Archive for July, 2012

Visions

Rare Photos of the Soviet Bomb Project

Friday, July 27th, 2012

I was recently perusing some Russian-language books on the Soviet atomic bomb project at the Library of Congress, and I stumbled across one that was really pretty amazing. The book itself is a catalog of a big exhibit on the Soviet bomb project (“Atomic project USSR: The 60th Anniversary of the Russian nuclear shield”1 which was held in Moscow in the fall of 2009. Much of the text is a rote repetition of what has been known for years — with some historical weirdness, like repeat using of “we” to mean the USSR, which is not the most encouraging thing for Russians to do — but the images are fantastic, and many of them are quite new.

Calling this “new” is a bit of a stretch, since the book was published three years ago. But it’s new to me, and if it’s new to me, it’s probably new to you! It’s definitely newer than most of the Soviet nuclear program photos that are out there, most of which showed up in the early 1990s when the Russian archives (temporarily) became easier to use.

Before I start, I would like to just point out how crazy it is that this book is so well-produced. It’s on glossy paper. The design is well done. The pictures are in color! None of this would be remarkable if the book was from the United States or a country in Western Europe, but most Russian-language books that I’ve seen in this country look like they were mimeographed on recycled newsprint by old Marxists. Somebody spent a comparative fortune on getting this book published. It’s a slick book; I wish there were an easy place to buy it online.

The whole thing kicks off with this amazing photograph of Vladimir Putin and a number of Russian Orthodox big-wigs at Sarov, the city that was once known as Arzamas-16, the Soviet equivalent of Los Alamos. Apparently the Soviet bomb scientists liked to call the place “Los Arzamas.” Sarov has been the site of a big Russian Orthodox monastery for centuries.

There are some great, rare photographs of key Soviet weapons scientists in the book. From left to right here, we have young, beardless Igor Kurchatov; Kurchatov after he grew his famous beard; a dashing portrait of Georgii Flerov, and finally, Yuli Khariton. Kurchatov agreed not to shave his beard until the enemy was defeated, during World War II, but being “the Beard” somewhat became him so I don’t think he ever shaved it off. He looks like such a goofy kid on the photograph to the left, which I think was taken when he was in his early twenties. The beard photo is from the early 1940s.

Flerov is the guy who really got the Soviet project off the ground initially. His story is pretty fascinating. In 1942, he had hoped to get the Stalin Prize for his work on the spontaneous fission of U-238, which would have kept him from the murderous Eastern Front of World War II, but was rejected because his paper wasn’t cited by anyone, and thus was judged as unimportant. Flerov did a literature search and realized that nobody was publishing on fission anymore — and indeed, all of those who had been publishing on it had dropped off the map completely. He immediately started writing letters — including to Stalin himself — pointing out that this could only indicate that the United States was working on an atomic bomb. Anyway, this is the most dashing photograph I’ve seen of him. It dates from 1940.

Khariton was the head Soviet theorist — something of an equivalent to their Oppenheimer. The photo dates from the 1940s. Khariton, oddly enough, has some links to Freud’s inner circle. I don’t find that changes my understanding of the bomb much, but it’s still unexpected. (Hat-tip to Michael Dennis for forwarding that to me.)

Perspective view of a mine at Taboshar, Tajikistan, from 1944.2 Taboshar was one of the few early sources of Soviet uranium, known since the 1920s and mined extensively for uranium since 1945. The acquisition of raw uranium was the key setter of the timetable of the Soviet bomb program. They had very few known sources of the ore at the end of World War II, and the United States and the United Kingdom had worked behind the scenes to attempt secure a monopoly on all other known world supplies. General Groves thought their access to uranium was so bad that it would take the Soviets 20 years to get a bomb — but it turned out that uranium is more plentiful than he realized, and concentrations that wouldn’t be economic to mine for the United States turned out to be just fine for Soviet slave labor.

Here we have two diagrams of the Nagasaki atomic bomb (Fat Man) based on information passed on to the Soviets from Klaus Fuchs and other spies. These aren’t particularly sensitive today, but would have been Top Secret–Restricted Data when they were acquired. On the right is the basic dimensions of the body of the bomb, and on the left is a more detailed arrangement showing the electrical systems inside the bomb. As anyone reading this blog no doubt knows, the Soviet Union had a number of spies in high places in both the US and UK sides of the Manhattan Project, which they dubbed “ENORMOZ” in their code language.

What I like about these drawings, aside from their novelty, is that the labels are first in English, and then translated into Russian again — betraying their obvious roots in espionage.

There are also some cool documents reproduced in here. This one is from a report written for Lavrenty Beria, dated February 28, 1945, on the “Progress of the atomic bomb abroad.” It says that it is expected that the United States will produce a bomb by July of that year, and then explains in very basic terms how it works. I also love the punctuation of the technical terms with handwritten English (“High explosive,” “Composition C,” “commercial radium tube.”) Even without much Russian beyond transliteration, you can recognize a bunch of what’s being discussed: the fact that only about 5 kg of plutonium was used in the implosion bomb (actual value was close to 6kg, but who’s counting), the discussion of the different explosives involve in implosion, and, amusingly, the term “tube alloy” as a codename for uranium.

The last line, underlined, says “The explosion is expected approximately July 10.” As Solzhenitsyn wrote in The Gulag Archipelago, “the Organs always earned their pay.”

A nice spread labeled as “the territory of Laboratory No. 2, 1943.” Pretty desolate. Laboratory No. 2 is located just outside of Moscow and was run by Kurchatov, and was the site of the first Soviet nuclear reactor and now the Kurchatov Institute.

This is an outside view of a tent at Laboratory No. 2, also from 1943. Apparently “experiments with uranium” were performed.3

And here is an interior view of the same tent. The stack at the right looks like graphite blocks, which the first Soviet reactor was made out of. (As was the first American reactor, of course.)

Here are three views of the assembly of F-1, the first Soviet reactor. On the left, they are laying the graphite blocks; in the middle, you can see it more completely assembled; on the far right, the diagram of the design. One can easily compare these with the first American reactor design, Chicago Pile-1.

The F-1 reactor in 2009. Fun fact of the day: Reactor F-1 is still a functional, operating nuclear reactor. It achieved criticality on December 25, 1946, and is still using its original fuel load. (It is very low power, so that’s not quite as impressive as it sounds.) It’s the oldest functioning nuclear reactor in the world.

This is listed a the central hall of Reactor “A” after it received an upgrade, from the late 1950s.4 Reactor A was a military production reactor in Chelyabinsk, running on natural uranium fuel, with graphite as the moderator. It was up and running by June 1948, and provided plutonium for the first Soviet atomic bomb.

In other words, this is something like the Soviet equivalent of the B-Reactor at Hanford, though after the aforementioned upgrade, Reactor A was able to run at 500 MW, about twice what B-Reactor could do.

And lastly… the bomb itself. Well, a model of it, anyway. The caption says this is model of the first Soviet bomb at “the Polygon,” which was the code name for the Semipalatinsk test site.5 Somehow it manages to look very futuristic (the big circles, the large poles) and yet quite rustic (the trees, the way in which everything looks like it has been fashioned by hand by some ancient Kazakh craftsman).

(If anyone has any insight into what function the poles and  the big circle have, I’d love to know.)

This is one of the more intimate photographs of the Soviet bomb I’ve ever seen. Photographs of the Trinity gadget in arrangements like this have been common for a few decades, now, but Soviet equivalents are quite rare.

This may be my favorite photo of the whole set: the most profoundly indicative of the Soviet situation and the most graphically arresting. A bedraggled Russian worker, straight out of Gogol, posing next to a riveted, crude, and terrible atomic bomb. It’s a dystopic juxtaposition: the desperate old paired with the horrible new.

The “bomb” appears to be an early bomb casing model used for aerodynamic testing.6 I suspect they used these proto-casing the same way the US did: dropping them endlessly from planes, to make sure they wouldn’t spin or pinwheel in unpleasant ways that would rattle the sensitive internal components.

This is from a report on the first atomic bomb test co-written by Beria and Kurchatov for the pleasure of Comrade Stalin. It shows what happened to a Lavochkin La-9 which was 500 meters from the test blast. It’s dramatic, all right.

Igor Kurchatov, father of the Soviet bomb, and Sergei Korolev, father of the Soviet ICBM, hanging out in the 1950s. I can’t quite tell what Korolev has in his hands — it sort of looks like a giant (Lysenko-enhanced) cabbage, but it also looks somewhat reflective, which most cabbages aren’t. Hard to tell, but Kurchatov and Korolev seem rather amused by it. [My father suggests it looks an awful lot like Jiffy-Pop, no doubt acquired through special intelligence sources. Hey, who knows?]

And with a job well done came… an appreciative letter to Stalin. In the Soviet Union, Stalin doesn’t thank you when you accomplish something difficult… you thank Stalin!7 OK, in truth, it was them thanking Stalin for giving them awards (and not, you know, executing them) after the successful test. But it’s still amusing.

It reads something like this (pardon my likely spotty translation):

Comrade Stalin
Dear Josef Vissarionovich!

We heartily thank you for the high appreciation of our work, which the Party, government and you personally awarded us.

Only the daily attention, care and support that you gave us for those four-plus years of hard work have enabled use to successfully solve the task of organizing the production of nuclear energy and the creation of atomic weapons.

We promise you, dear Comrade Stalin, that we will be working with even more energy and dedication on the further development of the business entrusted to us, and we shall give all our strength and knowledge to justify your confidence in us.8

It’s signed by Beria, Kurchatov, Khariton, and a boat load of other Soviet scientists. Was Stalin pleased? Well, no. The note at the upper left is in Stalin’s handwriting, and it says, Why not Riehl (the German)?”9 As in, where is Nikolaus Riehl’s signature? Riehl was one of the German scientists who had gone to work on the Soviet bomb after World War II. Ah, that Stalin… never could just take a compliment!

(Riehl’s story is an interesting one — he was half guest, half captive. He got many nice things for his work, but was also in a legally ambiguous status. He was not present at the first Soviet test; he learned of it later from listening to British radio. Riehl’s lack of signature on the letter probably had less to do with trying to offend Stalin — he wasn’t suicidal — but because he had been compartmentalized out of that part of the project.)

Finally, it ends with a picture of “veterans of the first Soviet atomic bomb test,” gathered in 1999. I’ve seen a number of photos of folks with the Soviet bomb, but this one really brought out the fact that it’s actually a very large bomb indeed.

Notes
  1. “Атомный проект СССР. К 60-летию создания ядерного щита России.” All translations are mine with help from Google Translate and an old Soviet technical dictionary. Original Russian will be in the footnotes. I am happy for clarifications and corrections; I acknowledge my Russian is far from perfect. Citation for the book: Atomnii proekt SSSR: katalog vystavki (Moscow: Rosatom, 2009). []
  2. “Axonometric projection of the mines of the eastern section of the field ‘Taboshar.’ 1944.” / “Аксонометрическая проекция горных выработок восточного участка месторождения ‘Табошар.’ 1944 .” []
  3. “Laboratory No. 2 tent — location of experiments with uranium. External and internal views.” [1943] / Палатка Лаборатории No. 2 — место проведения экспериментов с ураном. Внешний и внутренний виды. [1943] []
  4. “Central hall of the reactor “A” after the upgrade. The end of the 1950s.” / Центральный зал реактора “А” после модернизации. Конец 1950-х. []
  5. “Model of the bomb at the Polygon. Not earlier than 1948.” / Макет установки взрывного устройства на полигоне. Не ранее 1948. []
  6. “Bomb casing before aviation testing.” / Корпус авиабомби перед авиационними испытаниями. []
  7. “Letter of appreciation awarded with orders and ranks of academics, specialists, and scientists to Stalin in appreciation for the work in the field of nuclear energy and the creation of atomic weapons. November 18, 1949.” / Благодарственное письмо награжденных орденами и званиями академиков и ученых специалистов Сталину И.В. за высокую оценку работы в области производства атомной энергии и создания атомного оружия. 18 ноября 1949. []
  8. Товаришу Сталину И.В

    Дорогой Иосиф Виссарионович!

    Горячо благодарим Вас за высокую оценку нашей работы, которой Партия, Правительство и лично Вы удостоили нас.

    Только повседневное внимание, забота и помощь, которые Вы оказывали нам но протяжении этих 4-х с лишним лет кропотливой работы, позволили успешно решить поставленную Вами задачу организации производства атомной энергии и создания атомного оружия.

    Обещаем Вам, дорогой товарищ Сталин, что мы с еще дольшей энергией и самоотверженностью будем работать над дальнейшим развитием порученного нам дела и отдадим все свои силы и знания на то, чтобы с честью оправдать Ваше доверие. []

  9. Почему нет Рилля (немец)?” []
Redactions

Biological Warfare: Vannevar Bush’s “Entering Wedge” (1944)

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

At the end of 1944, Vannevar Bush and James Conant, the atomic administrators at the Office of Scientific Research and Development and the National Defense Research Committee, were starting to worry about what to do about the bomb. Not in the near term — but what to do about it after World War II.

How do you regulate a totally new technology — both domestically and internationally? Where do you begin, in thinking about it? Especially when the technology in question is the atomic bomb, a weapon that seemed to pose insuperable existential questions and seemed capable of revolutionizing not only war, but the idea of nation-states themselves?

General Leslie Groves, James B. Conant, and Vannevar Bush, in August 1945

Bush and Conant, for their part, spent a lot of time looking for analogies: using their experience with other regulatory regimes to inform their understanding of an atomic regulatory regime.

This wasn’t their first technological rodeo: Bush had been deeply involved in radio technology regulation in the 1920s, and Conant was a veteran hand when it came both to chemical warfare and, as it happened, the regulation of rubber. (One of the many control approaches they pursued was that of patents, which I’ve written about pretty extensively.)

But even more pertinently, they worked openly on the problem of regulating biological warfare, with the secret goal of using this as a trial balloon for the types of regulations they’d recommend for the atomic bomb.

The weekly document is a letter from Vannevar Bush to James B. Conant, dated October 24, 1944, on the problem of the long-term control of biological warfare— not just because Bush thought it was important, but because he thought it would help make sense of what to do with the bomb.1

Click image for the PDF.

Bush started it off by referencing a “recent memorandum” to the Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, which they had sent at the end of September. In that memo, Bush and Conant warned that secrecy wouldn’t be a long-term international solution for the bomb, and strongly recommended that Stimson start seriously making moves towards some means of international control of the bomb. Stimson wasn’t yet sure, though (he would later become convinced).

He then continued:

I have been giving some thought to another subject recently, and possibly it offers a means of approaching this one [the bomb]. Everyone is now agreed, I think, that biological warfare is not likely to break out in the European Theatre. In the Far East the situation may be more dangerous, especially if chemical warfare is started, but even there I believe that any large-scale biological warfare is highly unlikely for the present war. In fact, excitement on the matter in this country has died down. 

In the world of the future there may be some danger that biological warfare would be developed in secret by a future aggressor and suddenly sprung upon the world. This depends, I suppose, upon how biological matters develop, but the possibility is already there in some forms.

Bush considers biological warfare to be somewhat of a dead, but scary, letter.  Since it was looking like it would be irrelevant to the current conflict (Bush either didn’t know or didn’t consider the BW use by Japan again the Chinese to fall under this assessment), it could be talked about relatively openly. Thus they could explore some of the salient questions about the atomic bomb before the bomb itself was outside of secrecy. Pretty clever, Dr. Bush.

The exact plan Bush was shooting around was as follows:

Now it seems to me that this would be far less dangerous if there were full interchange between biological scientists all over the world, especially if this occurred through an international organization, with frequent international conferences on epidemiology held in all of the large countries in turn, and with a central organization collecting public health information, with particular emphasis on the prevention of epidemics. Under such circumstances if one country were developing the military aspects of the matter on a large scale in secret there would be a fair chance, I believe, that it would become known.

Certainly any county that did not have ideas of aggression somewhere in the back of its mind would be inclined to join such an affair genuinely and open up the interchange, unless indeed there is more duplicity in the world than I am inclined to think. It may be well worth while to attempt to bring this about.

The plan, then, was to have complete scientific interchange as a regulatory mechanism. If the work being done is talked about openly, then there would be no “secret arms race.”

This is an idea that was quite popular in many circles at the time regarding the bomb, as well. Niels Bohr in particular argued very strongly for this form of “international control”: if you got rid of secrecy, he argued, you’d be able to see what everyone was doing, and if all the relevant scientists dropped of the face of the Earth all of the sudden, you’d know they were developing WMDs.2

It’s an optimistic idea, one which puts a little too much stock, I think, in the communicative power of scientific exchange. An invitation to a conference is not a verification mechanism. It doesn’t take into account the ability of states to stage entirely shadow programs, or to have scientists who are happy to be duplicitious to other scientists. It somewhat naively subscribes to the idea of a transnational scientific community that is “above” politics. Even by World War II such a notion should have been seen as somewhat old fashioned; certainly the Cold War showed it to be.

Still, the goals were laudable, and as a way for thinking through international scientific control, it wasn’t the worst approach. Bush and Conant’s greatest fear with respects to the bomb was a “secret arms race.” They really thought this could not end with anything but mass destruction for all. At least a non-secret arms race, they argued, would keep people from doing anything too stupid.

Bush closes the letter with this wonderful paragraph:

You will readily see that I have in mind more than meets the eye, and am thinking of an entering wedge. However, I would very much like to explore with you this particular thing on its own merits, and also from the standpoint of what its relationship might be to other matters.

Bush was interested in the control of biological warfare, but he was more interested in thinking about the bomb. Biological warfare would be his “entering wedge” in approaching the issue of scientific control, knowing that soon enough they’d be worrying about something he considered even bigger.

Notes
  1. Citation: Vannevar Bush to James B. Conant (24 October 1944), Bush-Conant File Relating the Development of the Atomic Bomb, 1940-1945, Records of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, RG 227, microfilm publication M1392, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., n.d. (ca. 1990), , Roll 5, Target 8, Folder 38, “Bush, V. (1944-45).” []
  2. The full, more formal plan can be found in Vannevar Bush and James B. Conant, “Memorandum on the Future of Biological Warfare as an International Problem in the Postwar World,” (27 October 1944), Harrison-Bundy Files Relating to the Development of the Atomic Bomb, 1942-1946, microfilm publication M1108 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1980), Roll 6, Target 6, Folder 77, “Interim Committee — International Control.” []
Meditations

Mysteries of the Soviet Biological Weapons Program

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

This is a nuclear-themed blog, but as you probably could guess, I’m pretty equal-opportunity when it comes to being interested in weapons of mass destruction. (Heck, I find conventional weapons pretty important, too!)

I had previously read a two interesting reviews — one by Steven Aftergood, another by David Hoffman — of Milton Leitenberg and Raymond A. Zilinskas‘ new book, The Soviet Biological Weapons Program: A History (Harvard University Press, 2012). My prior knowledge of this topic came from reading Hoffman’s book, The Dead Hand (which is a disturbing and fascinating read in and of itself, and well-deserving of its Pulitzer), and from an association I had with Matthew Meselson as a graduate student at Harvard, but the reviews hinted that there was a lot of new stuff here.

So I was pretty excited to snag an invitation to hear Milton Leitenberg speak at the Wilson Center, at a small talk last Friday afternoon, organized by my friend Kathleen M. Vogel. I was one of maybe four “academics” in the audience; the rest of the people there were affiliated with the intelligence community in one way or another — I didn’t ask for details, but it was not a classified talk (obviously, or they wouldn’t have let me in there).1 Below are some of the things that really grabbed me about Leitenberg’s talk, with a preface that I’m working from notes here, and biology isn’t really my strongest suite, so if I write something outlandish, blame me, not the book.2

Two generations of BW

Leitenberg and Zilinskas periodize the Soviet biological weapons program into two phases. The first generation was from 1928 through 1971, and used classical genetic selection techniques — Mendelian selection and its subsequent variations. The very early program was an outgrowth of a chemical weapons program, and made the USSR the only country in the world at the time (the first?) to have a devoted BW program. (France may have had one at the same time; Japan would start its own up soon after.) In 1939 the Soviet BW program was taken over by none other than Lavrenty Beria, the security chief/rapist/executioner who also later ran the Soviet atomic bomb project.

“Inside the biological weapons factory at Stepnogorsk, Kazakhstan, where the Soviet Union was prepared to make tons of anthrax if the orders came from Moscow.” Via National Security Archive/Andrew Weber

The second generation program, from 1972 until 1993, is the really interesting one. This one used new molecular genetics techniques — genetic engineering. The goal was to produce better and different “bugs” — with a high priority placed on changing the surface properties of the bacteria and viruses, so that not only would pre-existing antibiotics and vaccines not work, but even the detection methods would be erroneous.

What makes this especially surprising is that the USSR wasn’t exactly known as a genetics powerhouse, a inevitable result of their long foray with Lysenkoism. Leitenberg says that the second generation program was pushed by the biologists, who saw it as the way to quickly reboot Soviet genetics post-Lysenko. A new, high-tech BW program was seen as a way to re-build Soviet biology after a generation of persecution.

Twelve “recipes”

As with most Soviet R&D, the strategy was first copy whatever the US was doing, and then move forward with their own lines of research. It’s not a bad strategy in a world where you do know there’s a country that is throwing gobs of money at a scientific program. It was a strategy made somewhat easier because of the relative openness of the US; when the US declassified and published designs for biological bomblets, the USSR copied them and used them for their own program.

The US E120 biological bomblet, which was apparently copied by the USSR after it was declassified.

I would just note that we often, in this literature, making “copying” seem like an easy thing, but it’s really not — a huge amount of work still goes into replicating a basic design. In any case, I’m always surprised that we Americans acted personally offended when the USSR copied US technology — as if it were a form of high-stakes academic plagiarism or piracy. Hey, they were just going after solutions that were known to work, and it’s a pretty high compliment, is it not? I don’t think we should take this sort of thing personally.

The Soviet BW program had five major subprograms: 

  • Bonfire, the main program, which succeed in making multi-antibiotic resistance for bacteria and modified antigenic structures for viruses (bad things)
  • Factor, which sought higher virulence out of existing agents, as well as higher stability and new outcomes — which are basic goals for any BW program, but again, were being done with molecular genetics methods for the most part
  • Hunter, which attempted to make hybrids of bacteria and viruses — apparently they were trying to come up with agents that were essentially bacterial, but if you used antibiotics to kill the bacteria, they would then release viruses into the system, which sounds like something from a movie
  • Chimera, which were working on “exotic viral genes” (i.e. making better Ebola)
  • Flute, which were trying to attack neuropeptide regulators, bioweapons meant for targeted assassinations

All together they produced twelve “recipes,” as they called them, which were “type-verified” and ready to produce. Some of these were mass produced to the tune of hundreds of tons. Leitenberg and Zilinskas were able to identify eleven of them, and they’re scary — anthrax, plague, tularemia, and Marburg virus, to name a few ones that even I recognized — but the identity of the last one is still a mystery to them.

Unclear motivations

The million dollar question, though, is why the Soviets were doing it in the first place. I mean, post-1972 they were violating their own commitments to the Biological Weapons Convention — a treaty with no verification methods, but still a treaty. They were also completely convinced that the US must be doing their own BW work and violating the treaty themselves. Why? Because it’s what they’d do. (A nice illustration of the errors of assuming the enemy thinks like you do.)

“The inside of a 20,000 liter fermentor at a plant in Kazakhstan.” Photo via Center for Cooperative Threat Reduction.

But also, apparently, they were egged on in this idea by a collaborative Army-FBI operation in the late 1960s that fed them disinformation. Apparently the Soviets witnessed a test of a biological agent  near Johnston Island, in the Pacific Ocean, sometime in the 1960s, and the Army-FBI operation decided that would really throw them off if they, through a double-agent, made them think that it was the test of a different biological agent, and added on to that — oddly enough — the line that the US was continuing a vigorous biological program. In the early 1970s, when SALT and the BWC were on the table, someone finally realized that this was a very bad idea, and they “cancelled” the disinformation effort. But how do you withdraw disinformation? Issue a statement that says, “sorry, that part of your intel was totally fabricated?” Who is going to believe that?

Even more strange, though, is that the USSR apparently didn’t have any strategic delivery mechanisms for the BW program. That is, they couldn’t actually target them on the US, according to Leitenberg and Zilinskas. They couldn’t fit them on ICBMs (they looked into it, but the program went nowhere), and the only planes that could disperse them were slow and wouldn’t last five seconds in NATO airspace. And apparently they weren’t thinking about using them on the Chinese, either.

So who was the BW program for? What was it for? Why have a secret BW program that you couldn’t use? Why keep a BW program through the 1980s and even early 1990s? Leitenberg isn’t really sure.

A few obvious possibilities stand out 1. maybe they did have strategic delivery and L. and Z. are just wrong on that; 2. maybe they just thought they’d work that out later (in the same way that the US put off serious work on the nuclear waste issue for the future); 3. maybe they were planning to use them in a way we really aren’t considering (e.g. tactically, though Leitenberg says there weren’t any tactical munitions); 4. maybe it was just bureaucracy run amok, egged on by scientists and generals who were ever eager to keep the funding flowing. I’d like to believe number four, because it would be the most amusing to me, but that doesn’t really pass logical muster.

The program even persisted into Gorbachev’s time, and Gorby himself apparently lied his pants off to the United States on this point. During the Gorbachev era, apparently only four people in the higher echelons of the Soviet government knew the “full story” about the BW program. George H.W. Bush apparently didn’t push Mikhail on this point, even though he had intelligence which said, straight up, that Gorbachev was lying. Leitenberg describes this as a “terrible” thing to have done, to avoid that confrontation. (Leitenberg says that he thinks Gorbachev would have liked to mothball the BW program, but found his hands pretty full with everything else that happened during the USSR’s endgame.) The flagrant violation of the Biological Weapons Convention, though, created all sorts of diplomatic complications for the late USSR — even though the BWC lacked verification, and thus was easy to cheat, it did create huge headaches to be caught out in 20 year lie.

Lessons learned

The real take-aways, for me, were:

  • Treaties without verification are not worth the paper they are written on, but before violating one, keep in mind how much of a bind you’ll put your future, reforming leaders when they find out about it.
  • Disinformation that makes you out to be more scary than you are is a really bad idea.
  • Even though your country may not be weaponizing the coolest, newest scientific techniques (like genetic engineering), someone else might be. Be aware of that before proclaiming your field of research totally unnecessary for regulation.
  • Soviet WMD history seems like a super hard thing to do — a mixture of US intelligence reports, interviews with former participants who may or may not be interested in telling you the truth, and the occasional smuggled/given document which may or may not be true. In my experience, anyway, US WMD history is much more straightforward — there’s a real culture difference.

Anyway, it sounds like the Leitenberg and Zilinskas volume will bring a lot of enlightenment to our discussions of the Soviet biological weapons program, even while it raises deeper mysteries.

This post was updated later in the day to clarify a few points after a communication from Leitenberg.

Notes
  1. Note to future self: the dress code for summertime, lunchtime talks with intelligence community folks in DC is slacks, shirt, open collar, no tie, no jacket. I wore a tie and was conspicuously overdressed — a rare thing for unfashionable me! []
  2. None other than Raymond A. Zilinskas himself once got on me at a talk I gave when I conflated the terms “mutated” and “genetic engineered” — which was helpful, in a way, because I won’t make that error again! []
Visions

King of the Wild Frontier

Friday, July 20th, 2012

Of all of the many silly names for nuclear weapons system that have been given, Davy Crockett has got to be one of the odder ones, in my view.1

The “Davy Crockett” was a nuclear weapons system using the smallest nuclear warhead (by weight and yield, but not diameter) that the United States ever produced. The sucker was little — in photos it looks like it is just about a yard long, barely over a foot high.

I’ve eaten meals larger than that nuke.

By nuclear standards, it was, as one colleague has put it, “a mere firecracker.” Only .01–.02 kilotons — just a baby! From a physics perspective, you’re talking about a warhead that weighed 51 lbs yet put out the explosive equivalent of 10 to 20 tons of TNT — in other words, a weapon which has the explosive output of roughly 780X what it would it would be if it were made of conventional explosives. The largest conventional (non-nuclear) bomb in the US arsenal is the MOAB, which has a blast yield of some 11 tons of TNT, according to Wikipedia. So this is a nuke that sits right at the threshold of the conventional/nuclear range, in terms of energy output. Except for, you know, the radiation, which is a big part of its selling point.

The last atmospheric (above ground) nuclear test series that the United States ever had — just before the Limited Test Ban Treaty took effect — was to test the Davy Crockett system. The aptly named “Little Feller” tests were held on July 7 and 17, 1962; Attorney General Robert Kennedy, among others, was present to observer the test. (Last Tuesday was the 50th anniversary of the second one.)

Man-portable nuclear weapons: as sensible as using alligators as water skis.

As for the name “Davy Crockett” itself, it’s not at all clear who named this thing, or exactly why. It’s almost surely done in the spirit of the 1955 Disney movie — the “king of the wild frontier,” who “killed him a b’ar when he only three” — as prior to that he was a much more obscure figure in popular culture. The name apparently goes back to the earliest days of the project, in 1958.2

Personally, I think naming a nuclear weapon after a guy who (probably) died defending the Alamo in an utterly avoidable last-stand battle is a little grim, but nobody asks me my opinion on this sort of thing. Did the French name any of their nukes after Dien Bien Phu?

The Davy Crockett nuclear projectile. The “dimple motors” apparently would tell you if the nuke’s internal power supply was still working. Bet you didn’t know nukes needed batteries, did you?

All right, enough jibber-jabber, let’s look at some images.

I have — after a few weeks of effort, I might add — managed to get the Library of Congress system to cough up Army Field Manual FM23-20, “Davy Crockett Weapons System in Infantry and Armor Units,” which has some great Davy Crockett photographs that I’d never seen before, as well as notes on how you’d go about trying to use this thing.

You might wonder why this took me so long to get, but that would only prove you don’t use the Library of Congress very much. It’s a great place to work but they have a ridiculously large number of “items not found on shelf.” Fortunately they also have some very helpful research librarians.

The LOC has somewhat slow scanners, and somewhat expensive photocopiers, so I’m not going to reproduce the report in full (at least at this time). But it’s a cool thing, and here are my favorite parts.

First, the Davy Crockett was really two different systems — a “light” gun (the M28) and a “heavy” gun (the M29). They used the same ammunition; the only difference was how far they could shoot the projectile and how large the cannon was. Both could be mounted onto jeeps.

The light system had a range of up to 2 kilometers, whereas the heavy system could go up to 4 kilometers. So that’s pretty close, but again, it’s a small detonation. In theory you could do this totally “safely,” but heaven help you if you’re talking about complicated engagements. I wouldn’t want to be out there on the tactical atomic battlefield on any side, frankly.

The advantage of having these on a jeep is that you could wheel it around pretty quickly, and you could store half a dozen of the warheads in the back. I mean, who hasn’t thought about doing this once or twice?

It’s hard to tell, but yes, there are six of them in there, on the left.

But the really gobsmacking aspect of the Davy Crockett is that it was man-portable. They had “port-a-packs” (their term!) that a little squad of soldiers could use to trudge these things around in the field.

Easy and convenient!

The big guy, in the middle, has the nuke. The little guy, second from the right, wonders why they couldn’t just use the jeep.

The instructions in the manual explain that you — the guy in charge — needed to “indoctrinate” your squad with a sense of “urgency” when they used the Davy Crockett, so they would always be running around as fast as possible. It also mandates that, “The search for nuclear targets is constant and vigorous.” Vigorous!

OK, so you’ve got your squad. They are feeling urgent. You march them out. Suddenly, you see a nuclear target! What next? First, unload your “port-a-packs,” and assemble your tripod.

Next, get the gun barrel into the tripod.

Next, you put the propellant in. The projectile has no means of launching itself — it’s more like a grenade than a missile. The way the gun works is that you put a huge tube of conventional propellant behind the projectile, and then a long “launching piston.” The piston is attached to the nuke. When the conventional propellant goes off, it sends the piston flying, which in turn transfers that force to the projectile.

Next, you basically assemble the other parts of the gun, get the nuke ready to go (you can choose to have it go off in ways optimized for a “low” or “high” burst height — I don’t know what functional difference there was, or how a simple switch could change it) and carefully fit the nuclear projectile onto the front. (Please don’t drop the nuke. And I think it may be redundant at this point to note that you are instructed not to smoke around the nuke. If you need assistance, please call your IKEA service representative.)

Before you put the nuke on though, you’ve got to set the “timer dial.” This is actually located on the bottom of the nuke itself. This was a tricky thing, of course — you could only set it to a maximum of 50 seconds, and you wanted it to go off above the target in question, at the right height. The warhead was fairly “dumb” — it wouldn’t detect when the right time to go off was, you had to figure that out yourself to a pretty high degree of precision.

The Davy Crockett egg timer. As with all nukes, “safe” is a relative term…

What if you messed up, and the nuke just slugged into the target? It wouldn’t, according the manual, detonate on contact. It would just break — a “functional failure” or “DUD.”

What then? Well, it explains, in such a contingency, the procedure is to wait 30 minutes, then verrrryyyy carreefully (my interpretation) go over to the maybe-dud nuclear warhead you just shot, recover it, and then pass it off to people who knew how to service nuclear weapons. (The nuke is not, it explains, serviceable in the field.) Not sure how that works when you’ve just aimed it at a Soviet tank column, but I’m just following procedure, here.

Back to firing the gun — a step not shown here is the work that goes into aiming it. Not very interesting photos, so let’s skip them. The gun itself shoots out a bunch of propellant from the back when it fires, so you have to unwind a very crude looking little firing line with a button on it.

And then you’re pretty much ready to go! Here’s the assembled Davy Crockett system (this is the large one, not the small one, but they look pretty similar).

The large one is somewhat more amusing than the small one, because loading it is quite inelegant looking by comparison:

There’s just no graceful way to load an atomic bazooka. Now you know.

Lastly, it’s time to address the obvious. Pretty much every photograph of the assembled Davy Crockett looks impressively phallic. But in my mind, the one below wins the award as “most disturbingly phallic.” This one comes from Chuck Hansen’s Swords of ArmageddonIt’s kind of hard to imagine it wasn’t purposefully staged.

The less said about that, though, the better.

The Davy Crockett system was actively deployed from 1961 through 1971. The redoubtable Atomic Audit reports that they were found to be highly inaccurate and were not effectively integrated into actual war plans. Nonetheless, according to the same source, some 2,100 warheads for the Davy Crockett system were produced, at a cost of about half a billion (1998) taxpayer dollars.

The same warhead was also used for an “Atomic Demolition Munition” which was deployed until 1989 (!), but more on those another time — they’ve got their own story.


Just a note: the NPR’s very-cool Robert Krulwich has two pretty great posts recently. The first, which would be great even if it didn’t involve yours truly, is on “Five Men Agree To Stand Directly Under An Exploding Nuclear Bomb.” Check it out, if you haven’t already. The second sounds like a Bio-ethics 101 hypothetical but was a real question for a small number of people : “If You Are Hit By Two Atomic Bombs, Should You Have Kids?

Notes
  1. The  nickname of the AIR-2 Genie  — “Ding-Dong” — would of course have taken the cake, if it were official. []
  2. Roland B. Anderson and Leonard C.  Weston, “Project Management of the Davy Crockett Weapons System, 1958-1962,” (Army Weapon Command, Rock Island Arsenal, 26 October 1964), available from the Defense Technical Information Center. On the name, see the “discursive footnote” on page 12 of the report (page 24 of the PDF).

    This report, incidentally, starts off in a highly amusing way:

    Several centuries ago, Edmund Spencer recorded that he was impressed by “…the ever whirling wheel of change.” We can but speculate what his reaction would be today, for we have seen the pace of acceleration increase a thousand times more than it has during the entire previous span of human history. This is especially true in the continuing military technology affecting weapons, equipment, strategy, tactics, and even the fundamental concepts concerning the role of military power.

    Today, we must telescope tremendous technological concepts, whose more simple tactical and strategical counterparts of a few years ago could be worked out at a relatively leisurely pace. The story of the Davy Crockett project is the recounting of such a telescoped project.

    Wow! What an intro — from Spencer to the atomic bazooka, in two paragraphs.

    The report also has a thesis that would not pass muster in any of the classes that I taught: “It is extremely difficult to draw any conclusions about the management of the Davy Crockett weapons systems’ development, except to say, it was successful.” []

Redactions

James B. Conant on Trinity (1945)

Monday, July 16th, 2012

This week, you’ll get your weekly document on a Monday, because it’s a special occasion. Today, July 16, 2012, is the 67th anniversary of the first test of an atomic bomb: “Trinity.” 

A photo negative from the first milliseconds of the nuclear age. The bright spots are where the negative was burnt through by the heat. Photo by Berlyn Brixner; scanned from the National Archives Still Pictures Branch, 454-RF-12A (TR84-1).

A lot has been written about “Trinity.” What I thought I’d offer up is a perspective on the test that you’ve probably never seen — the personal account of James B. Conant, President of Harvard and key figure in the Manhattan Project.

The original document isn’t easy to come by — it was withdrawn from the Bush-Conant File when it was microfilmed — but James Hershberg, when writing his great Conant biography (James B. Conant: Harvard to Hiroshima and the Making of the Nuclear Age) managed to get access to it, where it is reprinted as an appendix. It’s one of the more gripping of the many personal accounts of the first bomb test, and as far as I’ve seen, isn’t posted anywhere else on the web.

James B. Conant (fourth from left) at a meeting with Uranium Committee principles at UC Berkeley, March 1940. Left to right: Ernest O. Lawrence, Arthur C. Compton, Vannevar Bush, Conant, Karl Compton, Alfred L. Loomis.

This transcription is Hershberg’s; the original is no doubt in Conant’s impossible handwriting. Any notes italicized in brackets are Hershberg’s, any not-italicized are mine.1

Rather than breaking it up with comments, I’ve added footnotes to highlight little points or add a little depth to things that you might not be familiar with, unless you are a serious Manhattan Project nerd. The footnotes are only visible if you look at this post in “single post” mode, rather than via the main site’s front page. If you don’t see any footnotes, click on the title of this post at the top. The bolding is by me. Any non sic‘d typos are probably by me, too!

Conant and Bush reenact a post-Trinity handshake for the “March of Time” documentary on the atomic bomb. Apparently they were really just in a Boston garage for the reenactment. Via the New York Times.


Notes on the “Trinity” Test Held at Alamogordo Bombing Range


125 miles south east of Alburquerque

5:30 a.m. Monday, July 16

V. Bush, Gen. Groves, and J.B.C. arrived at the Base Camp located 10 miles from the bomb at about 8 p.m. Sunday evening. After dinner at the mess and some brief explanation by [J.R.] Oppenheimer, [R.C.] Tolman, [G.] Kistiakowsky, and [I.I.] Rabbi [sic] in very informal conversation we went to bed. The atmosphere was a bit tense as might be expected but everyone felt confident that the bomb would explode. The pool on the size of the explosion ran from 0 (a few pessimists) to 18,000 (Rabbi [sic]) and perhaps someone at 50,000 [several words censored].2 My own figure was 4400 [tons of T.N.T.] but I never signed up.3 It was a bad night though the weather forecast had been favorable for a clear early morning with light winds (the desired condition). From about 10:30 to 1 a.m., it blew very hard thus preventing sleep in our tent and promising a postponement of the Test. Then it poured for about an hour!

At 1 a.m. General Groves arose and went out to the forward barricade with the key personnel. There were two forward bases located 10,000 yds. N. & S. of the bomb. The [wiring?] from [this?] point to the test and to the camp was fantastic in the [extreme?].4 The instrumentation of the test included a vast array of equipment. At 3:15 a.m., the rain having just ceased, Rabbi [sic]5 came into our tent (V. Bush and JBC) and said that there had been much talk of a postponement because of the weather but reports indicated a 75% chance of going through with it but at 5 a.m. instead of the scheduled 4 a.m.

We got up & dressed and drank some coffee about 4 a.m. and wandered around. The sky was still overcast. It had not rained however at the zero point (the bomb)6 and the [wires? lines?] were O.K. Word then came through about 4:30 that 5:10 would be the time. About 5 p.m. [sic a.m.] or a little after, word came that the firing would occur at 5:30. Shortly after, General Groves came back to the forward area. We prepared to view the scene from a slight rise near the camp. Col. S[tafford]. Warren [was] in charge of health.7 Tolman, Rabbi [sic], Gen. Groves & J.B.C. were more or less together.8 It was agreed that because of the expected (or hoped!) bright flash and the ultra violet light (no ozone to absorb it) it would be advisable to lie flat and look away at the start, then look through the heavy dark glass.

At 5:20 the sirens blew the 10 min signal then another at 5:25 and I think another 2 mins. before. We lay belly down facing 180 [degrees] away from the spot on the tarpaulin. I kept my eyes open looking at the horizon opposite the spot. It was beginning to be light, but the general sky was still dark particularly in the general direction I was looking. Through the loud speaker nearby I heard [Samuel] Allison counting the seconds minus 45, minus 40, minus 30, minus 20, minus 10. (The firing was done by some kind of timing devices started at minus 45 sec.) These were long seconds! Then came a burst of white light that seemed to fill the sky and seemed to last for seconds. I had expected a relatively quick and bright flash. The enormity of the light and its length quite stunned me. My instantaneous reaction was that something had gone wrong and that the thermal nuclear transformational of the atmosphere, once discussed as a possibility and jokingly referred to a few minutes earlier, had actually occurred.9  Slightly blinded for a second, I turned on my back as quickly as possible and raising my head slightly, could see the “fire” through the dark glass. At that stage it looked like an enormous pyrotechnic display with great boiling of luminous vapors, some spots being brighter than others. A picture from memory is as seen through heavy dark glass.

Trinity fireball drawing by James Conant

Very shortly this view began to fade and without thinking the glass was lowered and the scene viewed with the naked eye. The ball of gas was enlarging rapidly and turning into a mushroom. It was reddish purple and against the early dawn very luminous, though I instantly thought of it as colored [somewhere?]. Then someone shouted watch out for the detonation wave (this was 40 sec after zero time). Still on my back I heard the detonation but was not in a position to notice any blast (there was relatively little felt here). The sound was less loud or startling than I expected, but the shock of sensory impression was still dominant in my mind. Then I got up and watched the spread of the colored luminous gas. There was two secondary explosions, after the detonation wave reached us or just before. The cloud billowed upward when these occurred and very soon thereafter [billowed?] up as would an oil fire, the color became [illegible] and the whole looked more like a [unintelligible] fire (though on an enormous scale). The column of smoke then began to spread and took on a Z form which persisted for some time. The spectacular part must have been confined to about 90 seconds. The phases observed by the eve were as follows from memory.

Conant's drawing of the rising and dissipating mushroom cloud

As soon as I had lowered my dark glass and before rising I shook Gen. Groves hand who said “Well, I guess there is something in nucleonics after all.”10 Tolman as we rose said, that is something very different from the 100-ton TNT shot,11 “entirely differently, there is no question but what they got a nuclear reaction.” Then several people began saying, “Very much larger than expected. Rabbi [sic] said it was 15,000 Tons equivalent at least.”

At about 60 sec. as the cloud billowed up, the assembled group including many MPs’ gave out a spontaneous cheer.

Then the reports began to come in. Oppenheimer arrived in about 5 or 10 minutes and said the equivalent was 2100 Tons which was greeted with great skepticism. It afterwards turned out he had made an error in converting the first blast measurement and the figure showed 7,000 tons.12

The most exciting news was that the steel tower over “Jumbo” 800 yards away had disappeared.13 This was reported by some one with a telescope and verified by all. This was unexpected and showed a very much more powerful effect than expected.

Before we left at noon, the best estimate seemed to be between 10,000–15,000 though Rabbi [sic] maintain 18,000 would yet prove right.14 Careful exploration of the crater showed 1200 yards again more than expected. The toxicity problem proved not serious. Thought at 10,000 [yards] North evacuated in a hurry as their meter went off the scale almost at once and the cloud of smoke seemed to chase them they declared!15 All evacuation was by car, of course. One man at the Camp Site who looked at the explosion without dark eye glasses got a bad eye burn and was given morphine: the prognosis was that he would not lose his sight. G. Kistiakowsky, all [word illegible], came in to report that the shock wave had knocked him down as he stood outside the barricade at 10,000 S.16 There were reports of two others being knocked down at the same spot.

My first impression remains the most vivid, a cosmic phenomena like an eclipse. The whole sky suddenly full of white light like the end of the world. Perhaps my impression was only premature on a time scale of years!

J.B. Conant, Washington, D.C.
July 17, 1945 4:30 p.m.

Notes
  1. Citation: James B. Conant, “Notes on the ‘Trinity’ Test,” (17 July 1945), Bush-Conant File Relating the Development of the Atomic Bomb, 1940-1945, Records of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, RG 227, microfilm publication M1392, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., n.d. (ca. 1990), Roll 5, Target 8, Folder 38, “Bush, V. 1944-45.” Reprinted in James Hershberg, James B. Conant: Harvard to Hiroshima and the Making of the Nuclear Age(New York: Knopf, 1993), 758-760. []
  2. The yield estimates are questions of how efficient the fission reaction will be — how much plutonium would fission before the bomb blew itself apart? This itself was a question of how effectively the implosion mechanism worked, and how long the bomb could be held in a supercritical state before full explosion. A rough estimate provided by Richard Garwin is that the complete fissioning of 1 kg of Pu-239 produces 17 kt of yield. The “Gadget” contained  6.2 kg of Pu-239 in its core. So obviously zero yield would mean no significant fissioning at all. 18 kt would mean only 17% of the plutonium fissioned. 50 kt would mean 47% fissioned. Conant’s estimate, 4.4 kt, would mean 4% fissioned. Perfect efficiency — 100% fissioning — would have been 105 kt. Separately, one wonders what Conant would have to say here that would still be censored today. I suspect it has does have something to do with efficiency questions, and his reasoning on them, because those were considered quite taboo by redactors until relatively recently. I suspect if this was re-reviewed by a classification officer today these lines would be cleared. Note that Rabi’s guess was in fact not chosen because of any optimism — he arrived late and it was the only figure left to choose! []
  3. Conant’s estimate looks low today — since we know that the bomb was 18 kt was correct. But for the first test, of course, there was no real barometer. The original estimates for the atomic bomb’s yield were much, much lower than what the bombs turned out to be — when Roosevelt signed off on the Manhattan Project in 1942, it was under the assumption that the first atomic bomb would be only 2 kt in yield! []
  4. These parenthetical sentences are from Hershberg and are likely good interpretations of Conant’s awful handwriting. []
  5. Conant consistently misspells I.I. Rabi’s name. But it is amusing to imagine two New England Yankees like Bush and Conant being visited by a rabbi for the Trinity test. []
  6. “Zero point” was the term for where the bomb was located, sometimes just called “Zero” or, eventually, “Ground Zero.” This was the original usage of the term, well before it became more commonly used for all manner of targets. The zero obviously came from marking out the distances from the bomb blast site — zero would have been the exact site of the bomb exploding. []
  7. Warren was in charge of making sure that nobody got too much radiation exposure at Trinity, especially from fallout. They actually did have a fallout scare, but more on that another time. []
  8. It’s interesting that Rabi was in this group and not any other. Tolman was Groves’ personal scientific advisor; Conant and Bush were high-level policy guys; Rabi was more or less just visiting — he wasn’t heavily involved in the bomb project, just a consultant, and was spending most of his time working on radar at MIT. It may have been his “outsider” status that got him put into the high-policy bunker. Or maybe Bush and Conant just liked him. I don’t know. []
  9. The idea that an atomic bomb might start a thermonuclear reaction in the atmosphere was not quite so seriously considered as a threat as it was later made out to be — and was something that was known to be physically impossible — but it’s not surprising that this unlikely fear came back to Conant in this instant of awe. It’s also worth remembering that nobody had seen an atomic bomb before, so this must have been fantastically more impressive even than later tests, when you had a general idea of what it ought to look like. I’m also reminded of a comment that Harold Agnew made about watching the first hydrogen bomb explosion in 1952, how it kept getting hotter, and hotter, and hotter, and he actually started to get worried that it would never stop. []
  10. “Nucleonics” was a term coined during World War II to designate the field of nuclear technology. It didn’t really catch on. []
  11. The 100-ton TNT shot was a detonation of isotope-laced explosives on May 7, 1945, done as a means of trying to calibrate instrumentation and expectations for the Trinity shot. Read more about it on Carey Sublette’s page. []
  12. Oppenheimer was regarded by all as quite brilliant when it came to the physics of these sorts of things, but poor when it came to the mathematics. But I don’t know that he actually did these equations — it’s unlikely. It’s still interesting that the revised estimate was off by 250%. Still, it was an estimate some 15 minutes after the first test, so let’s cut them some slack. []
  13. “Jumbo” was a massive containment unit that was initially supposed to have the bomb detonated inside of it, so that if it fizzled, the billion-dollars-worth of plutonium would be recoverable. It was not used, however. Details about Jumbo are here. Jumbo itself survived the blast, though its tower was destroyed. []
  14. And Rabi was, indeed, more or less correct — the final yield was just shy of 19 kt. But, again, he chose 18 kt not because he had any good reason to — he did it because it was the only choice left when he showed up. Now an historical question that I’ve never seen the answer to is how much money did Rabi win? Apparently it was only a $1 entry fee, and it was restricted to senior scientists, so it probably wasn’t much. We know that Oppenheimer (0.3 kt), Teller (45 kt), Kistiakowsky (1.4 kt), Bethe (8 kt), and Ramsey (zero) put in. So that’s at least 5 dollars, not counting the one Rabi would have gotten back for admission. (Note that Conant said he did not participate in the pool.) But it must have been more crowded a field than that, given that 18 kt was all that was left to Rabi when he arrived later, and it seems rather arbitrary given the other numbers listed. It may yet be an unsolved mystery… []
  15. This is related to the fallout scare that I mentioned previously — they were somewhat woefully underprepared for fallout issues, though they were aware they might exist. I have a post on this coming up fairly soon… []
  16. So I guess the drawings I posted here weren’t completely far-fetched! []