Atomic Bomb Spies


R - Z

Roberts, Sam. The Brother: The Untold Story of Atomic Spy David Greenglass and How He Sent His Sister, Ethel Rosenberg, to the Electric Chair. New York: Random House, 2001.

Haynes, I&NS 17.3, calls this book "a well-written melodrama with the ethics of the grade school playground. Espionage against the United States in the service of Stalin is a mere piffle compared [to] the monstrous crime of snitching on your sister.... The Brother is written for a popular audience, scholarly apparatus is minimal, and the sources of much information are unclear or not given." For Ehrman, Studies 46.4 (2002), this "book is a notable addition to the literature on the case.... More than anyone else, [Roberts] has told us about the human beings in the story, and shown that they were not admirable people."

Roberts, Sam. "Figure in Rosenberg Case Admits to Soviet Spying." New York Times, 12 Sep. 2008. [http://www.nytimes.com]

On 11 September 2008, Morton Sobell in an interview with the New York Times "admitted for the first time that he had been a Soviet spy. And he implicated his fellow defendant Julius Rosenberg, in a conspiracy that delivered to the Soviets classified military and industrial information and what the American government described as the secret to the atomic bomb.... Sobell also concurred in what has become a consensus among historians: that Ethel Rosenberg, who was executed with her husband, was aware of Julius's espionage, but did not actively participate.

Schecter, Jerrold L. and Leona Schecter. Sacred Secrets: How Soviet Intelligence Operations Changed American History. Washington, DC: Brassey's, 2002.

According to Goulden, AFIO WIN 35-02, 2 Sep. 2002, the authors believe that the activities of Soviet intelligence agents certainly affected U.S. policy and changed U.S. history. Their effort to document that viewpoint makes Sacred Secrets "an important contribution to intelligence literature." In addition, "their analysis of VENONA is the best yet published." Bath. NIPQ 19.4, sees Sacred Secrets as a "well-researched view of some of the murkier aspects of Cold War espionage." Although he is "not sure" that he agrees "with all their conclusions," the reviewer finds that "they make a plausible case."

Holmes, Library Journal, Jul. 2002, finds that Sacred Secrets "is a touch oversold.... While it adds some details to the historical literature, little new ground is actually broken.... [I]t is less a path-breaking work than an incremental addition to the Cold War literature." For Haynes, I&NS 17.4, the absence of an explanation of how the authors obtained Soviet intelligence documents opens the door for doubters to reject them but, for his part, he is willing to "accept[] them as authentic." Although "[a]n inattention to detail has allowed minor errors to creep into the text..., students of Soviet espionage ... would be foolish to ignore" this book.

See also, Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, "Special Tasks and Sacred Secrets on Soviet Atomic Spies," Intelligence and National Security 26.5 (Oct. 2011): 656-675: "In regard to Soviet atomic espionage Special Tasks and Sacred Secrets are neither reliable nor credible."

Schweber, Silvan S. In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000.

According to Schecter, I&NS 16.2, the focus here is on the moral consequences of creating the atomic bomb, not on "the greatest moral question" of whether to provide classified information to the Soviet Union. The author "never raises the possibility ... that Oppenheimer had been a long-time Communist Party member who went into the Communist underground when he started work on the atomic bomb." Nor does he "deal with the campaign against Oppenheimer orchestrated by the US Air Force that led to the removal of his security clearance in 1953."

Smith, John H. The Atom Spy and MI5: The Story of Alan Nunn May. Malvern, UK: Aspect Design, 2013.

Peake, Studies 58.1 (Mar. 2014), notes that most of this work "concerns Nunn May's relationship with MI5, his family, and his life after his release in 1952."

Trenear-Harvey, Glenmore S. Historical Dictionary of Atomic Espionage. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2011.

For Peake, Studies 56.1 (Mar. 2012) and Intelligencer 19.2 (Summer-Fall 2012), this is "a useful compendium of espionage personalities and events associated with nuclear weapons from the 1930s to the present.... For reasons not explained, this dictionary does not include references, such as were found in earlier contributions to this series." Overall, this "is a good place to start for those studying atomic espionage."

Trilling, Diana. "The Oppenheimer Case: A Reading of the Testimony." Partisan Review 21 (1954): 604-635.

The author views the Atomic Energy Commission investigation of J. Robert Oppenheimer in a negative light. For a flavor of the passions of the times, this article should be read in conjunction with Hans Meyerhoff, "Through the Liberal Looking Glass -- Darkly," Partisan Review 22 (1955): 238-245; and Diana Trilling, "A Rejoinder to H. Meyerhoff," Partisan Review 21 (1954): 248-251.

Usdin, Steven T.

1. Engineering Communism: How Two Americans Spied for Stalin and Founded the Soviet Silicon Valley. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005.

According to Peake, Studies 50.1 (Mar. 2006), this is the story of Julius Rosenberg's recruitment of Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant, "their wartime espionage"; their escape from the net that closed around the spy ring after Klaus Fuchs confessed that he had spied for the Soviets; "their lives in the Soviet Union, where they helped create a scientific laboratory complex called Zelenograd; and what happened to them after the Cold War." The book "is well written and well documented."

Beard, I&NS 21.2 (Apr. 2006), says that the author "has carefully documented his story in the secondary literature." The book "succeeds as both a biography of two personally and politically complex men and as Cold War history."

2. "Famous Espionage Cases: Tracking Julius Rosenberg's Lesser Known Associates." Studies in Intelligence 49, no. 3 (2005).

The author focuses on two of Julius Rosenberg's associates, Joel Barr and Alfred Sarant, to argue that the responses of the FBI and the U.S. Army "to communist penetration during World War II were characterized by a ... lack of imagination. The ... Bureau and the army treated communists as potential subversives, not as spies acting on behalf of the Soviet Union." The ability of Barr and Sarant to spy "unmolested can only be attributed to stunningly incompetent and uncoordinated American counterintelligence."

West, Nigel. [Rupert Allason] Mortal Crimes: The Greatest Theft in History -- Soviet Penetration of the Manhattan Project. New York: Enigma, 2004.

An AFIO WIN 18-04 (31 May 2004) reviewer finds that the author "painstakingly reconstructs the warren of espionage networks set up" by Soviet intelligence in the United States in the 1930s. To Bath, NIPQ 21.3 (Sep. 2005), West's "story is detailed, and it is sometimes difficult to keep track of the names and numbers of all the players. It is not a casual read, but those who are willing to undertake it will find it a worthwhile contribution to the study of espionage and the development of the atom bomb."

Roberts, I&NS 20.2 (Jun. 2005), finds that the author's "main achievement is to synthesize the all too abundant material about atomic espionage and weave it into a readable and lively account." However, the reviewer is unhappy about "the scattered and sporadic" footnoting in the book, and decides that the charges West makes against Ernest Lawence "are not supported by the available evidence."

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