Cover

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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xvi

Understanding government power has been a lifetime interest. How do communities organize themselves so that they can solve problems and promote common interests? How do we balance the interests of the community and the individual? What processes do we use to make decisions so that we can act efficiently while also giving proper consideration to people who may not have the wherewithal to participate in civic life? I am grateful...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

E=mc2 in the hands of Adolph Hitler. In the summer of 1939, that nightmare was on the minds of two Martians as they drove through the North Fork of Long Island hoping to get the signature of the one man who might forestall catastrophe.

Leo Szilard and Edward Teller were fellow Hungarians, fellow physicists, and fellow Jews who fled Germany...

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1. A Squash Court in Chicago

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pp. 9-29

On a November day in 1942, two guys had a conversation about blowing up Chicago. Enrico Fermi and Arthur Holly Compton were Nobel Prize–winning physicists and key figures in the Manhattan Project. Their plan to conduct the first controlled nuclear chain reaction in a facility outside the nation’s second largest city had been frustrated by a labor dispute, so they were looking...

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2. FDR and the Einstein Letter

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pp. 30-52

The path to the squash court began in 1939 with a letter written by several Hungarians, signed by a German, and read by a Russian to a patrician New Yorker who was the president of the United States.1 The letter required a reading aloud because it buried the lede. Before getting to the third paragraph with its ominous reference to “extremely powerful bombs of a new type,” Franklin Roosevelt...

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3. A Bungled Start

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pp. 53-66

Franklin Roosevelt’s remark on October 11, 1939, about Nazis blowing us up expressed an urgency that was followed in his administration by eight months of futility.

After hearing the account of the Einstein letter, FDR wrapped up his meeting with Alexander Sachs and Pa Watson by telling Sachs to pass along the information about the...

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4. The President’s Man and the Liberal State

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pp. 67-94

The tragedy of World War II offers compelling characters leading the combatants in a conflict that Milton might have included in Paradise Lost, right after Satan’s being tossed from heaven. For Americans, the dominant theme might be their disabled president’s using every trick in his Machiavellian brain to help his friend the British prime minister rally his nation against an onslaught...

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5. MAUD— Working with the British

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pp. 95-123

The Manhattan Project was secured in the executive branch, meaning that it was secured ultimately in the person of Franklin Roosevelt—safe from the meddling of Congress but not safe from factions and the difficulties they bring. The word faction itself has a negative connotation, as does its modern equivalent special interest group. No one brags of being a proud member of special...

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6. The German Bomb

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pp. 124-140

At some point, sooner or later, somebody somewhere was going to build an atomic bomb. If not the United States in the 1940s, then another country at another time.

America built the bomb near the midpoint of the twentieth century not to avenge Pearl Harbor nor to intimidate the Soviet Union nor even to shorten World War II. The unprecedented...

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7. Secrets and Spies

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pp. 141-156

If something can be both tragic and dreary, Soviet espionage and the American response may qualify. The spies included a number of pathetic, broken individuals trying to find purpose in a cause that slaughtered and enslaved millions while professing a utopian end for humanity. The American reaction to the discovery of spies among us was late, reactive,...

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8. Congress Rebounds

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pp. 157-176

Senator Edwin Johnson’s untimely notification about a pending hydrogen bomb program seemed to confirm the wisdom of Franklin Roosevelt’s keeping members of Congress out of the atomic loop. Any president would be indignant about such a leak, and Harry Truman was beyond indignant. When his temper eased, he might have realized that his own hands...

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9. The Transition to Truman

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pp. 177-195

In the summer of 1944 World War II had reached its endgame. Terrible battles remained. The death camps would continue their slaughter. Civilians would die in their homes and schools. In the following spring, children in German army uniforms would be killed in the defense of Berlin. These and other horrors would be suffered across the globe, but the outcome was no longer...

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10. Hiroshima

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pp. 196-219

Hiroshima has become a Rorschach test. Do you see a brutal, utilitarian calculation that saved more lives than it cost? Do you see an indulgence of revenge with a racist element as well? Were we trying to intimidate the Soviets? By having an actual example of the horror, were we showing the world that war was now obsolete? Was it simply an inevitable outcome of bureaucratic...

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11. Science and Democracy

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pp. 220-236

Poets and artists have created stories that celebrate the history of a people, warn of perils, and plead with gods for protection. Mythology developed to explain critical aspects of human life and to propose the virtues that would meet the challenges that every society faces.

In that regard, about 2,700 years ago, Hesiod presented the figure of Prometheus in his Theogony. Having brought...

Notes

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pp. 237-250

Bibliography

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pp. 251-256

Index

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pp. 257-260

Image Plates

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