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Fall 1995 | Volume 11 |  Issue 2

The Atomic Bomb

Your articles on the atomic bomb brought back memories. How Oak Ridge, Tennessee, missed being mentioned I don’t understand. I was in the Army Corps of Engineers there when General Groves would come into Nashville by train and we would furnish vehicles for his use. We transferred twenty of the largest dump trucks I have ever seen to the Oak Ridge project. I was never able to get a definite answer from General Groves when I would ask what we had at the one or two places we called “demolition projects.” I’ve often wondered what he thought when I used the word demolition with no knowledge of what it truly meant.

Hobart D. Parish
Hendersonville, Tenn.

The Atomic Bomb

As the caretakers of Trinity Site we found your articles on the development of the first atomic bombs very interesting. In Frederic D. Schwarz’s piece (“Notes From the Field”), however, we are concerned about the implication that to visit Trinity Site readers should contact the National Atomic Museum and shell out twenty-five dollars for the trip.

We open Trinity Site to the public twice a year, always on the first Saturday in April and October. Admission is free. Anyone can drive up to the Stallion Gate between 8:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M. on either of those days and be allowed to drive to the site. The missile range provides handouts and has a number of educational displays on site. The turnoff for Stallion Gate is twelve miles east of San Antonio, New Mexico, on U.S. Highway 380.


In memoriam: The scholar, teacher, historian, and biographer Elting E. Morison, who died this spring, was an invaluable friend and guiding light to this magazine, a contributor not just of beautifully written articles but also of wisdom about the history of technology and its uses and about the writing of that history that helped us immeasurably in shaping the magazine. We will miss him.

Jim Eckles
Public Affairs Specialist
U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range
White Sands Missile Range, N.Mex.

The Atomic Bomb

I object to your issue glorifying the atom bomb and belittling atomic energy. The atom bomb is a horrible weapon, absolutely useless and a very dangerous liability. The hundreds of billions of dollars spent on it could have brought undreamed of wealth to the United States and other countries. And fear of the bomb makes people fear atomic energy. Nuclear energy is the only hope of humanity to lick emissions, destruction of forests, and global warming. Renewables could never put a dent into energy needs. Have you got any conception of how beneficial atomic energy has already been?

John Tuzson
Evanston, Ill.

The Atomic Bomb

The article on Enrico Fermi (“Making It Possible,” by Dan Cooper) is fascinating, and I much enjoyed it. But where did you get the idea that marble is “largely silicon”? True marble, and most of the decorative stone sold under that name as well, is calcium carbonate or sometimes the double carbonate of calcium and magnesium. Siliceous impurities may occur, but always in small amounts. Thanks for a good magazine.

Malcolm P. Weiss
Adjunct Professor of
Geological Sciences
University of California
Santa Barbara, Calif.

The Atomic Bomb

I greatly enjoyed your collection of articles on the atomic bomb (Summer 1995). It provided welcome relief and reassurance after the dreadful fiasco the Smithsonian almost created with its Enola Gay exhibit. You provide an excellent example of the kind of scholarly reporting we have a right to expect from institutions like the Smithsonian, uninfluenced by their (or anyone else’s) political agenda.

I confess I had never heard of Deak Parsons until I read Al Christman’s story (“Making It Happen”). My ignorance seems remarkable in view of the fact that I lived through that period as a naval officer concerned with R&D, albeit not in the Manhattan Project. Perhaps military security was a lot better then.

D. H. Kelly
Los Altos Hills, Calif.

The Atomic Bomb

Thank you as always for a fascinating issue. The articles discussing the building of the first atomic weapons were at once both illuminating and terrifying. Permit me to add a note. Al Christman’s piece discusses the techniques used in making an implosion warhead, and he points out the “use of ‘lenses’—carefully shaped pieces of high explosive in which the waves would behave differently.” This soon became a key method of safeguarding nuclear weapons from unauthorized detonation. Apparently the decision was made not to use purely spherical plutonium, which could be set off by a relatively simple simultaneous ignition, but instead to slightly warp the warhead. This requires very specific and exact timing to detonate, and the precise sequencing is part of the codes in the hands of the President (and, it appears, of his counterparts in other parts of the world). Given the chance that some weapons have been stolen in parts of the former Soviet Union, it may well be that we all owe huge thanks to those early designers, who thought ahead.

Danny Burstein
Flushing, N.Y.


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