In 1953, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed on charges that they provided Soviet agents with details on how America made the first atom bombs. Information allegedly came from a machinist on the Manhattan project named David Greenglass.
All of this, you would think, would be very old news. But a truck driver from Waukesha, WI named John Coster-Mullen is now selling on Amazon.com a spiral-bound, self-printed book that contains what are said to be the most accurate drawings of America’s first atomic bombs ever developed outside of official channels. And therein is a fascinating story.
The blurb on Amazon states:
“This book provides as many technical details on both Little Boy and Fat Man as the author has been able to uncover in over a decade of meticulous research along with numerous untold stories of both combat missions. It contains hundreds of photos and drawings along with over a hundred pages of declassified documents many of which have been withdrawn since 9/11, including some as far back as 30 years ago. The author poured over thousands of pages of declassified documents and photographs and traveled in excess of 60,000 miles around the world to inspect, measure, photograph, and in one instance, partially disassemble, a dozen different Little Boy and Fat Man weapon casings at 8 different museums, attend 509th Composite Group military reunions, and conduct hundreds of hours of interviews with Manhattan Project, 509th Composite Group, and Project Alberta veterans. In 2001, the surviving members of the 509th Composite Group voted to make him a Permanent Honorary Member.”
The most important details of how the bomb’s internal mechanisms work were never declassified. But Coster-Mullen was given key details by machinists and scientists who worked on the project. He also did reverse engineering on parts, or fragments of parts, that were kept as souvenirs by individuals, such as Greenglass, who helped make the bomb.
Example: One of his biggest breakthroughs came when he got possession of a curved fragment of a tungsten-carbide tamper from a test bomb made at the Anchor Ranch test site in Los Alamos. The tamper reflected neutrons into the critical assembly. The piece was measured by a friend of a friend in the quality control department of a large manufacturing plant in Milwaukee. Dimensions were calculated on a coordinate measurement machine, which also determined the exact original diameter of the tungsten-carbide cylinder.
The U.S. Government apparently doesn’t consider Coster-Mullen’s book a security risk because the technology has advanced so far in the past 54 years. But we’re talking about terrorists today who put bombs in their shoes. These people (we hope) don’t have access to the latest technical information. But because of poor security in places like Russia or development of nuclear capability in rogue states, such as Iran, they may be able to get access to masses of fissile material.
The accomplishment of Coster-Mullen, who doesn’t have a college degree, is impressive. And I’m all for free speech. But this doesn’t need to be made easily available. And by the way, if Coster-Mullen could figure this out, just how tough is it for terrorists to figure out other critical devices?