The Making of the Atomic Bomb

by Richard Rhodes

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The Making of the Atomic Bomb

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In retrospect, it is apparent that the development of the atomic bomb was one of the great turning points in world history. In The Making of the Atomic Bomb, the winner of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Award for General Nonfiction, Richard Rhodes provides a detailed account of how this came about, blending the history of science with some fascinating glimpses of how politicians in wartime viewed this new weapon. Throughout the book, Rhodes’s approach is biographical: At each major step along the way, he inserts brief vignettes about the more significant participants so that the reader is not confronted with a series of unfamiliar names. The story he tells has considerable intrinsic dramatic interest, and Rhodes skillfully builds on this in a way which should retain the interest of most readers. In addition to its narrative power, the book also suggests answers to a number of key questions: What changes in scientific theory were necessary before it was possible even to attempt to create an atomic bomb? Why did the United States rather than some other nation become the first nuclear power? What is the relationship between scientists and public policymakers in developing new weapons, and what responsibility do scientists have for the instruments of destruction they create?

Although Rhodes traces the conceptions of the atom as far back as ancient Greece and briefly sketches the history of atomic research in the early twentieth century, he suggests that the real beginning of the idea of nuclear fission and its use as a weapon originated in September, 1933. Leo Szilard, who is given credit for being the first to develop this idea, is one of the most prominent persons in Rhodes’s book, and throughout the volume he is presented as a heroic figure. Born in Hungary, Szilard had been a student of Albert Einstein’s at the University of Berlin and appeared to be on the verge of a distinguished career in science, but he fled Germany in 1933 to avoid the persecution of Jews by the Nazi government.

Szilard’s breakthrough was stimulated by the remarks made at a meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Ernest Rutherford, Great Britain’s leading physicist, had stated that the possibility that the transformation of atoms could become a source of power in the future was so improbable that anyone who suggested this could be done was simply talking “moonshine.” Rutherford’s pessimism was derived in part from the fact that up to that point, efforts to break down the nucleus of the atom required a much greater expenditure of energy than was released by fission.

In reflecting on Rutherford’s remarks, Szilard hit upon a solution which anticipated the subsequent direction of atomic research. First, it occurred to him that scientists should use neutrons rather than electrons to bombard the nucleus of the atom, because neutrons, unlike electrons, do not have an electrical charge and thus would not be repelled until they struck the nucleus of the atom. Second, he realized that the process would generate more energy than was put into it if it initiated a chain reaction which would become self-sustaining. This notion was of central importance in the subsequent development of the atomic bomb, although as a result of a lack of financial support Szilard did not have the opportunity to demonstrate it experimentally.

Indeed, Szilard was an isolated figure in the 1930’s and little attention was paid to his idea, nor to his suggestion in 1935 that uranium would chain-react when bombarded with neutrons. Until nuclear fission was demonstrated experimentally in 1938, even the world’s...

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leading physicists continued to deny that nuclear energy could be harnessed for human purposes: Rutherford repeatedly condemned the idea as moonshine, Einstein considered it comparable to trying to shoot a bird in the dark, while Niels Bohr dismissed it as so improbable that it was not worth serious consideration.

When it was announced that nuclear fission had been achieved in a German laboratory in 1938, however, this sense of skepticism was replaced by a flurry of activity, stimulated in part by the realization that it was now possible to produce an atomic bomb. Several of the physicists who had fled from Central Europe to escape the Nazi movement became alarmed at the possibility that Germany might be the first nation to develop an atomic bomb, recognizing that this would place a weapon in the hands of Adolf Hitler which would enable him to conquer the world. Szilard and another Hungarian physicist, Edward Teller, took the initiative in alerting President Franklin D. Roosevelt to this danger. Anticipating that Einstein’s name would carry more weight with American authorities, they persuaded him to assist them, and Szilard and Einstein jointly drafted the famous letter to President Roosevelt which Einstein signed. They then recruited Alexander Sachs, a Russian émigré, vice president of the Lehman Corporation, and a friend of Roosevelt, to present the letter to the president.

When Sachs met with Roosevelt in October, 1939, he proceeded to give the president a summary of Einstein’s letter in his own words; thus, as Rhodes points out, one cannot be sure that Roosevelt ever actually read the letter Szilard and Einstein had drafted with such care. This may be a partial explanation for the subsequent delay in launching the American atomic-bomb project. Sachs’s summary focused on peacetime uses for atomic energy; the possibility of a bomb was only the third use mentioned and its importance was obscured by the attention given to the previous items.

In light of the eventual importance of the atomic bomb, it is startling to realize how slow the American government was in initiating a project to develop it. Roosevelt created a Uranium Committee which met later in October to hear Szilard present a case for establishing a research program to determine if a bomb could be built. Other committee members were very dubious about the proposal, in part because of uncertainty as to whether a controlled chain reaction was possible. The committee’s report to Roosevelt recommended that research be conducted to determine if a chain reaction could be controlled, as this could provide an important source of power for submarines; only secondarily did it mention that if the reaction proved explosive it might be used as a bomb. Perhaps because of the skepticism of the committee’s army representatives, the report was filed away, and almost nine months went by before any further steps were taken.

While American officials procrastinated, German scientists were making steady progress, and in the early years of the war Germany was closer to the development of a bomb than any other nation. German scientists were the first to achieve nuclear fission, and in April, 1939, the German War Office was informed that the recent developments in nuclear physics made possible the creation of a weapon far more powerful than any then in existence. This led to a government-sponsored research program which had several advantages in the race to build an atomic bomb. The German program was conducted by a top-flight group of scientists that included Pulitzer Prize-winning physicist Werner Heisenberg. It had strong government support, it could obtain uranium ore from the Belgian Congo after the invasion of Belgium in 1940, and it had access to a cyclotron in Paris after the defeat of France that same year.

Rhodes identifies two factors which were chiefly responsible for the German failure to produce a bomb before Germany was overrun by Allied armies in 1945. First, a misinterpretation of an experiment in 1939 gave the impression that graphite would absorb too many neutrons to be an effective moderator of a chain reaction, with the result that German scientists concentrated on the use of heavy water. This decision was of crucial importance, in part because heavy water was not available in the quantity needed for rapid progress, but even more important because the use of graphite would have been the quickest way to build a successful nuclear reactor. Second, while German scientists were anxious to do research on atomic energy, they had misgivings about building a bomb which would only strengthen a political movement that many of them detested. At a meeting with Albert Speer in 1942, Heisenberg suggested that it would require three or four years before a bomb could be built; believing that the war would be over long before this, Speer then lost interest in the project and decided not to give it top priority.

Although it was not generally known until the 1970’s, Rhodes points out that Japan also had an atomic-bomb project under way during the war. Japanese scientists followed the published accounts of atomic research by Western physicists with great interest, and in April, 1940, the Japanese army initiated a study to determine if it were possible for Japan to develop a bomb. The report confirmed that Japan had access to sufficient uranium from Korea and Burma to build a bomb, and in 1941 a government-funded project to create a bomb was started. By 1943, however, it had become clear to Japanese scientists that the difficulties involved were so great that it would take ten years to build a bomb. Anticipating that the war would have ended before then, the Japanese government then dropped atomic research to a lower priority and shifted its resources to the production of other weapons.

It was not until the American government received a report in 1941 on research conducted by British scientists that it began to take the possibility of a bomb seriously. Up to this point, American authorities had viewed research on the bomb as a wild-goose chase, but the British report suggested solutions to the technical problems which previously had made development of a bomb seem improbable. Since Great Britain was ahead of the United States in research directed toward the creation of a bomb, Roosevelt wrote to Winston Churchill in October, 1941, suggesting that the two nations coordinate or even jointly conduct their efforts to develop a bomb. The subsequent sharing of information by the British enabled the United States to proceed far more rapidly in the development of a bomb than would have been possible had American physicists been required to retrace the steps already taken by the British. October, 1941, was also a turning point in that it was during this month that President Roosevelt appointed a committee of top officials, including Vice President Henry Wallace and Secretary of War Henry Stimson, to accelerate the American effort to build a bomb; this was the real beginning of the Manhattan Project, as the American atomic-bomb program came to be called.

The first major step was to demonstrate that a controlled chain reaction could be achieved. This was accomplished under the direction of Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago in December, 1942. Though the American government eventually spent two billion dollars on the Manhattan Project during the war, Fermi’s work seems amazingly makeshift. His experiment was carried out with a reactor built under the stands of the University of Chicago squash court. Fully aware of the danger that the chain reaction might get out of control, Fermi devised an ingenious safety system to prevent this from happening: A moderating rod hung by a rope from the ceiling, and a young physicist stood nearby with an axe, ready to cut the rope if the other safety devices failed.

Throughout his book, Rhodes is quick to draw attention to the political implications of the development of the atomic bomb. He views the World War II period as important, among other reasons, to the beginning of the nuclear-arms race and raises the question of whether it could have been avoided. He suggests that Bohr’s personal attempt to persuade Roosevelt and Churchill that only international control of the bomb could prevent a disastrous nuclear-arms race was one of the most significant wartime attempts to avoid that danger. After a private meeting with Roosevelt in March, 1944, Bohr left convinced that the president was sympathetic toward his point of view and would support him if Churchill was willing to do so, but when Bohr met with Churchill in May, the latter refused to concede that the atomic bomb was anything more than a bigger version of the bombs already in existence and angrily opposed sharing information about the bomb with the Soviet Union. At the Quebec Conference later that year, Roosevelt endorsed Churchill’s position; a formal agreement was signed stating that the United States and Great Britain would seek to maintain a monopoly on atomic energy after the war, and that steps would be taken to ensure that Bohr did not leak any information to the Soviets.

One of the more surprising points to which Rhodes draws attention is that even though the fear that Germany might develop the bomb first was the primary motive behind the American atomic program, no effort was made by Allied intelligence forces prior to late 1944 to find out how close Germany was to completing a bomb. A possible explanation for this is that any intelligence agent would have to be briefed on nuclear fission in order to know for what to look, but this meant that if he were captured he might reveal secrets about American progress toward the bomb. After Allied armies landed in Europe in 1944, a special intelligence team was sent into Germany and discovered that Germany was nowhere close to producing a bomb. American special units also sought out and captured the leading German atomic scientists before they fell into the hands of the Soviets, and they spirited a large quantity of the uranium ore out of eastern Germany to prevent its being seized by the Red Army. Rhodes suggests that these actions demonstrate the American belief that the bomb would be a dominant factor in postwar international relations and a determination to preserve American leadership in this area for as long as possible.

Although several of the scientists who helped develop the atomic bomb were opposed to using it against Japan, most policymakers accepted it as simply another weapon of war. Since the atomic bomb was most suitable for use against large urban centers, this easy acceptance of waging war against civilians seems surprising. Rhodes attributes it to the previous evolution of bombing strategy from military to civilian targets. When the head of British Bomber Command, Sir Arthur Harris, found that the attempts by his planes to practice precision bombing of specific military and industrial targets were relatively unsuccessful, he switched to a strategy of area bombing, in which the civilian population became the objective. Through the use of incendiary bombs, firestorms were created in raids on Dresden and Tokyo which actually killed more persons than died at either Hiroshima or Nagasaki. This escalation made it easier to view the mass destruction of civilians by atomic bombs as an acceptable practice of war.

Much of the controversy surrounding the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan has centered on the issue of whether it was used primarily to impress the Soviet Union in order to ensure its cooperation in working out the postwar settlement. Rhodes’s discussion of the decision to use the bomb is enlightening, but it is not as exhaustive as other accounts. Because of Roosevelt’s death in April, 1945, the decision to use the bomb against Japan was made by Harry S Truman, but even though he had briefly been vice president, Truman had no knowledge of the bomb until after he was sworn in as president. In part because of this, he was more dependent on his advisers than Roosevelt had been; on matters relating to the bomb he was especially influenced by James Byrnes, who became secretary of state shortly after Truman became president. In briefing Truman about the bomb, Byrnes stated that it would put the United States “in a position to dictate our own terms at the end of the war,” a remark which indicates that Byrnes favored using it because of the effect he expected it to have on the Soviet Union. Apparently Truman was thinking along the same lines, for he postponed his meeting with Joseph Stalin at Potsdam so that the bomb could be tested before he had to deal with Stalin. Once he received word that the bomb worked, Truman was a changed man; observers noted that he became far more aggressive in dealing with the Soviets than he had previously.

Should scientists be blamed for developing a weapon which made it possible to eliminate all human life? Rhodes notes that Szilard was horrified that the United States used the atomic bomb against Japan and felt guilty for his role in developing it. Not only did this American action set a precedent for using the bomb in wartime, but it also accelerated the nuclear-arms race. Nevertheless, Rhodes argues that holding the scientists responsible for this situation is comparable to blaming the messenger who brings bad news. He implies that the advance of knowledge in physics made the development of the bomb inevitable and that the scientists associated with it were more sensitive to its implications than were the politicians who assumed control over its use. Rhodes concludes that it is the modern nation-state, not scientists, that is responsible for the nuclear-arms race. He views science as the preeminent international community, the agency most likely to be successful in undermining the nation-state.

The Making of the Atomic Bomb is a thorough study of an important aspect of twentieth century history. Many of its strengths and weaknesses stem from the fact that its author is a journalist writing his first book about the history of science. Although Rhodes has drawn upon some archival collections, such as the Leo Szilard papers, this is primarily a synthesis of previous studies rather than a truly original work of scholarship. His treatment of several topics, for example, has been anticipated by Peter Wyden’s 1984 study, Day One: Before Hiroshima and After. Still, the general reader will find this an illuminating account of an event which has irretrievably altered world history.

Historical Context

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World War II
World War II was waged between the Allied forces and the Axis forces in the years 1939 to 1945. The first use of the atomic bomb was instrumental in determining the outcome of the war.

World War II began on August 31, 1939, when Germany, under Adolph Hitler, invaded Poland. As a result, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3. Soviet troops invaded Poland’s eastern border on September 17, and Germany and the Soviet Union agreed to divide a defeated Poland between them. By October 10, Soviet forces easily established themselves in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Meanwhile, skirmishes between British naval forces and German U-boats (submarines) took place in September and October of that year.

In February 1940, the Soviet Union attacked Finland, achieving victory by March 6. In April, Germany successfully invaded and occupied both Denmark and Norway. In May, Germany successfully invaded and occupied Belgium. From there, German troops invaded northern France, beating back French and British troops. On June 10, Italy, under Mussolini, aligned itself with Germany by declaring war on France and Great Britain. The French government surrendered to both Germany and Italy, agreeing to a partitioning of France into an occupied zone and an unoccupied zone. In July, the occupied French government, known as the Vichy, consented to the creation of a new French nation under German rule. Accordingly, France ended its alliance with Great Britain against Germany.

Having broken the French-British alliance, Germany began attacks on British air and naval forces in an extended conflict known as the Battle of Britain. When German bombing attacks moved further into British territory, Great Britain retaliated by bombing Berlin. Hitler responded to this offensive with the bombing of London and other British cities. Germany continued air raids over Great Britain into April 1941; however, the British ultimately held off a German invasion with Britain’s superior radar technology that allowed them to detect and shoot down many German planes.

In October 1940, Italy began a war against Greece. In April and May 1941, Germany successfully invaded and occupied both Yugoslavia and Greece. As a result, Yugoslavia was broken into several separate states, and Greece was divided between German and Italian occupation zones. On June 22, 1941, German troops invaded Russia.

Up to this point, the United States had remained officially neutral with regard to the war. However, on December 7, 1941, Japanese forces bombed the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in a surprise attack. As a result, on December 8, the United States declared war on Japan. Japan had invaded China in the years previous to World War II, and, immediately after the United States declared war on Japan, China declared war on Italy, Germany, and Japan. On April 18, 1942, the United States bombed Tokyo in an air raid using conventional explosives. With the United States at war, preparations for the secret Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bomb were made by United States government and military officials.

In January 1943, Roosevelt and Churchill met at the Casablanca Conference, as a result of which Roosevelt announced a request for the unconditional surrender of Germany, Italy, and Japan. On July 25 of that year, Mussolini resigned his rule in Italy, after which the new Italian government secretly negotiated with the Allies. In August, the Allies took Sicily. In September, the Allies landed in Italy, which soon surrendered. On October 13, Italy, now aligned with the Allies, declared war on Germany.

The decisive event of the war was the invasion of German occupied Normandy by American, British, and Canadian troops on June 6, 1944, known as D day. When, in April 1945, Allied troops made their way into Germany and surrounded Berlin, Hitler committed suicide. On May 8, 1945, Germany officially surrendered to the Allies.

Meanwhile, war continued on the Pacific front between the Allies and Japan. The Potsdam Conference, in which the leaders of the Allied forces met in a suburb outside Berlin, was held from July 17 to August 2, 1945. During this time, Truman was notified of the successful testing of the first atomic bomb, named Trinity, by members of the Manhattan Project. At this point, Stalin was informed of the United States’ possession of an atomic bomb. The Allies had made much progress in defeating Japanese forces in the Pacific theater of war, and, on July 26, a declaration was sent from Potsdam to Japan, calling for unconditional surrender and warning of reprisals if this demand was not met.

As Japan refused to surrender, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima on August 6. Japanese government authorities did not entirely comprehend the degree of devastation caused by the new weapon and did not surrender until a second atomic bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki on August 9. On August 10, Japan communicated its acceptance of an unconditional surrender, officially surrendering to the Allies on August 14. On September 9, Japan formalized their surrender to China, thus ending World War II.

Literary Style

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Research and Sources
As a work of nonfiction, Rhodes’ success in writing The Making of the Atomic Bomb is largely due to the thoroughness and skill with which he conducted his research. Rhodes spent five years researching and writing this history, which combines information from a variety of sources. One of his sources was classified government documents, such as the FBI files that include the record of a secret investigation of Szilard, one of the scientists on the Manhattan Project. Another source was firstperson accounts by Japanese survivors of the bombing of Hiroshima, describing in graphic detail the devastation caused by the bomb. Another source was reproductions of important correspondence between scientists and politicians, such as the letter written by Einstein to the United States government, warning of the possibility of Germany building an atomic bomb. Yet another source of material Rhodes incorporates into his narrative are anecdotal accounts of private conversations between scientists involved in the Manhattan Project.

Nonfiction Genres
Drawing from a wide variety of source materials, Rhodes’ narrative also combines elements of a variety of genres, or categories, of nonfiction. His book is part biography, in the sense that he provides extensive biographical background on many of the scientists whose work lead up to the making of the first atomic bomb. It is partly a political history, as Rhodes describes the political and diplomatic significance of historical events surrounding the development of the bomb. It also falls into the category of history of science, as Rhodes traces the series of scientific developments, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, which made it possible to create an atomic bomb.

Narrative Voice
Rhodes’ success with The Making of the Atomic Bomb can also be attributed to his capacity for encompassing a massive accumulation of data and several nonfiction genres into a single, coherent, accessible narrative. Rhodes covers a century of history, and an entire globe of political, sociological, and scientific events with a smoothly flowing, comprehensible, as well as comprehensive, thirdperson narrative voice.

Rhodes makes use of epigraphs—short, pithy quotations—at the beginning of each of the three parts of the book and facing the table of contents. The very first of these quotes is by Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Los Alamos, New Mexico, branch of the Manhattan Project; it reads: ‘‘Taken as a story of human achievement, and human blindness, the discoveries in the sciences are among the great epics.’’ Such a reference to mythological or biblical tales of human heroism and folly is entirely apt as an opening to Rhodes’ arguably ‘‘epic’’ nine-hundred page history of the atomic bomb. This quote captures Rhodes’ attitude toward the development of the first nuclear weapon, as both a monument to scientific ‘‘achievement,’’ and as a testament to a certain moral ‘‘blindness’’ to the horrors that were to result from this achievement. A second opening quote is from Emilio Segré. In this comment, Segré emphasizes a certain element of luck in the various political and scientific efforts that went into the making of the bomb. In offering this quote, Rhodes indirectly comments upon the extent to which minute facts of physical reality— ‘‘solid numbers based on measurement’’—can potentially determine the fate of human history.

Compare and Contrast

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1949: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is founded to create an alliance between the United States and nations of Western Europe in opposition to the military might of the Soviet Union in much of Eastern Europe.

1955: The Warsaw Pact forms a military alliance between the Soviet Union and other Eastern European nations.

1963: The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, signed by the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom, bans the testing of nuclear weapons in the earth’s atmosphere, in outer space, and underwater; it limits the testing of atomic weapons to underground sites.

1967: The Outer Space Treaty is signed by the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and other nations; it declares that space exploration be conducted for peaceful purposes only and that no nation may claim sovereignty over the moon or any other region of outer space.

1968: The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, signed by the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and many other nations, claims that no nation shall aid another nation that does not possess a nuclear arsenal in the development or build up of nuclear weapons.

1987: The Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is signed between the United States and the Soviet Union, resulting in the dismantling of some 2,600 missiles and granting each side the right to verify and inspect compliance with the terms of the treaty. This is the first treaty to completely dismantle a particular category of nuclear weapons system.

1945: Over the next forty-five years, the buildup of nuclear arms in the context of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union results in an arms race with the potential to result in mutual mass-destruction.

1947: The term Cold War is first used to characterize the chilly status of international relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

1962: During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States learns that the Soviets have installed nuclear missiles in Cuba. In the course of a diplomatic standoff between President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, both sides are on the brink of initiating global nuclear warfare. However, Khrushchev backs down, agreeing to remove all nuclear weapons from Cuba in exchange for a United States promise never to invade Cuba.

1972: The Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT), held between the United States and the Soviet Union, result in the signing of the Anti- Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM). The ABM Treaty places limitations on the build up of weapons designed to destroy incoming nuclear weapons.

1979: SALT II negotiations result in the proposal of a treaty to limit nuclear weapons, but neither side signs the treaty. However, both sides subsequently adhere to the limitations set by the treaty.

1983: President Ronald Reagan announces his proposal for the development of a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), which would include the build up of nuclear weaponry in outer space. However, the ‘‘Star Wars’’ initiative remains controversial throughout the 1980s and is essentially abandoned with the break up of the Soviet Union from 1989–1991.

1989–1991: The collapse of the Soviet Union into fifteen independent, sovereign nations effectively ends the Cold War.

1991–1992: The Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) between the United States and the Soviet Union resume the SALT I and SALT II negotiations. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and effective end of the Cold War, both sides agree to significant reduction (of 10–15 percent) in their nuclear arsenal by the dismantling of many existing weapons.

Media Adaptations

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The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes, was recorded on audiocassette by Books on Tape in 1992.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Bennett, David, Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 185: American Literary Journalists, 1945–1995, First Series, Gale Research, 1997, pp. 241–252.

Hershberg, James G., and James B. Conant, Harvard to Hiroshima and the Making of the Nuclear Age, Stanford University Press, 1993.

Review in The Economist, Vol. 337, No. 7935, October 7, 1995, p. 99.

Review in Publishers Weekly, Vol. 242, No. 40, October 2, 1995, p. 40.

Rhodes, Richard, The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Simon and Schuster, 1986

Stengel, Richard, Review in Time, Vol. 146, No. 8, August 21, 1995, p. 66.

Zuckerman, Solly, Review in The New Republic, Vol. 199, No. 8, August 22, 1988, p. 38.

Further Reading
Allen, Thomas B., and Norman Polmar, Code-Name Downfall: The Secret Plan to Invade Japan and Why Truman Dropped the Bomb, Simon & Schuster, 1995. Allen and Polmar discuss United States military strategy in respect to President Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Alperovitz, Gar, The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb and the Architecture of an American Myth, Knopf, 1995. Alperovitz presents a critical historical perspective on the United States military strategy and international relations with the Allied nations during World War II in respect to the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

Larsen, Rebecca, Oppenheimer and the Atomic Bomb, F. Watts, 1988. Larsen provides a biography of Robert J. Oppenheimer, a leading scientist in the Manhattan Project, which developed the first atomic bomb.

Lifton, Robert Jay, and Greg Mitchell, Hiroshima in America: Fifty Years of Denial, Putnam, 1995. Lifton and Mitchell discuss the moral and ethical implications of the ways in which the bombing of Hiroshima has been represented in American history.

Rhodes, Richard, Deadly Feasts: Tracking the Secrets of a Terrifying New Plague, Simon & Schuster, 1997. Rhodes discusses the potential threat to humans from a category of infectious diseases known as ‘‘mad cow disease’’ in its bovine form.

———, How to Write: Advice and Reflections, Morrow, 1995. Rhodes offers advice to the aspiring writer, based on his personal experience as a journalist, novelist, and nonfiction writer.

———, ed., Visions of Technology: A Century of Vital Debate About Machines, Systems, and the Human World, Simon & Schuster, 1999. Visions of Technology provides a collection of articles that address the social, historical, and ethical impact of various technological developments throughout the twentieth century.

Rhodes, Richard, and Ginger Rhodes, Trying to Get Some Dignity: Stories of Triumph Over Childhood Abuse, W. Morrow, 1996. Rhodes and Rhodes compiled Trying to Get Some Dignity using interviews with adult survivors of childhood abuse.


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Booklist. LXXXIII, January 15, 1987, p. 730.

Chicago Tribune. February 1, 1987, XIV, p. 1.

Kirkus Reviews. LIV, December 15, 1986, p. 1845.

Library Journal. CXII, March 1, 1987, p. 84.

National Review. XXXIX, February 27, 1987, p. 48.

The New York Times Book Review. XCII, February 8, 1987, p. 1.

Newsweek. CIX, March 2, 1987, p. 72.

Publishers Weekly. CCXXXI, January 16, 1987, p. 66.

Time. CXXIX, March 23, 1987, p. 84.

The Washington Post Book World. XVII, February 15, 1987, p. 1.


Critical Essays


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