Skip directly to content

LANL Archives Preserve History

on March 22, 2018 - 6:55pm

From left, LANL Historian Alan Carr, Deputy Group Leader for the Records Management Group Christopher C’de Baca and Los Alamos County Council Chair David Izraelevitz during a recent meeting at the Los Alamos Daily Post at which Carr and C’de Baca discussed the Archives at LANL. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

A sampling of spy-related documents preserved in the Archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

 
By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post

A treasure trove of historical documents and data is preserved in the Archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Deputy Group Leader for the Records Management Group Christopher C’de Baca and LANL Historian Alan Carr recently visited the Los Alamos Daily Post to share some of that history. They brought along several spy related items including the original personnel questionnaires of two of the four spies associated with the Lab.

“In the archives we have about 12,000 cubic feet of records,” C’de Baca said, adding that the archive facility occupies a space about the size of a basketball court inside the lower level of the National Security Sciences Building (NSSB) at TA-3. It contains documents and items identified by LANL personnel as being of particular historical significance and deserving of long term preservation.

The Archives capture and maintain the history of the Laboratory, which was established in 1943 as Site Y of the Manhattan Project for a single purpose … to design and build an atomic bomb … which took just 28 months to accomplish. Records reflect that the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated July 16, 1945, 200 miles south of Los Alamos at Trinity Site on the Alamogordo bombing range.

“The cover story was an ammo dump blew up,” he said.

Under the direction of General Leslie R. Groves, J. Robert Oppenheimer and the scientists at the Laboratory successfully weaponized the atom. President Harry S. Truman chose to employ atomic bombs in an effort to end WWII. Little Boy, a uranium gun-type weapon, was used against Hiroshima; Fat Man, an implosion plutonium bomb, was dropped on Nagasaki and the war officially ended Aug. 14 of that year.

LANL’s Archives have the original badge photos for many staff members including 18 Nobel Laureates who worked at the Lab sometime during that historic wartime era. Three Oppenheimer artifacts are in the collection: his badge photo, his wife Kitty’s badge photo and a piece of junk mail from early 1943 on which he wrote notes on questions about how to build an atomic bomb.

Dorothy McKibbin ran the office at 109 East Palace in Santa Fe through which staff moving to the Los Alamos Laboratory passed during the Manhattan Project. She created a card noting the arrival of each person. Those cards are now preserved in about a dozen boxes at the Archives facility, CdeBaca said.  

In summing up the spies, Carr said there are relatively few similarities between Ted Hall, Klaus Fuchs and David Greenglass. The few common threads include the fact that they were all relatively young men. Each spy was more zealous than knowledgeable, each later suffered from denial and each was motivated primarily, if not exclusively, by ideology, he said.

“Ted Hall, the boy genius, was born Oct. 20, 1925 in New York City. In 1944, he graduated with a degree in physics at the at age 18 from Harvard,” Carr said. “After joining the Los Alamos staff, Hall performed work relevant to both bomb types. In October 1944, he voluntarily shared classified information with the Communist Party of America. Initially, Soviet intelligence was highly suspicious of Hall, code-named MLLAD, Hall was the first to provide the Soviets with information directly from Site Y.”

Fuchs was known as the brilliant ingrate, Carr said, because although Britain gave him sanctuary during Hitler’s rise to power, he stole British nuclear secrets. Born Dec. 29, 1911 in Rüsselsheim, Germany, he became a communist and fled to Britain shortly after Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany. He completed his PhD at the University of Bristol in 1937 and after a lengthy internment, became a British citizen in 1942.

“He was recruited by Rudolf Peierls, a fellow German refugee, for Britain’s atomic bomb program and like Hall, Fuchs volunteered to spy,” Carr said. “He worked for Hans Bethe. While at Los Alamos, he stole critical design information. According to Soviet scientists, the Soviets copied Fat Man from information they received from Fuchs.”

Fuchs was known for three things, he was brilliant, an excellent ballroom dancer and the town babysitter, Carr said.

“Fuchs was sentenced to 14 years in prison and released after 9.5 years … he died about a year and a half before the Berlin wall came down,” Carr said.

Greenglass (code name Bumble Bee) was born March 2, 1922 in New York City. He and his wife Ruth joined the Young Communist League in 1943, Carr said, adding that in that same year, Greenglass joined the Army. Due to his skills as a machinist, he was assigned to the Manhattan Project.

“Greenglass was recruited as a spy by his brother-in-law, Julius Rosenberg,” Carr said. “The information Greenglass provided was not particularly useful, however, it did provide some additional validity to the more useful information provided by Hall and Fuchs.”

Hall died Nov. 1, 1999, Carr said. Greenglass, who turned in his sister Ethel Rosenberg and his brother-in-law Julius Rosenberg spent the remainder of his years living under an assumed name until his death in 2014.

The fourth spy associated with the Lab was known only by his code name “Perseus” and Carr said that although there was much speculation, his identity was never discovered.

Carr explained the atomic legacy of the Project Y spies.

“On Aug. 29, 1949, the Soviet Union secretly tested its first atomic bomb. Though the Soviets had exceptionally talented scientists, the atomic spies were also responsible for RDS-1,” he said.

Carr said the reason it matters is that the atomic spies helped one of history’s most prolific mass murderers acquire atomic weapons …  remember that Stalin enabled Hitler to conquer Western Europe, he said. In addition to killing millions of his own people, Stalin also invaded and/or annexed Poland, Finland, Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, Hertza, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Soviet acquisition of nuclear weapons prematurely accelerated the arms race and the US stockpile grew from 13 weapons in 1947 to nearly 1,200 at the time of Stalin’s death.

As LANL historian, Carr regularly presents talks to local organizations on the history of the Lab and the Archives. He can be reached at abcarr@lanl.gov.

LANL Historian Alan Carr holds up an original Manhattan Project era document preserved in the Archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Original Manhattan Project era photo badges preserved in the Archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

LANL Historian Alan Carr holds up a historic document as his Deputy Group Leader Christopher C’de Baca looks on at right during a recent presentation at the Los Alamos Daily Post. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Original Manhattan Project era documents preserved in the Archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Original Manhattan Project era documents preserved in the Archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Original Manhattan Project era document preserved in the Archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Original Manhattan Project era documents preserved in the Archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Original Manhattan Project era document preserved in the Archives at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com


Advertisements