War Creates a Single-Minded Focus

The United States agreed to furnish Lend-Lease and the Soviets did not doubt that they had earned it- at Leningrad, at Stalingrad, in the monstrous enclosures in the western USSR where the Germans, as they advanced, confined Soviet prisoners of war completely exposed without water or food. At least 4.5 million Soviet civilians and combatants had been killed by 1943; at least three million combatants died in enclosures and camps throughout the war; at least 25 million Soviet civilians and combatants died before the eventual Allied victory. From the Soviet point of view, Lend-Lease was the least America could do …

A Chance Racist Taunt Strengthens the Resolve of a Soviet Spy

South Philadelphia was a tough neighborhood. Harry Gold thought the “fertile soil” of his “earnest desire” to work with the Soviet Union lay there, in his early experience of anti-Semitism: “When I was about twelve I made regular trips to the Public Library at Broad and Porter Streets, a distance of about two miles from my home. On returning from one such trip I was seized by a group of about 15 gentile boys at 12th and Shunk Streets and was badly beaten.” Gangs of Neckers, kids who lived in the marshy Neck section of South Philadelphia near the city …

A Nuclear Hammer

Regarding the design of a nuclear fission trigger that ignites a fusion bomb. Levitation gave the imploding shell time to acquire momentum before it hit the core. Nuclear-weapons designer Theodore B. Taylor explained the principle to the writer John McPhee once without naming it: “The way to get more energy into the middle was to hit the core harder. When you hammer a nail, what do you do? Do you put the hammer on the nail and push?” The solid Fat Man core had been pushed; levitation hammered. And because it increased efficiency, levitation also made it possible to design …