• Of course, while the bomb was being designed, they had to figure out how they were going to deliver it.
  • And WHO was going to deliver it.
  • Way back in March 1944, the US Army Air Force, with William Sterling “Deak” Parsons and his team at Los Alamos, developed two bomb models and began testing them with B-29 bombers.
  • Thin Man, named for President Roosevelt, was the design carrying the plutonium gun, while Fat Man, named for Winston Churchill, was an implosion prototype.
  • Emilio Segrè, Italian-American physicist, had designed a lighter, smaller uranium bomb was later dubbed Little Boy, Thin Man’s brother.
  • Thin Man, the one named for FDR, was eliminated four months later because of the predetonation problem.
  • Which is ironic, because FDR himself also was eliminated a few months after that.
  • The problems with figuring out how to create a reliable chain reaction meant the estimates of when a bomb could be delivered that Bush had given the President in 1943 would have to be revised.
  • The new timetable was presented to Roosevelt’s Army Chief of Staff General Marshall by Groves on 7 August 1944, two months after the Allied landings on Normandy on 6 June.
  • It said that small implosion weapons using uranium or plutonium would be ready in the second quarter of 1945, if experiments proved satisfactory.
  • Groves was more confident that a uranium gun bomb could be delivered by 1 August 1945, and another one or two more by the end of that year.
  • Marshall and Groves acknowledged that German surrender might take place by summer 1945, making it likely that Japan would be the atomic bomb’s first target.
  • Expenditures on the Manhattan Project had reached $100 million a month by mid-1944.
  • No one was sure that Groves’ deadline of 1 August 1945 could really be reached.
  • The Germans  were by then in retreat on all fronts and the Japanese were being pushed back in the Pacific
  • it wasn’t certain that a weapon would be ready for use in the war at all.
  • Meanwhile, just in case a bomb was ready in time, they needed to start working out how they would deliver it.
  • The US Army Air Force started training in September 1944 at Wendover Field Air Force Base in western Utah
  • Where Chrissy won at craps when she was 21.
  • On the border of Nevada and Utah.
  • Near the Bonneville Salt Flats Raceway, about 100 miles west of Salt Lake City.
  • BTW, Wendover Air Base is still there today.
  • It’s a civil air base.
  • But it’s one of the most intact World War II training airfields.
  • Numerous films and television shows have been filmed using Wendover Field, including The Philadelphia Experiment (1984), Con Air (1995), Mulholland Falls (1996), Independence Day (1996), Hulk (2003) and The Core (2003).
  • Lieutenant Colonel Paul W. Tibbets began drilling the 393rd Bombardment Squadron of the 509th Composite Wing in test drops with 5500-pound orange dummy bombs, nicknamed pumpkin bombs, on the Great Salt Lake.
  • Not to be confused with the pumpkin bombs thrown by the Green Goblin.
  • These had the same ballistic characteristics as Fat Man.
  • Tibbets was recognized as the best bomber pilot in the Air Force.
  • He had led the first B-17 bombing mission from England over occupied Europe.
  • Then he had flown Eisenhower to his command post in Gibraltar before the Allied landings in northwest Africa and conducted the first bombing raids there afterwards.
  • More recently, he had been a test pilot for Boeing’s new B-29 Superfortress and worked with the physics department of the University of New Mexico to determine how well the B-29 could defend itself against fighter attack.
  • BTW – the Superfortress  was the single most expensive weapons project undertaken by the United States in World War II, exceeding the cost of the Manhattan Project by between $1 and 1.7 billion.
  • It was the first plane to include a pressurized cabin, and dual-wheeled, tricycle landing gear.
  • Those of course ended up in commerical aircraft.
  • It also had an analog computer-controlled fire-control system that directed four remote machine gun turrets that could be operated by a single gunner and a fire-control officer.
  • That of course ended up in James Bond’s cars.
  • In September 1944, Deke Parsons and Norman Ramsey, a Columbia physicist in charge of the delivery group, briefed Tibbets.
  • He was then told by his commanding officer, Major General Uzal Girard Ent, ‘You have to put together an outfit and deliver this weapon. We don’t know anything about it yet. We don’t know what it can do. You’ve got to mate it to the airplane and determine the tactics, the training and the ballistics – everything. These are all parts of your problem. This thing is going to be very big. I believe it has the potential and possibility of ending the war.’
  • Given Tibbets and two other names as choices for the mission, General Ent replied without hesitation, “Paul Tibbets is the man to do it.”
  • A month later, Ent was seriously injured in the crash of a B-25 on takeoff at the Fort Worth Army Airfield, Texas.
  • Paralyzed from the waist down he learned to walk again using braces.
  • But he died a few years later.
  • Tibbets’s delivery programme was to be codenamed ‘Silverplate’.
  • If Tibbets needed anything, he was to use that magic word, which had been accorded the highest priority in the service.
  • Silverplate was the code reference for the United States Army Air Forces’ participation in the Manhattan Project during World War II.
  • it was Originally the name for the aircraft modification project which enabled a B-29 Superfortress bomber to drop an atomic weapon.
  • The original directive for the project had as its subject line “Silver Plated Project” but continued usage of the term shortened it to “Silverplate”.
  • In June 1945, Tibbets and his command moved to Tinian Island in the Marianas, where the Navy SeaBees had built the world’s largest airport to accommodate the new Superfortresses, which had been manufactured specially to bomb Japan.
  • From there, Tibbets and his crew began flying bombing missions over Japan to familiarize themselves with the target area.
  • By then, the home islands had been bombed for more than six months.
  • By early 1945, the team at Los Alamos were confident that their design for the uranium bomb was going to work.
  • So they focused all of their attention on getting the implosion model for the plutonium right.
  • Meanwhile Groves wanted to know whether or not the Germans had the bomb.
  • In late 1943, Groves had set up a unit to find out.
  • It was called Alsos, Greek for ‘grove’, and was headed by an FBI-trained army G-2 security officer, Lieutenant Colonel Boris T. Pash – his birth name was Boris Fedorovich Pashkovsky.
  • Born in the U.S. but moved back to Russia with his family when he was 12.
  • And they moved back to the U.S. when the Bolsheviks took over.
  • He’s fluent in English, German and Russian.
  • G-2 BTW refers to the military intelligence staff of a unit in the United States Army.
  • It is contrasted with G–1 (personnel), G–3 (operations), G–4 (logistics) and G-5 (civil-military operations).
  • Now this fucking Pash guy is a legend.
  • What a fucking name – “Pash is my name and pashing is my game”.
  • He needs a movie.
  • Starring… Charles Muthafuckin Bronson.
  • Pash is the guy who investigated Oppenheimer for his communist connections.
  • Now his job is to go into Europe, even behind enemy lines, to try to find the German nuclear project, as well as arrest the scientists, get them to America before the Soviets or the French get their hands on them, and also find all of the uranium stocks the Germans had acquired.
  • It was decided to bomb German nuclear facilities wherever they lay in order to deprive the Soviet Union of their technology and personnel, unless American troops could get to them first.
  • Keep in mind – the French and the Soviets are American allies at this stage.
  • Pash went into Normandy and then Paris in August 1944 just after D-Day and tracked down some French physicists who knew something about the German bomb project.
  • He was shot at by German defenders in Paris and had to retreat.
  • He then moved on to Brussel and then Strasbourg near the border of Germany by November, where he found a German physics laboratory installed in a building in the grounds of the city hospital.
  • There they arrested a couple of physicists, and found papers on the German atomic project which sounded like the Germans weren’t even close to developing something.
  • But it wasn’t conclusive.
  • And Groves didn’t want to take any chances.
  • He wanted to know the whereabouts of the 1200 tons of uranium the Germans had captured in Belgium in 1940.
  • Pash had already found 31 tons of it in a French arsenal at Toulouse, where it had been secretly diverted and stored.
  • Crossing the Rhine into Germany, Pash acquired a large force of men, four jeeps with machine guns mounted on them and two armoured cars, then went hunting for German atomic scientists.
  • He also wanted to make sure no Nazi physicists with knowledge about how to build a bomb fell into Soviet hands.
  • By the end of March 1945 he was in Heidelberg, where he captured Walther Bothe, head of the Institute of Physics, along with Germany’s only working cyclotron.
  • At Stadtilm, near Weimar, he found the central office of German atomic research, though Werner Heisenberg and the rest of his group from the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute had fled south, leaving behind a small stash of uranium oxide.
  • Captured documents indicated that the rest of the Belgium ore might be in a factory at Stassfurt, near Magdeburg.
  • The British were there, but the Red Army was advancing fast and the area was in the occupation zone allocated to the Soviet Union at the Yalta Conference.
  • Groves organized a joint British and American strike force who went into Stassfurt.
  • They found the plant a mess, from both Allied bombing and looting by French workmen.
  • The ore was in barrels in an open-sided shed and had obviously been there a long time; many of the barrels were broken open.
  • Around 1100 tons of ore was stored there in various forms, most of it the concentrates from Belgium, along with around 8 tons of uranium oxide.
  • Over the following ten days, 260 truckloads of uranium ore, sodium uranate and ferrouranium weighing about 1,000 tons, were taken away by an African-American truck company – before the Soviets arrived – IN THEIR ZONE!
  • Meanwhile, Pash had discovered that Werner Heisenberg, Otto Hahn and other German scientists were in the resort town of Haigerloch in the Black Forest region of southwest Germany.
  • This was still in enemy hands, though the French were breaking through there.
  • But that was also a problem.
  • Because Haigerloch lay in the occupation zone allocated to France.
  • And Groves didn’t want the French to get their hands on nuclear secrets either!
  • He tried to get the border of the occupation zones changed!
  • But the State Dept wanted to know why and he refused to tell them.
  • Groves, Marshall, and Stimson then decided that the area would have to be secured by American troops that would carry off what they could and destroy everything else.
  • The plan, codenamed Operation Effective, called for the 13th Airborne Division to occupy the area to prevent its capture by the French, and seize an airfield that could be used to fly in an Alsos Mission team, and later to fly it out, along with captured German scientists.
  • Operation Effective was scheduled for 22 April.
  • Meanwhile, they took steps to delay the French advance.
  • But on 20 April, the French First Army captured an intact bridge over the Neckar River at Horb and established a bridgehead.
  • It was decided to send in a force on the ground instead of Operation Effective, which was cancelled.
  • This time, instead of following or accompanying the front-line troops, the Alsos Mission would operate behind enemy lines.
  • The Alsos Mission had taken delivery of two armored cars, four jeeps with machine gun mounts, and two .50 caliber machine guns.
  • The other two jeeps would carry captured German machine guns.
  • They would be accompanied by three unarmed jeeps.
  • For the operation, codenamed Operation Big, Pash would command a special force called Task Force A,  built around his Alsos Mission team and the U.S. 1269th Engineer Combat Battalion
  • Pash hastily raced around Stuttgart in a convoy of jeeps and trucks to beat the French to Haigerloch.
  • This was to be Alsos’s first seizure of an enemy town.
  • When they arrived at the town, they found white pillowcases, sheets and towels bedecking flagpoles, window shutters and broomstick handles.
  • The people of Haigerloch obviously wished to surrender.
  • The team quickly located the Nazi research facility  –  ‘an ingenious set-up that gave almost complete protection from aerial observation and bombardment’.
  • Pash said that as he hurried to the scene, ‘I saw a box-like concrete entrance to a cave in the side of an 80-foot cliff towering above the lower level of the town. The heavy steel door was padlocked. A paper stuck on the door indicated the manager’s identity. When the manager was brought to me, he tried to convince me that he was only an accountant. When he hesitated at my command to unlock the door, I said: “Beaston, shoot the lock off the door. If he gets in the way, shoot him. The manager opened the door.’
  • Inside the main chamber was a concrete pit some 10 feet in diameter.
  • In the lid was a heavy metal shield covering the top of a thick metal cylinder.
  • This contained a pot-shaped vessel, also made of a heavy metal.
  • It was about 4 feet below the level of the floor.
  • On top of the vessel was a metal frame.
  • A German prisoner confirmed that the Americans had captured the Nazi uranium ‘machine’, as the German called it.
  • It was an atomic pile.
  • Leaving Goudsmit and his colleagues at Haigerloch, Pash moved on to nearby Hechingen, where he picked up most of the German atomic scientists.
  • Otto Hahn was captured in Tailfingen two days later and they heard Werner Heisenberg was with his family in a cottage beside a lake in Bavaria.
  • On 1 May, Pash set out in pursuit of Heisenberg with ten men in the two armored cars and two jeeps.
  • They teamed up with the 36th Reconnaissance Troop of the U.S. 36th Infantry Division and entered Urfeld on 2 May, where Pash found Heisenberg at his home.
  • The Americans became involved in firefights with German troops attempting to enter the town, and the 36th Reconnaissance Troop had to head off on another mission, leaving Pash with just seven men.
  • Fortunately, the German force, which numbered about 700, offered to surrender.
  • Pash returned on 3 May with the 3rd Battalion, 142nd Infantry, which took them prisoner, while Pash and his Alsos Mission team took Heisenberg into custody.
  • German scientists that had been captured by the Alsos Mission were held in several camps, separate from other prisoners of war.
  • After VE Day, it was decided to concentrate them in an internment camp at Kransberg Castle, codenamed “Dustbin”, as part of Operation Epsilon.
  • The Castle was the personal retreat for Hermann Göring.
  • It’s where the Americans stashed high-ranking non-military prisoners of war, including Albert Speer, who originally re-designed the castle as a HQ for Hitler, Wernher von Braun, Ferdinand Porsche, and the leaders of the IG Farben chemical conglomerate.
  • Ten of the nuclear physicists, including Heisenberg, were then taken to England.
  • They were kept at a house near Cambridge.
  • The place was thoroughly bugged to determine how close the German nuclear project had been to constructing an atomic bomb by listening in to their conversations, and transcripts of their conversations were sent to Groves.
  • On July 6, the microphones picked up the following conversation between Werner Heisenberg and Kurt Diebner, another German nuclear physicist, both of whom had worked on the German nuclear project and had been seized as part of the Allied Alsos Mission, Diebner in Berlin  and Heisenberg in Urfeld:
  • Diebner: “I wonder whether there are microphones installed here?”
  • Heisenberg: “Microphones installed? (laughing) Oh no, they’re not as cute as all that. I don’t think they know the real Gestapo methods; they’re a bit old fashioned in that respect.”
  • The most interesting conversations occurred after they received the news of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, when they struggled to comprehend how the Allies had done what they could not.
  • Some of the scientists indicated that they were happy that they had not been able to build a nuclear bomb for Adolf Hitler, while some of the others, more sympathetic to the Nazi party, were dismayed at having failed.
  • Otto Hahn, one of those who were grateful that Germany had not built a bomb, chided those who had worked on the German project, saying “If the Americans have a uranium bomb then you’re all second-raters.”
  • Some of the scientists had almost nothing to do with the nuclear project.
  • Hahn, for example, had (with his assistant Fritz Strassmann) discovered nuclear fission in December 1938, – he’s known as the father of nuclear chemistry – but otherwise had no participation.
  • Max von Laue was, like Hahn, an ardent anti-Nazi and had not done any work relating to wartime physics.
  • Albert Einstein (who was born six days after him) wrote that Hahn was “one of the very few who stood upright and did the best he could in these years of evil”.
  • In the transcripts, Hahn contemplates suicide after learning of the bombing of Hiroshima, believing himself personally responsible for the many Japanese victims.
  • After seeing the German project at Haigerloch, Goudsmit, the scientist who accompaied Pash, wrote that:
  • It was so obvious the whole German uranium set up was on a ludicrously small scale. Here was the central group of laboratories, and all it amounted to was a little underground cave, a wing of a small textile factory, a few rooms in an old brewery. To be sure, the laboratories were well equipped, but compared to what we were doing in the United States it was still small-time stuff. Sometimes we wondered if our government had not spent more money on our intelligence mission than the Germans had spent on their whole project.
  • The Soviets BTW had their own version of Alsos but it didn’t get off the ground until Beria suggested in early in 1945.
  • By the time they got to Berlin it was too late – the atomic scientists had all escaped and been picked up by the Americans.
  • All except a few.
  • One of those few was Nikolaus Riehl.
  • A few years later, he helped the Soviets build their first uranium bomb.
  • But that’s another story.

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