The 4th Spy at Los Alamos – part 1 / Cindy Bruchmann book review

Last fall, a pair of historians revealed that yet another Soviet spy, code named Godsend, had infiltrated the Los Alamos laboratory where the world’s first atom bomb was built. But they were unable to discern the secrets he gave Moscow or the nature of his work.

However, the lab recently declassified and released documents detailing the spy’s highly specialized employment and likely atomic thefts, potentially recasting a mundane espionage case as one of history’s most damaging.

It turns out that the spy, whose real name was Oscar Seborer, had an intimate understanding of the bomb’s inner workings. His knowledge most likely surpassed that of the three previously known Soviet spies at Los Alamos, and played a crucial role in Moscow’s ability to quickly replicate the complex device. In 1949, the Soviets detonated a knockoff, abruptly ending Washington’s monopoly on nuclear weapons.

Stuart Seborer

The documents from Los Alamos show that Mr. Seborer helped devise the bomb’s explosive trigger — in particular, the firing circuits for its detonators. The successful development of the daunting technology let Los Alamos significantly reduce the amount of costly fuel needed for atomic bombs and began a long trend of weapon miniaturization. The technology dominated the nuclear age, especially the design of small, lightweight missile warheads of enormous power.

Mr. Seborer’s inner knowledge stands in contrast to the known espionage. The first Los Alamos spy gave the Soviets a bomb overview. So did the second and third.

Mr. Klehr, an emeritus professor of politics and history at Emory University, said the new information cast light on a furtive boast about the crime. Last fall, in the scholarly paper, the two historians noted that Mr. Seborer fled the United States in 1951 and defected to the Soviet bloc with his older brother Stuart, his brother’s wife and his mother-in-law.

Ship manifest

The paper also noted that an F.B.I. informant learned that a communist acquaintance of the Seborers eventually visited them. The family lived in Moscow and had assumed the surname Smith. The visitor reported back that Oscar and Stuart had said they would be executed for “what they did” if the brothers ever returned to the United States.

Last fall, the historians described the Seborers as a Jewish family from Poland that, in New York, became “part of a network of people connected to Soviet intelligence.” Both Oscar and Stuart attended City College, “a hotbed of communist activism,” the historians wrote.

Ethel and Julius Rosenberg

Stuart took a math class there in 1934 with Julius Rosenberg, they reported. In a notorious Cold War spy case, Mr. Rosenberg and his wife, Ethel, were convicted of giving the Soviets atomic secrets. In 1953 they were executed at Sing Sing Prison in Ossining, N.Y., orphaning their two sons, ages 6 and 10.

The scholarly paper, written with John Earl Haynes, a former historian at the Library of Congress, appeared in the September issue of Studies in Intelligence. The journal, a C.I.A. quarterly, is published for the nation’s intelligence agencies as well as academic and independent scholars.

The Times’s article ran on Nov. 23, a Saturday. Four days later, a reporter sent the scholarly paper to Los Alamos and asked if the lab’s archive had any photos of Mr. Seborer or relevant documents.

Two weeks later, on Dec. 10, the lab emailed 10 pages of newly declassified documents from 1956. The material consists mainly of a correspondence between a top security official at Los Alamos and the lab’s branch of the Atomic Energy Commission, a federal agency that oversaw the weapons development site. The letters discussed an F.B.I. investigation of Mr. Seborer’s espionage but gave no specifics on what he may have delivered to Moscow. Instead, the exchange dwelled on the secrets available to him.

The documents include pages from a 1945 Los Alamos telephone directory as a way of confirming the suspect’s lab employment.

All three previously known Los Alamos spies told the Soviets of a secret bomb-detonation method known as implosion. The technique produced a bomb far more sophisticated than the crude one dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945. A prototype of the implosion device was tested successfully in the New Mexican desert in July 1945, and a bomb of similar design was dropped on Nagasaki weeks later, on Aug. 9. Four years later, the Soviets successfully tested an implosion device.

The early bombs relied on two kinds of metallic fuel, uranium and plutonium. The bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima worked by firing one cylinder of uranium fuel into a second one, to form a critical mass. Atoms then split apart in furious chain reactions, releasing huge bursts of energy.

In contrast, the implosion bomb started with a ball of plutonium surrounded by a large sphere of conventional explosives. By design, their detonation produced waves of pressure that were highly focused and concentrated. The waves crushed inward with such gargantuan force that the dense ball of plutonium metal was compressed into a much denser state, triggering the atomic blast.

To be continued………..

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Book Review – “Inside The Gold Plated Pistol”  by: Cindy Bruchmann

I am not adept at doing book reviews and I rarely do one for a fiction piece, but our fellow blogger and U.S. Navy Veteran, Cindy Bruchmann, has created a very unique volume.

Inside the Gold Plated Pistol, Cynthia Bruchmann

As characters are being introduced, you are following the plot through the eyes of that person.  With each view, the story-line progresses.  Early on you will discover what is Inside the Gold Plated Pistol, but you will need to continue reading to see what becomes of the people surrounding the mystery.

I enjoyed Cindy’s insistence on researching 1928 and on into the 1930’s era.  The Native American relationship with the white man (or woman).  Her use of detail only enhances the tale.  I was amazed to learn that Hershey’s Kisses were around that long ago, what the movie industry was like or that Bob’s Big Boy diners started back then – who knew?

I don’t think I should continue any further, lest I give huge spoilers away – and that is not my intent.  But I do hope I piqued your interest!!

Check it out!!

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Military spy Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

John T. Avella – brn: Solopaca, ITA/Tom’s River, NJ; US Army, WWII, ETO, 405th Infantry, Bronze Star

George Correia Sr. – Tiverton, RI; US Navy, WWII

Verne Hinkle – Jackson, MI; US Army, WWII, infantry

Andrew Klein – Forest Grove, OR; US Navy, WWII, PTO, Lt. JG, USS Sanborn, navigator

Ruth McVaden (100) – MS; US Army WAC, WWII, ETO, Specialist, nurse

John J. Murphy – Chicago, IL; US Air Force, Vietnam, jet engine mechanic

Ryan S. Phaneuf – Hudson, NH; US Air Force, Afghanistan, Captain, 37th Bomb Squadron, KIA (E-11 crash)

Charles Ruggles – Tucson, AZ; US Army Air Corps, WWII,PTO, Co. I/511/11th Airborne Division

Lester Sanders – San Augustine, TX; US Army, WWII, ETO, Bronze Star

Ryan K. Voss – Yigo, Guam; US Air Force Afghanistan, Lt. Col., HQ Air Control Command, KIA (E-11 crash)

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on February 3, 2020, in First-hand Accounts, Home Front, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 110 Comments.

  1. Interesting article GP — thanks. Smart spies when it came to atom bomb technology, but changing surname to “Smith” after fleeing to Russia?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is fascinating. While I knew parts of the story, this put many pieces together. I wonder what happened to the Rosenberg’s two little boys. Thank you, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, great look back into the days when spies were spies, the same thing no doubt, goes on today, but covered by modern technology, Very interesting reading.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I had not heard about the 4th spy or Oscar Seborer before. Thanks as always for the education, GP!

    The cartoon of the foreign agent in the file cabinet reminded me of the old TV show “Get Smart”. If I remember correctly, it was Agent 44 who was always peering out of a mailbox.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s fascinating, GP. I love watching series based on fact like Project Blue Book and The Americans. Kids today have no idea how frightening the Cold War was.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It doesn’t really surprise me… great review.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Nothing beats spying on your own President and his staff.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I am always intrigued by espionage and traitors including the falcon and the snowman and their successors.😣

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I have learned a lot reding your posts

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for the review, of the very interesting book. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I must say that times have changed! We executed Ethel and Julius Rosenberg for what is now commonplace in our country. There are spies everywhere and espionage is as common as a cold. I don’t like that much!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow. The things one learns! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t think that you can sink any lower than spying on, and revealing the secrets of, a country that has been generous enough to accept you when you needed help.
    That’s one of the major reasons that these Islamist crazies who randomly stab people in the streets of England are so popular. Years ago, we were silly enough to give them help when they needed it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. When I visited Los Alamos, many of the pictures on the walls were of foreign scientists. It didn’t seem that the project would have been completed without their help.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Great review,about( Marxist brainwash)& k.g.b.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I’ve always found spycraft fascinating, and even in this hi-tech time people are necessary, whether they’re just cracking code or hacking into systems. The kind of failure represented by the Los Alamos staffing surely is taking place today. A CNN article in 2017 reported an estimate of 100,000 spies in the U.S., working for 60-80 nations. Amazing. I’m in the neighborhood of the Johnson Space Center and the multiple corporations that support their work. Every now and then, I’ll look at the grocery store checkout line or the crowd in the coffee shop and wonder: just who’s in the room with me? We never really know.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Every time I read one of your posts I learn more! Great review GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This history of these events is fascinating, GP. I’m arriving late, but looking forward to the future post.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Loved your book reviews. The Spy one has got my attention. Will do some more research and get a copy as this has always been an area of interest for me.
    Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    • There has also been one discovered for the ETO. A 100-year old nazi SS who ordered the slaughter of a Polish village recently died after living in the mid-west since the war.

      Like

  20. Hey Brother, you can not imagine how much I appreciate all that you do with your articles. As I look at the events of the world and our country, it is very clear that WW2 has pretty much become forgotten. May God richly bless you.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Espionage always makes for an interesting tale, G. I found it interesting that Seborer played a role in developing the bomb as well as stealings its secrets. –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  22. A fascinating account of the spy activity. Good review, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Thank you for the education, GP – I never knew about Seborer.

    Somewhat off the immediate topic, but on-topic with your review of the war in the Pacific is this fascinating piece of trivia:

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Nice work GP. I have heard about Seborer before but don’t know too much about him other than his defection to the USSR. Implosion was indeed the big secret. Will put the book on my reading list.

    P.S. I went to City College! 🙂 It was FREE back then!

    Best regards.

    Like

  25. Interesting story about the atom bomb. Ain’t science wonderful? It creates significant discoveries about the preservation of human life and also its destruction. I hate to see what the latest bomb can do for us, obliterate the whole human race. Interesting book review without giving the whole story away. Good job, GP.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. This is a fascinating post, GP. The history of Los Alamos is so much more interesting than one would think from driving through the town (which I did the first time I lived in NM, about 15 years ago). I don’t know what I expected, but what I saw… well, never mind.
    Kudos on the book review. You made me want to read it. Best to Cindy. Hugs all around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wouldn’t mind hearing what the town looked like 15 years ago. I’m glad you liked the review.

      Liked by 1 person

      • There was nothing wrong with the town. But none of the buildings captured my imagination in any way. Also, ten years before that, there had been a huge and terrible fire. The surrounding landscape (that we drove through to get there) had not recovered back then, burned out blackened trees and mountainsides — that set a sad mood for the visit, I guess.
        I have no idea how it looks now. I’m sure everything is very nice. They get a lot of snow, so more moisture for the land to recover, and who knows what they have built (or what I missed for that matter).
        New Mexico was settled long before it became a state. Albuquerque is more than 300 years old. Santa Fe and Taos also have intriguing places and buildings. Los Alamos just didn’t have the same effect on me. (shrugs)

        Liked by 1 person

  27. That’s pretty amazing. Those guys are devious.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. GP, what a swell guy you are! Thanks for mentioning my book. It was a lot of fun researching the area of Clardale, AZ, home to the copper baron William A. Clark and his family. The Hopi Indians and their traditions are insightful and interesting. I also enjoyed paying homage to the film industry in the 1928. German Expressionism, the Western with Zane Grey, and the Hollywood musical. What I learned most was women’s role in aviation. That was fun to put all the information I found and weave it around the fictional characters.
    You are a true friend.
    Thank you,
    Cindy

    Liked by 1 person

  29. I wish my late father could read this. He was an Army MP stationed at Los Alamos. He used to say there were a lot of “colorful” characters involved in the top secret project.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Hiring multiple scientists from a known center for communist recruitment is, in retrospect, a tremendous counterintelligence flub. Not judging, just saying.

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Good history about the US spies, GP. I knew a fair bit about the Rosenbergs, but not much else.
    Great to see Cindy’s book reviewed. But I would suggest anyone interested read the other book first, as some characters ‘continue’ in this one.

    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Great review,about( Marxist brainwash)& k.g.b ya I a political science graduate n I have intrest in political angle about bomb . Thnx

    Liked by 3 people

  33. Fascinating back story and another great book review
    Keep up the good work

    Liked by 4 people

  34. Fascinating history about the atomic bomb. Just started an essay about a telegram delivered to a family in Iowa the day the second bomb was dropped.

    A book review should whet a person’s appetite to read the whole thing. You did just that with Inside the Gold Plated Pistol. (I would also have looked up Hershey’s Kisses and Big Boy diners, surprised at the authenticity.)

    Liked by 3 people

  35. Thank you very much for sharing this. We are always learning new data, such as a Nazi SS who ordered the slaughter of a Polish village recently passed away at 100-years old living in the Mid-West.

    Like

  1. Pingback: FEATURED: The 4th Spy at Los Alamos – part 1 / Cindy Bruchmann book review // Pacific Paratrooper | ' Ace Worldwide History '

  2. Pingback: The 4th Spy at Los Alamos – conclusion — Pacific Paratrooper | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

  3. Pingback: The 4th Spy at Los Alamos – part 1 / Cindy Bruchmann book review — Pacific Paratrooper | Ups and Downs of Family History V2.0

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