. unlike you assume a big public relations coup. the worry was when the united states found out that the soviets had a bomb we'd double or redouble the efforts to create the next generation of weapon systems and we'd create more around more bombs. they were right. they didn't know the united states created scientific intelligence plat tomorrow to discover when the soviets atomic bomb. first this was the same bomber used to .rop a bomb on hiroshima this was modified to take air samples around the world to see there are fission byproducts in the air. this was afoat-1. air force office of atomic energy. this discovered the bomb days by picking upone, the excess radiation, the excess fission byproducts as it flew a racetrack pattern in the pacific ocean. statestely the united got this information. the secretary of defense lewis didn't believe it at
first. he couldn't come to grips with the fact that the soviet union developed a bomb long before anyone assumed they would do so. truman could not believe the soviets were now a nuclear power. i couldn't said understand how the "asiatics" were able to match what we did so quickly. after 95% of the u.s. atomic the datas looked at brought back by the one flight afoat-1 they concluded without any real equivocation that the soviet union had in fact their first atomic bomb. truman had no choice but to accept this and announce to the american public in september that an arms race had begun. now, congress did what it did best. rallied quickly and started pointing fingers at everybody they could possibly point fingers at. how could this happen? how could we be so surprised that the soviet union detonated a bomb long before we thought they were going to? how did they get it so quickly? intelligence the
community had given them was 1953. as the most probable date for a soviet bomb. the worst case scenario that the intelligence agencies had given 1951.vernment was in they were just too slow and too stupid to be able to get the did.as quickly as they so, new ideas, new hypothesis were brought up. get the bomb rolling? the senate and the house had a joint nuclear energy committee brought together. the head of the c.i.a. in front of it and several other witnesses. trying toed brainstorm possibilities. one of them was that they started earlier than we thought. the intelligence was right. it was going to take them about eight years to build a bomb. started in they 1941. we weren't really wrong. years.take them eight the fact that you didn't know when they started is a bit problematic if you want to say how good your intelligence was but this is something that made them feel a little better about themselves. they also argue that maybe they had better germans than we did. warng the second world
there was a huge policy, which later thatk about rounded up all the top german atomic physicists. you have a little knowledge with operation paperclip and the space program. done with the was atomic physicists like heisenberg. the germans that were second and underlings were aatched by soviets but all of sudden, maybe the germans were ours. than nobody bought this but they felt
nobody bought this but they felt better. there is also something called open source intelligence. we talk more about this later on but these are publicly available resources the soviets could have used to find out information about the american bomb program. able to latchere on to was the idea of espionage. the soviets were stupid. soviets are evil. but they are able to steal our ideas. they have nothing original on they were able to
come in the united states and commies running around giving the secrets to the soviets and that's how they got the bomb. be the prefaceo of our conversation today. so what we are going to focus ideas. three major three major questions that are historically important for the atomic spies. are the spies? what makes up their spy networks? what were the ideology? werewas the reason they spying on the united states? secondly, when did the united the espionager effort? what did we do to try to stop it? public the american esspy aniscover the espy -- espanoge effort. it's one thing to say there were spies or it doesn't matter but how much of a difference did it make? the first two questions are
straight-forward, factual, informative qutions. this one is the real the what-if of history? professional historians, academics like myself, we like to pretend we don't like the what-ifactual questions. it's above us. we don't want to deal with the what-if questions. are lying to you. we like them as much as anybody else. these are the kind of questions academics sit around at 2:00 in the morning after having too much wine or something else and have these conversations, all do. you know, if i could have a time machine, if i could go back and greatout hitler's great, grandfather right before he met his great, great grandmother, he wouldn't have hitler. or if i could stop the j.f.k. beatlesation, would the still be together? these are the questions we throw around. this is the counterfactual. soviets didn't have espionage, they would still have gotten the bomb? if they didn't have espionage, would they have
gotten it? these are questions we like to debate. let's talk about the sources of atomic intelligence, that the soviets were able to gather during this time period. first, volunteers idealogues, heard of. you have the people who truly believe in the soviet system. the ideay believe in that communism was the new way of life that was going to take in the long run. this also open source intelligence. these are things that are widely publicized. whether they are publications put out by the u.s. government things like course syllabi or the college university schedules. laterl talk about that on. then there are foreign sources of intelligence. the french were a key component this. of the french get a bad rap and so.times rightly brilliantid have scientists. the problem was their brilliant scientists were also communists.
finally, there was actually target intelligence but espionage professionals. one of the least told stories of the atomic spy g.r.u. that there were professionals who infiltrated the united states with the expressed purpose of bringing back information about the atomic bomb program. so let's talk about the espiagage infrastructure. spies, butt one off professionally organized infrastructure. nkvd butp was the assistance from the g.r.u. nkvd is the predecessor to the k.g.b. g.r.u. is soviet military intelligence. at the head of this was a man wasd lavrenti beria who stalin's intelligence chief. he was responsible for the intelligence gathering. he was a horrible person. we'll talk about this in a second. infiltratingd at the u.s. atomic bomb program stalin kept him around.
in the early 1940s before world stallin killed everybody. he took out many people that were a threat to him in the future. but beria survived because of theability to infiltrate atomic bomb program. we'll talk about the people one-by-one in a second but you a hierarchye is here developed by the soviet residents, the chief of station but the resident in united states, to responsibleirectly for running the atomic spies in the united states. harryur way down to gould, who was an american courier, bringing messages from atomic spies to the soviets. finally the c.p.u.s.a. of the unitedy states and the main person steve nelson who is responsible for knownishing very little spy ring at colleges and universities in the united states. so let's break them down a
little bit. at the top of the soviet hierarchy is beria, the head of nkvb. he is not a nice person. he had interesting tapes and young girls and boys. enjoyed torturing people. he wasn't somebody that ordered torture. and then watched it and took a lot of real pleasure in it. much. did not like him he was hated throughout the soviet system but he was so good at what he did that he was kept around. the interesting thing about beria is he was one of the pure terrorcts of the red during this time period. personally responsible for deaths. of thousands of he is ironically the last person who fell victim to the red terror. when krusheft took power in the started to destalinizing the soviet union summary excuse of the stalin period was beria. for him in justice the end. sovietu have zarubin, a
intelligence resident. he was the top soviet intelligence person in the states. not in washington, d.c. actually, he was stationed out of new york city. that was the main base for sew yet intelligence during the war. hierarchy continues with yakalev. senior case officer. this is the person who will be running the spies on a basis.day himself, his name was yaksolv. he came to the united states was athe pretense he general counsel of the soviet union in new york city. lawyer.ng he was a this was his cover as his activities as the case officer spy network. what makes him interesting and important in the case his andialty was scientific technological intelligence. you don't want to just send anybody if you are going to run ring.mic spy atomic weapons are complicated. especially in the 1940s when
very few people understood what was going on with the nuclear fission. you wanted somebody that understood scientific and technological intelligence which made him the perfect person for this. alexanderave fekkekov. some of you might be familiar with. the direct handler of rosenberg was also the resident in the 1960's. where people may know his name was the back channel for the cuban missile crisis. he was a man who robert kennedy others spoke to, to create the deal to trade the jupiter missile in turkey for missiles in cuba. his book is fascinated. man behind thee rosenberg. mem rar of the k.g.b. spy master cubanelp red solve the missile crisis -- helped resolve cuban missile crisis." the title gives away everything. ofre is not a lot of secrecy what this is about. this ended the debate about julius rosenberg, but we will in amore about that
he was a liberal? this bookended a lot of that debate -- this book ended a lot of that debate. lower levels. in some cases there were no religious or racial distinctions. this is a pipe dream. nonsense. outthis is what was coming of the soviet union. ideologically it's hard to tolain and not hard empathize with people who said this is the real wave of the future. harry gold was one of these guys. when he lost his job in the great depression this is one of that led toeps radicalization. for onecourier later on of the most important atomic spy and he worked with rosenberg's ring. steve nelson is one of the most unknown of the atomic spy ring leaders. recruiter for a lot of the university-based professors
professors professors who were giving information to the soviet union. naturalized citizen. he wasn't a u.s. citizen to begin with. he spent time in spain in the spanish and the war. an american volunteer that fought alongside of the republicans in that time. several to russia for years and returnedded to the united states in the early 1940's. be forewarned he was on the radar the minute he walked back in country. who was ablemebody to sneak back in and get away with it. when he was here, he was a member of the national chel for the communist party of the united states and the leader in california. he had no official title but he was the guy who ran the communist party. his specialty and what he did in the war was directing the at the university of california at berkeley. throughr those who went the 1960's, this became the hotbed of liberalism.
this was the case in the 1940's. a target-rich environment for to communistople party. he would span out from california to recruit professors and grad students from many major universities, chicago, in new york.ersity all focusing on people who were working on weapons design for the u.s. government. mostly nuclear but not always. sometimes radar, sometimes proximity fuses or things that could be stolen or used by the soviet union. recruitsok at the themselves. i have broken the recruits down to three tiers. start with the top tier. are the people that either are incredibly important when it information they provide the soviet union or the most well-known, the most famous the atomic spies. alan nunn may and the reason he he is the off is first spy uncovered by the western intelligence. klaaus fuchs, rosenberg rosenberg'sss,
brother-in-law. let's talk about the second tier. i even had the next slide in front of me. i don't know why i did that. tier doesn't mean they are less important. i means they are less well-known. here of not only the scientists but also people like ethel rosenberg who were somewhat controversial in whether or not they contributed spying.c these are people that aren't as well known but they are very important. the third tier. the third tier is primarily steve nelson's ring. steve nelson created a ring of scientists who were somewhat lower level. they were to provide bits and of information to the soviets throughout the second world war and the early cold war. none of these guys were individually responsible for the soviets getting a weapon. bitshey provided little and pieces throughout to give them this information. acronym at the bottom is the federation of kem mist --junior
chemists and technicians. ofnow let's talk about some the guys individually. forlan nunn may is famous being caught in many respects. he pled guilty and was sentenced the british to ten years hard labor in 1946. he was caught because of a the name ofman by igor gazengo who was a clerk out the ottawa embassy in canada. he came to canada and fell in the west. like the real dangers that most isthe soviets really feared that when some of their people would get a taste of freedom, they would really embrace it. embraced it. he was young. he had a young wife and a young family. fact he could go to movies anytime he wanted to, walk around, move around the country without being chased or followed. he liked the fact that the canadian people really reached union inlp the soviet
the second world war. we looked at west and certainly ae canadians, they have reputation of being the most polite people in the world. were facingthey real hardships in canada, they did everything they could to give money, support and supplies to the soviet war effort. at the same time he saw there massive effort against canada. this didn't sit right with him. so when he was called back he decided he wasn't going to go. his wife said if you are going to leave, let's defect. grab everything you can. so before he left the soviet embassy in ottawa, he grabbed sawy piece of paper he lying around. he gave the information to canadians and part of it was a massive espionage effort directed at the canadian, atomic bomb british program. this outed may who was arrested 1946.ed guilty in may, himself, is a really top quality scientist. named jamesas a man
chatwick in britain to where he got his ph.d. is famous because he discovered the neutron. if you remember back to middle science, proton, electron neutron. nunn may, like other scientists there is a lot of controversy about whether or not he had a full-fledged role in the atomic program. well, in 2002, before he died he a full confession. he called his children and said i was a spy. was giving information, i gave a lot of information over. the sovietr g.r.u., military intelligence. he was responsible for giving of two iso taupes of urrainian 233 and 235. think back to middle school science, isotope is a type of little that has a different atomic number. the atomic number has a little different atomic weight. more or less
neutrons. uranium had different isotopes. mattered were urainum 235 and to an extent uranium 233. gave the samples to the soviets and he talked about the process of creating plutonium. naturally occurring element. if you look at the periodic table, plutonium comes after uranium. we thought uranium was the only element that you could have -- on thehest element periodic table that you could find on earth. we were right. uranium when you refine and put it through a process like a nuclear reactor, you transuranics. these are elements that are heavier than uranium. tomium is one of -- plutonium is one of these. it's a process. plutonium. create nobody knew how to do it until the united states figured it out. soviets withided key information about manufacturing of plutonium. then you have fuchs. he is by far the most important of the soviet spies. the soviets with a
called gaseous diffusion. uranium is all over the world. it's everywhere. occurring element. the uranium we pull out of the ground is not physical. -- not fissiable. you can't create a bomb out of it. there is an isotope that cannot weapon.in a nuclear i pull out a softball chunk of theium, 99.3% of that is uranium 238. it's an isotope you can't use to make a bomb. of rice size is uranium 235. what is what you can make a bomb of it. when you talk about enriching uranium, we are talking about 238 andrid of uranium get out the uranium 235. a process we found out worked is called gaseous
diffusion. we came to that by trying dozens different ways of refining uranium. it took us years to figure out do this.he best way to well, fuchs provide soviets with the answer to that question began.it even forget the other ideas. diffusion is the way to go. it cut years off the bomb program. arguably. we'll talk about it down the road. decided that was a real integral part of the manhattan project. losas a group leader at alamos, which meant he wasn't a peon. other sciences and part of the broader process to create the atomic bomb. his only immediate boss was robert oppenheimer. that is how high level we are this case.ut in he was privy to all the ideas and the conversations and plans afterapons improvements the war. they were called "boosted weapons" where you go from the 20asaki bomb, which was
to boosted tnt weapons. then the hydrogen bomb of the toly 1950's where you start talk about megaon thes or mills of tons of tnt. fuchs was in the conversations and part of conversations. all of them were leaked to the union. then you have david greenglass. of bad rap because he was the primary witness rosenbergs and their trial. it turns out much later that he lied about a lot of the things saying. it's a good possibility that ethen rosenberg was executed ofause of some of the lies greenglass. but it doesn't undercut his role in the atomic spy program. was a machinist at los alamos. it's one thing to have a scientific theory and come up with the grand ideas. it's another thing to make stuff. that is part of the process that matters. you can't drop papers filled germans orons on the
on the japanese and the war. you have to drop a bomb. physicalto make a product. and so greenglass was part of the process. he helped develop the integral tove lens bomb.gasaki he had sketches and descriptions of the lens and the dynamic of creating the weapons system to union.iet he gave a list of personnel to the soviets that potentially later on byruited soviet intelligence. really, what he comes down to is the real supplement to fuchs. theorist.a he had the big ideas. providing physics behind the atomic bam. whereas, greenglass provided the mechanics to build the weapons system. together they provided sew yets of -- soviets with a lot of important information. we have the gleanglass sketches
he provided to the soviets in the time because of the end of the cold war and the declassification of some of this. this first sketch is actually boy,ketch of the fat man the plutonium bomb used implosion to create a nuclear chain reaction. explosive lenses are the things on the outside that instead of imploded tohey create this chain reaction. this was an incredibly process.ed that greenglass was able to provide the soviets with this information. then finally the most famous of all is julius rosenberg. a true believer. he was an idealogue. somebody that truly believedded andhe idea that communism soviet system was the wave of the future. not somebody that kind of sort of believed. he was someone that bought in 100% to the ideas coming out of the soviet union in the 1930s. even before he was providing providedformation, he military information to the soviet union. the most important of these was
proximity fuse. way toximity fuse was a tell a weapons system, a missile or a bomb to explode when it got close to something. so your missiles didn't actually have to hit the target. a certainet within range and explode. he gave them this information when he was working even before project, when he was working out of an organization emerson radio. a corporation in new york city. the proximity fuse interesting lil enough was used later on, with a couple of upgrades and francis shoot down the gary powers spy plane. this information comes from rosenberg. thousands of classified top-secret reports about the predecessor to nafta called naca. national advisory on auronautics. first plan for the fighter.
andr, rosenberg was accused we believe he did so to have recruited sympathetic individuals into the service. spies was rosenberg one to provide all of this naca information to the soviet union. let's jump to the obvious next step in this case. wife ethel. she was part of what i consider the second tier of russian spies. mainly because her role is really still up for debate. much debatee is not anymore. he was a full-pledged communist and he provided a lot of information. ethel on the other hand is tricky. there are still questions about a spy. the reason she was convicted of that david greenglass said she typed up all this thatmation for the spies
was eventually provided to the soviet union. she knew about it. spyaided and abetted the ring. by typing up all this information. that is what greenglass said he lied about. ethel probably didn't type up all this information. was she a communist? absolutely. she was as ideological as her husband. in some way?ved probably. did she know about it? almost certainly. for the soviets for so long that if ethel had no idea about it, i'm not sure how it could possibly be the case. confidants of one another. they talked about everything. we assume ethel knew about it. does it mean she should be executed for it? that is a debate up for grabs. a very interesting scientist, ted hall. he was the youngest scientist at alamos. he was 19 when he went there. he was a full-pledged believer. really got sucked into
age.nism at an early his importance, he rivals fuchs. not quite there but about as key component to the design of the eventual soviet bomb as you can get. descriptiontailed tothe fat man plutonium bomb soviet union. the bomb that went off, the first soviet atomic bomb was almost mirror image of the nagasaki fat man bomb. so hall's information directly led to this design. he also gave them a lot of information about the little boy hiroshima bomb. the uranium based nuclear weapon. theuding what we call critical mass. this is the amount of the amount, the uranium necessary to a chain reaction. this is a calculation that not toy took the americans years
figure out, but actually is what derailed the german atomic bomb program. out just couldn't figure the critical mass. they made some math errors and they thought the critical mass be huge. the americans took time to figure out what it was. paul handed this over to the soviets. they didn't have to do a lot of the calculation. provideds he information about the next generation of nuclear weapons. about boosted fission weapons eventually about the hydrogen weapons. then there is pontecorvo. someone that is a little more controversial as far as his atomic bomb spy ring. are undoubtable. he studied around a famous italian scientist. discovered have nuclear fission. he did but he didn't know that he discovered nuclear fission. it would eventually be a german
under otto hahn. but fermi discovered it two years earlier but they thought was something else. the conclusion was oh, you a heavier element system. instead of thinking about uranium breaking into two smaller things, they thought they built bigger stuff. results and the they discovered fission. they made a mistake in their conclusions. pontecorvo was part of the team that discovered fission. a top-level scientist. he worked with the british program in the second world war. argument he made and the thement he made
argument he made to the death was that he worked on reactor programs, not weapons. so there is still some controversy about his role. now working on the nuclear reactors still gives you a lot of the physics and the theoretic information to build nuclear weapons. but he claims he never gave military secrets. he did acknowledge he was a spy. >> he went to an early age to the soviet union. both of his parents were russian natives. sovietwas brought to the union at an early age.
he actually went to college in the soviet union before coming the united states. he became anry is electrical engineer in the soviet union. he did all the physics and the research there. he had a degree. he was sentenced to the united sents as somebody who -- to the united states as somebody who never went to college before. when he went to college in united states, everybody was this guy is a natural. he learns everything so quickly. he was acing tests without studying. he was kind of oh, this guy is like the top scientists. thisd already learned all stuff already. he was noticed for obvious reasons by the u.s. military. of thet to be part atomic bomb project. we know how important he was. whenan see on the slide, this was finally declassifieded 2007,sia, in november of putin himself named him a hero of the russian federation, the get.st award you can what made him so dangerous is that his role in the manhattan scientist.n't as a
it wasn't as a technician. he was as a health physics officer. was, itlly what that was his job to make sure nobody was getting too much radiation, and nobody was actually getting dangerous level of any kind of possible carcinogen or anything else that could possibly cause problems. we talked about the safety considerations. what this allowed him to do was access to everyone and everything. there was no laboratory he couldn't go into. he couldn'tbody talk to. he could go from all the different labs like los alamos oakridge where they were bringing the material for the bomb. fromto everyone oppenheimer on down. provide them with any possiblyon he could want. the most important thing he gave was about the bomb that was tested in 1949. at a very early as a that using plutonium fissionable product for a nuclear weapon was difficult to do because it was so highly that you needed
something to slow down the chain reaction. if you didn't, you have a fizzle. that before this self-sustaining chain reaction and the atomic would get a small, nonatomic, maybe a big bomb bombs.d to other but it wouldn't this big massive atomic blast. you needed something to slow down the neutrons. i won't get too technical on it. coulden we discovered we use another substance, called pulonium as an initiator. drawing.uickly to this similar to the microsecond. of theing in the center fat man bomb was the pulonium initiator. this is the element when the bomb exploded the sphere in the middle of the bomb was able to the chain reaction to make it nuclear. this was something we discovered by accident. this is something that was one the most important discoveries during the process atomic bomb.
koval gave it to the soviets. koval was a good spy but a lot of times it was pure luck. he happened to find himself in the right place at the right time. he traveled from los alamos to oakridge to handford in washington. he happened to be at the place discovering this initiator and was able to get the plans and bring them back to union.iet this is something we will talk about later on and the impact of this, that is too hard to understate. but again, we will talk about that in a second. now to i want to move on is the second stage of this conversation. that is u.s. counterintelligence. when we know about this and what were we doing about it? most of the american public doesn't find out about this until later on. when does the government discover what is happening? counterintelligence from the very beginning was faced with significant handicaps. them potentially from finding out what was going on and stopping it. hindsight, we look
back and say how did they not see this coming? how did we not do anything to stop it? answer is we saw it coming and we tried everything we could possibly do to stop it. some real things standing in the way of us doing something significant in this respect. first is wartime mobilization. when the second world war began, of the hastily designed organizations like the o.s.s., project, likettan the fact that the state department doubled and tripled in size in the span of a couple weeks if not a couple of days for security.blem for doing what you normally would need to do to make sure on, people you are hiring are not communist sympathizers and are not spies. o.s.s. cases with the for instance and the manhattan project scientists there was eight-day background check to be brought on to government service. now, if any of you who have government know that an eight-day background check. year and a half in
some cases for top secret clearance. you didn't have time to do that. just so many people brought in government services at the beginning of the war that top secretave clearance and there are so few investigators that it was done haphazardly. and for the manhattan project, mentioned before -- this grew to 500,000 people employed by the manhattan project. this project begins in 1942. and ends in 1945. three years it grows from zero to 500,000. not enough f.b.i. agents to check everybody's background as much as we would like them to. so this is a real problem. next one, very tongue and cheek scientists are pinkos. a lot of scientists, certainly tended1930's and 1940's, to be left-leaning already. intellectuals and liberals who if you wanted them to work in government you had to overlook the fact that they had sympathies.tist
theou want the best of best, we have to embrace the fact that robert onenheimer was oppenheimer was very left wing and a fellow traveler as the terminology in the 1950's is used with communists. his exmistress was a full-fledged member of the communist party. his brother frank had been a member of the communist party. just oppenheimer but a good number of the top american scientists were left wing and at communist-leaning. you had to overlook this if you were going to build a bomb. handicap isl science is universal. we don't own the physical theory weapons.omic this is something that was understood worldwide. this is something developed in germany and in europe. was something that was understood by scientists from andn, germany and russia the united states and all over the place. it wasn't something we could keep secret. it wasn't something we could hide. it was an understood idea. handicap isor
compartmentalization. know whatide didn't the other side was doing. f.b.i. didn't know what the manhattan project were doing and the vice versa except for the highest level. f.b.i. agents trying to hunt down spies could have worked well with the counterintelligence guys but they weren't talking to each other. scientific intelligence is hard. this is something that is incredibly difficult. most f.b.i. agents don't have a scientist background. to protectm scientific secrets, some more important than other, they may not know what they should be looking for or protecting. this is especially true on another ballgame. we sent outs that in to germany and other places to look for what the german program was doing. having a scientist and a spy together was something we didn't of. many the spies were good at spying. at scientists were good scientist but not so much crossed over. this is a real problem. teasing youave been with some of the open source ideas that were really
interesting. one real handicap was the fact that when american scientists all rallied to work at los alamos they stopped teaching at the universities across the country. so it's very easy for any spy, german or soviet or anybody at coursetart looking syllabi or schedules from princeton and columbia and berkeley and chicago. and realize hey, he is not teaching his class anymore. oppenheimer is gone all of a sudden. none of the top scientists are teaching anymore. they?are they must be somewhere else. it's not a far stretch from there to look at train schedules. and to look at people all of a sudden why are all these people theg to new mexico in middle of nowhere? that is open source. that is stuff you can find in pages.low a sudden oppenheimer anymore.lishing this are these that can't be protected. they are common sense. nothing we can do about it.
finally the french problem. i alluded to this before. a key for ais is specific frenchman, fred lick joliet churi. the famouslaw of churi. was a physicist in her own right. most important lab in france. germantaken over by the germans. with the liberation of paris he wanted to reenger size his lab and reach out to the -- withrgize his lab and work those who went to british program. was their manhattan project. but he was a card-carrying member of the communist party. thrown around a little bit. he literally had a membership card. he was somebody that joined the party, fellow traveler, worked hand and foot to do everything he could. very good physicist.
he had access to a lot of information. the f.b.i. couldn't stop him was in france. american counterintelligence can do very little to stop him from information over to the soviet union. how was this set up in this time? you have two major organizations doing counterintelligence during the time period. one was the f.b.i. certainly the f.b.i. paid attention to this atomic spying during and after the war. the primary domestic counterintelligence wing. targets was anin american federation, f.a.s., federation of american andntists, that hiroshima formally they began to have organizations to talk about the policy. they are the atomic scientist of chicago. association of oakridge association of
los alamos scientists. the f.a.s.ogether as it's now an organization that is today doing really good work. atomic weapons but general foreign policy. it's turned into a bit of a think tank today. thought that.i. commies a front for the pinko creeps running around the united states. on thisade a focus organization. they gathered information. all the way to the f.b.i. was good to do. surveilled scientists after the meetings, took down license plates and followed people from place to place. they had undercover f.b.i. agents attend meetings themselves. they gathered literature. they used wiretaps to tap the meetings, to tap homes of the scientists. talking about oppenheimer and others in this case. used this to spy on the agency, everything from taxi drivers that overheard in taxis tos recruiting far right conservatives from the pretend theyto
were left wing to infiltrate the organizations. all the time they spent doing caught no one doing anything wrong. of they spent million taxpayer dollars and ran and chased their tail. what is up here is very fromesting document hoover, himself, to the special assistant to f.d.r. harry where he talks about the fact -- this is again from early in the war. early stage from an that the soviets had been spying states.nited then there is the second tier, arguably the better tier from my perspective of the c.i. bureaucracy. this is the manhattan engineer district. m.e.d. the fancy name for manhattan project. it had his own intelligence its own counterintelligence wing. of course, the top of was the head of the manhattan project itself. brigadier general leslie growes who ran everything. managing,t microrow growes.look at leslie
part of my dissertation was running into a 1950's era management textbook taught in business school. growes had a chapter in it. how to manage. the chapter was don't delegate anything. do everything yourself. no one had ever really brought -- this was gold for me a researcher was concerned. he had two people he trusted to him.is for one was lieutenant colonel john lanesdale. he was the intelligence chief in manhattan project who would eventually go on after the war to be anesthesiologist. interesting enough, you talk about research into this stuff. he wrote a book that was never published. find theplace you can manuscript is the association of anesthesiologists on their website. again, gold i found. finally lieutenant colonel boris pasch. he later on did amazing things to discover what was happening bombe german atomic program but he was first a top counterintelligence agent for the manhattan project. is an interesting quote
from lanesdale from the book, unpublished book. talk about the germans and the japanese as the enemy. he said from the beginning regarded from an intelligence standpoint as an enemy. this wasn't a case where the cold war brought about the animosity. this is a case where from the beginning of the war, from 1942 or even earlier russia was regarded as an intelligence enemy. needed toy that we keep as far away from the manhattan project as we possibly could. pash did under growes run the western defense command intelligence branch. in doing so, western meant he was in charge of california. so he really targeted a lot of the programs run by steve nelson and others that were trying to infiltrate the american program. pash's files had just been declassified. his actual counterintelligence, case, typed in this files about the different scientists that he was surveilling. declassified
because i f.o.y.a. requested and moaned for many years. here is an example. you are not expected to read this stuff. and theidea about who extent to which pash was doing research. notes left is pash's about frank oppenheimer, robert who he did's brother extensive research into. surveilled, wiretapped, all these things. the scientists. interesting enough, pash cleared oppenheimer, not frank but robert oppenheimer for work on the manhattan project. much general growes trusted him. look at frank oppenheimer. those suspected to be under surveillance. the right is the surveillance sallard. heard that name before? he is famous for being the first person to warn the united states the potentials of an atomic bomb. you may have heard of the einstein letter to f.d.r. einstein didn't write the f.d.r.n letter to
savard did. the reason he didn't write it is hadn'tjust like you heard of sallard so he said look, albert, they were friends. please put your name on this. so you get the einstein letter. sallard letter. pash was ceremonying and researching and surveilling everybody. guys, they miche up the houses and the placed they frequented like bars and restaurants. and went into the houses changed the telephone cords. they could tap the phones but they could turn the phones themselves into microphones and listen to conversations inside the house. all of this without warrants. no f.i.s.a. court. of ans all about as far overreach as you can possibly to the kind ofes invasion of privacy that you could expect from this. these are investigations into are suspected
leftists. these are two of the scientists third gave you on the tier of steve nelson's group. little bit this up a so that you can see a little bit but i will read it in case you can't. this is about one of the scientists in nelson's ring. in the middle under "remarks" it been activect has member of the communist party and while his party affiliations at presence he is still considered to be associated with the local communist party leaders and believed he's still simp thet wick the communists -- communistc with principals. he is dangerous to the laboratory." pash singleful handedly single-handedly could keep people from getting jobs. in theu have people third tier of the scientists under steve nelson's command. recommendation for max friedman, one of the guys providing information. "it is recommended that
the subject be immediately separated from his employment on the project. the army and removed as soon as possible so outpost would not be in position additional information about the project or transmit information as he already possesses." this is a second letter where said they want to clarify what does he mean? he says send him to siberia or but here.nywhere so that is really what pash is to do. there is a third wing. diplomacy.lligence an attempt to try to use agreements in the international to keep the soviets from getting this information. first is the quebec agreement, between the united states, canada and great britain that either of us,ot, in this case the united states or great britain, communicate the twormation about alloys. that is the british name of the manhattan project. parties except by mutual concept. we're saying we won't tell anybody else. the reason for this is we didn't the british to tell the
british and the americans will do everything they can to buy up the uranium worldwide we possibly can. we didn't really understand at the time that uranium was everywhere. but we thought there is a lot in czechoslovakia. at this point in 1945, growes and said what is going to be widely understood information in world of science in the next year? a first year graduate student in physics figure out from the atomic bomb in the next year or so? let's release the information now. let's put it out there so that everyone knows what they can and can't say to journalists, or to foreign operatives or anything else. they said we are going to release the smyth report and can talks much as you about. when oppenheimer was interviewed after the war, all the scientists were now rock stars the war was over. they knew they could only talk about what was already released in the smyth report. for growes, this is a way to kind of contain the information. to say anything outside of this,
you are instantly breaking the law. then finally the mcmahon act. heavy-handed. june of 1946. after nunn may was outed, it looked as if there were significant leaks in the british atomic bomb program. we didn't think there were leaks our program but certainly the british were leaking. so the mcmahon act was passed, named after brian mcmahonbe, head of the energy commission in saying we are cutting the british off. thanks for helping us build the bomb in the war but you are on your own. we are no longer going to share information with you about atomic weapons. this is an attempt to plug the leak from the british side and fromthe information getting out. of course the argument has been in the last 60 years about why didn't we do enough? you wely i have shown did a significant amount. i'm even going to argue today we much.o
i'm a left winger myself, but there was significant counterintelligence overreach in time period. actually it had detrimental effects for the american inentific community and essence the national security community. backlashhere is a real against nuclear theorists in the united states. nunn mayf fuchs and and later because of the rosenbergs and others. every theorist was painted with the brush of they are leftist, communist, they are sympathizers. argument made at the time, it wasn't oppenheimer who said of hist one subordinates, when alger hiss was outed, it didn't make lawyers everywhere look like communists but when theorist was outed every one was threat.o be a security had loyalty for the professors and the scientists. a loyaltyley had
oath. that tells you a lot. did is cause a real brain drain. it caused a real problem with retaining top-level scientists and government service or even in nongovernment service. spring of 1949, berkeley lost all the theorists. one of them resigned because they refused to take the loyalty oath or they being too left wing. this had a real problem. real impact on u.s. national security. scientists inp the field of government, if you want people building the next nextc bomb or building the fighter aircraft or the next spacecraft. you need scientists. scientists were having a real clearance from the u.s. government. somewhere between 20 and 50,000 scientistst and engineers were backlogged waiting for clearance early 1950's. that is 20,000 to 50,000. people wethe top needed to beat russians in space. top people to develop the plane,
the mig-15. but they were waiting and they couldn't get clearance because of the overreach and the fear of soviet spies everywhere. am going to read you -- i was going to read a longer one. this is the money sentence at the very end. that was talking in front of a group of scientists time of real c.i. overreach. he ends the long talk and he talks about the fact we need to trust, environment of environment of openness in lastce with this paragraph. such an atmosphere is un-american. the most unmiddle eastern thing we have to contend with today. it is climate of toe tailtarian scientistswhich the have to change theories. it's not steve nelson. not a berkeley scientist. it's president harry s. truman. speaking before a group of scientists in 1948. this gives you an indication how far we had gone.
this is before mccarthy. we're still talking 1948. and the problem that scientists ran into. okay. so finally -- then i will wrap and open up for questions. how much did the spying matter? how much did it make a difference? the first question. would they still have gotten the bomb? a great quote. only secret about the atomic bomb was whether or not it would work. been answered. the man doing the quote is glen seborg, discoverer of plutonium. chairman of the atomic energy commission. somebody who knows. then there is a longer quote i'm not going to read all of. named samuel goossmith. the chief scientist for the american mission discovered what the german atomic bomb program was doing. so he understood scientific intelligence. this is after the bomb, right after the soviet bomb came out. and said recent revelations of the early leaks of atomic information to russia reflect of mind that should
fill each of us with grave confirm. the general impression is russia has a bomb, therefore, someone must have given her our secrets. skip to the bottoms. let us understand and admit that the russians constructed their bomb all by themselves without us or captured germans. it is very wrong to underestimate one's adversaries. so the question is did they get the bomb because of the spies? the answer to that is probably not. they were going to get it anyway. -- atomic science is not nationalistic. tenets were understood worldwide. the field was open completely. within minutes of hearing about the discovery of of fission, feramie held up his hands and it'smuch uranium and poof, all gone. within days after the discovery oppenheimerrobert was drawing crude designs of bombs on his chalkboard. instantaneous
understanding. this wasn't something that was going to be a secret for long. is that soviet scientists were idiots. as much as we try to embrace that argument. there is a great story that is beautiful. york was a second generation scientist.roject he was part, he was a very young guy in the manhattan project and the top peoplef working on the later project. york told a great story if his memoirs that come out later on. he says he was called in by the u.s. military, a bunch of generals who were worried about the soviets sneaking in a suitcase size bomb into york.gton or new and then starting world war iii by blowing up one of the cities bomb. secret so the general asked york, is this a possibility? this?ould the soviets do york said absolutely not. there is no chance. the general is like how can you be so sure? york tongue and cheek said the soviets haven't mastered the the suitcase yet. that is the perception a lot of people had of soviet science.
science was as good as everybody else. but we didn't want to believe they were doing. the same people that the manhattan manhattan project the 1930's,ied in studiedet science under. this is the country of pavlov. a long tradition of top quality scientists. this was going to happen one way or another. becauseg to skip this it's really long but this is the first real talk about atomic bombs. atomic bombs. look at when this is. 1914. h.g. wells wrote a book called "the world set free" where he talks about the atomic bombs being used in a war in the future. this wasn't an idea that we came up with. all right? idea that had been around since the beginning of the 20th century. the idea we were going to be the the bomb andhave the soviets were too stupid, it would have happened one way or other. the spies can be forgiven for that. the other question that matters. quickly -- how
much more quickly? how much faster would they have gotten the bomb? on what?kly based that is key question involved in this. the american scientists had one vision of this. academics were saying oppenheimer were saying they would get the bomb in a year or two. guys.underestimate the but the government scientists broadering them a prediction. york gives you an idea what the government scientists were saying. military, people like leslie were predicting 20 years before the soviets got the bomb. politicians like truman famously asked when will the soviets get the bomb said, "never." that asiatic comment gives you an idea of what he was thinking. had aigence agencies different view. i will go through this quickly. the first estimate of when the bomb wasould get the o.r.e.-3-1. of report and estimates. they would develop a bomb between 1950-1953. next estimate was the joint nuclear energy intelligence committee. same prediction
as before. isjuly 1948, acknowledge impossible to determine when they would get the bomb but maybe by 1950. date is mid-1953. not a lot of changes. june 1949 report. same as above. july 1949 report. a month before. the o.s.i. report, office of intelligence said information now available to substantiate the dates already 1948,ted in the 1949, 1947, and 1946 report, earliest date mid-1950. the most probable date 1953. although, new information suggests it would not be before mid-1951. and my favorite one was the report of september 20, 1949, predicted a first soviet bomb in 1953. days after joe-1. so you can see how well the intelligence community was doing to predicting this. so, real quickly. the argument for the idea that
were important. we have gone through this. sovietsence showed that what path not to take. the mistakes we made they didn't have to make. the russian defense ministry later on when koval was awarded the russian federation said the intelligence to provide them to make the the reciperepared by by koval. stalin, beria, soviet science, all of the guys wanted this american know-how and the american influence to tell them whether or not their scientists knew what they were doing. stalin famously said i don't scientists sayr unless i see the west has done it first. technical drawings are very important. that greenglass provided were key to figuring out the soviet bomb. we talk about the uranium separation and the plutonium production that took us years to it was easier for soviets. the quick argument against the smyth report. of theovided a lot information necessary. right off the bat. that wasn't needed to be stolen. soviets a theory
behind the atomic bomb. notrovided form, but function. what i mean by that, it gave the recipe, but it doesn't give in how to cook the meal. my wife and i are dramatically different in our cooking skills. you could hand us both a complicated recipe and mine would be set on fire and hers great meal.eautiful we knew how to cook. the soviets didn't. provided them with the press pee but not the ex -- recipe but not the experience on how to do things. in this case, it's not about building one bomb. it's about building lots of bombs. the technical capability of building this stuff was not something you could provide with information. and most of the claims about how great the soviet intelligence retired k.g.b. officers. take that for what it's worth. like i talk about before, you just give the recipe. it means they still had to redo a lot of the experiences, decide to investigate competing processes for separating uranium and plutonium and it still took thanr for them to pull off
the manhattan project. this isn't primarily because of capacity.d industrial it took them much longer to refine uranium and much longer to build all the apparatuses and the industrial background. we had to build cities for the manhattan project. tennessee, and hanford, washington were built from the ground up. not mention los alamos which were desert. that took time. had to catch up with the industrial capacity. arguments for and arguments against. i will end it there and take questions. i want to give you a chance. i could talk forever but i don't want to do that. make c-span go crazy by --ing the mic and moves moving around. good luck. to you. the mic to get right there. >> thank you for your presentation. ofnow you know about a lot this stuff. but you structured it very, very well to help us. of detail. questions should we believe greenglass he said hen life
lied? secondly, what was steve background before he became naturalized american? i am dreading that you will say he was a brit. >> so, we actually don't know a about steve nelson before he came to the united states, to answer that question second. he gave different stories for where he came from. know he was naturalized at one point. because he was a private citizen surveillanceder before that, there is not a lot of research into his background. brit.n't a he was most likely something russian background. about was heuments latvean but heor was from europe beforehand. you dealricky when with the deathbed confessions or later in life confessions. makes greenglass perhaps believable was the motivation at the time for lying. wifented to make sure his
was not implicated in this. topushing off and agreeing testify against -- ruth was his wife. against ethel and julius his way of keeping the blame from being pushed on to his wife. one of those courtroom get immunity for telling a lie kind of thing where it's more believable in my mind that ethel certainlyas knowledgeable. but a willing participant. she didn't know anything. she really could have done nothing but type. the deathgets you penalty, that is a pretty steep -- even hoover, interestingly enough. gung-ho about let's get them thrown in prison if lives. their when the judge passed down the death sentence, he was like whoa. that.'t expecting that. very
it was very harsh. certainly for ethel. julius you can argue one way or the other. julius certainly gave information. but if you compare them to what the british do, of of course. it's like the game of telephone. whisper something in someone's ear and it goes around the room. by the time it's gone through it's gone states through 15 iterations and who knows if it's real or not? the real issue we run into at that time is double-sided. one is the american intelligence apparatus collapses after the war. with the collapse of the o.s.s., time toa. takes a long get going. the c.i.a. gets going but scientific intelligence gets a little bit. you don't have the office of scientific intelligence, which created to do foreign intelligence toward the atomic program. the beginning in 1949. the program is created. by the time the russians have a bomb, you see what they are putting out. not very good. the second problem is that there is no real impetus to have a scientific intelligence
program. most americans think they are a idiots. most americans are looking at the soviets from the perspective, their scientists is soupid, the industry backwards there is no way they can produce these weapon systems. years toould take them refine enough uranium to make a bomb. the fact that the soviet system not designed for innovative science and innovative technology. the idea of vanover bush, the scientist in the second world war wrote a book in 1949 talking about how the free world will always have better science than the totalitarian world. nazis,book he said the soviets, the same basic idea. you don't have the creative toy do high level state-of-the-art science. we had a perception that they just could don't the state-of-the-art. wasn't a lot of pressure behind american intelligence to find out what is happening inside the soviet union. actually historians have written about thereorrectly
was a big program to figure out what they were doing and they and pieces ofs documents from the archives that oh, look, so-and-so is trying to find out what is happening in there. this person was really hunting down the uranium. but it's kind of the exception in manyves the rule respects. that we can find a couple of the examples that try to make it like it's a program. there is no program. at the highest level, nobody cares. again, growes in charge of all of this. 20 years. he didn't care about the sciencetists. thought they were smart. he just thought they can't reproduce what i did. he was a proud man but he realized the u.s. built three cities and spent $2 billion on 1949.nhattan project in extrapolate that to hundreds of billions of dollars today. the cost of one f-35. lots and lots of money. the soviets just didn't have that infrastructure. or at least he thought they didn't have the infrastructure. so it was somewhat nah. they will eventually get it but them wheneady for
they do. >> you know, last year there was latest book on, i guess the era, and she went into hopkinstail about harry being a soviet agent of influence. talked about somebody that nuclear material was shipped under lenlese through the soviets.r to >> yep. that?you agree with >> not necessarily harry hop championships. -- hopkins. 2.2, one kilogram. they requested tons of uranium, uranium. you have people in the administration. of them.s one
and wallace is another. he wasn't a communist himself. were.s friends he was vice president of the united states until he was replaced by harry truman. aides were spying for the soviets. so if f.d.r. died with henry president,the vice the president of the united states would be the greatest union you the soviet ever had. transgental. they asked for tons of uranium. growes got in the middle of it. he went berserk. marshall. george growes is one person as a could walkneral who in george marshall's office and scream and throw stuff and not court-martialed for it. he convinced marshall this is a stupid idea. went to convince stimpson it's a stupid idea. growes got in middle, slowed it down and conceded as a them onee to give
kilogram of enriched uranium. pounds. you can't do a lot with it. this is 10% refined uranium. you couldn't even make a nuclear reactor out of this. you need 80-90% uranium refinement to make a bomb. yes, he was very much -- forget the spy angle. they are looking to please soviets because they were allies but there was no transfer of uranium that made a difference at this point. with thek there glasses. then next to you after that. i saw you up here. a couple of questions real quick. could you say that the germans in the wrongout it water --the >> right. >> was that the wrong way to go the united what states did? >> right. question is do you that thes true
counterintelligence under leslie growes is worth investigating wrong people? >> i will answer the second first.n yes and no, as far as the wrong people. identifiedidely almost every member of steve nelson's spy chain. all the low-hanging fruit. he got all the lower tier people. issue was that pash, he was very good. 1943e time it mattered, by when the american atomic bomb swing, whenin full you could stopped fuchs -- because he doesn't come over till then. could stop rosenberg. pash with the experience of counterintelligence, the best of the best had a new mission. the actual mission was to go over to europe and find out what the germans were doing. offensive intelligence guy. he lost a lot of the institutional knowledge at the
time. now a big fan of pash, and i'm biased in this regard. but that is my answer to that question. the first part, heavy water is an interesting concept. the germans don't mess up heavy water. heavy water was something we investigated as well. heavy water is a water where the has, it'stom actually two protons. d2o. it's heavy hydrogen. process you could potentially use to create fissial material. this country and we found it didn't work well. create bad way to try to the kind of necessary material creating a nuclear chain reaction. we used graphite in this country instead of heavy water. graphite had a much better job absorb neutrons.
graphite is easier to use. heavy water is more difficult to develop. german case, it needed a target. the german heavy water plant was a capture plant in norway that we sent -- the british had two --sion of sub tours saboteurs to take out the heavy water plant. growes wasn't happy with that so he bombed it into the stone age. sure heed to make wasn't going to tip off the german, so he bombed other goods around it too,, for measure to hide what he was bombing. over a thousand planes went over. did things.growes what derailed the german atomic bomb program is a simple math mistake. that is a what-if of history that is fantastic. they were trying to figure out critical mass to build atomic bomb. how much material did you need to build a bomb? so hawaiianberg, head of the program -- heisenberg, head of the program turned to a top scientist, and said figure it out. do the math.
so the guy went down and took a couple of days and did the math. that is math that took a whole notebook worth for one equation. he did the whole thing and came muchand said we need too critical mass. instead of pounds we need tens of pounds or hundreds of pounds of mass. it's like that is too much. it's impossible to do. simples out he made a math mistake in the middle of the calculations. it's the equivalent of not carrying a one. for him it was something with the equations involved but somebody at that level it was a simple math mistake. but no one checked it. assumed this is the best guy we had for math. you could have given a first equation student his and he would have gone oh, there is a mistake here. but the mistake ended up heisenberg when called in front of the german high command was asked can it be done? he said maybe. it will take a lot of resources and it will be difficult to do. high command said unless you say definitely and we can do it for cheap, we are not going to do it. andeed to build bombers
tanks and submarines. we don't have the money to do both. nce you say maybe and it will money, the plan is to just kind of do laboratory research. so the same time the americans were ramping up the manhattan 1942, the germans were ending their real research into an atomic bomb. what happens after that, like the bombing of the heavy water plant was overkill. his muscles flexing to make sure. we didn't know it yet that they had given up the plan. we didn't know end the end of 1944. we were worried. the nazis with the bomb was the ultimate terror at this time. you.entleman next to >> thank you. like you, i went around the city different topics, but what hit me when you ethel rosenberg was the similarity between the excuse of ethel rosenberg and mary sorat.
is that she may not have been involved but she knew about it. >> right. >> really what got her was the political climate at the time. >> exactly. >> my question is how much of that was applied to what happened to ethel rosenberg? no question. if you look at some of the spying since then, if you look some of the spies -- the atomic bomb is as important as it gets but there have been since then.tured robert hanson, ames, john walkers who had a larger atomic-- forget the bomb. had larger impact on the u.s. foreign policy. they got prison. they didn't get executed. not executing people anymore for even the most espionage crimes. ethel didn't do anything. up, sheshe typed stuff typed stuff up. she wasn't stealing secrets or stuff on to the soviet union. there is no way to talk about this without saying it was a
bloodlust based on the political environment at the time. swing.yism in full it looked like the united states was losing the cold war at this time period. if you look at the progression events from 1948 on, right, you have the berlin blockade, losing china,b, the korean war. theknow, in 1953, in 1954 soviets get the hydrogen bomb. i look like we are going -- it looks like we are going backwards and losing the war. within the hysteria, within the scare, you get these are the guys that gave them the bomb. maythel wasn't executed she have been strung up in the town square. that is how much animosity was against this. and if you look at the polling from the time period, the majority of americans wanted her taken out. they understood there was still confusion about her role. the majority of people were like fry them. there wasn't a lot of sympathy for them. him and then here.
i saw earlier. espianage atany works?son >> some. hanford was producing plutonium. most people in the beginning didn't know what plutonium was or what it did. an american discovers it, discovery during the manhattan project. i was accidental in many respects. handford was a target later in the word. fuchs werell and able to pass secrets that the plutonium thing might be something you want to pay attention to. so there was from the californian spies. group.s the issue at the time steve nelson's group had been outed by boris pash. we knew what to look for so we were able to get them out of hanford. successful at oakridge and los alamos. these were higher level spies we
weren't expecting. hanford tended to be an industrial plant. there wasn't a lot of innovateive research happening there. once you figure out how to do it los alamos and refined it at to hanford aswent a finished project. the real research wasn't being done there. didn't have scientists sent to hanford. does it make sense? all right. get a microphone right there. sorry, the last question. one.it a good >> getting back to the germans atomic bomb. in baseball lore there is a story about -- >> right. >> mo, a mediocre catcher but a terribly brilliant person. >> right. >> his coach said he knew seven languages and couldn't hit in any of them. is it true he was recruited by to go to a meeting in switzerland to hear heisenberg it seemed that heisenberg
had the secret of the atomic out ahat he was to take revolver and shoot him. is that a true story? >> it is. berg is an interesting story. yesterday we had nicholas davados who wrote "catcher was a spy." it was the 20th anniversary of the book. made him feel older than he wanted to. yes, it's absolutely true. berg -- so heisenberg was somebody we were terrified would building a german atomic bomb. if you aren't familiar with him takes quantum majorics the other real physics movement. the relativity theory which is movement. and quantum mechanics wasn't heisenberg but he made it work and made it make sense. he won the nobel prize and heisenberg uncertainty principle.
as good a scientist or better than the einsteins of the world. we found out through the scientific underground which i that heisenberg during the war was going to give in zurich, switzerland. this is a neutral country during war. zurich was a neutral city where everyone kind of went to talk to each other and deal with people countries. we found out about this and berg was sent in. for severalt in reasons. one, he spoke many languages very well -- and did it very well. the other he was put on the which was the american mission to determine what the germans were doing as a bomb program. a member of the o.s.s. he realized he needed to know a little bit of the atomic bomb thing. he grabbed the theory books and plane from rome to the united states. in 20 hours he learned quantum theory. we talk about being brilliant. attended a lecture.
the lecture was over his head still. mechanics.t matrix he followed along a little bit. but yes, if anytime during the talk heisenberg indicated that the german work on the bomb program, he was instructed to up, pull out his pistol and shoot heisenberg in the head. that.ory is better than he is inside this theater. he is waiting for the speech to begin. theront of him walked entire german top scientists. hahn, discovered fission, one of the top guys named in the letters and several others were sitting in front of him. front of him as he is watching this. not only could he shoot heisenberg but he could gone down the line and shot all and takenscientists them out. at the talk himself, there is nothing to indicate he is working on the bomb program. berg says i'm not sure yet. is invited to the
afterparty. the afterparty is at top agent organizeds house who this. berg is there talking to the top german scientists, talking to heisenberg. the whole time heisenberg dealing dealing withaling a american agent. his accent is not spectacular but people were drinking enough they didn't know he was an american. he got nothing from it. heisenberged when left he left at the same time. the two of them walked through streets of zurich together to their hotel chatting about topics of the day, about nuclear things.and other heisenberg having no idea he's an american, no idea he's jewish american or that he has a pistol in his pocket waiting to kill him. is overime the night berg is convincedded they are not working on the bomb program. heisenberg talks about they've lost the war and he can't wait to work on science again. he lets him live. he walks away.
heisenberg doesn't know he was dealing with an american agent until decades later when the mission is declassified. realize how close to death he was. it's right out of a movie but true.bsolutely in that case. before you leave, actually, davidoff was here yesterday and he signed copies of his book catcher is the spy." if you are interesting to learn more, he brought it out to everybody. thank you for being here. you taking the time. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] >> great presentation and a start!ay to you are watching american history tv. 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span 3. on twitter at schedule,ry for upcoming programs and keep up with the latest history news. history week american
tv's "reel america" brings you archival films to help tell the century.the 20th >> hurricane hilda blows in the town of franklin, louisiana, only to find the streetsdy serted. 3,400 outside residents were covering 75 square miles. hilda hit the states with winds to 150 miles per hour. police and national guard and workers go on disaster alert. the rescue work goes off like clockwork. courthouses and other storm-proof structures became emergency shelters. evacuationpared for and shelter plans when the full force of the hurricane hit all residents of franklin were safe and sound. along the coast, more than people left their homes for safe havens. states felt the furry of hilda but the