Escape from Elba
Exiles of the New York Times
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Author Topic: American History  (Read 29521 times)
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Bob
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« Reply #2085 on: March 03, 2008, 05:05:41 PM »

Geoffrey Perrett in hisDREAM OF GREATNESS has an interesting view.  He says it took three years for the Soviet Union to catch up to the United States with regard to the Atomic Bomb, but less than a year to catch up with the H-Bomb. He says "the scapegoat of the failure to achieve security through the H-Bomb was J. Robert Oppenheimer."  (Perrett, page 63).He points out that Oppenheimer broke down the Air Force's monopoly in delivering the weapon and pissed off SAC  by arguing for a more effective system of air defense, flatly refuting the proposition of SAC that their bombers would always get through. He opposed the development by the Air Force of an Atomic Plane...then, Perrett explains, he made enemies in Congress by his attitude that he was better and smarter than they--dismissive of others not as clever as he. Then came Strauss, who got him his job at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton and who he then in effect "blew off."

All of this culminated in an article in May 1953 in Fortune Magazine The Hidden Struggle  for the H-Bomb." which  portrayed Oppenheimer in bad light, followed by a Time Magazine article in  September  portraying his as fuzzy-minded. Then in November William Borden wrote his letter to J Edgar  stating it was his, Borden's, belief that  Oppenheimer "more probably than not, J. Robert Oppenheimer is an agent of the Soviet Union."  (Perrett, page 263-264)
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thanatopsy
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« Reply #2086 on: March 03, 2008, 10:31:58 PM »

The narrative poses a question, was ''Opp's opposition to Super Bomb motivated by nefarious loyalty to the communist cause''?

Not only did Strauss and Teller believe it, JE Hoover did as well. JEH successfully investigated Klaus Fuch's subversive activities and had him fess up to it.  Opp made a big mistake in trying to cover up for him by saying he was in no position at Los Alamos to have access to critical info. That made a great many folks further distrust Opp.

But it appeared as if the biggest factor in raising suspicions about Opp came from the false testimony of Paul + Sylvia Crouch. Both of these moral light weights alleged he was a ring leader of commie subversion but their testimony was refuted by Opp's evidence.  Still, their words were highly  infamatory. Even though the Eisenhower's administration was forced to concede its case against Opp,  irreperable damage had been done to him and it eventually brought an end to his years of research and administrative service.
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Dzimas
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« Reply #2087 on: March 04, 2008, 03:18:54 AM »

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He might have served his country better by making his stand clearly and leaving the scene--returning to private life and working his will there. But that's Monday morning quarterbacking--conjecture on my part.


Bob, the authors bring up this point as well.  He had several opportunities to step down, take the issue before the public, but chose to remain a Washington "insider."  It seems he really relished the role and didn't want to give it up.  He dismissed Strauss and Borden as "clowns" not realizing how much pull they had within the Republican ranks and with Hoover.  Oppenheimer was certainly a complex man, riddled by a number of insecurities, which came back to haunt him.  It is interesting how the authors present information in a Graham Greene sort of way, especially in regard to the Chevalier affair.  The "Third Man" in this case.
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Dzimas
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« Reply #2088 on: March 04, 2008, 03:27:59 AM »

In regard to H-bomb tests, 50 years on survivors of the HMS Diana are suing for compensation after having been exposed to excessive radiation from two tests in the Pacific,

http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/news/wales-news/2008/01/20/h-bomb-test-veterans-fight-for-compensation-91466-20370739/
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Bob
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« Reply #2089 on: March 04, 2008, 09:25:25 PM »

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Bob, the authors bring up this point as well.

I may have gotten the idea from the book. I can't recall. In any case I think he thrived in the public eye. I think his problems as a teenager drove him inside himself. He always had problems socializing. With people like that, there's a fear of making a fool out of themselves. As a result they shy away from people. However, put in "control" of things they seem to thrive. Thus you get a Richard Nixon who never got really close to anybody (except Bebe Rebozo, whose relationship to him was based on silence)but rose to the Presidency. We all saw what happened when he lost control. But what I'm really getting at is that once Oppenheimer was in charge at Los Alamos he achieved a level of comfort he couldn't relinquish. It's a personality trait I've seen many times. Extroverted introverts.
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Bob
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« Reply #2090 on: March 04, 2008, 09:32:41 PM »

 The Chevalier Affair:  Chevalier was Oppenheimer's Chambers. If Chevalier was telling the truth Oppenheimer was a liar. it remains though, guilty or innocent, he was doomed to be the scapegoat for the Red Hunters of the Fifties. Hiss had not sated their appetite. The Second Red Scare was frightening to say the least.
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thanatopsy
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« Reply #2091 on: March 04, 2008, 11:24:52 PM »

Opp didn't know his comments about Chevlier and Ellenton were being recorded.  This is how his contradictory testimony was revealed and ultimately used against him.  And while the HUAC hearings were the beginning of Opp's career, his real downfall was to come because of the hysteria caused by  McCarthyism.
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« Reply #2092 on: March 05, 2008, 12:10:13 AM »

So was Oppenheimer a true tragic hero in that hubris--overestimating his abilities or position while underestimating the forces of opposition--was his flaw?  Was his downfall a matter of his character--making him a tragic figure--or merely of the circumstances, making him a casaulty of the times?
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Dzimas
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« Reply #2093 on: March 05, 2008, 02:35:40 AM »

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I think his problems as a teenager drove him inside himself. He always had problems socializing.

Bob, by all accounts Opp was a gregarious guy.  He was extremely well liked at Los Alamos, even by Groves, and earned the respect of pretty much everyone, except for the handful of persons he crossed such as Pash and Strauss.  He seemed to have no problems socializing, as he hosted numerous parties, went to numerous others, and had a string of affairs that tormented Kitty to no end.  He was famous for his ice-cold martinis, even if he and Kitty were often forgetful about putting food on the table.   I don't know if he so much had a personal problem, other than the enormous stress associated with his work, as he was a victim of circumstances.  He chose to air out his views on the H-bomb and tried to influence Eisenhower against the H-bomb, where before he had kept his opinions pretty much to himself.  In doing so, he alienated Strauss, who was a heavy in the Republican Party, and was successfully able to build a case against Oppenheimer purely for political reasons so that he could have his bomb and make money off it.  Oppenheimer's big mistake was in underestimating Strauss, who he dismissed as a fanatic.
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Dzimas
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« Reply #2094 on: March 05, 2008, 06:32:24 AM »

The Chevalier Affair:  Chevalier was Oppenheimer's Chambers. If Chevalier was telling the truth Oppenheimer was a liar. it remains though, guilty or innocent, he was doomed to be the scapegoat for the Red Hunters of the Fifties. Hiss had not sated their appetite. The Second Red Scare was frightening to say the least.

I don't know how much of a liar Oppenheimer was.  I think he said things he shouldn't have, partly out of pressure, partly out of a need to placate authorities so that he could continue his work unmolested.  I think the Lomanitz case is as much or more distressing, as Opp did seem to completely misrepresent Lomanitz, leading to him being treated harshly by authorities.  The same with Weinberg and Nelson.  Nice to see Lomanitz ended up back in physics:

In 1962 he began working at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and later became department chairman, before retiring in 1991

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Rossi_Lomanitz
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thanatopsy
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« Reply #2095 on: March 05, 2008, 07:58:41 AM »


 '' ... hubris ... was his flaw?  Was his downfall a matter of his character ...?''


Hubris and bad character were probably the principle reason for  his downfall. Even his best friends were said to be ''sick'' of him and were only too happy to be rid of him and his foul mouthed wife. 

I thought the authors did a great job of presenting both his flaws and merits. 
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Dzimas
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« Reply #2096 on: March 05, 2008, 10:07:45 AM »

I don't remember reading that part, thanatopsy.  Even some of the persons he ratted on still held him in high regard.  He certainly didn't have a "bad character."  Flawed maybe, but certainly not bad.  He held onto many friends for life, including Kennan.  Arrogance, more than hubris, seemed to be his principal flaw.  What the authors did present was a portrait of a very complex man that defies an easy summing up, instead pointing to a myriad of character issues and the political infighting that he begrudgingly found himself a part of.
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thanatopsy
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« Reply #2097 on: March 05, 2008, 10:50:52 PM »

``I don't remember reading that part``

Sorry, I did not write down the name of the guy who said it.  But there were enough notes about neighbors in St John's and elsewhere who were rather unhappy with Opp and Kitty -- the latter because of her excessive drinking and abuses.  You will recall that their daughter committed suicide and their son became a social recluse. Not very happy people at all.

While I admire Opp's constructivism and contributions to the world of science, overall I'd prefer not to deal with him or his clan in any way.
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Dzimas
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« Reply #2098 on: March 05, 2008, 11:26:58 PM »

Well, than, that's a pretty simple and I would say sad way of summing up Oppenheimer.  Not to say missing the point of the whole book.  Maybe it is just as well we move on.
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madupont
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« Reply #2099 on: March 05, 2008, 11:47:41 PM »

Excuse me, I was just opening my late e-mail and opened what my sister had sent without comment. You too may find this interesting as American Prometheus comes to a close.

http://www.wired.com/politics/security/magazine/16-03/ff_nuclearwar?currentPage=all

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