YEARS TOO SOON
June 1949-January 1950
By THE TIME I returned to Los Alamos in the summer of 1949, the AEC had greatly improved the housing. For our proposed year-long stay, we were assigned a real house in a new subdivision that had been built west of the laboratory. The Mark, Taschek, and King families lived on the same block, and each had a daughter about Paul's age. Paul's relationship to them was not unlike mine to Lizi Grátz: Paul loved to talk, and the girls loved to listen. Our block was the farthest street up the gentle slope that led all the way to the ancient volcanic crater, so the children had a lot of space to play in and explore. Mici was very happy with our new arrangements.
The change in the laboratory that Norris Bradbury had effected during the first three and a half years he was director was impressive. In January 1946, when I had left, Los Alamos seemed close to extinction. By 1949, the laboratory had become a small, solid group of colleagues, working effectively together on simple, well-defined goals.
The first surprise I had had in the postwar period was that, when implosion bombs—the same design tested at Alamogordo and dropped at Nagasaki—were detonated on the Bikini atoll (in the Marshall Islands) in 1946, they replicated the previous yields. That our relatively crude wartime attempts had proved so reliable was impressive as well as reassuring. Many aspects of the bomb still needed modifying for safe handling and more efficient use of the expensive materials.
During the first postwar years, we also needed guidance about the nature of the bomb that the military wanted for our permanent arsenal. The designs of the first bombs reflected only our distrust of our calculations on implosion