Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Heard: "The Bomb" by Steve Sheinkin

Heard: The Bomb: the race to build - and steal - the world's most dangerous weapon by Steve Sheinkin, 2012, from

Wife brought the print version home to Boy #1 and it looked interesting.  I was trolling for audiobooks, saw this, and took it. A Newbery Honor book in 2013.

A neat telling of building the first atomic bombs.  Especially interesting because Sheinkin folds in the Soviet espionage operation that stole most of the working designs by having two moles inside the Manhattan Project.  Sheinkin also covers the British commando raid on the heavy water plant in Telemark raid in Norway.

Neatly told.  Some comments I recall from listening.

1.  The Telemark raid was originally a British operation.  Norwegian resistance fighters were trained in England and dropped in the Norwegian mountains.  The scouted out a landing site and the plant in preparation for the English commandos.  The English flew in by glider and both gliders crashed.  The soldiers who survived the crash landing were captured, tortured and murdered by the Gestapo.  With the commando operation scrubbed the Norwegians were tasked with the job and succeeded.
2.  Oppenheimer was a genius.  An absent minded professor.  He would focus on a physics problem and tune everything and everyone else out.
3.  Oppenheimer was anti-nuclear escalation after the war. Heck, he was anti-escalation after the first bomb went off.  His disclosure brought him grief and he was railroaded into losing his top secret clearance.
4.  The Soviets were amazingly effective in their spy operation.  maybe part of that was luck in finding a couple guys willing to spy.  But, the Manhattan Project was so freaking huge and with so many scientists that the odds were more in their favor.  The two spies were sympathetic not just because they were sorta-Commies but because they felt the Russians were getting screwed by the Allies while taking all the casualties.
5.  The effectiveness of the spy operation makes the 1950s Red Scare more understandable.  Talk about secret commies had been going on for decades but here were a couple guys who take top secret material and handed it over.
6.  I wonder what other secrets came out of the Soviet archives once the government fell apart.
7.  Sheinkin slightly covered the German efforts to build a nuke.
8.  Some stories about Paul Tibbets and the Enola Gay.  Eyewitness accounts of the two bombings.
9.  It's still amazing that WWII fire bombings killed more people than the nuke bombs did.
10. Civilians always get it in the neck.
11. Civilians always get it in the neck.
12. Civilians always get it in the neck.

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