The General and the Genius: Groves and Oppenheimer | Eastern North Carolina Now

The General and the Genius: Groves and Oppenheimer
 The Unlikely Partnership That Built the Atom Bomb
  • By: James Kunetka
  • Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner
  • Two ambitious men. One historic mission. With a blinding flash in the New Mexico desert in the summer of 1945, the world was changed forever....

   I have just finished reading a book about the creation of the Atom Bomb.  The story is a fascinating detailed trip down memory lane of the people, places and dedication of many people who were part of the creation of the A- Bomb.  Of particular interest as the title suggest is the two men most responsible for the management of the project.  One a General in the Army and one perhaps the smartest physicist of the time. 

   The book details most of the people and locations involved in the final project.  It is a tour of the details of nuclear fission as well as the character and personality of two men who were bound together by a common goal.  To build a bomb and deliver it to the Military for use if necessary in the War with Germany and eventually Japan.  The war against Germany ended prior to the bomb becoming a reality, but the war with Japan was still in full rage.

   What I found (as I always do) was the contrast and similarities of the two main characters.  General Leslie Grove was a demanding, overbearing, arrogant, persist ant and driven military man. He was from the engineering section of the Army and was largely responsibility for building the Pentagon.

 Robert Oppenheimer was a wealthy genius who had an full understanding of physics as well as many other scientific subject.  He was more soft spoken but just as determined and persistent as General Grove to create the A-bomb but a bit more restrained on its use. He eventually approved of it use on Japan but began a campaign to foster control of the bomb so that it would never be used again in war.

Together they both drove, directed the development of a project that few if any believed could be accomplished in such a short time frame. The Bomb was developed over a period of 2 years (1943-1945). It was the result of the hard driving leadership of General Groves and the tireless work of Robert Oppenheimer and his scientist. Without both it is probable that the bomb would never have been developed in the time frame of the war, which may have caused the invasion of Japan.


I was struck with the similarity of Grove and General George Patton after World War II and MacArthur.. All were what we have come to call Politically Incorrect.  Below excerpts from Wiki show that the fall from grace and that they were essential shown the door after their usefulness was done in the War.  I found it interesting that Grove, Oppenheimer and Patton were dressed down by none other than Dwight D. Eisenhower and later MacArthur by Truman.

  • General Leslie Grove-The Army Chief of Staff, General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, met with Groves on 30 January 1948 to evaluate his performance. Eisenhower recounted a long list of complaints about Groves pertaining to his rudeness, arrogance, insensitivity, contempt for the rules and maneuvering for promotion out of turn. Eisenhower made it clear that Groves would never become Chief of Engineers. Groves realized that in the rapidly shrinking postwar military he would not be given any assignment similar in importance to the one he had held in the Manhattan Project, as such posts would go to combat commanders returning from overseas, and he decided to leave the Army.
  • Robert Oppenheimer -The triggering event for the security hearing happened on November 7, 1953, when William Liscum Borden, who until earlier in the year had been the executive director of the United States Congress Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, sent a letter to Hoover which said that "more probably than not J. Robert Oppenheimer is an agent of the Soviet Union." Eisenhower never exactly believed the allegations within the letter, but felt compelled to move forward with an investigation, and on December 3 he ordered that a "blank wall" be placed between Oppenheimer and any government or military secrets. On December 21, 1953, Strauss told Oppenheimer that his security clearance had been suspended, pending resolution of a series of charges outlined in a letter, and discussed his resigning by way of requesting termination of his consulting contract with the AEC.] Oppenheimer chose not to resign and requested a hearing instead.
  • General George Patton - Patton attracted controversy as military governor when it was noted that several former Nazi Party members continued to hold political posts in the region. When responding to the press about the subject, Patton repeatedly compared Nazis to Democrats and Republicans in noting that most of the people with experience in infrastructure management had been compelled to join the party in the war, causing negative press stateside and angering Eisenhower. On September 28, 1945, after a heated exchange with Eisenhower over his statements, Patton was relieved of his military governorship. He was relieved of command of the Third Army on October 7, and in a somber change of command ceremony, Patton concluded his farewell remarks, "All good things must come to an end. The best thing that has ever happened to me thus far is the honor and privilege of having commanded the Third Army."
  • General Douglas MacArthur - Truman summoned Secretary of Defense George Marshall, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Omar Bradley, Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Averell Harriman to discuss what to do about MacArthur. They concurred MacArthur should be relieved of his command, but made no recommendation to do so. Truman and Acheson agreed that MacArthur was insubordinate, but the Joint Chiefs avoided any suggestion of "In point of fact", Bradley insisted, "MacArthur had stretched but not legally violated any JCS directives. He had violated the President's 6 December directive [not to make public statements on policy matters], relayed to him by the JCS, but this did not constitute violation of a JCS order." Truman ordered MacArthur's relief by Ridgway, and the order went out on 10 April with Bradley's signature.

  There may be a parallel between these hard core Generals and soon to be Ex-President Trump. The exception may be that the people took the place of Eisenhower and Truman in demoting Donald Trump to civilian.  Politics has a way of disregarding accomplishments when elections and publicity begins to sway the public perception. In Politics, it appears that style is more important than accomplishments.
   I personally never cared for The Donald's style while supporting some of his accomplishments

I fully realize that many will think the election was stolen by fraudulent voting practices, however it appears that there will not be sufficient evidence to reverse the public's decision by the margin difference in the vote in contested states. I also have some deep concerns with allowing our court system overrule the vote regardless of personal preferences.

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