Richard Rhodes is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Making of the Atomic Bomb,” “The Twilight of the Bombs,” “Dark Sun,” and “Energy: A Human History,” as well as more than twenty other books. In this interview, Rhodes expounds on the character of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the inevitability of discovering nuclear fission, the development of the hydrogen bomb, nuclear proliferation and the Cold War arms race, and the relationship between the Soviet Union and United States. He also discusses his play “Reykjavik,” based on the 1986 meeting between Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.
David Holloway, author of “Stalin and the Bomb: the Soviet Union and Atomic Energy 1939-1956,” is a professor of history at Stanford University. An expert on the international history of nuclear weapons, Dr. Holloway traces the development of the Soviet Union’s nuclear capabilities and policy throughout the Cold War. He discusses the beginnings of the Soviet atomic bomb project in World War II, the rise of the Cold War, and the development of the USSR’s hydrogen bomb. He also offers remarks on the current state of nuclear weapons internationally.
Dr. James Hershberg is a leading scholar on Cold War history. In this interview, Hershberg explains in great detail the complex history of the Manhattan Project. He explores the scientific and political climate leading up to the Project, the symbolism and implications of the atomic bomb, and the feelings of various Manhattan Project scientists. He also explains the debate over developing the hydrogen bomb, different historical perspectives for explaining the Manhattan Project, James B. Conant’s recollections of witnessing the Trinity Test, and U.S./Soviet Union relations throughout the Cold War. Hershberg ends the interview by discussing how various nations have become nuclear powers, and how the Cold War and nuclear history are relevant today.
John Earl Haynes is an American historian. He specializes in twentieth-century political and intelligence history. For most of his career, he worked in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. In this interview, he provides an in-depth summary of Soviet espionage in the Manhattan Project. He addresses the history surrounding well-known spies, including Julius Rosenberg, David Greenglass, and Klaus Fuchs, as well as lesser-known agents like Jacob Goros, Elizabeth Bentley, and Clarence Hiskey. Haynes also explains how the Soviet agencies the GRU and the KGB operated in the US in the 1930s-40s. He analyzes the successful and failed Soviet attempts to uncover American industrial and military secrets about the atomic bomb during World War II and the Cold War.
Hans Bethe was a German-American physicist and Nobel Prize winner who was head of the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos. He played an important role in the development of the hydrogen fusion bomb. In this interview, Bethe discusses the decision to develop the H-bomb in a starkly different context compared to the A-bomb. He recalls the debate over MIRV, the rise of the nuclear race, and missed opportunities to promote nuclear nonproliferation, including the Cuban Missile Crisis and Bernard Baruch’s plan.
Marshall Rosenbluth was an American physicist who worked in the theoretical division at Los Alamos from 1950 to 1956. In this interview, Rosenbluth addresses the theoretical issues involved in designing both the atomic and hydrogen bombs. He discusses how the pressure to create a nuclear bomb before the Soviet Union affected work in the laboratory, especially in performing and checking calculations. Rosenbluth also recounts his experiences during the nuclear weapons tests at Los Alamos and Bikini Atoll. He recalls the roles of top scientists, like Edward Teller, Hans Bethe, Enrico Fermi, and Carson Mark, in the building of the hydrogen bomb. He also explains how funding and other external factors affected the hydrogen bomb’s design.
Dr. J. Carson Mark joined the Manhattan Project in May 1945 with a delegation of British scientists. He worked in the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, and in 1947, went on to head its Theoretical Division. Mark stayed on after the end of the Second World War as part of the project aimed at developing the hydrogen bomb. In this interview, Mark addresses the challenges involved in making a hydrogen bomb, including the design process and the conflicts between other scientists in the laboratory. He also discusses the Soviet hydrogen bomb, and the problems their project faced, despite Soviet espionage in the United States.
In this interview, Robert S. Norris traces the chronology of the Manhattan Project from its inception in 1942 through the early years of the Cold War. Dr. Norris, author of “Racing for the Bomb: General Leslie R. Groves, the Manhattan Project’s Indispensable Man,” talks about the crucial role of General Groves, whose energy and determination impelled the Project forward at an incredibly quick pace. Norris also discusses the controversial decision to drop the bomb on Japan and the Soviet atomic program that developed shortly after the end of World War II.