J. Robert Oppenheimer

What is worth fighting for? In the case of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American way of life and everything connected to the United States was worth fighting for. The federal government recruited him and hundreds of other top scientists to work onthe Manhattan Project, which turned out to be the most expansive top-secret project ever designed for the purposes of destroying a military enemy. Oppenheimer ran the Manhattan Project. He served as the manager and top scientist for a program that produced two atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in August 1945.
However, there is another answer to the question "What is worth fighting for" when the topic is J. Robert Oppenheimer. The brains behind the atomic bomb actually led a protest towards the end of the project to urge the U.S. government not to use the bomb. The scientists at Los Alamos (where the Manhattan Project was situated) were some of the most intelligent, educated people in the world, and they knew a lot more than science. They forsaw the unthinkable horrors of burning humans alive and blowing them up. They anticipated an arms race with the Soviet Union, which was also trying to develop a bomb to stop all bombs. They looked into the future and they saw a nuclear arms race that could end the human race.
Oppenheimer's criticism of the bomb's use -- and his social connections to members of the Communist Party in America (not unusual for the 1930s and 1940s) -- resulted in a public humiliation as the federal government took away his top-secret security clearance after the war while investigating him for sedition. His name was eventually cleared, but his life was ruined. What was worth fighting for in J. Robert Oppenheimer's world? His dignity, convictions and reputation, for starters.
What does it mean to be an American? For J. Robert Oppenheimer, it means serving your country while reserving the right to criticize your government, which is supposed to serve you. Whether it's public service, firefighting, police work, social work, teaching, elected office or the military, those of us whose salaries are paid by tax dollars are serving our communities and country. We are not serving the government. There's a big difference that many people don't understand. J. Robert Oppenheimer understood.

Annotated Bibliography on J. Robert Oppenheimer

Oppenheimer, J. Robert; Smith, Alice Kimball; and Weiner, Charles. Robert Oppenheimer, Letters and

Recollections.. 2011. Google books. Web. December 15, 2011. http://books.google.com/books

This site has a lot of biographical information about Robert Oppenheimer.Unfortunately, it does not appear to go into detail about his work on the Manhattan Project, which is the only reason why most students would be interested in Robert Oppenheimer. He was a distinguished scientist and scholar outside of the Manhattan Project, but his role as the de facto “father” of the atom bomb supercedes anything else in his life. This book also appears to be a very flattering portrait of Oppenheimer. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with that, there does appear to be a lack of objectivity with this source. It does have autobiographical text (Oppenheimer's own letters), and the co-authors, Allice Kimball and Charles Weiner, appear to have assembled this portrait of Oppenheimer in his image.

Danser, Al Gerald, et. Al, The Americans. Evanston, Illinois; McDougal Littell Inc., 2000. Print.

These two textbook pages are very useful for understanding Oppenheimer's role in the Manhattan
Project, as well as his misgivings about actual use of the atomic bomb. Direct references to
Oppenheimer, however, cover only a few paragraphs at the most. The rest of the two pages provide
context, which is useful.

Bird, Kai. and Sherwin, J. Martin. American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert

Oppenheimer, New York; Knopf, 2005. Print.

This source is a must-read for anyone beyond high school who is serious about studying the atomic bomb, the origins of the nuclear arms race, the Cold War or the Manhattan Project. It is a comprehensive biography of Oppenheimer that not only explores the layers of his life and personality, but puts his actions and his psyche into historical context. The authors go into depth about Oppenheimer's genius, social awkwardness and his odd flirtation with fame. They take an objective look at his fall from grace. The book is balanced, tough and thorough.

J. Robert Oppenheimer


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