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International Atoms?3 Jun. 2004
Roger D. Launius
- Published on Amazon.com
Almost every belligerent nation of World War II organized massive scientific efforts to develop weapons that they believed would alter the course of the conflict. The Germans, among other projects, built and launched several thousand V-2 rockets against London and other European cities. The Japanese worked on an ill-conceived and unrealizable "death ray." Only the American effort to build the atomic bomb, however, fulfilled the promise of a truly revolutionary weapon that had the potential of changing the war's outcome. The history of the Manhattan Project--as well as both the significance and terror of the nuclear weapons that emerged from the effort--has been exhaustively documented since 1945.
While most knowledgeable readers are aware that there were also efforts to develop nuclear weapons by other nations, notably in Germany, the making of the atom bomb has largely been told as an American story with the far-ranging efforts of the Manhattan Project taking center stage. But atomic science was an international endeavor and even the Manhattan Project was more of an allied effort than most have traditionally understood. As a result, Ferenc Morton's Szasz's "British Scientists and the Manhattan Project" serves as a useful corrective to many earlier accounts that have all but buried any knowledge of the British role in the project. Beginning in December 1943 the British government sent to the remote New Mexico site of Los Alamos, where J. Robert Oppenheimer was presiding over a cadre of physicists and other scientists and technicians to design an atomic weapon, a small group that eventually numbered about 30 scientists to assist with the project. They worked long hours side-by-side with the Americans, witnessed the explosion at the Trinity site, and viewed the success with the same horror and amazement as their U.S. colleagues. Most of their names are unknown to all but a few specialists in the history of high energy physics, and the one that is not--Klaus Fuchs--is remembered only as an atomic spy for the Soviet Union. This short book does much to rescue the group from obscurity, as well as to set the record straight on Fuchs. It is an important addition to the literature of Los Alamos and the Manhattan Project.