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Transcript: "Dilemma of Building the Bomb"

Robert Wilson: "I would like to think now, at the time of the German defeat, that I would have stopped, taken stock, thought it all over very carefully, and that I would have walked away from Los Alamos at that time.

In terms of everything that I believe in, before and during and after the war, I cannot understand why I did not take that act. On the other hand, it simply was not in the air. I do not know of a single instance of anyone who had made that suggestion or who did leave at that time. ... Our life was directed to do one thing. It was as though we had been programmed to do that, and we as automatons were doing it."

Frank Oppenheimer: "It's amazing how the technology tools trap one. They're so powerful ... I was impressed because most of the sort of fervor for developing the bomb came as a kind of anti-Fascist fervor against Germany. But when V-E Day came along, nobody slowed up one little bit. No one said, 'Ah well, it doesn't matter now.'

We all kept working.

And it wasn't because we understood the significance against Japan. It was because the machinery had caught us in its trap and we were anxious to get this thing developed."

Robert Wilson: "I organized a small meeting at our building. I think the title was the "Impact of the Gadget on Civilization." The reason I gave it that title was that at Princeton, there had been a series of [seminars on] the impact of one thing on another thing, so that would've been an automatic way for me to have thought.

Oppie [J. Robert Oppenheimer], when he saw the announcement, tried to persuade me not to have it. He felt that such a discussion in the technical area was quite inconsistent. All of the discussions had only been technical that had occurred there. ... I don't know quite why, but he certainly tried to dissuade me.

On the other hand, I went ahead and did hold the meeting. Perhaps 30 to 50 people came. ... Oppie came, too, which always added a tone to any meeting.

We did discuss whether we should go on or not... Oppie pointed out that it ... would be well that the world knew about the possibility of an atomic bomb rather than it be something that would be kept secret while the United Nations was being formed.

On that logical basis, we all decided that that was right. And that we ought to go back into the laboratory and work as hard as we could to demonstrate a nuclear weapon ... so that the United Nations would be set up in the awareness of this horrible thing to come."
 

 
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