Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview

19
GIVE IT BACK
TO THE INDIANS
1945-1946

THE SUN WAS well up in the sky when our bus rolled up the slopes of the Los Alamos mesa. Mici, smiling, received me at the door: "Did you hear the news? A big ammunition dump in southern New Mexico exploded with considerable pyrotechnics. But no one was hurt." She obviously knew what had gone on even though I had not been allowed to tell her anything.

I lay down, but I was too excited to sleep. Finally, I went to my office. About eleven o'clock, young Mary Argo, eyes bright and shining, burst in: "Mr. Teller, Mr. Teller. Have you ever seen such a thing in your life?" An answer was impossible. We both laughed.

Junior scientists had not been invited to the test, but some of them knew a great deal about it. Determined not to miss the historic event, Mary and Harold had gone with a group of their colleagues to the top of Sandia Mountain, about fifty miles north of the test site. The shot was so long delayed that they had decided the test was a failure. The first nuclear explosion had gone off, unexpectedly, in all its brilliance, not long after they started down the mountain. Our laughter that day was not a response to the bomb but to our ridiculously inadequate reactions to it.

Work on the atomic bomb at Los Alamos was over; efforts in the Pacific were speeding up. About a week and a half after the Trinity test, the ship USN Indianapolis arrived at the staging island of Tinian in the Pacific, and delivered its precious cargo, the uranium-235 that had been painstakingly separated at Oak Ridge and Berkeley. Three days later, while on its way to

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