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Project. He came with an offer to make me science director of the Manhattan project. I have not yet been given security clearance by the army, and it is likely I never will because of my many enemies in the White House. However, this invitation does offer me access to the government’s top secret plan. Seeing this, it is logical to assume that the government is desperate to develop the bomb. I have seen the atrocities committed by both the Germans and their allies. If an atomic weapon were to fall into their hands, God knows what would happen. We must beat them to it and end the war before they can finish developing the weapon. But our chances are low. There are few accomplished men like me in America and most my fellow colleagues have gone over to the Germans or the Soviets. Nevertheless, we must try to develop the bomb before it is too late. 10/19/1942 I wrote a letter to Bethe. I know I cannot give too much away as he is no longer part of the project, but I had to contact him and thank him for the commission. A summary of the letter: It is about time I wrote to you and explained some of my wires and actions. I came east this time to get our future straight. It is turning out to be a very big order and I am not at liberty to tell you all that is going on. We are going to have a laboratory for the military applications, probably in a remote spot and ready for use, I hope, within the next few months. The essential problems have something to do with taking reasonable precautions about secrecy and nevertheless making the situation effective, flexible, and attractive enough so that we can get the job done. 10/22/1942 Secrecy has pretty much failed, I guess, due to where we are meeting, at the UC Berkley campus. Nearly all the students know about the project and what it is for. We should all hope that some of the more activist Communists never find out specifically what we are doing. 10/26/1942 I have received an interesting letter from Victor Weisskopf, former friend and colleague. He has noted the leader of the German atomic program is giving a lecture in Switzerland. Weisskopf is suggesting a staged assassination. I will pass this letter on to the people in the position to dispatch a hitman. However, I shall refuse to comment on it. 11/3/1942 We are short of competent people. I will recruit some knowledgeable students to help with parts of the project. Though the parts I give them are so specific that it is nearly impossible to find out the big picture, I hope that the assignment has not fallen into the wrong hands.
11/16/1942 Today we went to Jemez Springs the see if it were an adequate place for our lab that is going to be built. The scenery was beautiful, but the town in which we would live would be located at the bottom of a canyon, so no one would have a good view of the surroundings. Plus, the tiny piece of land at the bottom of the canyon would be a really cramped place to live. The vote was 2-1, in favor of choosing another side. But things were not decided until General Groves showed up and agreed with us, making it a 3-1 vote. I chose Los Alamos as the new site for its surroundings. The site is encompassed by mountains, and only a school is there, nothing else. The army chose to buy the school with eminent domain. 11/22/1942 Purchase successful. 11/25/1942 I regret choosing this place for the site, now named Site Y. Bulldozers have been busy at work destroying trees and overall ruining the place. But I have no time for such trivialities as the task of recruiting many scientists for the experimental testing lays ahead. I fear we are very much behind the Germans, but things continue at their own slow pace, despite my urgent heedings. 12/12/1943 The construction of the new city is coming together satisfactorily, and we have order many revolutionary parts for our lab. But, we have to move to Los Alamos. That means I have to subject my wife to these conditions, noticeably worse than our home at Pasadena. But, the future of America may depend on the work done here, and we must endure this for the time being. 12/23/1943 This enormous task of leading thousands of scientists lies ahead of me. I have done nothing like it; at most I have lectured fifteen graduate students at once. But I have made an organizational chart, and I will only have to talk to four subordinate leaders. Things should be manageable. 1/13/1943 I have gone to Presidio for a health checkup and have found out very depressing news. I failed the exam. I have tuberculosis, most probably caused by one of my childhood illnesses. I have a lumbo-sacral strain. I am eleven pounds underweight. I have chronic cough. But I still am allowed to work for the good of my country.
2/14/1943 Things have been going well, and research is quickly being gathered. But lately, the FBI has been noisy and disruptive. They tracked down one of my students, and used him to find David Bohm, an advanced student of mine who has actively participated in helping me. They [FBI] have barred him from working on the project for security reasons. But this security is insane! Ordinary college students are not going to smuggle secrets to Russia. I know all of my students well enough to trust them with my life, but the government just takes them away. 3/4/1943 I have sent Robert Wilson to Harvard and assigned him the role of obtaining Harvard’s cyclotron. But today, he has come to lecture me about the disorganization. What a fool he is to think he is in a position to criticize me! He is a mere twenty-eight year old with no notable record, and I am Oppenheimer. Angry, I swore at him, and that scared him off. I haven’t seen him since. 3/15/1943 All organizational issues patched. The laboratory has been divided into divisions and divisions into groups. Hopefully, everything will go accordingly. The thirty or so scientists now begin moving in at Los Alamos. I have to admit the weather conditions are horrendous. The melting snow creates terrible amounts of mud, caking everyone’s shoes. Cars cannot gain traction, and there is an abundance of confusion. 3/17/1943 I have to admit that the scientists working at Los Alamos posses an enormous amount of determination, working late into the night to put out a few more lines of results. And the scientists here do all that for nearly nothing. They are pain very little, and conditions are absolutely horrendous. 4/15/1943 We have the basic outline of the atomic bomb ready. There are two bomb designs, one with a Uranium core and one with a Plutonium core. Choosing the Uranium core will be very expensive, but manageable. Choosing a Plutonium core will be extremely time costly as Plutonium has not yet been made in mass amounts. But such a bomb will likely be more destructive. 5/4/1943 A man named Fermi came to me and suggested poisoning Germany’s food supply instead of dropping a bomb. My conscience is leaning towards Fermi’s idea because a friend warned me, “Don’t let the accumulation of 300 years of physics be a weapon of mass destruction.” But his suggestion had its faults. Many innocent people would die before Hitler gets poisoned. I will ponder over this possibility.
5/7/1943 We cannot go on this is proposed plan because we do not have the resources to sufficiently and discreetly poison Germany’s food supply. I have postponed the plan in the event that we can find an efficient way to distribute the food. The effect on poisoning the food will only be destructive locally, inflicting no more than a hundred thousand men. And once our cover is blown, it is gone. This plan will not work until we develop a better way to poison food. 8/26/1943 Today, I have undergone an interrogation with Pash, a felloe with a respectable reputation. He used to want to oust me from the Manhattan Project, but I have obtained security clearance, making it impossible for him alone to fire me from my post. I came into the room ready to discuss the firing of Lomanitz, but Pash had other subjects. What a fool I was to assume his argument! He chose to interrogate me about the Germans and the Communist Party (CP) hacking into the security and stealing top secret data. Unprepared for this, I tried to stay vague, only offering one name, a man I considered guilty of treason. Pash is a good speaker, I must admit, and in the heat of the discussion, I think I slipped something, and made something that should have been singular plural. Later, Oppenheimer would find out that this interrogation was being recorded, and the slip: approaches instead of approach and them instead of they would be used against him in court. 9/12/1943 Another questioning, this time by an agent hired by Pash. The questioner was a young man by the man of Lansdale, a fairly smart guy. This time, the subject is about me and my connections to the CP. I think the government is on to me, trying to convict me of something soon. Anyways, Lansdale messed up the ending for himself by being too persistent and nosy, and I had to rudely turn him away at the end with “I would regard [this] as a lowly trick to involve someone where I would be[t] dollars to doughnuts he wasn’t involved.” 9/15/1943 The military is very anxious to find evidence to convict me of treason and leaking information to the enemy. But they have a very severe reasoning problem. If they do kick me off the committee, who else will lead? The scientists pour their hearts into the project, but they might not do that if I leave. On top of that, me leaving won’t even do the Nazis any harm because they are ahead of us. Plus, so far with me charge, we have the situation in control with many breakthroughs. We are rapidly catching up to the Nazis and, for the most part, ahead of Russia in their quest to develop nuclear arms. I know I have made way too many enemies for my own good, but can’t they just understand that I put my country before myself?
10/8/1943 Now I have qualms about this diary itself. Should I keep it private, and let no one else see it for the sake of privacy? Or should I leave it somewhere for someone to discover to prove my innocence? The latter seems better, but more likely to arouse suspicions. I will delay any action until I have more solid reasoning behind either idea. 10/12/1943 The project has been slowing down since winter, most likely due to security. I do not know why, but the FBI keeps on insisting on super high security, sometimes so high that it is outrageous. For example, they bar scientists from collaborating on a project, slowing down progress and ending some friendships. Their reason behind this is infinitesimal compared to the consequences. To keep scientists in the unknown prevents leakage of information, but slows progress down by at least fifty percent. Also, they have stationed too many guards. One day, when I drove my car past the entrance without slowing or stopping (why stop when there is nothing in your way?), they fired a shot at my tire. Equally bothersome, they placed MPs at my house, denying access to anyone who does not have a pass. My wife sees this as a mixing blessing (or curse depending on your paradigm): she forgets her pass sometimes so she has to make a show, but other times, she handily uses the MPs as baby sitters for Peter, our son. Furthermore, they established a regulation that made anyone who left secret papers on their desk lying around at night, then that named person would have to do a nighttime patrol job until he caught someone else doing the same crime. The final insult to me was that I was not allowed to communicate with my own brother, not his wife, or any other family member outside of the Manhattan Project. I have been subject to the army monitoring my every action. But I am pressured to not protest because the army very much wants me off my post for my connections to Communism. The security is making it very hard for me to work, since it is like having three hands being tied behind your back. But despite these pesky rules, one practical joker, Richard Feynman remains incorrigible. Knowing his mail was being searched and watched, he had his wife, who was in a TB sanitarium at the time, wrote letters to him in code. When asked for the key to the code, he replied, “It was a game he played with his wife to practice his codebreaking.” Feynman also drew the security personal to distraction while he went about cracking locks all about the lab. On another occasion, he found in hole in the security fence and crawled through it many times, attracting the guards’ attention. He was almost arrested for his antics and kicked off the project. 1/4/1944 I hate this project. The security is too tight, tight enough to make my girlfriend commit suicide. Damn it. The FBI has been putting us under surveillance the entire time. I guess the constant pressure was too much, the pressure made something within her snap. I don’t know if I want to continue with this.
1/6/1944 I have cooled down a bit about the subject at hand. Now I see my girlfriend’s death was not entirely in vain. Security has been more lax lately. I don not know if she purposely killed herself just so her friends could sneak out information or that she was really depressed. I do not think I can leave my post at this stage in time. 1/13/1944 I think I have gotten over the death of Jean Tatlock. Since then, I have gotten closer to my wife, Kitty (Katherine) Oppenheimer. I suppose her leaving was a mixed blessing, but the motive for her suicide is still unknown. Anyways, the winter here at Los Alamos is simply gorgeous. The brilliance of the snow is accentuated by the landscape. Ice crystals decorate trees, buildings, and the millions of glittering refractions of light are a sight to behold. 2/12/1944 I almost hate to admit it, but my health is starting to fail at the age of forty. Just a week ago, I was lying in bed, down with chicken pox and a very high fever. I recovered, but I have never quite felt the same after that. I have now developed a chronic cough, but it seems to be that I can still finish the bomb before my health sharply decreases. 3/13/1944 Our spies have determined that we are far ahead of the Germans as they abandoned their original idea due to lack of resources. They are now starting over from scratch. But, we will not be able to develop our bomb before Germany surrenders to our troops who have already landed on the shores of Europe. Now, our integrity as a community of scientists is threatened. Unable to use the bomb on the true evil, many scientists are considering quitting. And there is a new risk. Our spies have also noted that the Soviets are also developing an atomic weapon. Though they are behind by a few months, I fear a global war between the two nuclear superpowers (USA and USSR). The winner will have a nuclear monopoly, but there will be a huge price paid. I resolve to prevent this problem by openly telling the Soviets what we are doing and hope to set an alliance in stone so there will be no war. But everyone is challenging my proposition on the grounds of national security, but what is mere security compared to the widespread destruction of millions of lives? 11/12/1944 It has been a year of hard work, but now the project is coming to a completion. We have worked out a feasible way to create a sufficient amount of enriched plutonium and perfected the “implosion” bomb. The atomic bomb will have a loosely packed core of plutonium with uranium around it. When the time is right for the bomb to go off, the specially designed lenses will compact the uranium and plutonium and hopefully set off the bomb in a chain reaction. We have declined to do a large scale test, but now we are planning a wide scale test: setting off a real bomb in the “Trinity” test. I pray it goes well.
5/2/1945 Germany has officially surrendered. The project may be stopped, but I think not. We need to complete this for the sake of all the time already spent on the project. And, there is still some countries who are still dedicated to finishing Germany’s crusade. We must still continue the project. 7/12/1945 In battle, in forest, at the precipice in the mountains On the dark great sea, in the midst of javelins and arrows, In sleep, in confusion, in the depths of shame, The good deeds a man has done before defend him. - Bhagavad Gita 7/15/1945 Trinity. Tomorrow. I cannot sleep through the anticipation of this happening. We had a miniature test yesterday, but the bomb failed because of the wiring. I do not know if anything else is faulty, but the test tomorrow should be as planned. 7/16/1945 “Now I become Death, destroyer of worlds.” –Bhavagad Gita. Success. The bomb detonated with an explosion that was brighter than the sun, illuminating the early day with an unearthly flash. Then came an intoxicating mushroom cloud, purple with radiation. The sky was a roaring firestorm, and all the hell broke loose. The sonic explosion came next, and we heard the ear shattering sound waves twenty miles away. 7/18/1945 Those poor little people. Those poor little people. They are to be killed by “Fat Man” and “Little Boy”, either from the blast or the radiation. The multitude of the bodies, all laid out will carve deep wounds inside me. And the hundreds of hungry children will feed upon my soul until nothing is left. I am so sorry I let this project carry on for so long. It would have been so easy to end this project when the Germans surrendered, but I had to take it this far. It is entirely my fault. 7/23/1945 The bomb must be deployed by airplane and activated in midair for optimal destruction. The bomb must also be visually dropped-no radar bombing. Of course it can be checked by radar. If it’s a midnight bombing, make sure that there is moonlight shining. They must not drop it in fog or rain… The irony is that he is now making the bomb deploy as effectively as possible on the poor little people.
8/6/1945 The gadget was successfully deployed over Nagasaki, Japan. I should feel proud of my efforts at building the first atomic weapon, but victory seems hollow. The millions of innocent people in Japan will die a horrible and elongated death. I am now disgusted with myself. The only thing total war did in the Civil War was spiking up repair money costs. But, I think this weapon will make war impossible because of its potency. I hope that Los Alamos was not a tragic mistake. The future of humanity rests on how the government will use these weapons. My best hope is that they will let the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) control it because then the scientists who made this weapon will be able to decide how it is used. Oppenheimer reached the apex of is career here. His fame would steadily decline as he begins arguing for a worldwide peace effort to limit the number of atom bombs to be used. Had the US government listened to him, we might have not had the Cold War Panic. But, the US government decided to question his security by trying to prove his connection to Communism. Then, his life pretty much went downhill from there. He was soon forced into exile and he spent the rest of his life in a secluded shack Bibliography Bird, Kai, and Martin J. Sherwin. American Prometheus: the triumph and tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer. '1st ed'. New York: Vintage Books, 2006. "Manhattan Project." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 2 Jun 2008, 23:26 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 3 Jun 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Manhattan_Project&oldid=216731732>. "Little Boy." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 2 Jun 2008, 05:50 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 3 Jun 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Little_Boy&oldid=216564015>. "Fat Man." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 29 May 2008, 20:06 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 3 Jun 2008 <http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fat_Man&oldid=215805803>.
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