An exciting, fresh view of Los Alamos, and after. O'Keefe was a 24-year-old ensign and electrical engineer who joined the...

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THE NUCLEAR HOSTAGES

An exciting, fresh view of Los Alamos, and after. O'Keefe was a 24-year-old ensign and electrical engineer who joined the Navy to get overseas--but instead learned radar and got assigned to the Explosives Division at Los Alamos, charged with the tricky task of wiring the fuses for the uranium and plutonium bombs. There are glimpses of ""Oppie"" and famous others; new jokes and slang; close-ups of the Hill from a serviceman/scientist's perspective. O'Keefe went to Tinian for the takeoffs, where the crews worked around the clock. The climax came when O'Keefe, making a midnight check on the Fat Man bomb, discovered that the cable between the firing sets and the radar had been put on backwards. Disassembly would take a week. A quick fix--unsoldering, reconnecting, and resoldering--was strictly forbidden, for safety reasons. O'Keefe broke the rules, the Nagasaki bomb was dropped, and the war ended August 14. In the succeeding years, O'Keefe was witness to major tests, including a 1953 field test of a nuclear tactical weapon under simulated field conditions. ""It was the only test of its kind in the free world,"" he comments, and ""it scared the hell out of me."" He also went on to build EG&G, a major high-tech instrumentation company that has been involved with the military; but he is no hawk. At the start of the book, he simply, almost solemnly recounts the prehistory of nuclear weapons--from Roentgen through Fermi and Bohr's 1939 Washington announcement. In the closing chapters, he deals somberly with nuclear politics--ticking off the problems involved with strategies past and present. The superpowers in effect hold each other's peoples as hostages in a no-win game. ""How do we work ourselves out of this delicate doctrine of deterrence?"" The personal narrative is crisp and amusing, the nuclear/political history is right on the mark.

Pub Date: June 20, 1983

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1983