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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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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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