Well, I got two letters yesterday – one from you, 20 June, and one from Lawrence, 22 June. I’ll never be able to figure out how a letter all the way from California can reach me earlier than yours do, dear. But I don’t care – as long as I continue to hear from you.
Lawrence is apparently all set to sail and from what I can gather – it seems like he’ll go to Hawaii first of all – although it may be to the Philippines. He seems excited about it all, and I can understand that. There’s something about being alerted – and the few days or weeks before sailing – that gets you and there’s nothing you can do about it. He still thinks that he just missed my homecoming, but I had already written him that that was delayed somewhat.
Your own letter, darling, told me about visiting Do and Ab and how happily married they are. It’s so refreshing to read things like that – particularly when you know of so many marriages that don’t turn out that way. Your mention of Nancy and Abbot in the same letter seems like a good example. I never knew them very well either – but I saw enough of them to realize that things just weren’t all right with them. I want our marriage to be of the former type and, darling, there’s no reason why it can’t be. One of the most important things, once it is agreed that two people love each other, is to have understanding and tolerance of the other person’s faults – because we all have some. I honestly feel we’re going to do all right, sweetheart, and I’m so anxious to get started and prove it.
Well, well – I was surprised and happy to note that you were getting down to facts about marriage. I don’t give a hoot about the actual facts themselves – but what pleased me was that you were thinking about it. An earlier letter of yours, dear, on the same subject – was a little more vague – or hesitant. About the actual wedding itself, dear, it makes very little difference to me. I’ve always felt that weddings were an ordeal for the couple getting married and a good time for everyone else. But families always think differently about it and I suppose they’ll have something to say this time. It makes no difference to me at all. What I want to do most of all is to marry you – even it it’s in front of a big crowd at the corner of Tremont and Boylston. I’ve never heard my folks say a thing about it – for I left before the subject could possibly be brought up – and they’ve never mentioned it in their letters. And I don’t know, of course, how your folks feel about it. What I want is to get married – and how makes little difference. As you say – it’s only once, and if your folks and mine will get any more pleasure one way or another – well as far as I’m concerned – we’ll leave it up to them. It’s nice to talk about though – the subject of a wedding. I just can’t wait for the time when I can really feel you are mine alone, sweetheart. That will be a happy day –
There’s nothing new here. The weather stinks – and activity is nihil. But it’s better than sweating out the German 88’s – and I’m not forgetting that.
And that’s it for now, darling. Above all – remember how much I love and want you – and that’s the way it will always be. Love to the folks, dear, regards to Mary and
11 February 1898 - 30 May 1964
The son of an engineer and the scion of an affluent Jewish family, Szilard was born Leo Spitz in Budapest, Hungary. His family name was changed to Szilard when he was 2 years old. Szilard was a precocious child, and he took an interest in physics at the age of thirteen. Due to political unrest and a lack of suitable educational opportunities, he left for Berlin in 1919. He was attracted to the work of great physicists like Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Max Von Laue, Erwin Schroedinger, Walter Nernst, and Fritz Haber — most of whom were teaching in Berlin at that time.
In 1933, with Hitler's rise to power in Germany, Szilard moved to England. Between 1935 and 1937 he worked as a research physicist at the Clarendon Laboratory, Oxford University. It was on a street corner in London, in October 1933, that Szilard first conceived of the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction. The possibility of such a chain-reaction - the process essential for the releasing of atomic energy - had been dismissed by the eminent physicist Lord Ernest Rutherford. Szilard successfully proved Rutherford wrong.
Szilard visited the United States several times in the mid-1930s, and he began to consider a move to America as the prospects for war in Europe increased. In 1938, at the time of the Munich pact, Szilard was a visiting lecturer in the United States. He decided to shift his residence to New York in anticipation of England's weakening policy toward Germany and the impending world war.
On December 2, 1942, Szilard and his colleagues demonstrated the first nuclear chain reaction. This demonstration took place in the graphite block reactor built under the grandstand at the University of Chicago's Stagg Field. This successful experiment was in part the result of Szilard's atomic theories.
Throughout the Manhattan project, Szilard was often frustrated by cumbersome government administration and security regulations. Like other scientists involved in the project, he felt uneasy about the dominant role played by the military. After Germany surrendered, Szilard organized his colleagues to press for limitations in the use of the atomic bomb. He drafted a letter to President Roosevelt urging restraint in the use of the bomb, but the President died before the letter could be delivered. In the spring of 1945, Szilard influenced a group of scientists to produce the Franck Report outlining the dangers of a nuclear arms race. The report advised against the use of an atomic bomb against Japanese civilians, advocating instead a non-combat demonstration.
In July 1945 Szilard circulated a petition urging President Truman not to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. A revised version of this petition was eventually signed by 68 scientists at the Metallurgical Laboratory. It was strongly opposed by General Groves, head of the Manhattan Project, on the grounds that such a petition would breach security and expose the existence of the atomic bomb. The petition did not reach the president.
A PETITION TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Discoveries of which the people of the United States are not aware may affect the welfare of this nation in the near future. The liberation of atomic power which has been achieved places atomic bombs in the hands of the Army. It places in your hands, as Commander-in-Chief, the fateful decision whether or not to sanction the use of such bombs in the present phase of the war against Japan.
We, the undersigned scientists, have been working in the field of atomic power for a number of years. Until recently we have had to reckon with the possibility that the United States might be attacked by atomic bombs during this war and that her only defense might lie in a counterattack by the same means. Today with this danger averted we feel impelled to say what follows:
The war has to be brought speedily to a successful conclusion and the destruction of Japanese cities by means of atomic bombs may very well be an effective method of warfare. We feel, however, that such an attack on Japan could not be justified in the present circumstances. We believe that the United States ought not to resort to the use of atomic bombs in the present phase of the war, at least not unless the terms which will be imposed upon Japan after the war are publicly announced and subsequently Japan is given an opportunity to surrender.
If such public announcement gave assurance to the Japanese that they could look forward to a life devoted to peaceful pursuits in their homeland and if Japan still refused to surrender, our nation would then be faced with a situation which might require a re-examination of her position with respect to the use of atomic bombs in the war.
Atomic bombs are primarily a means for the ruthless annihilation of cities. Once they were introduced as an instrument of war it would be difficult to resist for long the temptation of putting them to such use.
The last few years show a marked tendency toward increasing ruthlessness. At present our Air Forces, striking at the Japanese cities, are using the same methods of warfare which were condemned by American public opinion only a few years ago when applied by the Germans to the cities of England. Our use of atomic bombs in this war would carry the world a long way further on this path of ruthlessness.
Atomic power will provide the nations with new means of destruction. The atomic bombs at our disposal represent only the first step in this direction and there is almost no limit to the destructive power which will become available in the course of this development. Thus a nation which sets the precedent of using these newly liberated forces of nature for purposes of destruction may have to bear the responsibility of opening the door to an era of devastation on an unimaginable scale.
In view of the foregoing, we, the undersigned, respectfully petition that you exercise your power as Commander-in-Chief to rule that the United States shall not, in the present phase of the war, resort to the use of atomic bombs.
Signed by Leo Szilard and 58 co-signers