Oppenheimer (1980)

 

 

Director:   Koreyoshi Kurahara, Roger Spottiswoode.

Starring:     Sam Waterston (Robert Oppenheimer),  John Carson (Narrator),  Christopher Muncke (Colonel Kenneth Nichols),  Jana Shelden (Kitty Oppenheimer),  Edward Hardwicke (Enrico Fermi),  David Suchet (Edward Teller),  Manning Redwood (General Leslie Groves),  Peter Whitman (Robert Serber),  Matthew Guinness (Hans Bethe),  Bob Sherman (Ernest Lawrence),  John Morton (Robert Wilson),  Garrick Hagon (Frank Oppenheimer),  Barry Dennen (Isidor Rabi),  Ron Berglas (John Manley),  Liza Ross (Jacky Oppenheimer),  Blain Fairman (Robert Bacher),  Kate Harper (Jean Tatlock),  Peter Marinker (Haakon Chevalier),  Peter Banks (Joseph Volpe),  Phil Brown (Lewis Strauss),  David Baxt (Colonel John Lansdale),  Milton Johns (George Kistiakowsky),  Anthony Forrest (Rossi Lomanitz),  Colin Bennett (Seth Neddermeyer).

mini-series about the life of Robert J. Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project, the H-bomb and Oppenheimer harmed by the McCarthy era

 

Episode I.

Chapter 1. Class is Over?

Berkeley, California. Across the nation in autumn 1938, students demonstrated against the world-wide rise of fascism and militarism. Many thought only the Communist Party was providing an uncompromising oppositi9n to the threat of Hitler and his allies. At the end of the 1930's two young professors of physics were very influential. One was the experimental physicist Ernest Lawrence. The other was 34 year old theoretician J. Robert Oppenheimer.

With Oppenheimer was an extraordinarily talented group of students. Among them were Rossi Lomanitz, Bob Wilson, his graduate assistant Robert Serber and Joe Weinberg. Several would remain in his life for several years.

Lomanitz asks Oppenheimer if the Spanish War Committee (Spanish Civil War) can use his house for a fund raiser.

 

Chapter 2. Parties, Meetings, Rallies.

There is a lot of political discussion in Oppenheimerís house. One student says the New Deal was nothing but a diversion. Oppenheimer himself says he doesnít believe that. At least Roosevelt got the nation started on the road to socialism. French Department member Haakon Chevalier, a Communist Party member, comes in. He wants to use Oppenheimerís house for a party meeting.

Oppenheimer is getting tired of the constant round of meetings and rallies. One of his students is going to go fight in Spain on the Republican side. Also tired of meetings is Oppenheimerís girlfriend Jean Tatlock. She says she wants to go home. She has a terrific headache and says she is in plain. Oppenheimer drives her home.

 

Chapter 3. Forgive me?

At home Jean asks Oppenheimer if he would please not talk? Oppenheimer says they need a change. Jean says she cannot go to New Mexico where Oppenheimer has a cabin. Oppenheimer says he will go with someone else and starts to leave. She calls him a bastard and tells him to come back. She warns: "Iíll kill myself!" Oppenheimer comes back and she hugs him.

Oppenheimer smokes in bed. Jean feels calmer now. She asks Oppenheimer to forgive her. She says she has been working very hard for the Communist Party and badly needs a break. Jean tells Oppenheimer she has to go to New York. Locally, at a swimming pool in Oakland, they are keeping "Negroes" out. Jean gets out of bed and starts typing.

 

Chapter 4. Chain Reaction.

Oppenheimer has to tell a student of his that he cannot take his course for the third time. One needs a certain aptitude in physics to master the material.

Oppenheimer is with his sister-in-law Jacky and his student Bob Serber. There is big news from Europe. Hahn and Strassman have bombarded uranium with neutrons. They got barium. The explain to Jacky that every time a uranium atom absorbs a neutron, it divides. They call it a fission. And the amount of energy released in enormous. This energy can knock lose more neutrons which cause more fissions in a chain reaction. The importance of this new is that a very powerful bomb could be built that could destroy whole cities.

 

Chapter 5. Power and Pressure.

Frank Oppenheimer talks politics with his brother. He says that Jacky and he have joined the Communist Party. His brother is very worried by what this may mean for Frankís career.

Ernest Lawrence wonders how they are going to deal with the barrier around the nucleus. By power and pressure is the answer. Lawrence runs a cyclotron. With this he says they can break through the barrier. His goal is a machine of 100 million volts.

Itís an exciting time for physics in the United States. Many prominent scientists have come over from Europe. There is Fermi, Bohr, Leo Sziland. The Europeans are anxious to get the Americans started on working on the atomic bomb. The Americans need to get into the action. Oppenheimer says that the Europeans are suggesting they switch to military research even though as of yet there is no war.

 

Chapter 6. You Cheat!

Oppenheimer and Jean talk shop. She asks how long all this has been known? Oppenheimer says for a long time, but to actually make it a reality is new and scary. But they certainly are going to think about building a bomb.

Jean asks Oppenheimer to join the Communist Party. Oppenheimer doesnít really want to join. Jean says that when she first met him, he didnít know anything about politics. She says it was disgusting. She says: "Robert, you cheat!" Upset Jean tells Oppenheimer to leave, go away! Oppenheimer goes for a drive.

There is a meeting of the Communist Party. Jean is not coming. At the meeting is a woman known as Kitty Dallet, now Kitty Harrison. Oppenheimer and she are introduced. Her husband is a medical doctor. Kittyís first husband, Joe Dallet, was killed in 1936 in the Spanish Civil War.

 

Chapter 7. Itís Good to Talk.

Dr. Harrison has to leave to go to the hospital. Mrs. Harrison asks Haakon to tell her about Robert Oppenheimer. Steve Nelson arrives with a petition about the swimming pool in Oakland. He works on Oppenheimer to get him to join the Communist Party.

Kitty talks with Oppenheimer. She tells him: "Letís tip-toe away." The couple go to a restaurant. Oppenheimer tells her that Haakon has been working on the same novel for five years. Oppenheimer tells Kitty: "Itís good to talk." He tells her he has a place in New Mexico and invites her to come up there with him for a few days. He says: "Please, come. With your husband, of course." Kitty says: "That might be nice."

 

Chapter 8. An Unexpected Guest.

At dinner at Jean Tatlockís place, the talk is about Stalin making a pact with Hitler. Some think these has made all the American communists look like idiots. Oppenheimer arrives with Kitty and introduces Jean to Kitty. Jean seems crushed. Oppenheimer talks about going to the mountain in New Mexico with Kitty. The situation is a bit tense at the table because Jean is upset.

Oppenheimer and Kitty go riding when they are in New Mexico. Kitty learns that they are in the area known as Sangre de Cristo (the Blood of Christ). Pointing, Oppenheimer says that Santa Fe is over there and then there is the area known as Los Alamos (the Cottonwood Trees).

Robert and Kitty are becoming closer and closer. Robert says he had big plans coming out to California. Kitty says that she has heard that he is the most brilliant teacher at Berkeley. Oppenheimer says of himself that it is too late for him to have any chance for a big contribution to physics. The optimum age for contributions in physics is twenty-seven. Kitty tells him: "Youíll do something big."

 

Chapter 9. Weíre Going to be Married.

Robert and Kitty kiss. As they become more intimate Oppenheimer tells Kitty that he usually has some difficulty the first time or two. Kitty tells him not to worry about it.

On the road to Oppenheimerís place in New Mexico, Jacky and Frankís car blows a tire. Jacky tells Frank that they are going to be sweet to this lady (Kitty). Kitty has been Mrs. Harrison only for four months. Frank says that this lady is probably out of her mind, too, like most of Robertís women.

At the cabin the two couples talk. Frank tells Robert that the old place looks good. Robert says that Kitty comes form a German aristocratic family. Then he drops the bomb: they are going to marry. But, he adds, Kitty doesnít know it as yet. Frank asks about Jean and Robert says he doesnít owe her anything. Meanwhile, Kitty tells Jacky that Robert will be happier when he sees fewer people.

Oppenheimer and Lawrence talk. Lawrence says that he is now a member of the uranium Project. Robert asks if they could fit him in the group?

Kitty and Robert go out for a drink. He tells Kitty that he feels the work on the bomb is his chance to make a contribution. Kitty says: ". . in any war a lot of people do well out of it."

 

Episode II.

Chapter 1. The Manhattan Project.

In the autumn of 1942, nearly a year after Pearl Harbor, the Army searches for a man to coordinate and supervise all the various project that would produce both the explosive material and the bomb mechanism. The decided to use engineer Col. Leslie Groves, who was in charge of Army construction in the United States.

At the end of September Groves went for an interview with Maj. Gen. Wilhelm Styer. Groves is not very enthusiastic about the job. He wanted an assignment in a combat area. Groves thinks he is going to miss out on the war because the Allies are pushing back the Germans and the Japanese. But Styer tells Groves that he is very needed. The Manhattan Project is in a hell of a mess. He complains that these scientists donít have much business sense.

Styer tells Groves to go first toe New York City. At Columbia University says are experimenting with the gaseous diffusion method for separating the uranium 235 isotope. He will send Col. Nichols who is a Ph. D. with him. Then he is to go on to Chicago and speak with Enrico Fermi. When he finished there he is to go to the University of California at Berkeley to speak with Ernest Lawrence. Groves brightens as he says he has heard of Lawrence. And then speak with this fellow named Robert Oppenheimer. Styer says he has heard that he is quite a useful guy . . . for as scientist that is.

Oppenheimer runs a summer study group with prominent physicists. Oscar says that weight per weight a fission bomb will produce several thousand times the blast of TNT.

 

Chapter 2. Howís Your Wife?

Edward Teller arrives. He is a non-stop talker and a bit of a ham as he like to dominate the stage. He meets the others: Oscar, Hans Bethe, Bob Serber and Emil Konopinski. Teller starts taking over, but Oppenheimer stops him saying that the group has a certain agenda they would like to follow. And the first item is to describe how exactly will the weapon look Ė shape and size, plutonium or uranium. They start by saying that the bomb will be a sphere wrapped in a tight shell.

Oppenheimer goes over to see Jean. She asks him how is his wife? Robert says sheís fine. He doesnít like Jeanís attitude and is going to leave. Jean stops him saying that she just has to let her bitterness out. She adds: "I could murder you."

 

Chapter 3. The Army Brass.

Oppenheimer tells his group that the Army brass will be coming to speak to them. The scientists wonder why the brass is coming? Gen. Groves, promoted when the took command of the Manhattan Project, is coming, says Oppenheimer.

Groves and Nichols are traveling by train. Groves says that he likes the fellow Dunning at Columbia University. Nichols says he doesnít think the Columbia method practical. It would require too big of a factory to produce the explosive material.

Groves and Nichols meet with a group of scientists. He is a very practical man and wants answers now. This runs him into conflict with the scientists, who love to think through problems without regard to their immediate application. For instance, Grove wants the scientists to focus on just two options to use as a cooling method: air cooling and helium. He doesnít want them considering a whole array of different options because they may be "interesting".

Groves turns to the question of the amount of fissionable material needed. He complains to the scientists that he canít build a factory based on the figures they have given him. He doesnít know if they expect him to produce three bombs a month or three-tenths of a bomb monthly.

Before the frustrated Groves leaves the scientists, he says that he has ten years of college education where all he did was study. He figures thatís worth two Ph. D.s. The scientists donít say anything to that.

 

Chapter 4. Too Many Problems.

On the train Groves complains to Nichols that the scientists made him mad. The "Goddamned" experts were trying to run rings around him. And they donít have any security. People are waling in and out of offices and labs with no checks.

Teller is talking about making a fusion and a fission bomb together. He says they can wrap the uranium in the deuterium. Oppenheimer finally has to step in to constrain Teller. He says Teller has been talking about this now for three weeks and: "At the moment it just has too many problems." He has to be diplomatic and soothe any hurt feelings on Tellerís part. But Teller still doesnít give up the lectern. He says he did some calculations and there is a "reasonable chance of setting fire to the worldís atmosphere." The fellows are shocked at the possibility. Oppenheimer asks Hans Bethe to do the calculations in depth.

 

Chapter 5. Electro-Magnetic Separation.

Lawrence is showing Groves and Nichols how his cyclotron works. He says with the cyclotron they can separate out the two isotopes of uranium: uranium 238 and 235. 235 is the kind they want because it is lighter. The practical Groves asks how much uranium 235 has the scientist separated out? Lawrence has to say that they do not have a substantial amount of uranium. Groves is a bit upset at this piece of bad news.

 

Chapter 6. Plenty to Know.

Groves now speaks with Oppenheimer and his group. He is not too impressed when Oppenheimer says they have been working on the theoretical aspects of the bomb. But, says Oppenheimer, there are no experts in this field since it is so unknown. This statement creates in Groves the feeling that a huge weight has been lifted from his back. So, if there are no experts, than maybe he can work with these scientists on a more equal footing.

Groves knows there is a lot for him to learn. He asks Oppenheimer if he can explain the whole thing to him so that he can understand it? Oppenheimer says: "Sure. What do you want to know?"

Kitty and Robert now have a baby. Communist Party member Steve Nelson comes for a visit. Kitty apologizes to her husband for letting Steve come, since his being a communist may cause problems for Oppie. And sure enough, the government is watching Steve Nelson. They overhear a telephone conversation of Steve with another party member about the importance of approach Oppenheimer for assistance.

 

Chapter 7. Security.

Groves tells Nichols that he likes this guy Oppenheimer. He has no airs about him. He is down-to-earth. Nichols tells Groves that he was born in 1904, graduated from Harvard and the University of Cambridge, but he wonít win any Nobel Prizes. Groves doesnít care about Nobel Prizes. He tells Nichols to get hold of Oppenheimer and tell him to meet them on the train in Chicago.

Groves tells Nichols that Oppenheimer understands the need for security. He is the first scientist he has met that understands the need for security. He likes this man!

Nichols, however, warns Groves that the FBI has reported that his wife is a long time member of the Communist Party and Oppenheimer has many contacts with leftist organizations. Groves says he doesnít care: "Send him!"

Out of breath from running to catch the train, Oppenheimer arrives to speak with Groves. Groves says his number one headache is security. Oppenheimer tells him that he canít go too far with security, because the project needs to be a form of "collaborative art". Different scientists will come together with different parts of a solution and then they will contribute new ideas to improve the different parts into a better whole.

Oppie then has a brilliant suggestion. Bring all the specialists together in one lab where they can all talk to each other and then cut them off from the rest of the world. Oppenheimer doesnít bat at eye when Groves said then he can used barbed wire, guards and dogs. Groves loves the idea.

 

Chapter 8. The American Century.

Groves tells Oppenheimer that this is the American Century. They have the best people in every field one can think of. Hell, they even have the best movie actors and actresses. He says itís the American Way. If they canít grow the talent themselves, they will bring it in.

The Groves gets to the hear of what bothers him about Oppenheimer. He asks him directly: "Are you a Communist?" No, say Oppie. "Ever been a Communist?" No. Groves then asks why the hell are half of his friends lefties? He says thatís just the political atmosphere around him.

Somewhat satisfied by Oppenheimerís answers, Groves now turns to where to place a bomb laboratory. Oppenheimer says he has just the place: Los Alamos. He takes Groves over to Los Alamos. Oppenheimer says that 150-200 people will be needed to work on the laboratory. Nichols kind of laughs saying that estimate is way too low. Groves tells Nichols to stifle himself, which hurts Nicholsís feelings. Groves has to make amends with Nichols in private.

 

Chapter 9. No More Problems.

The news is of the battle for Guadalcanal, the British 8th Armyís advance in Africa, RAF attacks on Duisburg (for the 56th time) and a small Russian advance in Stalingrad.

On New Yearís Eve Haakon is mad that the Allies have not opened up a second front as promised to the Soviets. He says bitterly that the Allies are deliberately letting Russia go down the drain. Oppenheimer snaps: "Stop it, Haakon!"

Oppenheimer then says he will get the champagne ready. In the kitchen Kitty speaks to Robert saying that Haakon shouldnít even be in the house. Itís too dangerous. Oppenheimer calms Kittyís fears.

Haakon comes in the kitchen and Kitty leaves. He asks Oppie if he has seen Jean lately? He has and he says that Jean is sad. Haakon then asks Oppenheimer if he can share what he is doing with the Soviets? He says it could be done because they have this Englishman George Eltenton who has contacts with the Soviet Embassy. Oppenheimer is shocked and asks Haakon: "Do you know what youíre saying?!" At this moment they are interrupted. They need to get the champagne into the livingroom.

Outside two government agents are watching the house. One fellow complains: how are they supposed to know whatís going on if they canít hear what they are saying inside? His colleague tells him not to worry. Tomorrow the technical guys are going in to bug the house.

 

 

Episode 3.

Chapter 1. Associations.

Spring 1943. Oppenheimer is supervising the setting up of the personnel at the laboratory. He thought there would be thirty scientists, but soon realized that was a serious underestimation. Through Haakon Chevalier, he realized he was a prime target for Soviet attempts to penetrate Americaís atomic secrets. Of course, this is something that Oppenheimer did not bother to tell the Army security officers.

Kitty is visited by Col. John Lansdale of Army Counterintelligence. He tells her he thought they would have a little chat. She is a bit hostile to the officer. She asks him if "you people" spend as much time on the Nazis? Kitty adds that they know they have been Ďspooking us". In Oppieís defense, she says everyone in the 1930's was left-wing. She does, however, admit that Oppie has a lot of contacts with lefties. Landsdale says the problem is that Oppie has kept up these leftist associations.

Lansdale asks about Jean Tatlock. Kitty says she knows her husband still sees her, but he shouldnít worry about her. Now she can "barely boil and egg". Lansdales asks her if this is smart? discreet? behavior on the part of her husband.

Kitty asks the Colonel how much trouble is Oppie in? He answers that it is doubtful that Oppie will get a security clearance and he canít keep his job at Los Alamos without it.

 

Chapter 2. Confusion to Our Enemies.

The Oppenheimers throw a party for their friends. Edward Lawrence attends. He and Oppie give a toast: "Confusion to our enemies."

Oppie asks about Rossi Lomanitz. Edward tells him that he is doing well. In fact, all of Oppieís ex-students are doing well. A fellow named Rabi joins them. He makes a joke by saluting Oppie and referring to him as Generalissimo. This upsets Oppie and he walks away. Edward asks whatís that all about and Rabi says it stems from Oppieís statement that he wanted the scientists to be in military uniform.

Ex-students Bob Wilson and John Manley arrive at the party. They say they want to talk with Oppie right away. They are very disturbed and tell him that Los Alamos is a hell of a mess. They say that things are just not moving. There is no housing, roads or telephone lines. The problem is that there in nobody in charge.

Oppie becomes very defensive and he tells the young fellows that these things are being taken care of. He gets so irritated that he gets mad and he refers to the fellows as two "sons of bitches" telling him what to do. He retires to the kitchen. Kitty goes in to check on him. Oppie tells her that the guys donít trust him and every jackass tells him what he should do. He adds that he feels like a prize fighter. Kitty clinks her glass on her husbandís glass and says: "Round Two."

 

Chapter 3. Los Alamos.

There are lots of cars arriving at Los Alamos. Oppenheimer is waiting in his office with Ed Condon for the arrival of Bob Serber.  Serber comes in and Oppie asks him how itís going. He says that everyone feels like this is the first day of summer camp. Oppie looks over Serberís speech and censors parts of it.

Edward Teller and his wife Mitzi arrive. Mitzi is very upset at how simple the housing accommodations are. Teller tries to cheer her up, but doesnít have much success. The woman who lives upstairs, Alice Smith, comes down to welcome the Tellers. She warns the Tellers that there are no bath tubs in the apartments except up on what they call Bath Tub Row for the "important" people like the Oppenheimers. Teller leaves for a meeting. Alice has a little better luck with cheering up Mitzi.

 

Chapter 4. So Far, So Good.

The "opening day" has come. There is a big applause for Oppenheimer. He talks with the scientists and hits all the right notes. He says that the emphasis will be on open discussion. And there will be no compartmentalization. Helping him with the overall administration is Ed Condon from Westinghouse.

There will be various fluid divisions in the laboratory: theoretical, ordinance, experimental physics, etc. Each division will have a leader. Even so, the emphasis is on getting good ideas and they donít care where these new ideas come from.

Bob Serber now summarizes the progress made so far at the laboratory. Bob Wilson and John Maley are impressed: "So far, so good."

After the introduction Teller complains to Oppie. He complains that he came to work on the super cyclotron and thatís it. Oppie says it will come in time.

Leslie Groves arrives at Los Alamos. He sees a bunch of women protesting and asks whatís going on. He is told that the women are protesting the order to take the trees out around here. They want to save the one really large tree. Groves comments: "Good God!" When the women see his car, they start yelling for him. The car just keeps going.

Oppie talks with Condon explaining that Groves wants compartmentalization. But the real question is: how do you get past Groves on this matter?

 

Chapter 5. Clever Guy.

Bob Serber introduces the topic of discussion for his group. They will be dealing with the question of critical assembly, the idea of which is to make a big bang chain reaction. They have come up with the Gun Method as the best method. But Seth Neddermeryer speaks up and suggests creating a sphere of uranium. The idea is shot down, but Oppie asks that they give the idea a chance. He asks Seth to work on the idea and get back to them with a report.

Groves is on the train again. He is upset about Oppenheimer. He says that the guy has got everybody eating out of his hand. And he says his idea of compartmentalization never was even given a chance to get started. They smile in his face, but go around his back to do things the way they want them done. Groves believes that Condon is the worst. He hired the man to keep an eye on Oppenheimer, but now the two of them have a true romance going on.

Thinking hard about Oppenheimer, Groves says: "Clever guy."

Groves comes back to Los Alamos. He is really mad. Oppenheimer went to Chicago against his orders not to leave Los Alamos. Groves sees Condon and has him jump into the back seat of his car with him. He starts talking about Oppenheimer and Chicago and scolds Condon for letting him go. Condon says he has no power over Oppenheimer. Condon now is getting angry. He tries to explain to Groves that Oppie went to Chicago because they needed a sample of plutonium.

Groves now talks about the need for compartmentalization. Condon says phooey on compartmentalization. Thatís it for Condon! He tells Nichols to stop the car! He gets out and starts walking back to the laboratory. Groves is yelling at him to come back, but Condon just keeps walking.

 

Chapter 6. Whose Side are You On?

Condon tells Oppie that he has never before been talked to like the way Groves talked to him. Oppie says that he canít just tell Groves to go to hell because he is in command of the laboratory. Condon says itís just too much for him to take. He then asks Oppie just whose side is he on? And he wants to know if Oppie is going to back him against Groves?

At this moment Groves comes in and says he wants to talk to the both of them together. Condon asks Oppie about his decision. Oppi doesnít speak up and Condon walks out. Now Oppie is upset. He tells Groves that Condon has just quit!

Groves says heís actually glad. He says Condon didnít really fit in here. Anyway, he doesnít need a go-between with Oppie. Furthermore, Groves says Condon is wishy-washy and he is responsible for leading Oppie astray on the division of labor between him and Oppie. Oppie just says: "Whatever you say, General."

 

Chapter 7. Donít Let Me Down.

At home Oppenheimer works late. Kitty comes in and complains about women taking baths in their home. Oppie tells her he is going to Berkeley. He says there is a problem with Lomanitz. He is working at the radiation lab and shouting his politics around the place. In addition, there is a bit of hysterics about espionage. The Army is so disturbed about him that they want to draft him into the Army to get him out of Berkeley.

Kitty doesnít like Oppie sticking his neck out so far for all of his ex-students and friends. She asks him if he has gotten his security clearance yet? No. So she asks him canít he let the Army know in some way that he actually wants to cooperate with them? Oppie says he will consider the matter.

Kitty now asks if Oppie is going to see Jean Tatlock? Oppie doesnít answer and Kitty answers her own question by saying: "Youíll be seeing her."

Back in Berkeley Oppenheimer speaks with Lomanitz. Lomanitz insists itís all a big frame-up. Oppie tells him that he is hurting himself by all his political actions. He then tells him: "Donít let me down!" Lomanitz says: "Disappoint you? You used to be one of us." Lomanitz leaves.

 

Chapter 8. Itís My Duty.

Boris Pach, Army Counterintelligence, and Lt. Johnson talk with Oppenheimer. He tells them about the Lomanitz situation. He visited the young man and told him he had been indiscreet, but his remarks seemed wasted on Lomanitz.

Oppenheimer gives the men George Eltentonís name as a possibly dangerous man. But the two are more interested in learning the name of the man at Berkeley who was the contact man for Eltenton. Oppenheimer wonít give them Haakon Chevalierís name. He says of his friends and colleagues: "Itís my duty to protect them."

Oppie goes over to see Jean Tatlock. The FBI are still watching her house and they see Oppie go into the house. Jean tells Oppie that she has been ill. Her psychiatrist tells her that sheís nuts. He also thinks that she should still be together with Oppie. Oppie objects: "We fought all the time." He also remarks that every time, Jean turned him away from her. Jean says itís not him, but her and her life that is the problem. She says she hates her life. Then she adds: "Itís all right as long as you come to see me."

 

Chapter 9. The Big Fish.

Pash and Johnson talk with Groves about Oppie and Tatlock and Oppieís security clearance. Groves says itís the immorality of it all that disgusts him. Pash says that the whole group associated with Oppenheimer are communists. They are all up to their eye-balls in it.

Pash says that all the manís ex-students are communists. And now, by the way, it is Private Lomanitz. Heís in the army now! Groves says that at least Oppie gave them the name of Eltenton. Pash says thatís nothing. They already know all about Eltenton. The communists let Oppenheimer disclose the name. (Itís all a vast communist conspiracy in Pashís mind!) He says the communists will give up the little fish to distract attention from the big fish like J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Lt. Johnson speaks up for Oppenheimer. He says he doesnít believe that Oppenheimer is a commie. And he says he talked with Kitty and he is sure she is determined to keep her husband on the straight and narrow path.

Leslie Groves decides to sign the security clearance for Oppenheimer. Pash is livid about this, but Groves says that Oppenheimer is just too valuable.

Groves goes to see Oppenheimer at night. He asks him if he is going back to Berkeley for Christmas? Yes, he is. It will be his daughter Toniís first Christmas. Groves gives the professor a gift. Itís a new pipe. The General says he just wanted to show his appreciation for all of Oppenheimerís good work.

Now Groves gets to the point. He wants the name of Eltentonís contact. He says he has waited for five months and he canít wait any longer. He says this time itís an order. Oppenheimer, after a delay, says: Haakon Chevalier.

Groves asks: "Now, Oppenheimer, donít you feel better?" Oppie does not answer. Groves adds that he shouldnítí see this Haakon guy any more, at least not while the war is on. In addition, he shouldnít see Jean Tatlock again. Oppie says he has no plans to see her either.

In bed at Jean Tatlockís place, blood drops onto the rug from Jeanís slashed left wrist.

  

 

Episode 4.

Chapter 1. Implosion.

By early 1944, desperate for more personnel to train, Oppenheimer combs the lists of GIs with scientific and technical qualifications. The men in this field are known as SEDS (Special Engineering Detachments).

At several secret locations there are vast factories created that begin to produced fissile material. At Oppenheimerís lab, the work is on two different methods of arming and detonating the bomb. Oppenheimer tells Gen. Groves that this is Seth Neddermeyerís baby. Itís called implosion. He explains that the beauty of implosion is that instead of bringing the two parts of the bomb together, the bomb material is compressed together all at once with the force of many detonations around the outside.

Frank and Charlotte Oppenheimer are visiting the Oppenheimers of Los Alamos. Kitty is in a foul mood. She says that Gen. Groves is a fat idiot and a dime store tyrant. Oppie says thatís an overstatement and defends Groves as a "remarkable administrator". Oppie offers a toast to the brothers Oppenheimer. Kitty adds: "And dependents."

Oppie tells Frank that they have almost 3,000 scientists at Los Alamos. Frank is very impressed. Kitty is mad at her maid and yells at her. Oppie is literally forced to intervene to protect the maid.

Chapter 2. Expediency.

Alone at the table, Charlotte asks Frank: "What is eating her?" Her own answer is that "Sheís a bitch, plain and simple." She says Kitty has had three husbands now. She always thought that the husbands would change her life, but after awhile, she realized that nothing has changed and she just gets bored and irritable. "Sheís still the same unhappy bitch."

At a group meeting Oppenheimer asks if there has been any progress on the implosion project? The short answer is no. Oppie introduces the group to the British scientist Dr. James Tuck. The guys working on the implosion project say that they are trying to get even shockwaves right now. Tuck says in Britain he was working on focusing shockwaves. It seems that no one is very interested in Tuckís field of study. Teller objects to this saying that the scientists are always looking for the easy way. Deke gets up and pushes his pet idea of using the old tried and true gun method. Oppie says that they are not rejecting Tuckís ideas and they will consider them.

 

Chapter 3. First Class Chemist.

Oppenheimer speaks with Tuck. He tells him he is going to get him everything he needs. And one of the first things heís going to need is a first class chemist. Dr. George Kistiakowsky of Harvard is the man for the job. He is working with Seth Neddermeyer. Oppie says that the Harvard man is a "crazy Russian".

Hans Bethe comes to speak with Oppie. He wants to talk about Teller. He assigned Teller to a project and gave him two assistants to make the calculations for him. A little later Teller tells Hans that he wonít do the task and he yet he still keeps the two assistants. Hans wants to know if he is the director of the Theoretical Division or not? Oppenheimer promises to speak with Teller.

Oppenheimer goes over to Tellerís house. He tells Teller than Hans has told him that he (Teller) has refused to work with him. Teller says he came here to work on the super, not to be someoneís assistant. He says Hans has no understanding of what he (Teller) is here for.

 

Chapter 4. Let Me Do My Work.

Teller tells Oppie that a few years after the completion of the atomic weapon, the bomb will seem like a pop gun. He says with the super he could devastate 100,000 square miles of enemy territory. So Oppenheimer should just let him do the work he came here to do. If he canít work on the super, he will leave. Oppie decides to let him do his own thing, but asks Teller if he would still help him with certain projects dealing with the fission bomb? Teller gets a big smile on his face and says, of course.

 

Chapter 5. Good Luck.

Kistiakowsky shows a film of the convergence of shockwaves as they take on a symmetrical pattern all around a sphere. Oppie is very happy and says this is good. He tells Kistie: "Nice work." Oppie invites the group to a party at his place. Kistie says he canít come. Heís going to the big dance. After Oppie leaves, Kistie asks the guys if they have ever been to an Oppie party. No, they havenít. He tells them: "Good luck!"

Tuck comes to the party, but nobody comes over to greet him. He wanders around trying to get into a conversation, but is not having much luck..

Itís the Midsummer Dance. A group of army fellows constitute the band. Kistie is there dancing away.

Tuck is sitting on the couch looking very bored and getting very drunk. Kitty comes and sits in the middle of the couch between Tuck and Klaus Fuchs.

 

Chapter 6. Action.

Kitty speaks with Tuck. He tells her that he is very sad. He misses his wife who still has not been able to make it over to the United States. Kitty notices that her husband is speaking with two women and becomes jealous.

At the Midsummer Dance a SED man complains that he canít get in to get a dance. He tells his acquaintance that Dr. Kistiakowsky keeps beating him to the woman he really wants to dance with. He feels heís not going to get laid for a long time. So his acquaintance tells him he knows where they can have some sex in Los Alamos, but they will have to pay for it. The guy takes him over to the place.

Tuck is very drunk. He says this is a bloody awful party. He gets up and starts singing songs with naughty lyrics. He also gets up on the furniture and dances around.

Kitty goes over to her husband and lets him know she is not happy about him talking to the two women. She says Oppie is not going to make a fool of himself and of her.

 

Chapter 7. God Damn This Place.

Oppie pushes Kitty into a back room. He tells Kitty that she is crazy and drunk. Kitty says she put up with one woman, the one in Berkeley, but will not put up with any others. Oppie says that the Berkeley woman is dead. Kitty says: "Iím glad!"

She sits down on the bed. She says she is very unhappy and adds: "God damn this place!" She says she is also scared. Scared that she might always feel like this.

Oppie is told that a man named Segre is here to talk with him. Oppie leaves the room with Kitty still sitting on the bed.

The next day, Oppie tells the group that he read Segreís report and the plutonium gun is out. He says sorry to Deke. Some of the scientists say that maybe they should throw in the sponge on plutonium altogether.

Oppie goes to speak with Dr. Kistiakowsky alone. He wants him to take over from Neddermeyer. But Kistie says that they are dropping plutonium for uranium. Oppie says that they canít drop plutonium just yet. As of now, there just isnít enough uranium to make even one bomb. Kistie then says that the job required to work with plutonium is just too humongous.

Oppie says that they have a bomb site now located in southern New Mexico. The place is called the Alamogordo Bombing Range. Oppie then tells Kistie that everything is possible. But Kistie still doesnít want to work on the project because he does not think the project has a chance in hell of success. Oppie says he has been working on just such a project Ė one with little chance of success. The Manhattan Project. Kistie gives in to Oppie, but says that Sethís not going to like it. Oppie says that Seth had his chance.

 

Chapter 8. Sugar Coated.

Groves tells Nichols that he was right to pick Oppenheimer. Nichols agrees with his boss. Groves says that in Chicago and Oak Ridge there have appeared certain reservations among the scientists about using atomic weapons. But this has not come to Los Alamos. And he thinks the reason for this is Oppenheimer and his leadership. Groves tells Nichols that Oppenheimer is just a regular, ambitious guy, but is also an intellectual and he has to have that sugar-coated.

Groves and Oppenheimer watch a film presentation from Dr. Kistiakowsky about his progress. Oppenheimer and Groves are delighted: "We got implosion!" Groves asks Oppie when the bomb will be ready and Oppenheimer says by July or August.

Groves and Oppenheimer with others drive five hours to take a look at the testing ground. Oppenheimer tells him that he wants to name the area Trinity. He says he has been reading a lot of John Dunne recently.

They are driven out to ground zero in a jeep. Oppenheimer says Groves wants the bomb exploded on July 4, but it will probably be around July 6 at the earliest.

 

Chapter 9. The President has Died.

A man named Ken shows Oppenheimer the bunker from which they will watch the atomic explosion. They have been given the same radio frequency as a Los Angeles station. Itís usable because the signal goes in and out. The radio is turned on and over it comes the news bulletin that the president of the United States has died at his home in Warm Springs, Georgia. Everyone stops speaking.

Groves comes in talking away, but suddenly realizes that something is wrong. He learns why everyone is quiet when the radio repeats the news bulletin.

Outside the bunker Groves wonders about this new guy Harry Truman. He tells Oppenheimer that he bets Truman doesnít even know they exist.

Oppie returns home. There is a group of scientists waiting for him. They tell Oppie that they are concerned about the future and they want to know if they are really going to hit the Japanese with the atomic weapon? They fear that the higher-ups have no intention of ever consulting with the scientists on the use of the bomb.

Oppie tells the guys that Secretary Stimson has asked that a scientific advisory panel meet with him to talk about the same questions the guys just raised. Oppenheimer says he will be there along with Arthur Compton, Enrico Fermi and Edward Lawrence. He asks the guys: "Donít you feel you can trust me?" He promises them that he will go to Washington.

Two of the fellows leave, but Edward Teller stays behind. He wants to ask Oppenheimer for some advice. He has a petition addressed to Truman about the atomic weapon and wonders if he should sign it. Oppenheimer says: "I donít think scientists should get mixed up in politics." Teller decides not to sign the petition.

 

 

Episode 5.

Chapter 1. Summer, 1945.

Fat Man, the Implosion bomb, was being readied for the Trinity test. Germany had been the target of the bomb, but now they had surrendered. Japan now was the target. Scientists continue sending petitions to Truman urging restraint on both moral and political ground.

Oppenheimer, Fermi and Lawrence attended a meeting in Washington on May 31 chaired by the Secretary of State for War, Henry Stimson. At the meeting Lawrence suggests that they give the Japanese a practical demonstration of the power of the new weapon.

Stimson now asks for a military assessment of Japan. The estimated is that Japan can come up with 5,000,000 soldiers and the Americans might lose as much as half a million men if they invade Japan.

 

Chapter 2. Without Prior Warning.

Now it is Oppenheimerís turn to speak. He says that he is certainly sympathetic to the idea of a demonstration, but he just canít get past the objections to such a demonstration. Japan could take too many defensive moves to avoid the full impact of the bomb.

So Henry Stimson says the group lis moving toward dropping the bomb on a city in Japan without prior warning.

Stimson congratulates Oppenheimer for his comments which he found enormously helpful. He says having a weapon could also help them with the Russian, who are behaving now like real bastards. He wishes Oppenheimer great luck in giveing the USA a success with the atomic weapon.

July 13, 1945. Oppenheimer oversees the set-up for the bomb at ground zero. Kistiakowsky is bringing the explosive assembly over to the shot tower. Then his group will take the plug over to the tower and fit is inside the assembly.

 

Chapter 3. Implosion Blues.

The explosive assembly is brought to the shot tower. A hook comes down from atop the shot tower and raises the assembly. They then sit the bomb down on a frame.

Kistiakowsky tells Oppenheimer that everything is fine and Oppie should go elsewhere because the set-up will take a long time. Oppenheimer goes to the McDonald Ranch.

Kisti is on the phone and wants to speak to Bob. The guys talk about a tune called "The Implosion Blues" which has a line they "fired the flop heard round the world." When Bob gets off the phone , he tells his colleagues that Kistiís ready; letís go. They prepare the plug and take it over to ground zero.  

 

Chapter 4. Like a Glove.

The plug has arrived. The men lower the plug into a hole in the top of the assembly. But thereís a problem. The plug wonít fit in the hole and has gotten stuck. Oppenheimer is shocked and over-reacts. He is very upset. The men working with the plug say they will think of something.

Soon the men tell Oppenheimer that in the heat of the day, the assembly expanded. They are going to let the temperatures between the assembly and the plug match each other and then slip the plug in.

Oppenheimer makes a joke of by telling the others to try to relax, to keep calm. Then thereís another possible problem The weather for the 16th is for thunder storms. And another problem arrives when the assembly is being brought up to the top of the tower. The cable jams when the assembly is half way up. Someone works on the cable and frees it. Oppenheimer, Bob and Kisti go for breakfast.

  

Chapter 5. Scapegoat.

Bob speaks with Gen. Groves. The news from Los Alamos that the test on a dummy explosive assembly resulted in a dud. Too quickly everyone starts coming down on Kisti. Groves tells Oppenheimer that Kisit has blow it. Kisit comes in and tells Oppenheimer that he just heard about the test results. He says there must have been something wrong with the test, because there should be no problem with the assembly.

Oppenheimer doesnít say much, but Groves certainly does. He starts reading the riot act to Kisti until Kisti stops him by saying: "Youíre just looking for a scapegoat!"

July 15, 1945. Oppenheimer has a bad cough. A call comes in from Los Alamos for Oppie. The call is from Hans Bethe who tells Oppenheimer that the found the failure in the control mechanism. Oppenheimer is relieved.

Groves rushes over to Oppenheimer and says heís heard that Oppie has good news for him. Oppie says that the test run on the explosive assembly was just a lousy test.

 

Chapter 6. One Last Look.

Isidor Rabi shows up and Oppenheimer is happy to see him. Oppie tells him that now they are putting the detonators on the explosive assembly. The test is set for 4 a.m.

Oppenheimer goes over to the shot tower and says he is going to have one last look at the bomb. Up there on top of the shot tower, Oppie sees that all the detonators are in place and ready to go.

 

Chapter 7. Itís Go.

Groves asks howís it looking? He wants to know if they should delay the test because the storm is thought to be hitting early in the morning. Oppenheimer says no. Everyone is up for the test now and the rain might compromise the electrical equipment.

Groves tells Oppie that he wants a guard around the shot tower. He also says he wants the guards to be their own people. In other words, he wants the scientists themselves to guard the shot tower. Oppenheimer doesnít think itís necessary, but itís easier to play along with Groves.

Kisti comes off guard duty. He is mad at Groves because he sees no necessity for guarding the tower. A telephone call comes in. Based on the latest weather report, itís go for 5:30 in the morning

 

Chapter 8. I Am Become Death.

Fermi, Teller and other scientists are set up some 20 miles away from ground zero. They will be watching from there. Itís five minutes to blast off time. Teller gives the men suntan lotion to protect their face from ultraviolet rays.

Itís zero minus one minute. The bomb goes off successfully. The wind from the blast travels all the way to the 20 mile mark. Oppenheimer is awe-struck at the power of the weapon. He quotes: "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds."

The blast was the equivalent of 20,000 tons of TNT. Oppenheimer tells Ken, the main construction man, that he did a good job. Ken comments: "Now weíre all s.o.b.s."

  

Chapter 9. August 6.

The scientists look at films of the night of the explosion. The bomb is to be taken to the island of Tinian in the Pacific.

July 24. Protests and petitions keep arriving to the White House. Stimson wants to keep them away from Truman. Stimson talks to Groves and he says that weather permitting Little Boy will be dropped around July 31 and then Fat Man will be ready to be dropped ten days after that. Groves says the Japanese are in for a big surprise.

Stimson says that the Russians are coming into the war against Japan, but he is worried about their territorial desires. He says: "God knows where they will stop." He thinks the atom bomb might help keep the Russians in check somewhat.

Fermi and Oppenheimer work on Lawrence to get him to agree to the wishes of Groves about the question of petitions. Lawrence finally gives in saying that he is convinced. He asks Oppenheimer to draft the reply to the General.

August 6. The bomb is dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The news comes in: "In all respects successful!" The results exceeded all the results from the Trinity Test. When Oppenheimer goes over to celebrate with the scientists a loud applause greets him.

The bomb is now dropped on Nagasaki.

The scientists are shown films of the after-effects of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Itís almost complete obliteration at ground zero. The Mitsubishi Factor has virtually disappeared. All 140 prisoners in a prison died in their cells. They see the burns being treated at the first aid centers.

Later Groves asks Oppenheimer whatís wrong? Did that bother Oppenheimer? Oppie responds: "I feel weíve got blood on our hands." Groves looks shaken up, so Oppenheimer says to him: "Itís just a feeling." Oppie heads for home.

 

Episode 6. 

Chapter 1.  Un-American Activities.

The devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had a profound effect on Oppenheimer.  He was now one of the most influential government scientists.  He pushed for international control of nuclear weapons, but was largely unsuccessful.  He tried to resist an all-out arms race and the development of the hydrogen bomb.  He was Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission's Advisory Committee and Director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.  Along the way he made some powerful enemies. 

Late 1940s.  The Cold War and a growing mood of anti-communism made those with past left-wing associations increasingly vulnerable.  Some of Oppenheimer's students went before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAAC).   The committee was investigating communist infiltration in the wartime weapons project at Berkeley. 

June 7, 1949, Oppenheimer appeared before a closed session of HUAAC.  Joseph Volpe, chief lawyer of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), acted as Oppenheimer's lawyer.  Oppenheimer fielded several questions about his brother Franck, who was at one time a member of the Communist Party.  Oppenheimer answers the questions well enough that the committee is impressed by him and the feeling is that they are glad to have Oppenheimer in the Atomic program. 

Oppenheimer will speak with  the AEC.  Volpe tells Oppenheimer to be nice to Admiral Lewis Strauss of the AEC because he is an important man.  The problem is that Strauss is a bit paranoid (as so many government officials were at the time) and he thinks the sale of radioisotopes to other countries is jeopardizing America's security.  Dr. Rabi is there at the meeting.  Oppenheimer testifies that these radioisotopes are of no" no military use whatsoever". 

 

Chapter 2.  Suffer Fools Gladly. 

Oppenheimer testifies that they have been exporting radioisotopes for two years now without a problem.  Then Strauss says that Oppenheimer has been subpoenaed to appear before the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy.  This upsets Oppenheimer and he comments later:  "All through the war I had to baby Groves along, now it's Strauss.  There's no end to it."   His friend Rabi says that Oppenheimer just has to "suffer fools gladly".    Oppenheimer comments:  "I'm suffering."

The same day that Oppenheimer testifies before the Joint Committee, Frank Oppenheimer has to go before HUAAC.  Robert J. is showing definite signs of strain over this witch-hunting atmosphere.  He testifies that radioisotopes are not a danger because you can't make an atom bomb with them.  After his testimony Oppenheimer asks his lawyer how did it go and Volpe says:  "Too well."   He was a bit sarcastic and patronizing to the members of the joint committee.  Oppie answers:  "I get tired of playing games with them." 

HUAAC asks Frank Oppenheimer if he is a member of the Communist Party?  He says no.  Has he ever been a member of the Communist Party?  Frank says yes.  

 

Chapter 3.  Frank the Red.

The press harasses Frank Oppenheimer by repeatedly asking him if he is a communist.  One member of the press tells him that the University of Minnesota accepted his resignation.  Frank and his wife say nothing. 

Frank and his wife and Robert and his wife talk about what happened.  Frank and his wife are very concerned about what happened to Frank and the possible damage to any future career.  Kitty, on the other hand, is only concerned about how all this might hurt her husband Robert.  Robert intervenes by saying:  "Let's not bicker."  The women go check on their children.  Frank tells his brother that he is thinking of going west to raise sheep.  Robert objects:  "Frank you're a physicist!"  Frank answers sadly:  "Not any more."   He then sobs. 

The American reconnaissance over the Sea of Japan has recorded radioactivity over the area.  They, of course, knew the Russians would get the bomb some day, but as Robert says:  "Not this soon."  He is worried that there could be a panic over this.  The USA had the bomb by itself for four years.  Edward Teller calls Oppie.  He wants to know if Oppie thinks that this justifies a crash program for the super bomb (that is, the H bomb).  

 

Chapter 4.  A Response

The AEC wants to know what they should do in response to the Russians having the atomic bomb?  They ask Edward Teller and he tells them that they should develop the hydrogen bomb.  It will be 100 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb. 

Oppenheimer's group, however, isn't committed to developing a hydrogen bomb.  Rabi says that if they do build the H bomb, the Russians will too.  Oppenheimer asks if the converse is true?  Will the Russians refrain from building the H bomb, if the Americans refrain? 

 

Chapter 5.  A Question of Morality.

Oppenheimer asks about the morality of this whole thing.   Fermi says that he doesn't like the idea of the new weapon.  So Oppenheimer concludes that the consensus seems to be not to recommend the crash program for the hydrogen bomb. 

Strauss is not happy about Oppenheimer and his group deciding not to recommend the hydrogen bomb.  David Griggs, scientific advisor to the Air Force, says he hopes that it's just a reflection of their idealism.  He also says that the Air Force supports the hydrogen bomb project.  Bill Borden, Staff Director, Joint Atomic Energy Commission, asks Strauss if there are any "sensitive cases" that he should know about for possible investigation.  Strauss tells him to start at the top.  Start with Robert J. Oppenheimer.  Strauss says he will get Bill the Oppenheimer file.  He will also give Bill Oppenheimer's report on the hydrogen bomb project.  The file is brought on a tray with two levels and both levels are filled with files.  Bill and David are both shocked about all the amount of material collected on Oppenheimer. 

Kitty speaks with Robert and Joe Volpe.  She asks them if they remember Klaus Fuchs?  Yes, they do.  Well, he's a Soviet spy and has been arrested in England.  He was present for the early discussions of the hydrogen bomb.  Is that very important, Kitty wants to know.  Joe says:  "I'd say it meant the ball game."

 

Chapter 6.  We Who are about to Die.

January 31, 1950, four days after the arrest of Klaus Fuchs, President Truman gives the go-ahead for a crash program to build the hydrogen bomb.  Oppenheimer becomes the target for continuing attacks from the victorious supporters of the hydrogen project.  At a birthday party at the AEC for Lewis Strauss there is a lot of cheering for the acceptance of the hydrogen project.  The Secretary of the Air Force, Finletter, asks Oppenhemier what's his response to all this?  In Latin Oppie says:  "We who are about to die, salute you."  This is what the gladiators would say before beginning combat in ancient Rome.  Strauss translates for Finletter and Finletter doesn't like the response one bit.  He calls Oppenheimer a curse word.

It is the McCarthy era. On the television a woman denies vehemently before a HUAAC meeting that she ever was a communist. Teller speaks with Oppie. He says that he is not a fan of McCarthy. Teller, however, does accuse Oppie of discouraging people such as Hans Bethe from becoming involved in the hydrogen bomb project.

 

Chapter 7. Life and Death of Nations.

Teller tells Oppie that they absolutely have to develop the hydrogen bomb. He says what heís talking about is the life and death of nations. Oppie is not at all sure . He says they will be able to bomb Moscow, but thatís all. He says he thinks that the hydrogen bomb is evil. Teller urges him to come up to Los Alamos. He says he and Oppie are the only ones who really count. Oppie laughs a bit at this idea.  If Oppie canít support the project, says Teller, he would at least like him to keep his mouth shut and not bad mouth the hydrogen program to other physicists.

Teller tells Oppie that they have had a break through in the project. Stan Ulam and he have been working together. They found that energy does not necessarily end with heat. Energy can produce X-rays without the heat and, therefore, there is no danger of pre-detonation. 

Oppenheimer gives a talk about atomic energy and defense. He remarks that a General the other day said that the Air Force canít protect the country from attack, so they just work on retaliation against the Russians in case of an attack. Some people liked the speech, but others, especially from the government side, seem to detest it.

Some guys want Oppie silenced. Teller tells them: "You canít win trying to bully Oppenheimer." He suggests that there are other ways to deal with the man.

 

Chapter 8. Throwing Punches.

Strauss tells Finletter to give Oppenheimer a warning. Oppenheimer speaks with the men. He says: "Itís high time we stopped throwing punches at each other." For instance, on the Vista Report, Oppenheimer says he only wrote a draft for one of the chapters. But Frank Griggs comments that the chapter "tried to undermine the Strategic Air Command (SAC)."   He also says that Oppie tried to stop the hydrogen bomb project.  Moreover, he tells Oppie that he shouldn't peddle false rumors.  He says Oppie's comment that the Air Force canít protect the country from attack is a treasonous lie. 

Oppenheimer is disgusted and leaves.  Finletter says to Strauss:  "I don't like him one bit."  Strauss is of the opinion that Oppenheimer's influence has to be stopped.  Griggs follows after Oppenheimer and wonders out loud who is Oppie working for?  For the communists is the implication.  Oppie responds:  "I think you're paranoid."

The fellows looking into Oppie's files talk about the Haakon Chevalier case, which Oppie did not report until six months after it happened.  Then he said the hydrogen bomb was evil.  Bill Borden concludes that Oppie's apparent change of heart is do to the change in target.  He was fine with nuclear weapons when the targets were Germany and Japan.  But the hydrogen bomb is designed with Russia in mind and Oppie doesn't like that.  The AEC gets a warrant to remove all AEC files from Oppie's house for safe-keeping.  This makes Kitty and Robert both angry.  Oppie is especially mad because he says Lewis Strauss said nothing about this when they met this very morning.  When the men and files are gone, Kitty asks:  "What's going to happen to us?"  Robert says he doesn't know.  Then he says:  "Nothing."  But then he goes back to:  "I don't know." 

 

Chapter 9.  Winter, 1953. 

 Winter, 1953.  The Oppenheimers escape the worsening political atmosphere in the United States by going to Europe.  They stopped in London and then went on to Paris.  In Paris Oppie stops to see Haakon Chevalier, despite knowing that he himself  is under investigation by the witch-hunters.  The Oppenheimers don't thingkthey will be going back to Princeton.  The atmosphere in the United States, says Kitty, is hideous.  But Oppenheimer says he could never live outside the United States permanently.  He says the US is the center of the world of science. 

Of the two men investigating Oppie, they are split.  Bill thinks that Oppie is guilty of espionage.  The other fellow says that Oppenhiemer may be arrogant and have faulty judgment, but he is not guilty.  Bill insists that Oppenheimer is a Soviet agent.  Helll, the British are riddled with Soviet agents, he says, so why would anyone think the USA is immune from such infiltration?  They decide to write a letter to J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI  about Oppenheimer. 

President Eisenhower was so worried about Oppenheimer that he said to put up a "blank wall" between Oppenheimer and all secret information.  Unknown to Oppenheimer, his security clearance was revoked.  The security clearance was reinstated only after an investigation of Borden's charges.   

 

 

Episode 7. 

Chapter 1.  Voracity.  (sic)

In December 1953, Oppenheimer's security clearance was revoked.  Formal charges against him were then instituted.  The man responsible for the charges was the AEC's new General Manager, General Ken Nichols, who used to work under Groves at Los Alamos.  Nichols has Harold Green, a young lawyer, come to see him.  He asks him if the thinks he can handle the Oppenheimer case because Oppie is a "big fish".  Green says he can.  Nichols says he wants Green to draw up the charges against Oppie.  There is, however, a restriction on them.  Nichols says that they cannot use the post-war material against Oppie.  There is something about not trying a man for his opinions.  "And it's a damn shame."

But the fellows come up with a way around the restriction on the post-war material.  They will establish that Oppie was behind the bomb until 1949, but then suddenly switched to saying it was "not feasible".  This way they can question his voracity (sic).  Nichols praises Green for being one smart, young lawyer.

 

Chapter 2.  It's a Sick World. 

Oppenheimer meets with legal council.  He says:  "I can't believe it.  They can't do this do me."  He is furious at Strauss and Nichols.  Herb Marks says that Oppie has two choices:  either resign or request a hearing.  Oppie wants to ask for a hearing.  The men discuss the coming case.  One name mentioned is that of Jean Tatlock. Oppie says he thinks it takes a really sick mind to drag Jean Tatlock into the hearing.  Someone says:  "It's a sick world." 

Some of the lawyers want Oppie to take the easies way out of his problems.  But Marks tells Oppie that he definitely has to fight the charges.  (By the way, all this is being taped by the FBI and Strauss and Nichols get to listen to the tapes.)

Lloyd Garrison is brought in.  He is the President of the Urban League and of the American Civil Liberties Union.  Garrison decides to take the case.  Someone brings up that there is a formidable list of errors in judgment charged against Oppenheimer.  Garrison says they will dismiss these as "youthful indiscretions". 

Roger Robb, said to be a damn good trial lawyer, will be the counsel for the government. 

 

Chapter 3.  The Blank Pad. 

General Nichols tells Roger Robb that Oppenheimer is a real charmer.  Robb remarks sarcastically that Oppie can certainly try to charm him.  He tells Nichols that Oppenheimer is at a real disadvantage.  There is a period before the start of the hearing, where Robb himself can go over Oppie's files with the board of judges.  It is, therefore, denial of the right of the defendant to start with a blank pad.   Robb will have a chance to prejudice the judges against Oppenheimer, without the defense knowing what Robb has told them. 

Oppie is quietly confidant with his lawyers.  Kitty, however, is very upset and not confident at all.  She is mad as hell that the AEC seems out to get her husband.  One of the lawyers mentions that he talked with Edward Teller and found him to be hostile.  Indeed, the man seems downright angry with Oppenheimer.  Kitty says:  "Those bastards are trying to nail you!"

The hearing opens on April 12, 1954.  Gordon Gray is the chairman.  Another judge is industrialist Thomas Morgan.  The third and last judge is Dr. Ward. V. Evans, a scientist.  Oppenheimer arrives late.  He explains that Kitty fell down the stairs. 

 

Chapter 4.  The Hearing.

Oppenheimer's lawyers object that the board has been examining files about Oppenheimer to which the defense has no no access at all.  He doesn't get anywhere with his objection.  Lawyer Robb starts asking questions about brother Frank Oppenheimer, Eltenton and Chevalier.   Oppenheimer admits that he partly lied to Pash. 

 

Chapter 5.  Secrets

A the hearing the talk turns to Jean Tatlock.  Oppie saw her for the last time in June of 1943.  Kitty is present in the room and has to listen to this.   He says at the time Jean was still in love with him.  Was Jean a communist?  Oppie says they didn't talk about communism.  He also says he never believed Jean was a dedicated communist. 

The examination turns to Oppie's objection to the hydrogen bomb project on moral ground.  It has been reported that Oppie called the H bomb a "dreadful weapon".   Robb asks Oppie when did he become so suddenly filled with moral qualms?  After all he was the father of the atomic weapon dropped on Hiroshima where 70,000 Japanese were killed.  Oppenheimer says that he learned over the years that running a laboratory is one thing and advising the government is quite another. 

Robb gets especially upset about Oppenheimer and his board recommending not to proceed with the hydrogen bomb.  He has a letter from one of the board members, Dr. Seaborg.  Oppenheimer says he has no knowledge of the letter Robb is about to read.  He says they never got Seaborg's opinion about the hydrogen bomb as he was out of the country at the time.   

 

Chapter 6.  Yes or No.

Robb proceeds with the Seaborg letter that Oppenheimer insists he does not recollect.  The letter was probably delivered before the decision of the board and the letter clearly reveals that Seaborg would have supported the H bomb project.  Robb demands to know why Oppenheimer did not tell his board that Seaborg supported the hydrogen bomb project?  Robb says he wants Oppenheimer to answer yes or no as to whether or not he received the letter.  Oppie says that he will absolutely not give just a yes or no answer.  In fact, he would like to protest against this whole approach.  But he can't get anywhere with his protest since Robb keeps interrupting him.

The judges call a recess.  Nichols comes over to Robb to congratulate him on tripping up Oppenheimer and unnerving the famous man somewhat.  Robb, however, deflates Nichols's enjoyment by saying:  "I quite admire the guy."

Oppenheimer talks with his lawyers.  He is asked how did it go and Robert says the whole thing was idiotic.  There is talk that they must demand access to the files the government has on Oppenheimer.  If they can't get access, perhaps Oppenheimer should walk out.  Joe Volpe says that the supposed enquiry is actually a trial.  And now the whole thing has gone public.  Joe says he thinks Oppie should just quit. 

 

Chapter 7.  The Witnesses. 

A lot of witnesses testify for Oppenheimer.  McCloy, assistant Secretary of War, who knew Oppie at Los Alamos, says there is not doubt as to Oppenheimer's loyalty and the man is absolutely no threat to the security of the nation.  Robb undermines the testimony by talking  of the Chevalier case as proof of Oppie's disloyalty.  Leslie Groves  testifies saying that Oppie did a magnificent job at Los Alamos and he would select him again if he had to do it all over.  Robb asks him if he would select Oppie today?  Groves says that Oppie might be a danger, so he would not clear him today. 

Lansdale says he would clear Oppenheimer. 

 

Chapter 8.  A Manifestation of Hysteria. 

Lansdale was the top security officer at Los Alamos.  He says that Oppie was not a communist.  Robb objects that Lansdale is not offering any real opinion whether or not Oppenheimer would be cleared today for work on nuclear projects.  Lansdale says that today the government has a standard that is strange to him.  He says he is convinced that Dr. Oppenheimer is loyal.  He adds that he is extremely disturbed by the hysteria of the times, of which this hearing seems to be a manifestation. 

Robb goes ballistic on Lansdale saying that the man is saying that the hearing is an example of hysteria.  Lansdale defends what he said by saying he was not referring to the enquiry itself, but its assumptions on which it conducts the enquiry.   

Oppenheimer's lawyers are happy about Lansdale's testimony.  They felt, however, that Groves was a big disappointment. 

Garrison asks Gen. Nichols about the delay in his security clearance.  He says that Robb got his security clearance in eight days, while he applied three weeks ago and has still not received a clearance.  Nichols only says that they are doing the best that they can. 

Dr. Bethe testifies for Oppenheimer saying he has absolute faith in the man's loyalty.  Rabi testifies that Oppenheimer is a loyal individual.  He also makes it clear that he thinks the hearing is a "pretty bad show".   Rabi is upset that Oppenheimer seems so dispirited.  He tells one of Oppenheimer's lawyers to tell Oppenheimer to keep fighting. 

Edward Teller testifies next.  He testifies that he would have preferred not to have to testify at the hearing.  He says that Oppenheimer did tell him to go ahead with the H bomb project at Los Alamos.  But Hiroshima changed his opinion. 

 

Chapter 9.  Moral Support.

Teller says that if they could have continued with the H bomb program after the end of World War II they could have gotten the hydrogen bomb four years earlier than they did.  He says that Oppenheimer would not help him with the hydrogen bomb program.  He did give some names to Teller, but they were all people who worked with Oppie at Princeton, and none of them would join the project.  He says he thinks that Oppie is loyal.  Is he a security risk?  Teller says the he would "feel more secure if public matters would rest in other hands."  He goes on to says it's not a loyalty question, but a question of wisdom and judgment.  And he definitely questions Oppenheimer's wisdom and judgment now.  When Teller finishes he tells Oppenheimer:  "Sorry."  Oppie replies:  "After what you just said, I don't know what you mean."

On May 6, 1954, after nineteen days of testimony, the board retires to consider the matter.  Oppenheimer himself thinks the situation is hopeless.  He says that Teller is a great man.  "Almost."   More importantly, he's a man big enough for the board to hide behind.  Looking back on it, he said he should have stroked his vanity, but there were just "too many balls in the air and too much bullshit." 

Oppenheimer remarks to Herb Marks that he would like to go off by himself somewhere for six months.  Marks encourages him to get away from Kitty.  Oppenheimer asks if Herb disapproves of his wife?  Oppie says Herb doesn't know it, but Kitty is sick.  She has a lot of intestinal pain and that's part of the reason why she drinks so much.

Herb Marks stays overnight at the home of the Oppenheimers.  In the morning Kitty confronts him, saying:  "I hear you have been encouraging him to leave me."  She tells Herb that Robert would never leave her.  She says:  "I've got him and I'm gonna keep him."  She adds:  "I couldn't live a day without him."

 

Chapter 10.  Exile.

May 27, 1954.  By a 2 to 1 majority, the board denied Oppenheimer his security clearance.  The board member that sided with Oppie was the scientist Ward Evans.  On June 29 the AEC confirmed the board of enquiry's recommendation.  Oppie's security clearance would not be reinstated.  Oppie was exiled to Princeton.  He believed that the whole enquiry was not so much a tragedy as a farce.  Dejected he says when he looks back upon it his whole life was a bitter farce.  His friends think he is taking it too hard.  They try to cheer him up by saying that when Teller visited Los Alamos, following Oppie's example, no one would shake his hand.   But, says Oppie,  "I shook his hand."  This shocks his friends. 

Kitty asks his friends:  "How do you like our holy blessed martyr?"  When alone with Kitty, Oppie tells her to go to hell.  Kitty responds that they are not just going to lie down and die. 

Oppies's security clearance was never reinstated.  He died of cancer in 1967.  Kitty died in 1972.  Toni committed suicide in 1977.  His son Peter became a  builder and restorer of homes.   

 

Damn good miniseries on Oppenheimer.  As a miniseries they could go more into depth on the issues that Oppenheimer and others confronted with the Manhattan Project.  They even try to explain some of the principles and mechanics behind some of the biggest problems they faced.   The government guy in charge, General Groves, was quite the crabby character and he provides some unintentional comedy material because of his limited vision and limited tolerance for freedom of thought and his anal approach to security.  The scientists build the atom bomb, in spite of Groves, not because of him. 

The miniseries also deals in depth with the dispute between Oppenheimer and scientist Edward Teller. 

And finally it shows how the paranoia of the nation in the late 1940s and early 1950s led to the unnecessary and unfortunate persecution of Oppenheimer because of accusations that he was a communist and an actual Soviet spy.  It was what became known as the McCarthy era, although McCarthy actually came somewhat later.  The nation owes Oppenheimer an apology for the terrible way they treated him after his performing such a valuable service to the nation.  But that's the kind of thing that happens when right-wing extremism takes hold of the nation, which it does far too often. 

If you want to know about the Manhattan Project in general and Robert Oppenheimer in particular, this is the choice for you. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)