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Time Magazine 1985 - The Birth of 'He Looks Like Spencer Tracy Now'

Inspiration can come from many places and for Ricky Ross 'Time Magazine' proved to be a very inspiring source of creativity. For it was reading this article whilst on holiday that Ricky wrote the Deacon Blue classic "He Looks Like Spencer Tracy Now". Upon reading the article you will see how many of the lyrics are direct quotes from the article. I've highlighted many of these words and phrases that inspired the young Ricky Ross. A facinating look at the creation of this incredible song.

What the Physicist Saw: A New World, A Mystic World
Time Magazine 1985

 

No, I wasn't on the Enola Gay. I was on the Great Artiste, the instrument plane, which measured the yield, the size of the blast. We were right next to the Enola Gay when she dropped the Bomb. It was I who got the pictures. I didn't take 'em. Let's say I had a hand in 'em. But I brought the films back. They were on a 16-mm color cassette, and the only processing facility we had out there was for black-and-white movies on reels, so they couldn't process what we had, and we didn't know if anything was on 'em or not. I had to get 'em back to the lab over Groves' dead body. Groves had a policy that everything in the field went to him first, and he tried to get the films away from me. That's a story in itself--cops 'n' robbers. So how do you keep the films from General Groves when you're going from Tinian to Kwajalein to Johnston Island to Hawaii to San Francisco to Wendover, Utah, to Albuquerque, stopping every time with some gumshoe lookin' in the plane and asking, 'Anybody on board by the name of Agnew? He has something I've been ordered by General Groves to get.'

"Well, I didn't put [the films] in my brassiere or up my ass, but I got 'em. Still, I got caught in Albuquerque. That's when they really closed in on me. But I cut a deal. We'd take the pictures to Oppie, and he'd decide what to do."

Harold M. Agnew's elbows make a pair of wings for his head, on top of which his hands fold in a clasp. The elbows are covered by suede patches sewn onto a brown tweed jacket. The collar of his brown polo shirt is worn over the jacket collar. There is a Western-style belt of silver and turquoise, and something of a belly: the paunch of a man of 64 who was an athlete 40 years ago. He looks like Spencer Tracy now. His desk looks like a pile of raked leaves. On walls and tables in his not-too-large office are honorary university degrees; a photo taken with Attorney General Edwin Meese; another photo taken years ago on Tinian, showing Agnew and his fellow scientists at a briefing session the night before the Hiroshima bombing; and near his desk, a framed photo of his wife Beverly, now 65, looking crisp and very smart in 1939.

These mementos belong to the president of GA Technologies Inc., a company described in its brochure as one of "diverse interests and programs, ranging from the development of advanced energy conversions systems to the production of nuclear instrumentation and radiation monitoring equipment." "They still give me an office to play in," says Agnew, suggesting that his days of hands-on running the company are over. GA Technologies is a very big thing to run: 1984 sales of $160 million and 1,800 employees. Filling 350 well-tended acres behind a high wire gate near La Jolla, Calif., the company resembles a little village, which, instead of a school, a church and a store, consists of a Fusion Building, Waste Yard Buildings and Experimental Area Buildings No. 1, No. 1Bunker and No. 2.

In fact, GA Technologies looks a good deal like the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, of which Agnew was once the director, succeeding Norris Bradbury, who succeeded Los Alamos' first director, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the "Oppie" of the story about the swiped films. The "Groves" is General Leslie Groves, military commander of the Manhattan Project. The films Groves was chasing were the only ones taken of the Hiroshima bomb at the moment it went off. Agnew's Great Artiste was one of the planes seen by the boys in Yoshitaka Kawamoto's schoolyard when assembly was held the morning of Aug. 6. It may also have been the B-29 spotted by Kawamoto's classmate Fujimoto when Kawamoto started toward the window for a look.

Agnew was only 24 when he went up in the Great Artiste, but he had already seen a lot of the new world of split atoms. As a physics student straight out of college, he was taken by his professor to work with the people at the University of Chicago under Enrico Fermi. At the age of 21, Agnew was one of 43 people to witness the world's first man-made nuclear chain reaction, in a squash court under the football field. A few years later he was testing yield-measuring devices at Wendover Air Base in Utah, where Colonel Paul Tibbets and the atom bomb crew were training in secret. What Agnew saw was much of the history of America's scientific and military progress toward the Hiroshima bombing. He also observed the close relationship that developed between science and the military after the Bomb was dropped. As director of Los Alamos from 1970 to 1979, he later superintended that relationship.

For 40 years, then, Harold Agnew's life tracked the atomic age--from Chicago to Los Alamos to Hiroshima to Los Alamos to La Jolla. His perspective on Hiroshima specifically is that a bomb had to be made and a war won.

Not that any of this history occupies the forefront of Agnew's mind at the moment. These days he is steaming over the IRS, which refuses to give him a tax deduction on those films of Hiroshima. Here is what happened after he cut the deal with Groves:

"I called Oppie ahead of time to explain what was going on. And while we were negotiating, a guy from the lab grabbed the films and went to L.A. with 'em, 'cause that was the only place in the country where they could be processed. It turned out we really struck gold with those pictures. We got it. After that we settled the business, and gave copies to Groves. When the war was over, Oppie gave me the originals, and I'd let people use 'em.

"But then Senator [Bob] Packwood heard I had these things, and said they ought to be put in the Smithsonian. So I looked, but I decided that they'd wind up behind some stuffed owl. Then Glenn Campbell of the Hoover Institution [of War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University] wanted 'em, so I gave 'em to him. A few months later, I got an appraisal from Sotheby's for a deduction on my income tax. Well, since then I've been fighting the IRS. This Wednesday we're having a hearing. Seems they sent the films to Ray Hackie's Film Service. And Ray Hackie's Film Service said the films are worthless. Said they'd been taken with a hand-held camera. There's no script and no score.

"I'm not kidding. No script and no score. So I have to hire an attorney. It's funny, but it's not so funny. That's the IRS for you. Not a thing you can do about it. The way they're going to get their money is through the taxes the lawyer pays 'em after me payin' him.

"And another thing I got is the original strike orders [for the bombing], which are rather impressive. They were posted on the bulletin board in Tinian, telling us what planes to use, and when to go to breakfast, and when you take off. And the thing that gets me: you read all the way down--so many gallons of gasoline, and so on--until you get to 'Bomb: Special.' Just said 'Special.' Course, the IRS says that's worthless too. What's a country boy to do?"

From time to time the phone rings, and the country boy enters another imminent negotiation. He is trying to sell one of his four cars, a '66 Ford with 208,000 miles on it. Someone has just informed him that the car has a burned-out valve. "You still wanna buy it?"

He addresses the past again. "Did we have to drop the Bomb? You bet your life we did. I wrote an article a couple of years ago recounting my experiences as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Second Session on Disarmament [June 1982]. Outside the U.S. building a group was sitting and marching in silence in memory of Hiroshima. Not Pearl Harbor but Hiroshima. No one seems to realize that without Pearl Harbor there wouldn't have been a Hiroshima." He goes back to the beginning:

"The way things really got started was in late '41, after Pearl Harbor. Actually for me, before that time. I was a student at the University of Denver. That's my hometown. And we were all signing up to join the Army Air Corps. Many of my classmates had run off to Canada. That was when you'd run off to Canada to get into a war, not stay out of one. In fact, my classmate Keith Johnson got shot down in the Battle of Britain. So we were all signing up. But a professor of mine said, 'Don't sign up in that program. I think something's happening where you can be much more useful.' That's all I knew. A couple of weeks later he said, 'You're going to Chicago.'

"In those days there were only a handful of places in the whole country that knew anything about nuclear energy--nuclear physics. It was just in '38 that Enrico Fermi got the Nobel Prize for his work with neutrons, so it was all really brand new. What happened was that the heads of the few places--Ernest Lawrence at Berkeley, Arthur Compton at Chicago, John Dunning at Columbia--they contacted all their former graduates and said, 'Come on back.' They were told that if they knew any semiliterate undergraduates, bring 'em too. It's for the war. So my professor at Denver brought me, first to Columbia, then to Chicago, to see what was going on. Not really. I don't think I knew what was going on as far as the Bomb was concerned for maybe nine months. Anyway, we went to Chicago and started building the first man-made chain reaction.

"I wrote an article about the squash court experiment too--if I can find the goddam thing. I write lots of articles. Course, nobody ever reads 'em." After a minute, he comes up with "Early Recollections of the Manhattan Project," an address to the Society of Nuclear Medicine meeting in Chicago in June 1977. In the article he describes how Fermi and his assistants kept building up the nuclear pile to achieve a critical mass, the smallest amount of material needed to begin a chain reaction. They calculated that on the night between Dec. 1 and Dec. 2, 1942, the 57th layer of graphite would make the pile critical. To prevent the neutrons from multiplying and starting a reaction, the scientists used cadmium strips, which absorb neutrons. When all but one of the cadmium strips were removed, it became clear the calculations were correct. "It was a great temptation for me to partially withdraw the final cadmium strip and to be the first to make a pile chain-react. But Fermi had anticipated this possibility. He had made me promise that I would make the measurement, record the result, insert all cadmium rods, lock them all in place, go to bed, and nothing more.

"What people don't understand is that we were really running frightened of the Germans. The main thing was to get a self-sustaining chain reaction before the Germans did. All the people who were involved--Leo Szilard, John Von Neumann--the whole gaggle of 'em had just got off the boat. Fermi's wife was Jewish. The rest of the guys were Jewish. That's why they left. But all the other Huns, their colleagues, were back home, probably working on a chain reaction. So there was a lot of pressure.

"Well, anyway, we put the stuff together the next morning, and it looked as if the thing was going to go critical. Then Fermi says, 'Let's go have lunch.' You'd think he'd want to stay around and finish the damn thing. The criticality kept going up. The counters kept clicking faster and faster. You don't see anything when this happens. The counter just keeps accelerating, like in your car. Course, in a bomb it goes so fast, it blows the thing apart. But then Fermi shuts everything off and says, 'Let's have lunch.' So we started it all up again in the afternoon, and it went critical, and that was that.

"Let me tell you, even at this point I still didn't know what the hell this was all about. Everything was very secret. Besides the Hiroshima films and the strike orders, I got a very interesting tape by Fermi talking about secrecy. He points out that things were classified first by the scientists, not by the military. You hear things now about how the damn Government classified science; not so. I have the tape. He even hired a guy from Yale to draw up the rules for classification. An absolute paranoid. Excellent choice."

The uneasy relationship between the scientists and the military was beginning to find its shape about the time of the Chicago chain reaction. Only three years earlier Albert Einstein, advised by his fellow refugee physicists Leo Szilard and Eugene P. Wigner that the Germans were likely to produce an atomic weapon, had addressed a letter to President Roosevelt warning of "extremely powerful bombs of a new type." Once Roosevelt was persuaded that America ought to have that bomb first, he set in motion, albeit very slow motion initially, a coordination of scientific effort that would lead inevitably to a working partnership with the American military. Watson Davis, a science editor of the 1930s, anticipated the central difficulty of that partnership in a single observation: "The most important problem before the scientific world today is not the cure of cancer, the discovery of a new source of energy, or any specific achievement. It is: How can science maintain its freedom and . . . help preserve a peaceful and effective civilization?"

In a time of war against world-seizing powers, Davis' question had to lead science logically, purposefully and enthusiastically toward a collegial relationship with the American military. Once that relationship was established it was not to be undone. After Hiroshima, with or without a war serving as matchmaker, the soldiers and the physicists were to be wedded for the rest of the century. Yet in the 1940s it was not with the military per se that many scientists believed they were forming a partnership. Rather, it was with the war as a specific and isolated entity. Agnew recalls how zealously Oppenheimer worked to keep the scientists in a draft-free status: an effort for symbolic, if not functional, independence.

For their part, most of the military had no knowledge of the atom bomb project. General Groves was in charge of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos and on Tinian, but he served as a manager and coordinating supervisor--an exceptionally capable one, according to Agnew; an overbearing and tyrannical one, according to critics--not as a commander directly involved with the conduct of the war. Not even General Douglas MacArthur, the monarchical commander in the Pacific, knew of the Bomb in the making.

Yet while these two technically separate units of physicists and soldiers trained and worked in relative isolation from each other for an event no one was sure would ever take place, and while the scientists restricted their intellectual freedom in pursuit of preserving their civic freedom, the fact is that both they and the military were working their way toward the same meeting place. That their relationship would be sealed over Hiroshima deeply troubled some of the scientists afterward, who may have read in the aerial pairing of the Enola Gay and the Great Artiste the end of their control over a universe they had disclosed. In 1943, however, most of the scientists wanted victory first, and Los Alamos was their theater.

"You want to know how I got to Los Alamos? It was my wife's good looks. We were married in May 1942, and Beverly got a job as personal secretary to R.L. Doan, the administrative head of the project in Chicago. She also handled the whole security system in Chicago--21 years old, an English literature major. She was pretty too, and whenever Oppie came around, he liked to talk to her. Naturally, when Oppie was going to start up the lab in Los Alamos, he decided that he needed someone to work for him who had experience--like Beverly. So he asked her to come to New Mexico. And it was reasonable that I should go too. Fact is, it seemed that everyone and everything was going to Los Alamos. The Princeton guys, the Illinois people. Tremendous effort. People today don't appreciate how frightened we were. Things were really going down the tube in '41, '42, '43. We were losing badly in the Pacific. There was Bataan. Hong Kong fell Christmas Day. The Atlantic was just horrendous.

"Anyway, when I showed up at Los Alamos, it was a Sunday, and my wife hadn't arrived yet, 'cause she was home saying goodbye to her brother, who was off to the war. And I ran into Oppie. And all he said was: 'Where's Beverly?' Which crushed me. From that day I knew exactly where I stood with that guy." Agnew chuckles. "I never really liked the guy, anyway. He was too smart and too rich and too handsome.

"And he was really a smoothie. We got about 128 bucks a month. The plumbers at Los Alamos were getting between $500 and $750. And the plumbers couldn't do anything the physicists couldn't do. So we went to see Oppie, about six of us, and complained. And Oppie says, 'The difference is that you know what you're doin' and the plumbers don't.' Then he walks out. And we took it. What an operator."

Modern Los Alamos makes it easy to picture what the town looked like in 1943, when the physicists began to arrive and settle in. Like Hiroshima, Los Alamos lives in two eras simultaneously; a road sign near Bandelier National Monument park indicates six miles to the "Atomic City. Birthplace of the Atomic Age, scientific laboratory and museum, gas-food-lodging-golf course." The makeshift wooden apartments that once housed the physicists and their families are long down, as are the PX with its cathedral-like jukebox and the commissary and the walls of bed sheets drying in the sun in front of Quonset huts. Yet photographs of all these are retained and displayed prominently in the new buildings, whose functions differ from the originals only in scope. The main business of Los Alamos is what it has been since the town popped up on a plateau just east of the continental divide 42 years ago: the design and development of nuclear weapons. These functions are performed in a surrounding of caves, canyons, mesas, mountains and sky so beautiful that all one has to do is look up from his work for a moment, and the day has changed.

"We came to this wonderful world," said Nobel Prizewinner I.I. Rabi in a speech at Los Alamos a few years ago when the alumni reconvened. Rabi's speech was double-edged. Titled "How Well We Meant," it both recalled the necessity of nuclear weapons and lamented their subsequent expansion. But in the beginning "it happened to be one of those spring days where everything was lovely. The air was clear and mild, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains were distinct and sharp, the mesa on the other side--lovely! And the ride up on the old road, somewhat hair raising but very interesting, the old bridge, and then, of course, the Indians; we certainly seemed to enter a new world, a mystic world."

Both the mystic and the real world are exhibited in the Bradbury Science Museum. It is about the size of Kawamoto's Peace Museum, and it too tells the story of an event and its consequences. Exhibits are arranged to indicate causalities. Einstein's letter to F.D.R. is located on a wall below a newspaper headline of the times: GERMANY ANNEXES AUSTRIA. There is a letter from Groves to Oppenheimer, requesting that Oppenheimer avoid flying in airplanes: "The time saved is not worth the risk." A photograph shows the July 16, 1945, Trinity test explosion at Alamogordo, looking like a glazed white coffee cup overturned on a bed of suds.

Oddest among the exhibits are two life-size, life-shape, white plaster models of Groves and Oppenheimer: the one, thick-fleshed in an oversize Army uniform, the cast accurate to the bulge in Groves' breast pocket, perhaps made by the chocolates to which he reportedly was addicted; the other skinny, stooped, in an unpressed civilian suit and floppy hat. From hats to shoes, all white, the two of them. All white, too, is a model of "Little Boy" lying on the floor--120 in. long, 28 in. in diameter, nearly 9,000 lbs.--looking like a small, friendly Moby Dick. Another striking figure in the museum is that of "Plastic Man," described as "one of the most popular of all the laboratory's residents during the 1950s." The transparent dummy was used to test levels of radiation on human beings after an atomic blast.

The main event in the museum is a film called The Town That Never Was, shown on a regular schedule in a small theater where the seats are carpeted rises. Hiroshima is never mentioned in this film, which for some reason begins with voices in prayer in church and the figure of Jesus covered with blood. Then the film proceeds to show the Chicago squash court and herky-jerky conversations among Szilard, Wigner, Edward Teller and the rest. A jalopy convertible winds up a mountain road in a scene that might have come from a Gene Autry western of the 1930s. There are sudden shots of the Statue of Liberty; sheep and golden flowers by a roadside; the Los Alamos Ranch School, which occupied the land before the lab came, a place where wealthy families sent sickly boys for toughening. The film's narrator says that "Indians willingly relinquished land for the sake of the war," and he describes the uniqueness of Los Alamos in terms of negatives: "No invalids, no idle rich, no in-laws, no unemployed, no jails, no sidewalks, no garages, no paved roads." The film ends with sailors bussing girls on the streets of New York, and references to the future of nuclear energy and "rockets to the stars."

When Agnew arrived at Los Alamos in March 1943, there were no invalids, no idle rich, no paved roads and not much room.

"Beverly and I shared a bunkhouse with one other couple and a fella from the University of Nebraska, a guy named Jorgensen, who would eat only Chinese food. He elected himself cook. We ate Chinese food three times a day, Chinese oatmeal for breakfast. He cooked on a hot plate and slept in the hall, while the two couples had one small bedroom each. But it worked great. I loved the place. Easterners had a time getting used to all this primitive discomfort, but I was in hog heaven. It was also a completely democratic society. Oppie saw to that--big shots and flunkies like me all living together. Every week we had a colloquium in one of our two movie theaters, where we would be told what everyone was doing. Once in a while some military guy would come by and give us a pep talk.

"Soon as we got there our job was to put together an accelerator, which was brought from the University of Illinois in Champaign. A team of us--Bernie Waldman from Notre Dame and John Manley, who'd come from Illinois and Columbia, and people from Nebraska and Wisconsin--we all pitched in. We worked six days a week to get the Bomb first. There's been a lot of stories that maybe we had the Bomb and were sitting on it, that we could have used it in Germany but because we're Anglo-Saxons or whatever, that we only went against the Asians. That's not true. As soon as we got the Bomb we were ready to drop it.

"First we had to figure out how the thing would be designed. Everyone was working just as fast as possible--either on the gun-assembly method, which was used for the uranium bomb in Hiroshima, or on the implosion method, which we used for the plutonium bomb at Trinity and later in Nagasaki. [George] Kistiakowsky pooh-poohed the implosion idea at first; he was a real tough cookie. But then he got behind it. Both bombs were going ahead full steam."

As it turned out, the Hiroshima bomb would be the only one of its type America ever built or used, uranium being that much more difficult to obtain than plutonium. One of the spurs to the American atom bomb effort had been a report in 1943 that Hitler had ordered uranium shipped out of mines in Belgium. It was also taken for granted that the gun-assembly method--one piece of purified uranium (uranium-235) fired into another at terrific speed--would work, so the Hiroshima bomb was never tested till the morning it was dropped.

While the people in Los Alamos were working to produce their bomb, physicists in Japan were attempting to produce theirs. Professor Hidetake Kakihana of Sophia University in Tokyo was Agnew's age when he too was enlisted by his country in 1941 to assist with nuclear fission experiments at a secret cyclotron in Tokyo under the directorship of Yoshio Nishina, Japan's Oppenheimer. Unlike Agnew, Kakihana and many of his colleagues were reluctant to produce an atom bomb for their government because they had great distaste for the military regime. The physicists worked, Kakihana says today, with deliberate slowness.

If Japan's military regime really wanted to produce an atom bomb before the Americans, it put almost no money behind the effort, compared with the Americans' $2 billion. For their part, the Japanese physicists simply made the wrong scientific choice in their fission experiments, deciding to work with high-energy rather than low-energy neutrons. Even if they had been able to produce a chain reaction, there was very little uranium in the country and no way to get more. There is little doubt that if the Japanese had made a Bomb before the Americans, they would have used it, but the question is moot. Kakihana always believed that the U.S. would build the Bomb first, but he thought that the Americans would use it only in a demonstration.

"All the while," Agnew says, "I really was aching to get in the war. Pure and simple. I wanted in especially because all my classmates and my friends in Denver were in. We had an all-city softball team. My catcher got killed in the war--a guy named Howard Erikson. And all the other kids--Bob Hogan, who would have made, maybe, an All-America golf and/or football player, he got killed. Everybody was gettin' killed. Or they were off fighting someplace. And of course, the neighbors wanted to know where I was. And my parents said they really didn't know, but they knew I was doin' something. Well, it sounded as if I'd gone over the hill. That really bothered me. And it bothered them, but they really didn't know where we were. We had a P.O. box, that's all. So I wanted in. If I was ever asked, 'What did you do in the war, Daddy?' I could say, 'I did this. I didn't hide under a bush.'

"Luckily for me, in late '44 [fellow Physicist] Luis Alvarez, who also wanted to get in the war, came up with the idea that we were neglecting our responsibilities if we didn't try to measure the yield of the Bomb while we were making it. Well, as soon as I heard about this, I went and pounded on Luis' door and said I wanted to play, and I became a member of his team. I knew that if I could handle measuring the yield, that I'd be going overseas. So did Luis. We knew too that we would get to fly on missions. We'd be as important as a tail gunner, even one who never fired a shot."

Today Agnew is glad to see a mutual understanding between the soldiers and the physicists. He is annoyed by those of his former colleagues at Los Alamos who believe that science struck a perilous bargain with the military during the war. That was the thrust of Rabi's reunion speech: "We gave away the power to people who didn't understand it and were not grown up enough and responsible enough to realize what they had." Rabi's speech "really irritated me," says Agnew, who was at that same reunion and whose own speech declared that the Japanese "bloody well deserved" what they got. "I have always felt that science and the military should work together. And they have, from Day One, whether it was Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo or whoever. They were always designing things for the people in charge."

Other physicists, agreeing with Rabi, take the view that the military-scientific partnership was not only dangerous to the country but detrimental to the quality of American science as well. Philip Morrison, celebrated for his teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, carried the container of plutonium in his hands from Los Alamos to the Trinity test site and, like Agnew, was on Tinian the days of the bombings. Now he spends a good part of his intellectual life arguing for disarmament. Morrison also felt that the Bomb was needed to end the war. Looking back today, however, he says that the physicists learned something after they transferred "their science directly from the peaceable study of the ultimate structure of matter to the fearful desolation of Hiroshima ... They learned rather quickly what had to be done next if we are able to survive for a long time. The statesmen have not learned so quickly, but it is true that their task is a much harder one."

After Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Morrison's main concern was "how to get the Bomb into the peace." But once World War II was over, American scientists were inevitably associated in the public mind with war. Hiroshima had entirely changed the popular image of the unworldly professor; he had proved what he could do. By the end of the 1940s, the Soviets had their own atomic weapon, and by 1953, less than a year after the U.S., they tested their first hydrogen bomb. Once the arms race was a fact, the U.S. seemed to need its physicists as saviors and protectors. Places like Los Alamos were transformed from emergency-inspired experimental labs to permanent national institutions. People like Oppenheimer and Morrison left Los Alamos to return to their universities as soon as the war was done. People like Agnew stayed on.

At Los Alamos today, Merri Wood, a tall brunet with a bright, clear-liquid voice and a designer of nuclear weapons, is in a sense Agnew's heir and creation. Not only does Wood not question the connection of her work with the military, she is pleased to have it. For one thing, that connection has provided jobs for those like herself, a former Ph.D. candidate in physics at Georgia Tech, who was specializing in particle transport and found a shop to apply her studies. (Particle transport is a general term for the motion of atomic particles through various materials.) Designing weapons is something Wood wanted to do since junior high school, when she read "everything I could lay my hands on" about the men making the first Bomb. "Out of patriotism, maybe glamour, I don't know, I really admired those people. I never dreamed that I'd be doing it. I'm tickled pink."

As a day-to-day matter, Wood has to think about the military, since the military, by making requests and assignments, gives direction to her work in "thermonuclear applications" (designing warheads). "The military wants XYZ bomb, and you give 'em the best you can." She tests a bomb's size and, like Agnew before her, measures yield. "If they [the military] say they want two megatons, I give 'em two; if they want 2,000, I give 'em 2,000." The measure of success is if a bomb tests satisfactorily in Nevada and then goes into stockpile. In that case Wood works with the engineer on the final design of the weapon--"weaponize is the term." A bomb must be "buildable, reliable and robust. If one little thing jiggles, it can't quit working." Design is as far as she goes. "You design it, you field it, you sit there with sweaty palms and wait for the ground to shake."

Wood enjoys the connection between her work and its military market because she sees a philosophical underpinning. The people at Los Alamos when Agnew was there were working toward something they knew was going to be used. The people at Los Alamos now work on things that are never supposed to be used. "And we don't want to use them. Nobody wants to see these guys used." Nor does she feel that there is something antilogical or frustrating in designing a weapon for the explicit purpose of not using it. The "in-point," she says, is in the test or in the stockpile. "We have a fellow here who hangs a peace sign from his badge.

"Now we joke: let's nuke Tehran. But we're human beings. We live here with families. We want a good national defense, and most people believe that a nuclear deterrent is the way to go. For that reason we get satisfaction from our work by contributing to our personal and national safety. It's corny--wave the flag--but it's true." As for those who dropped the Hiroshima bomb, she says that guilt or conscience ought not to be the consideration. "If a policeman shoots a felon, there's no guilt, only regret. You just wish the world had been different."

Agnew favors the military-scientific partnership for another reason. War, he says, is "too important to be left to the young." By which he means that the existence of nuclear weapons is to be approved of because those weapons have put the politicians and generals of a nation, who arrange and orchestrate wars, at equal risk with the young people who do the actual fighting. Science has thus served as an equalizer between leaders and troops: "The young people who go around yelling 'Get rid of the Bomb!' ought to be careful, 'cause the politicians might put a bow and arrow in their hands and make the kids sally forth again, knowing that nothing is going to happen to them [the politicians]. With the development of nuclear weapons, the guy who says 'Go fight a war' is talking to himself.

"You know what I'd do to keep the world out of a nuclear war? Most of the decision makers have never seen a bomb. These guys talk about bombs--so many kilotons, so many mega tons--it doesn't mean anything to 'em. So I say maybe every five years every world leader should have to strip down--Mrs. Thatcher in her bikini and the other guys in skivvies--and watch a multimegaton bomb go off. What'll impress them is not the flash, not the size of the cloud and not the boom. It's the heat. If they're about 25 miles away, they will get very antsy, 'cause they'll get hotter and hotter, and they will worry that maybe somebody's made a mistake. The heat. Really scares the bejesus out of you. After that the chances of their ever using a bomb would diminish rapidly."

He also makes it clear that he is less opposed to the proponents of disarmament than to an attitude that suggests that in the real world the U.S. has no right or reason to maintain nuclear weapons, and, for that matter, that the Americans had no business bombing Hiroshima in the first place. "A few years ago, Senator [Mark] Hatfield organized a big peace exhibit in the rotunda of the Senate. So here's this big exhibit, and all it showed was the horrors of Hiroshima. [Some of the artifacts came from the Hiroshima Peace Museum.] All the burned victims. Just awful things. Melted cups. Now my objection was that in a peace exhibit you ought to have shown Pearl Harbor too. Then you could say, This is the way it started, and this is the way it ended. Let's not do this again.'"

One more phone call about the Ford. Eventually he sells it for $200. Says the tires are worth that.

"So anyway, I finally got to go to Tinian, flying from Los Alamos to San Francisco to Hawaii to Johnston Island. In Hawaii you would see where the American ships were sunk--parts of 'em sticking out of the water. And you'd see the pock-marks on the buildings. And when you got to Johnston Island, there were wrecked planes on the field. And when you got to Kwajalein, there'd been one hell of a battle there. I picked spent bullets right off the ground--.30 caliber, .50 caliber. Parts of airplanes and amphibious vehicles lay all over the place. The control tower was all busted up. Then we got to Tinian, and all the Japanese buildings were gutted. Remnants, standing like Coventry. You went around to these places, and you got the idea that something had been going on."

"I got to Tinian in March 1945, and the Indianapolis arrived in July with the uranium from Los Alamos. The Indianapolis was sunk by the Japanese after it left Tinian; if it had been hit before, no Hiroshima. We were working six days a week on Tinian, trying to get ready for the mission. We all got jungle rot on our feet and hands. I remember going to a doctor and asking what to do. He told me, 'Scratch it.' I used to watch the B-29s, hundreds of 'em, coming back from missions like a flock of geese. Those big airplanes, coming in to land. Some smoking, some with their props feathered."

One thing Agnew and Philip Morrison do agree on: when you went to the movies on Tinian you could not hear the sound track for the rain beating on your helmet. Morrison remembers them always playing a follow-the-bouncing-ball sing-along of White Christmas--the G.I.s bellowing White Christmas all spring and summer. He also remembers the physicists preparing the necessary ingredients for ice cream, then sending the concoction up 30,000 ft. in a B-29 to freeze the stuff: a $25,000 dessert. And he remembers the bombers going on missions before Aug. 6. Sometimes the planes would be overloaded and would crash on takeoff. Great pillars of fire would rise on the beach, men burning alive inside them.

Of the original four runways on Tinian, two are still operable: wide, white, gleaming strips made of coral and asphalt, surrounded by orange flame trees bent by the mild wind toward the ocean, and green spongy hills, and the encroaching thick, tall grass. The island is nearly empty now, down from a population of 20,000 U.S. servicemen in 1945 to 800 Chamorro natives, who fish, raise goats or herd cattle. Not far from the runways stands the bombed-out shell of the Japanese officers' quarters: charred timbers, a huge bomb hole in the roof, a tree blooming through the hole. Not far from there is what looks like a fresh grave, about 10 ft. by 18 ft., in a grassed-over area that once was "Atomic Bomb Pit No. 1 ," marked by a sign that resembles a picnic-area sign in a public park. Growing on the plot are a dwarfed and twisted coconut tree and a pometia tree that looks like a stalk of grapes stripped bare. Before the plot is a stone marker shaped like a public trash can with an inscription saying that here the Bomb was loaded up into the Enola Gay on the afternoon of Aug. 5. It was Agnew's day.

"And then came the night of our mission. Our B-29s had a circle with a black arrow in it as their insignia. All the other B-29s had triangles or circles with letters of the alphabet. But the night before the mission, on Aug. 5, Tokyo Rose came on the radio and said, 'Black Arrow Squadron, we know who you are and what you are, and we are ready for you.' Early the next morning we didn't have black arrows anymore. We had triangles with letters, which I thought was chicken. But it was prudent.

"So off we went, flying near the Enola Gay all the way, all 13 hours. The weather plane had returned and reported that everything was peachy keen. A little before 8:15, the area was clear, the Enola Gay was right on target, and we were alongside, about a quarter-mile away. Then we caught the tone signal, which meant that the Bomb was armed and ready to drop. When the tone went off, that meant the Bomb was on the way down, so we dropped our measuring gauges, our own little 'bombs.' Then we saw the flash of light. And the camera was rolling. We must have been seven miles away when the shock waves hit the plane. All I remember is we sure got out of there in a hurry, which was fine by me. I just wanted to get home."