The 4th Spy at Los Alamos – conclusion

Los Alamos and the Seborers

The new documents show that Mr. Seborer worked at the heart of the implosion effort. The unit that employed him, known as X-5, devised the firing circuits for the bomb’s 32 detonators, which ringed the device. To lessen the odds of electrical failures, each detonator was fitted with not just one but two firing cables, bringing the total to 64. Each conveyed a stiff jolt of electricity.

A major challenge for the wartime designers was that the 32 firings had to be nearly simultaneous. If not, the crushing wave of spherical compression would be uneven and the bomb a dud. According to an official Los Alamos history, the designers learned belatedly of the need for a high “degree of simultaneity.”

David Greenglass, Los Alamos spy

Possible clues of Mr. Seborer’s espionage lurk in declassified Russian archives, Mr. Wellerstein of the Stevens Institute said in an interview. The documents show that Soviet scientists “spent a lot of time looking into the detonator-circuitry issue,” he said, and include a firing-circuit diagram that appears to have derived from spying.

Greenglass implosion diagram

The diagram shows an implosion bomb. Several labels of the schematic diagram appear first in English, then Russian. In a 2012 analysis, Mr. Wellerstein described the order as “betraying their obvious roots in espionage.” The English labels include “Power Supply” and “Fusing Unit.” In a follow-up analysis, Mr. Wellerstein concluded that Igor Kurchatov, the head of the Soviet bomb project, drew the schematic for Lavrenty Beria, the head of Stalin’s secret police.

The Soviet diagram was dated June 1946, four months after Mr. Seborer left Los Alamos. It shows pairs of wires running from an electrical controller to detonators on the bomb’s exterior — a clear echo of the American reliance on redundant firing circuits.

The main appeal of implosion was that it drastically reduced the amount of bomb fuel needed. The dense metals were hard to obtain and far more valuable than gold. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were roughly equal in destructiveness — but fuel for the Nagasaki bomb weighed just 14 pounds — one-tenth the weight of the fuel for the Hiroshima bomb. The secret of implosion thus represented the future of atomic weaponry.

Slowly, nuclear experts say, bomb designers cut the plutonium fuel requirement from 14 pounds to about two pounds — a metal ball roughly the size of an orange. These tiny atomic bombs became enormously important in the Cold War, because their fiery blasts served as atomic matches to ignite the thermonuclear fuel of hydrogen bombs.

The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima killed some 80,000 people. But hydrogen bombs can pack 1,000 times the destructive energy — a terrifying fact of atomic life that generated widespread fear of mutual annihilation. A single SS-18 missile, the Cold War’s deadliest Soviet weapon — Western intelligence agencies called it Satan — could easily fire 10 or more hydrogen warheads halfway around the globe.

If the 1956 documents shed light on Mr. Seborer’s crime, they do little to explain why the United States kept the nature of his job and likely espionage secret for 64 years.

One possibility was domestic politics. Several atomic spy scandals shook the nation in the early 1950s, staring with the arrest of the first Los Alamos spy. His testimony led to the capture of the second, and to the execution of the Rosenbergs. The anti-Communist hysteria of the McCarthy era reached a fever pitch between 1950 and 1954. President Dwight Eisenhower, who had put himself above the fray, began to fight back with information leaks and administrative fiats.

Morris and Jack Childs, 1954

The story of Oscar Seborer’s atomic espionage is found in a few dozen easily overlooked pages scattered among tens of thousands of pages of FBI files released in 2011. The rest comes from partially released FBI files on Oscar and Stuart that document Operation SOLO, the codename for the FBI’s recruitment and direction of two communist brothers, Morris and Jack Childs, as informants inside the senior leadership of the Communist Party, USA, (CPUSA) from 1952 until 1980.

Mr. Klehr of Emory said it was late 1955 when the F.B.I. first uncovered firm evidence that Mr. Seborer had been a Soviet spy, prompting the inquiry that led to the Los Alamos correspondence of Sept. 1956. A presidential campaign was then underway, and the last thing President Eisenhower needed was another spy scandal. The same held true in 1960, when Mr. Eisenhower’s vice president, Richard Nixon, fought John F. Kennedy for the White House.

He noted, too, that much F.B.I. information about the Seborers had come from a hugely successful undercover operation known as Solo, which had infiltrated the American Communist Party in the 1950s and continued the monitoring as late as 1977. Most likely, the bureau wanted to do nothing that might risk revealing the identities of its informants.

While the F.B.I. remains tight-lipped, the C.I.A. has shown considerable pride in helping publicly unmask the fourth spy at wartime Los Alamos, perhaps in part because more than seven decades have now passed since Mr. Seborer first entered the secretive site in the New Mexico wilderness.

On Jan. 24, the intelligence agency gave Mr. Klehr and Mr. Haynes an award at C.I.A. headquarters in Virginia for an outstanding contribution to the literature of intelligence. Mr. Klehr, 74, said he and his colleague were delighted with the official recognition of their work. Even so, he said the two men foresaw a need for more research, despite having stumbled on the Seborers seven years ago and having already done much to unveil the hidden drama.

“There’s still a lot to learn,” he said.

This article was condensed from the records of the CIA.

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Military Humor – 

WAS KILROY A SPY TOO?!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Kathleen Condliffe – Waipukurau, NZ; WAAF # 82629

Donald Emmons Sr. – Bay Minette, AL; US Navy, WWII

Paul Gualtieri – Prairie Village, KS; US Army Air Corps, WWII, SSgt., 58th Bomber Wing, radar

John Kildow – Post Falls, ID; US Navy, WWII / US Air Force, Korea

Betty McAdams – Albion, PA; US Navy WAVE, WWII

George T. Millson – Snobomish, WA; USMC, WWII, Korea / US Air Force, Vietnam

Dewey Partin – MIddleboro, KY; US Army Air Corps, WWII, CBI

Dorothy Romer – Mindin, NE; US Army WAC, WWII, nurse

Ronald E. Shay – King City, OR; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, 674th Artillery/11th Airborne Division

Miguel Villalon – Brownsville, TX; US Army, combat engineer, Bronze Star, Purple Heart

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Research for Stefaan…..  click on images to enlarge.

Camp MacKall

New Guinea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I heard back from one contact, Matt Underwood, last night – here is an excerpt from that letter…..

Jeeps assigned to HHQ Co., 187th Glider Infantry Regt., would be if there were 2 jeeps assigned, then each bumper would look the same except one would end in a 1, and the other in a 2.
I will try to find the formula this fellow needs and get back to you by this upcoming Monday, mid-day.  Hopefully, I can find it tonight.  But even this information in this email here may help him to figure it out on his own.  Really and truly, the motor pool of the 11th Airborne Division and its elements would have used the same formula as every other Army unit….meaning, if he can find several examples of other unit markings, he can probably begin to learn how to alter them into similar form for the 11th A/B.

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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 6, 2020, in Home Front, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 115 Comments.

  1. Scary stuff, GP. I suspect it’s not over so much as better hidden.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fascination find GP. It’s amazing in the fact that a few of the people we relied on to create such a terrible device; something I for one would want to never have been invented, spread the technology so others could do the same thing.

    Like

    • I suppose they helped build it to be certain it worked. I don’t think our trust would deter the actions of a spy. Most of the scientists involved changed their minds and signed a petition sent to the president to stop it being used as a bomb, but it was too late by then.

      Like

  3. I remember the tension of the “Cold War” and we used to have those “under the desk drills” Scary things when you’re a child. Thank you for following Eugi’s Causerie.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was really the heyday of spying and cover up and concealing information. I can’t fathom the amount of work that went into digging through records. My father was an FBI agent in WWII, and was sent to South America. His few letters to my mother had many blacked out sentences. She told me he had to learn perfect Spanish in six weeks without a trace of an accent. I would love to know what he knew or thought of regarding Los Alamos. Thanks for a great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Military spy history is a labyrinth of many secrets, doubt the full truth of history will ever come out, cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks Matt Underwood for the info. I have the manual on vehicle markings. What I still have a problem with is how many jeeps 11AB had and where they were placed. I have seen 11ABX RCN 1 which I guess stands for recon 1 of Div HQ. Is this correct? I want to try and connect the jeep to exact small unit history. Still have lots of learning to do about PTO.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s pretty scary. Really scary.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Another thrilling story, GP Cox. You have a well of information!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. For years, the Rosenbergs’ sons, and other activists, claimed their parents were both innocent. The evidence against Julius was compelling, though there are still people who don’t accept their guilt. The evidence used to convict Ethel was less damning, but it was believed based on David Greenglass’s testimony that she typed up spy-Julius’s notes. It’s possible that her brother, Greenglass, was, in fact, Julius’s accomplice.

    Activists were still hoping that the Rosenbergs would be exonerated by Obama. It’s rather surprising that didn’t happen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha, the way Obama was going, I’m surprised he didn’t! Some adviser must have been smart about that one.

      Lots of people don’t want to believe that a Jewish couple would be on the Axis side of the war (holocaust and all), but money drives people to do lots!! Even if she was just the typist – she knew the details and kept quiet – that makes her an accomplice.

      Like

  10. Interesting spy story! It must be fascinating to try to piece it all together. Of course, there probably still are some missing/secret pieces.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I’m sure there must be. I know investigators went looking for Stuart after Oscar died, but the neighbors around his last address knew nothing about such a man. (now – were they lying?) One never knows, do they?

      Like

  11. The complexity of nations spying on other nations is fascinating. Thank you for the continuing education, GP!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Outstanding story. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great information, GP! Unbelievable, but where is important knowledge, there are people want to have them too. Thank you! Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Heel interessant artikel….en zeer goed utgespit

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I bet there’s plenty more left to learn about this story !

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Thanks for this blog post. It was very informative and shows just how complex intelligence work is. The situation is invariably made worse by the petty jealousies of different departments, supposedly all on the same side, and the almost constant presence of intelligence officers from supposedly “friendly” countries. Huge amounts of espionage activity takes place, allegedly, between Britain and France. Why, I just do not know!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Kilroy looking awful guilty there!! 🙂 This was a very interesting article – and it put me in mind that my husband and I visited Los Alamos this past summer. It was interesting although not much is left from the work they did there!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Super story, GP. I wonder what motivated these men to spy for the Russians? Money or what? I wonder, is Seborer still alive?

    Liked by 1 person

  19. These stories of espionage make me wonder how many secrets the Russians know about us, and how many secrets we know about them. No information seems safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I’ve been to Los Alamos. It’s still remote! Burying data that might prove harmful to your political career, appears to be an age-old tradition, G. 🙂 And of course, the question of questions, “Was Kilroy a spy?” –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Quite scary! I don’t think a bomb shelter will protect us from a hydrogen bomb.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. My father got his PhD at Berkeley in the early 1940s in nuclear physics, one of the first ones , while he was in the Navy . He worked very briefly at Los Alamos in those bomb-making days and family lore has it that even he , despite almost no involvement in the project , was closely watched by the FBI . According to my brother , men in suits mysteriously came to the house soon after my father died and took some of my father’s notebooks . There was a piece of ‘nuclear glass’ that he had picked up from the ground after one of the desert tests. And — bomb shelters ? Dad thought that was a non-sensical response to the threat .

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Fascinating! We’ve just started talking about the Cold War in class- I need to get back and read the first part of this one 🙂 It’s great to find stories that go beyond the textbook- thanks for providing another one!

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Thanks for those two posts, GP. I had never heard of this before. I thought I knew about all the spies of that era. I followed all the stories as they were made public. I didn’t realize some one like this was kept hidden from the public. But I was young and naive in those days.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And it sure doesn’t help when data is hidden from the public. But I understand why it was. What government wants their population nervous about security by telling the story of 4 spies at a nuclear facility in their own backyard?!!

      Like

  25. I didn’t have a clue about this. It is really interesting. My son is studying the cold war and all its nuclear issues and implications.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Awesome research I imagine

    Liked by 1 person

  27. What an interesting series of articles.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I experienced a half built bomb shelter in a friend’s basement and the unfortunate nuclear attack drills in school.

    Liked by 1 person

  29. Of course Kilroy wasn’t a spy — even though that big nose might have poked into a lot of business he shouldn’t have been concerned with!

    Even today, there’s something unnerving about learning more details about these bombs. I can’t say we were terrified as children — at least, I wasn’t — but there was a constant awareness of the threat looming over us. Unfortunately, the threat’s still there, refined even further.

    Liked by 1 person

    • When I came home from school mentioning the “hiding under the desk drill” we had for the bomb, I later heard my dad say that if it ever went off, we’d never know it. After that – no more fear. I guess I was more concerned with hurting than I was about dying.

      I’m not so sure about Kilroy – he sure seemed to be everywhere! 🙂

      Like

  30. Great series, GP. Especially love the comics.😁

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Reality is often more interesting than the most thrilling spy novels.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Implosion was a creative invention but after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, why it was necessary to make something stronger makes me scratch my head. I remember in the 70s and early 80s worried about annialation. Today I don’t fear it. I think a weapon more devastating is chemical war. That plague purposefully set in the air or into our water supply. Anyway, great article, GP!

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Sometimes, I end up pressing “Post” before I’ve said everything, so let me start by thanking you for spending time and researching this story that appears to be meant never to see the light of day. I can only imagine the work involved.

    We were never going to keep the nuclear secret to ourselves, but the actions during the early years of the cold war brought us perilously close to a very bad end.

    Even more interesting than the technology and the spying, is the efforts to conceal the spying. We can only guess at the reasoning behind those decisions, just as we can only guess at the possible outcomes had the truth been shared. In that era, it was easy to hide facts and it was easy to create facts that weren’t there, all in order to support a political will that may not have been easy to sell to the American people.

    I have to forward this to a couple of people 🙂

    Thanks again, GP.

    Liked by 3 people

  34. Those spy stories were such a feature of my youth. All that ‘Cold War’ tension, and the fear of total nuclear war. I still recall being very scared of nuclear bombs, and being convinced that they would fall on London.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 6 people

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

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