How US Spies Secured the Hiroshima Uranium

A dark secret behind the Hiroshima bomb is where the uranium came from, a spy-vs.-spy race to secure naturally enriched uranium from Congo to fuel the Manhattan Project and keep the rare mineral out of Nazi hands, reports Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria

Since the first use of a nuclear weapon in Hiroshima 71 years ago, on Aug. 6, 1945, the story of where the uranium for the bomb came from and the covert operation the U.S. employed to secure it has been little known.

That is until the publication next week in the United States of a new book, Spies in the Congo, by British researcher Susan Williams (Public Affairs Books, New York), which unveils for the first time the detailed story of the deep cover race between the Americans and the Nazis to get their hands on the deadliest metal on earth.

The mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

The mushroom cloud from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, on Aug. 6, 1945.

At the outset of World War II, when the U.S. launched the extraordinarily secret Manhattan Project, uranium from North America and most of the rest of the world was less than one percent enriched and considered inadequate to build the first atom bombs. But there was one mine in the world where, through a freak of nature, the ore contained up to an unheard of 75 percent enriched uranium:  Shinkolobwe mine in the present-day Democratic Republic of Congo.

The link between Shinkolobwe and Hiroshima, where more than 200,000 people were killed, is still largely unknown in the West, in the Congo and even in Japan among the few survivors still alive.  Another ignored link is the disastrous health effect on Congolese miners who handled the uranium as virtual slaves of the Belgium mining giant Union Minière, owners of Shinkolobwe in the then Belgian Congo.

Though it turned out the Nazis had not got very far in their quest for the bomb (because of a lack of highly-enriched uranium), the Americans were unaware of that in 1939, and were fearful Hitler would get a nuclear weapon before they did. That would have almost certainly affected the outcome of the war.  As early as that year, Albert Einstein wrote President Franklin D. Roosevelt to advise him to keep the Nazis away from Shinkolowbe.

Williams’s meticulously-researched and masterfully written book tells the intricate tale of a special unit of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency,  that was set up to purchase and secretly remove all the uranium from Shinkolowbe that the U.S. could get  its hands on.

The unit was headed in Washington by OSS Director William “Wild Bill” Donovan and Rud Boulton, head of the OSS’s Africa section. Donovan was obsessed with stopping the Nazis from getting the bomb and mistrustful of Britain’s role in the uranium operation. Britain on the other hand feared the U.S. was trying to take over its West African colonies. Williams tells us that Donovan trained his agents to not only target Nazism but colonialism as well.

The OSS agents used a number of covers, such as ornithologists, naturalists collecting live gorillas, silk importers, and posing as an executive for the Texaco oil company, such as agent Lanier Violett did. This became an issue after Texaco’s president, Torkild Rieber, was forced to resign in 1940 after being exposed as an oil smuggler to the Nazis.

Williams also tells us that the American spies had difficulties operating in French Congo and other colonies under General Charles De Gaulle’s Free French control because the U.S. recognized the Vichy government until the Normandy invasion.

A Real-Life Thriller

Williams’s real-life spy thriller focuses on a number of OSS agents involved in securing the uranium and stopping the Nazis from accessing the unique mine in Katanga province, a mission so secretive most of the agents involved thought they were preventing diamond smuggling. The few OSS agents who knew it was uranium that the U.S. was after, didn’t know what the ore was for.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, at his headquarters in the European theather of operations. He wears the five-star cluster of the newly-created rank of General of the Army. Feb. 1, 1945.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Allied Commander, at his headquarters in the European theather of operations. He wears the five-star cluster of the newly-created rank of General of the Army. Feb. 1, 1945.

Once such agent, Wilbur “Dock” Hogue, the protagonist of the story, only found out after Aug. 6, 1945, why he had helped uncover Nazi smuggling routes from the Congo and helped spirit uranium out of the country. It was brought by train to Port-Francqui, then on barges down the Kasai to the Congo River to Leopoldville (Kinshasa), where it was reloaded on a train to the port of Matadi.

There the uranium was put on Pan American airplanes or on ships, both bound for New York, where it was unloaded and stored on the New York City borough of Staten Island. There the uranium remained until it was ready to be used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (The New York site under the Bayonne Bridge still registers radiation levels today high enough for the U.S. government to order a clean-up.)

Williams also reveals that the U.S. mission was complicated by some Belgian officials in the Congo, as well as Union Minière, who cooperated at times with the Nazis to smuggle out some of the lethal ore.  As Williams explains, after the Germans surrendered, the U.S. learned how far from a bomb the Nazis actually were, and after Japan was defeated, learned for the first time that Tokyo also had had a rudimentary nuclear weapons program.

After VE Day, Einstein tried to convince Truman to shut down the Manhattan Project. But it was too late. Though Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur and three other senior American military commanders were opposed to using the bomb, Truman dropped it anyway, not to end the war and save lives, as most historians now agree, but to test the weapon and send a message to the world, and especially the Soviets, about America’s coming dominance.

“The Japanese were ready to surrender, and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing,” Eisenhower said.

Though OSS agent Hogue did not know what the uranium was for, he knew he was on a highly dangerous mission. Nazi agents three times tried to kill him, with a bomb, a knife and a gun. He survived the war only to succumb to stomach cancer at the age of 42.

As Williams points out: “Risk factors for this disease include exposure to radiation, which explains why atomic bomb survivors in the Second World War were more likely than most people to get stomach cancer.”

Two other of Hogue’s OSS colleagues from the Congo mission also died at very young ages. But Williams’s concern also extends to the Congolese mine workers who handled the stuff for days on end and about which neither Belgium, Union Minière nor the Americans seemed to have the slightest concern.

“Astonishingly, hardly any attention has been paid to the Congolese, not one of whom was consulted about plans to make atomic bombs with Shinkolobwe’s uranium,” Williams writes. “What would have been their reaction, on a moral basis, to the building of such a destructive and terrible weapon with a mineral from their own land?”

“What would be their reaction today, if the disinformation, shadows and mirrors were swept aside and the full history was set out?” she asks. “Nor were the Congolese informed about the terrible health

and safety hazards to which they were exposed; they were simply used as workers, as if they had no rights as equal human beings. This was a process for which the US, the UK and Belgium bear a

heavy responsibility.”

Joe Lauria is a veteran foreign-affairs journalist based at the U.N. since 1990. He has written for the Boston Globe, the London Daily Telegraph, the Johannesburg Star, the Montreal Gazette, the Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. He can be reached atjoelauria@gmail.com  and followed on Twitter at @unjoe.

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51 comments for “How US Spies Secured the Hiroshima Uranium

  1. Neal Hurwitz
    August 6, 2016 at 7:53 am

    The bomb showed all what could be and has helped prevent its use since!!!
    Truman saved lives.

    • Chris
      August 6, 2016 at 10:56 pm

      Truman was a war criminal guilty of crimes against humanity….

    • Tfs
      August 13, 2016 at 11:29 am

      You are an eejut.

      Thank god you arer not in any position of power, your intelctual deficit is very apparent.

  2. Brad Owen
    August 6, 2016 at 10:02 am

    “Wild Bill” Donovan was FDR’s trusted covert operative…and he WAS doing FDR’s work to end colonialism and Empires, and bring the World into a U.N.-type of relationship where the newly-minted sovereign Nations would be helped to develop. This all died, with the death of FDR (and it’s attempted revival DIED with JFK/RFK/MLK assassinations, DeGaulle’s and Adenauer’s defeats ). The American Anglophile “Tories” came out of their financier establishments in the post-war 1940’s, chased away the traditional, Anglophobic, American Patriots (who ALWAYS saw the British Empire, Euro-Empires, and ALL Empires, as THE ENEMY), and took over intelligence functions in the USA… a COUP happened in Post-War forties, and THAT is why there were Post-War colonial wars (and coups) in Kenya, Malaysia, Algeria, Korea, Indochina, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, etc, etc, etc… (America is reduced to being the foot soldiers for EMPIRE…it’s a SICK JOKE that the World is an AMERICAN Empire, we are fools & chumps for Imperial European Oligarchs. WE pay and fight for THEIR new Roman Empire)… instead of a U.N. post-war World-to-be-managed by USA, USSR, and a Republic of China. This knowledge I recovered from LaRouche’s EIR website (just about the LAST living advocate for FDR’s policies and Donovan’s activities).

  3. Ian Perkins
    August 6, 2016 at 10:57 am

    “75% enriched uranium” is a bit off the mark.
    According to Col. Ken Nichols, “Our best source, the Shinkolobwe mine, represented a freak occurrence in nature. It contained a tremendously rich lode of uranium pitchblende. Nothing like it has ever again been found. The ore already in the United States contained 65 percent U3O8, while the pitchblende aboveground in the Congo amounted to a thousand tons of 65 percent ore, and the waste piles of ore contained two thousand tons of 20 percent U3O8.”

    • Zachary Smith
      August 6, 2016 at 12:17 pm

      The current setup here means I couldn’t see your post when I made my own. Only after posting did the three people who had previously commented show up.

      • lilolady
        August 6, 2016 at 1:04 pm

        This is my first time commenting,too. I like the idea that each of us are commenting on the article not on others comments on the article, don’t you?

    • Joe Lauria
      August 6, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      I’m curious whether you had ever heard this story in detail before. If not, is the best comment you can make to nitpick about the percentage of enriched uranium? You had absolutely nothing else to say about this piece? I have to wonder about someone who does this. Keep in mind I said “up to 75%” not an average of 75%. In fact Susan Williams is an extremely accomplished researcher. And this is what her footnote says about this matter: “The figure of up to 65–75 per cent is given in Hadden (ed.), Manhattan District History, commissioned by General Leslie Groves, Book VII, Feed Materials, Special Procurement, and Geographical Exploration, Volume I—Feed Materials and Special Procurement, 12 June 1947, declassified with deletions by Richard G. Hewlett
      for the US Atomic Energy Commission, 3 June 1970, available online at
      http://www.osti.gov/includes/opennet/includes/MED_scans/Book%20
      VII%20-%20%20Volume%201%20-%20Feed%20Materials%20and%20
      Special%20Procurement.pdf. Up to 70 per cent is given in Thomas T. Crenshaw
      to Colonel J. C. Marshall, 27 April 1943, NARA, RG 77, 5, Box 68; also in Groves, Now It Can Be Told, p. 37, note 1.”

      • Zachary Smith
        August 7, 2016 at 10:54 am

        In my opinion poster Perkins was being polite. Perhaps you’re unaware of the 2-billion-year-old reactors found in the Okla region of Gabon in Africa. Back then when the ore had a mere 3.6% concentration of U235, fission began. No doubt Susan Williams will correct any mistakes in the next edition of her book.

        I’m curious whether you had ever heard this story in detail before.

        As a matter of fact I have. If you care to search the archives of Consortium News, you will discover I’ve posted rather extensively on the matter. Here is the one from last year.

        https://consortiumnews.com/2015/07/16/entering-the-age-of-nuclear-terror/

        There are quite a few more such threads.

        • Joe Lauria
          August 7, 2016 at 3:24 pm

          Zachary Smith: The link you provided says nothing about Congo. You never heard this story about the uranium coming from Congo before. That meant nothing to you. You ignored the story and focused only on a detail, making an accusation that up to 75 per cent uranium is wrong. You “ground to a halt” as if that invalidated the entire story. You went to Google? I provided Susan Williams’ footnote, which you just ignored. She is a monumentally accomplished researcher. What are your credentials? How pompous of you say she will correct her mistakes in her next edition. It is not a mistake. And you claim Eisenhower and the other generals weren’t opposed to using the bomb? Hyperbola provided a comprehensive list of such quotes. How can you just ignore that? I’m flabbergasted at the utter nonsense you are posting here. You are proving again why reading readers’ comments is a waste of time.

          • Zachary Smith
            August 7, 2016 at 5:14 pm

            Mr. Lauria, there is a fair chance I heard about the Congo uranium before you were born.

            If Susan Williams’ book speaks of an extremely high enrichment instead of ore concentration, what she wrote was wrong. It’s as simple as that. I haven’t access to the book and I don’t know what she has there about the issue.

            One more time with the Eisenhower business.

            http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/01402398708437307

            If you have academic access to the piece, you’ll learn that on the last page Mr. Bernstein wrote that there is no record of any high-ranked American General making an objection to the A-bomb before Hiroshima except for one – George Marshall. Perhaps Bernstein errs about that, but I doubt it.

  4. Zachary Smith
    August 6, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    I ground to a halt early in this essay when I saw this:

    But there was one mine in the world where, through a freak of nature, the ore contained up to an unheard of 75 percent enriched uranium:

    That couldn’t possibly be correct, so off to the Google Search. Fortunately there are some reviews for the brand new book, and I was able to locate the error.

    He urged him in particular to protect the uranium from the Shinkolobwe mine in the Belgian Congo—what is now Democratic Republic of Congo—which was the richest in the world: an average of 65 per cent uranium oxide, in comparison with American or Canadian ore, which contained less than 1 per cent.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Though Generals Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur and three other senior American military commanders were opposed to using the bomb,

    No.

    For those who can find it, I’d recommend the 1987 article “Ike and Hiroshima: Did he oppose it?” by Barton Bernstein. There is not a speck of evidence Eisenhower opposed the Bomb except for his own stroke-addled memory, and plenty of circumstantial evidence from others present at meetings that it’s a made-up tale. MacArthur desperately wanted an invasion of Japan. The affair would have been much larger than the D-Day event at Normandy, and would have surely put him in the White House instead of Eisenhower. The man had an ax to grind.

    As for the rest, Uranium is an extremely dirty fuel – and the miners are the first ones to be poisoned. Given that the Congo was under the control of Belgium, those poor souls who mined the ore there were worse off than if they’d been slaves of the Romans in a similar mine. The ore has to be purified, and that’s not at all a safe manufacturing operation.

    Later on in the energy cycle are the super expensive and super dangerous reactors. Even when they’re operating perfectly, they produce extraordinarily dangerous wastes.

    Nuclear power is about as ugly a way to make energy as you can find.

    • Ol' Hippy
      August 6, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      You talk of the mining and refining uranium and the dangerous toxic products and byproducts that are poisoning humans. Here in the USA in my state of New Mexico we started a site the WIPP,(waste isolation pilot project), to safely? store nuclear waste. There was a fire there two years ago that shut down it’s operation. Exactly where is all of this exceedingly toxic materiel being held here in the US? I know some is at the Los Alamos lab from the early and ongoing operations there but there has to be ‘stuff’ all over the country in deteriorating condition. It’s too bad for those minors, they get exploited wherever there’s a mining operation but I’m concerned about all the waste here in the US and how concerned officials are and what steps are being taken these days. There still has to be ongoing mining and processing but who’s watching after the continuing production and storage of the byproducts? These need to be addressed with more transparency to tell everyone they’re safe because unlike regular waste burying it doesn’t make it go away,

      • lilolady
        August 6, 2016 at 1:14 pm

        I believe the early waste was trafficked across country to be stored in natural salt caves deep underground. The half-life of that waste was astronomical at the time. I would love to know if the estimates are actually that high, as our world has a fantastic means of healing itself. Heard in high school that the new waste has been sealed in caves with concrete. Maybe someone here will set me straight, since I am old and not up to date on the science of it.

      • Zachary Smith
        August 6, 2016 at 2:20 pm

        These need to be addressed with more transparency to tell everyone they’re safe because unlike regular waste burying it doesn’t make it go away,

        Burying the stuff and hoping everybody forgets about it has been a common theme since the start of the atomic age. A current news story out of Greenland tells of an old project which failed.

        http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2016/0805/How-to-deal-with-toxic-waste-buried-in-Greenland-s-rapidly-melting-ice-caps

        At the rate Greenland’s ice is melting, the problem will probably surface long before 75 years. They just walked way from the problem, and fixing it is going to cost a lot of money.

        BTW, the actual scientific paper is here:

        hXXp://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2016GL069688/pdf

      • Hillary
        August 7, 2016 at 7:01 am

        “”You talk of the mining and refining uranium and the dangerous toxic products and byproducts that are poisoning humans”
        Ol’ Hippy…

        Well said but what about the Depleted Uranium contained in rifle & tank rounds etc.. to help penetrate armor causing airborne Depleted Uranium dust particles to escape into the atmosphere with every shot . DU dust which, if breathed in, has the potential to mutate DNA and cause cancers and birth defects in Iraq & elsewhere.

        http://www.cadu.org.uk/cadu/du-the-basics

    • hyperbola
      August 6, 2016 at 5:41 pm

      Admiral William D. Leahy. 5-star admiral, president of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the combined American-British Chiefs of Staff, and chief of staff to the commander-in-chief of the army and navy from 1942–1945 (Roosevelt) and 1945–1949 (Truman):
      “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender. . . . My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted the ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

      Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, quoted by his widow:
      “. . . I felt that it was an unnecessary loss of civilian life. . . . We had them beaten. They hadn’t enough food, they couldn’t do anything.” And – E. B. Potter, naval historian wrote: “Nimitz considered the atomic bomb somehow indecent, certainly not a legitimate form of warfare.”

      Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, commander of the Third Fleet:
      “The first atomic bomb was an unnecessary experiment. . . . It was a mistake ever to drop it . . . (the scientists) had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it. . . . It killed a lot of Japs, but the Japs had put out a lot of peace feelers through Russia long before.”

      Rear Admiral Richard Byrd:
      “Especially it is good to see the truth told about the last days of the war with Japan. . . . I was with the Fleet during that period; and every officer in the Fleet knew that Japan would eventually capitulate from . . . the tight blockade.”

      Rear Admiral Lewis L. Strauss, special assistant to the Secretary of the Navy:
      “I, too, felt strongly that it was a mistake to drop the atom bombs, especially without warning.” [The atomic bomb] “was not necessary to bring the war to a successful conclusion . . . it was clear to a number of people . . . that the war was very nearly over. The Japanese were nearly ready to capitulate . . . it was a sin – to use a good word – [a word that] should be used more often – to kill non-combatants. . . .”

      Major General Curtis E. LeMay, US Army Air Forces (at a press conference, September 1945):
      “The war would have been over in two weeks without the Russians entering and without the atomic bomb . . . the atomic bomb had nothing to do with the end of the war at all.”

      Major General Claire Chennault, founder of the Flying Tigers, and former US Army Air Forces commander in China:
      “Russia’s entry into the Japanese war was the decisive factor in speeding its end and would have been so even if no atomic bombs had been dropped…”

      Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, Commanding General of the US Army Air Forces.
      “. . . [F]rom the Japanese standpoint the atomic bomb was really a way out. The Japanese position was hopeless even before the first atomic bomb fell. . . .”

      Lieutenant General Ira C. Eaker, Arnold’s deputy.
      “Arnold’s view was that it (dropping the atomic bomb) was unnecessary. He said that he knew that the Japanese wanted peace. There were political implications in the decision and Arnold did not feel it was the military’s job to question it. . . . I knew nobody in the high echelons of the Army Air Force who had any question about having to invade Japan.”

      Arnold, quoted by Eaker:
      “When the question comes up of whether we use the atomic bomb or not, my view is that the Air Force will not oppose the use of the bomb, and they will deliver it effectively if the Commander in Chief decides to use it. But it is not necessary to use it in order to conquer the Japanese without the necessity of a land invasion.”

      General George C. Kenney, commander of Army Air Force units in the Southwest Pacific, when asked whether using the atomic bomb had been a wise decision.
      “No! I think we had the Japs licked anyhow. I think they would have quit probably within a week or so of when they did quit.”

      W. Averill Harriman, in private notes after a dinner with General Carl “Tooey” Spaatz (commander in July 1945 of the Pacific-based US Army Strategic Air Forces), and Spaatz’s one-time deputy commanding general in Europe, Frederick L. Anderson:
      “…Both felt Japan would surrender without use of the bomb, and neither knew why a second bomb was used.”

      General Dwight D. Eisenhower:
      “I voiced to him [Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson] my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was at that very moment seeking some way to surrender with a minimum of loss of ‘face’. . . . It wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”

      former President Herbert Hoover:
      “I told MacArthur of my memorandum of mid-May 1945 to Truman, that peace could be had with Japan by which our major objectives would be accomplished. MacArthur said that was correct and that we would have avoided all of the losses, the Atomic bomb, and the entry of Russia into Manchuria.”

      Richard M. Nixon:
      “MacArthur once spoke to me very eloquently about it. . . . He thought it a tragedy that the Bomb was ever exploded. MacArthur believed that the same restrictions ought to apply to atomic weapons as to conventional weapons, that the military objective should always be to limit damage to noncombatants. . . . MacArthur, you see, was a soldier. He believed in using force only against military targets, and that is why the nuclear thing turned him off, which I think speaks well of him

      Norman Cousins, from an interview with MacArthur:
      “. . . [H]e saw no military justification for the dropping of the bomb. The war might have ended weeks earlier, he said, if the United States had agreed, as it did later anyway, to the retention of the institution of the emperor.”

      • Joe Lauria
        August 6, 2016 at 6:50 pm

        Thank you for posting all these quotes to refute some of the nonsense that has been posted here.

      • Zachary Smith
        August 7, 2016 at 10:21 am

        Admiral William D. Leahy. 5-star admiral, president of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the combined American-British Chiefs of Staff, and chief of staff to the commander-in-chief of the army and navy from 1942–1945 (Roosevelt) and 1945–1949 (Truman)

        One of the American Know-Alls was also quoted by Truman in his book Memoirs of Harry S. Truman: Year of decisions

        The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives.

        Yes, Leahy was a universal Expert.

        Then there was another old Navy guy – Rear Admiral Richard Byrd.

        As a senior officer in the United States Navy, Byrd, performed national defense service during World War II (1941–45), mostly as the confidential Advisor to the Commander in Chief, United States Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest J. King. From 1942 to 1945 he headed important missions to the Pacific, including surveys of remote islands for airfields. On one assignment he visited the fighting front in Europe.

        On February 10, 1945 Byrd received the Order of Christopher Columbus from the government of Santo Domingo.[36] Byrd was present at the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.

        Talking to Admiral King and surveying remote islands would have given Byrd a True Insight into Japanese plans to end the Pacific war on their own terms.

        Unfortunately, the Japanese – especially the Emperor – weren’t thinking along the same lines as these blowhards.

    • Joe Lauria
      August 6, 2016 at 6:59 pm

      Right, I didn’t say an average of 75% I said “up to 75%.” Please read what I wrote correctly before commenting. Now I will respond to you with the same answer I gave another reader. And as for Ike’s quote being false, see the comment here from hyperbola, who gives the entire list of quotes from U.S. brass opposed to using the bomb. I’m curious whether you had ever heard this story in detail before. If not, is the best comment you can make to nitpick about the percentage of enriched uranium? You had absolutely nothing else to say about this piece? I have to wonder about someone who does this. Keep in mind I said “up to 75%” not an average of 75%. In fact Susan Williams is an extremely accomplished researcher. And this is what her footnote says about this matter: “The figure of up to 65–75 per cent is given in Hadden (ed.), Manhattan District History, commissioned by General Leslie Groves, Book VII, Feed Materials, Special Procurement, and Geographical Exploration, Volume I—Feed Materials and Special Procurement, 12 June 1947, declassified with deletions by Richard G. Hewlett
      for the US Atomic Energy Commission, 3 June 1970, available online at
      http://www.osti.gov/includes/opennet/includes/MED_scans/Book%20
      VII%20-%20%20Volume%201%20-%20Feed%20Materials%20and%20
      Special%20Procurement.pdf. Up to 70 per cent is given in Thomas T. Crenshaw
      to Colonel J. C. Marshall, 27 April 1943, NARA, RG 77, 5, Box 68; also in Groves, Now It Can Be Told, p. 37, note 1.”

      • Joe Tedesky
        August 6, 2016 at 8:29 pm

        Mr Lauria, I enjoyed reading this article, the intrigue is enough to film a good movie of it. What is always difficult to equate is what it was like at the time to necessitate such endeavors as you described in your piece. I think what you wrote about Einstein urging Truman to shutdown the Manhattan Project is very telling of the mindset which became so dominant to such an overwhelming degree.

        Another good article you may wish to write about is Operation NUMEC.

        http://americanfreepress.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Numec_Report.pdf

        Thanks for your information.

      • David Churchill
        August 7, 2016 at 6:29 pm

        When I google “enriched uranium” the first thing I read is “Enriched uranium is a type of uranium in which the percent composition of uranium-235 has been increased through the process of isotope separation. Natural uranium is 99.284% 238U isotope, with 235U only constituting about 0.711% of its weight.”

        This seems consistent with my formal education as a physicist. Note the precision to which 238U and 235U are specified for natural uranium. There is no freak of nature that changes this significantly for any location on the Earth’s crust. Enriched uranium on Earth only occurs from an enrichment operation by an intelligent species. If a secret Congo mine contained enriched uranium, this would be extremely enticing information.

        Obviously, the mine contained an ore that was rich in natural uranium, and the natural uranium contained the normal percentage of the desired 235U isotope.

    • Joe Lauria
      August 7, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      I was born in 1956. I’m talking about the OSS operation in Congo, which you never heard of before, because this story has never been told before. But of course you “ground to a halt” over a picayune matter and probably didn’t even read the rest of the piece. I don’t understand a mind that can get so worked up over this. It doesn’t bloody matter whether it was 75% or 65% or 50%, the point is that this was special uranium. That’s all. It’s such a minor point in the article. I don’t get it. You seem to be implying that the whole story falls apart because it may have been 65% rather than 75%. That’s nonsense. I provided Williams’s footnote and the links she gives. You can check it out yourself if this means so much to you. And it’s mind-boggling that you can ignore the abundance of quotes from US generals who opposed dropping the bomb.

      • Zachary Smith
        August 7, 2016 at 8:11 pm

        I lose on the “before you were born” part. As for the rest:

        http://tinyurl.com/gt7vamx

        Needless to say, I wouldn’t have read it in the Bulletin, but would instead have seen simplified reprints in Popular Science, Reader’s Digest, or some such.

        I recommend you read Richard Rhodes’ The Making of the Atomic Bomb. The U235 atoms were collected virtually one at a time in the giant calutrons. Output was measured in grams per day – if they were lucky. If the Project had access to such highly enriched uranium at the start, the first uranium bomb would have been available in 1943. Making Little Boy -the physical device- was an extremely simply matter, while Fat Man.was unbelievably complicated at every stage.

        And it’s mind-boggling that you can ignore the abundance of quotes from US generals who opposed dropping the bomb.

        It’s a fact I’m not a true believer in the Peace Church of Gary G Kohls.

  5. Douglas Baker
    August 6, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    August 6th, Mid Summer day, Though not well known, the warehousing of uranium source material in New York City ahead of its use in our Manhattan project, as it was secured well before our participation in World War II, was published long ago. Lesser known is the status of Imperial Japan’s harnessing the atom for nuclear warfare. Robert K. Wilcox’s “Japan’s Secret War Japan’s Race Against time to build Its own Atomic Bomb” sheds some light on this. Most Americans are unaware that Japan’s Army and Navy both had “Super” development programs that became one as the Emperor forced collaboration after the American Army’s Air Force’s fire bombing of much of urban Japan. The fruit of this joint venture was an atomic bomb–today we might call it a “tactical” nuclear device–that was tested over the Sea of Japan off the Korean coast line. Japan’s physicists–some of whom were students of Europe’s Nobel Prize winning physicists–had the same problem developers did else where, a lack of quality specimens to work with, so uranium prospectors were given Imperial passes to have the run of “The Co-prosperity” sphere. Belgium Congo uranium oxide was submarined to Japan. When the submarine captain learned that Germany had surrendered, he raised his hands, too, and gave possession of his submarine and cargo to the U.S. Navy. The Japanese officers aboard committed suicide. Still an official secret, is the disposition of the 1,400 pounds of uranium oxide. After our Trinity event, some believe that German’s fraternally shipped cargo found its way into America’s second and third nuclear experiment.

    • Zachary Smith
      August 7, 2016 at 8:27 pm

      The fruit of this joint venture was an atomic bomb–today we might call it a “tactical” nuclear device–that was tested over the Sea of Japan off the Korean coast line.

      Sorry, but that just didn’t happen. It’s true that Japan had the skill to put together a bomb, but that nation simply didn’t have the “stuff” to put inside it.

      Today the situation has changed. Japan is sitting on enough material to assemble something like 30,000 Nagasaki bombs. It’s my totally uninformed view that they have also tested software H-bombs in their supercomputers, and could have real ones in metal cases in an incredibly short time.

      That’s why I find Obama’s and supposedly Trump’s encouragements to Japan and other nations impossibly irresponsible.

  6. lilolady
    August 6, 2016 at 12:46 pm

    What use was Uranium mining to the Belgian Congo? It sounds to me, as if the mining was going on when the US scientists caught on that it was super enriched and that they had been wasting their time using the less enriched Uranium.

    Perhaps the Belgian Congolese were not informed about the “terrible health and safety hazards to which they were exposed” because NOBODY knew. Living through that era, the glow in the dark radio, clock and watch dials of uranium paint were totally unknown and quite a feather in one’s cap to own one. So Moderne you know! Many were exposed up close and personal to radiation, and it was years and years before the danger of that was found out.

    Spies were killed for divulging any information during the time of war. What makes Susan Williams think that it was anyone’s business to know what it would be used for? If a company sells raw leather to another company who buys raw leather, what makes her think it is only fair to tell the cowboys who bring the cattle to market anything? Do they care? No. They simply do what they do every day, which is to go to work. Whatever the heck was going on in the Government of the Belgian Congo at that time in history is none of her business … since she apparently thought that the Congolese Miners were the same as ladies sipping tea and organizing a “Cleaner Streets March”! It was World WAR time, an I’ll bet Susan Williams couldn’t live through one day of it herself.

    • Zachary Smith
      August 6, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      What use was Uranium mining to the Belgian Congo?

      The stuff had a market, even before the Manhattan project. Have you ever heard of Fiestaware? One of the colors was created using uranium – orange, I believe. It was very pretty, and too dangerous to have in a modern kitchen.

      http://articles.latimes.com/1994-04-23/home/hm-49397_1_radon-gas

      I would suppose chemistry classes would have wanted some uranium for demonstrations and simple experiments.

      • lilolady
        August 7, 2016 at 2:02 pm

        I doubt that Fiestaware used enough to prompt opening a mine and employing, sounds like thousands
        of mine workers, according to Susan Williams. Must have been a real market created by the Nazis, Japan and possibly Russia’s infant big bomb endeavor. I believe we ( the US) intercepted German subs and relieved them of their load of B.C. high grade Uranium before they could make it back home.

      • Tonno
        August 7, 2016 at 2:23 pm

        According to Jimbo’s Bag of Credible Data (i.e. Wikipedia), Uranium from Shinkolobwe was extracted from 1915 on, mainly to get Radium .You need Radium for quack medicine and light-in-the-dark dials – very needed during wartime (Women painting the dials got health problems fast because they used to lick the brushes to a fine point. This will cause one to get a bad case of Litvinenko).

        As for the Kongolese miners … remember that by 1915, Belgium was still into ruthless exploitation of the Kongo and performing senseless ultrakill apparently out of sheer rapacity. This was all forgotten when the WWI came around and engulfed Europe in senseless slaughter, too. In other words: No-one would have given a f*ck about local workers. That would likely not have changed by 1940.

        “Nor were the Congolese informed about the terrible health and safety hazards to which they were exposed; they were simply used as workers, as if they had no rights as equal human beings.”

        You got that right.

        (Correction for the article: “There the uranium remained until it was ready to be used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”. For Hiroshima, you would need to extract U235 using gaseous diffusion (http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/intro/u-gaseous.htm), for Nagasaki, you would need U238 to be bred into Plutonium, which is then chemically extracted and shaped into an implosion device. So you want to unstore the Uranium store a few years earlier…)

      • Zachary Smith
        August 7, 2016 at 5:34 pm

        The discovery of uranium is commonly credited to Martin H. Klaproth, who in 1789, while experimenting with pitchblende, concluded that it contained a new element, which he named after the planet Uranus, discovered only eight years earlier. However, the substance that Klaproth identified was not pure uranium but an oxide. Eugene M. Péligot isolated the element in 1841. Antoine H. Becquerel discovered its radioactivity in 1896. Before the discovery of nuclear fission by Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann in 1939, the principal use of uranium (chiefly as the oxides) was in pigments, ceramic glazes, and a yellow-green fluorescent glass and as a source of radium for medical purposes. It has also been added to steels to increase their strength and toughness. However, because of the high toxicity (both chemical and radiological) of uranium and its compounds, and because of their importance as nuclear fuel, these earlier uses have been largely curtailed.

        Processing the ore for radium was probably the largest use. That would have been before they figured out that radium was a dangerous poison instead of a miracle additive and cure-all. Toothpaste, hair creams, and even foods! Since the mine had been closed, maybe the truth had started to percolate into their heads.

  7. average listener
    August 6, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    There is another angle on this story discussed in Joseph P Farrell’s books, among them Reich of The Black Sun, The NAZI International, and SS Brotherhood of The Bell.

  8. Joe Tedesky
    August 7, 2016 at 1:51 am

    All this talk about uranium and nuclear weapons make me think of how we the American public should talk more about this nuclear threat. We need another ‘Dr Strangelove’ cowboy riding the bomb, to reinforce this looming probability and make us all think. Discussions focusing on nuke use potential in the media should be more often, as for this moment in time I don’t hear any discussion going on.. I don’t care who the pundits are as long as the air waves are alerting the citizens to wake up and call your congress representatives, but as a nation explore what nuclear war will provide. The winners may turn out to be the ones who were killed in the first strike. You all know this, and most of you probably have more knowledge to what devastation would likely occur. The longer these nuclear weapons are to exist and allowed to proliferate the closer the world will become to finally using the nukes infinite destruction. For now though, I’m just going to go and play with the puppy.

    • Zachary Smith
      August 7, 2016 at 8:33 pm

      We need another ‘Dr Strangelove’ cowboy riding the bomb, to reinforce this looming probability and make us all think.

      Sort of changing the subject now, but that “cowboy” scene now makes we wince. The 650 mph airstream the fellow jumped into would have surely killed him, possibly tearing his head off.

      • Joe Tedesky
        August 7, 2016 at 10:12 pm

        Zachary, you are more than right about the air stream effect, but I know you understood what point I was trying to make. The point was how we as a society would do well to have an in depth conversion regarding the danger of all these nations having such devastating potential to wipe out mankind. Instead we in America talk constantly about Trump, and more Trump. When it’s not about Donald Trump our media will sure as hell go to the ends of the earth to make sure our news is anything but relevant.

        Now, please don’t respond by telling me Superman can’t really fly.

  9. G
    August 7, 2016 at 4:45 pm

    Regarding the question of justification for the use of the atomic bomb, I would recommend The Decision To Use The Atomic Bomb by Gar Alperovitz (846 pages). As hyperbola’s post well illlustrates, the military were the “good guys”.

    I have just started reading Racing The Enemy by Tsuyoshi Hasegawa which gives the Japanese perspective. Excellent.

    Anyone know of a book from the Soviet perspective?

    • Zachary Smith
      August 7, 2016 at 11:16 pm

      I considered buying Racing the Enemy, but the price was high and the reviews very “iffy”.

      http://www.bu.edu/historic/hs/kort.html

      Checking Japanese language sources for me is impossible, so relying upon professionals is a must. When the pros question a book, I’m going to wait until the library gets it so as to minimize my own investment.

      Soviet books? I’m guessing those immediately after WW2 would have trashed the Evil Americans, for we were the new Cold War enemies. The subject has cooled off since 1990, and there may well be no good Russian books on the subject.

      If you want the best American view I’ve found so far, try to get a copy of Hell to Pay: Operation Downfall and the Invasion of Japan, 1945-1947. This one was written by a military professional who seems to have his head screwed on right. After reading it, my take is that if the US invasion didn’t fail entirely, we’d have ended up nearly exterminating the Japanese. At the end of that we’d have made Hitler and Nazi Germany look like genuine pussycats by comparison

      ** That’s my conclusion, not Giangreco’s.

      • G
        August 8, 2016 at 2:19 pm

        Thank you for the reply. I’ll check the book refererence.

        Re the “iffy” review. Looking at the reviewer’s bibliography in one of his books on Soviet history, the following are telling: Orlando Figes, Robert Service, Sebag-Montefiore, Richard Pipes, etc. I think we know which side the reviewer sits.

  10. G
    August 7, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    “U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS)…set up to purchase and secretly remove all the uranium from Shinkolowbe.”

    However, the US (and UK) government entered into an agreement with Belgium in September 1944:

    “It provided for the purchase and immediate exportation of a large quantity of uranium ore from the Belgian Congo.”
    (TOP SECRET. 23 April 1945. MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETAY OF WAR. ATOMIC FISSION BOMBS).

    Procurement was the responsibility of the Combined Development Trust, which operated under the direction of the Combined Policy Committee.

    So where were the OSS? ”Redundancy” springs to mind.

    • Zachary Smith
      August 7, 2016 at 8:19 pm

      So where were the OSS? ”Redundancy” springs to mind.

      I expect I’m going to enjoy the Williams book when my Public Library gets it or when it becomes affordable. Regarding your question, I’m going to guess that the US government kept procurement as secret – and as complicated – as possible. Layer after layer of bureaucracy for the Bad Guys to have to sort out. But somebody had to go to Africa and do the actual work, and that’s not a job for desk jockeys.

    • Joe Lauria
      August 7, 2016 at 9:53 pm

      I recommend you read the book.

  11. David G
    August 7, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    To Joe Lauria:

    It is mystifying why you have responded so defensively and hostilely to the commenters here who were only trying to make sense out of your confused reference to how much Uranium ore still in the ground has been “enriched” (the actual answer being, of course, not at all).

    Since the ostensible uniqueness of this Congolese deposit was the motive for the OSS derring do that is the subject of your post, and you give it a correspondingly prominent place in the third paragraph, it makes no sense for you to minimize its significance in your comment replies while belittling the people who raise the issue, as if they were harping on some trivial inconsistency.

    You may not realize how poorly your comments in this thread reflect on your intellect and temperament, but I’ll be keeping them in mind the next time your by-line appears on this site.

    • Joe Lauria
      August 7, 2016 at 10:02 pm

      I take your point about it not being enriched, but that is not the point they were making. It was over a trivial matter of a percentage. It is trivial to the overall substance of the book and the article I wrote, which they ignored. It is nitpicking without any appreciation for the extraordinary story this book tells. I felt it necessary to defend Susan William’s research, which they questioned, even after I provided her footnote with links, which were also ignored. I also felt it necessary to respond to remarks that US generals did not oppose the use of the bomb, despite the overwhelming evidence provided by another commentator. I rarely respond to readers’ comments on my work, no matter how unnerving, but felt this could not go unanswered. I don’t appreciate your gratuitous remark about my intellect and temperament. My work stands on what is written, not on what you may think of me.

    • Johnny
      August 9, 2016 at 10:12 am

      <<It is mystifying why you have responded so defensively and hostilely to the commenters here

      I was struck by the same thought. On any comment board, there is a wide spectrum of comments, with some naturally being at either extreme. This is only conjecture on my part, but I ascribe your actions to simple paternal protectionism. However, it does not reflect well upon you, sir; rather it tarnishes your intellect and not insignificant abilities.

      There is no need to be antagonistic.

      Unfortunately, first impressions, accurate or not, are often the ones we carry with us, and you have not presented us with your best face.

  12. Zachary Smith
    August 8, 2016 at 2:43 pm

    Resolution

    http://www.osti.gov/includes/opennet/includes/MED_scans/Book%20VII%20-%20%20Volume%201%20-%20Feed%20Materials%20and%20Special%20Procuremen.pdf

    Page 14:

    The extreme richness of the African ore, assaying as high as 65% to 75% U3O8, has enabled Union Miniere du Haut Katanga to dominate completely the radium and uranium market.

    The whole thing was merely a copying error – the old documents like this would have had to be managed entirely by hand.

  13. Curious
    August 9, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Joe Lauria,

    I hope you are still on this site because I wish to ask you a question from your research. In my own experience I have spoken with members (many years ago) who were part of both catastrophic bombs and I was told this: There are two other reasons for the weapon drops. The first was a uranium bomb, and for test purposes (which sounds nearly evil) the second was dropped as a plutonium bomb. The reason being to collect the data on the two variant types of weapons. This is hardly, or perhaps never talked about.

    Two bombs of various, and different radiation patterns shows an inherent disregard for may of the stories that the US was just ending the war and saving lives, as one poster above seems to believe.

    Secondly, Einstein wrote a letter to the president insisting, or suggesting, the bomb be dropped over water near Japan to avoid the civilian deaths, and the president refused. Einstein felt the message would be loud and clear without the thousand of deaths.

    Are you familiar with any of these reported stories? And what is your opinion?

    • David G
      August 9, 2016 at 9:14 pm

      Joe Lauria writes above:

      “There the uranium was put on Pan American airplanes or on ships, both bound for New York, where it was unloaded and stored on the New York City borough of Staten Island. There the uranium remained until it was ready to be used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

      Based on that statement, it appears that Lauria doesn’t even know that the Nagasaki weapon was a plutonium bomb, so he may not have much to contribute to your inquiry into the important subjects you raise in your comment, Curious.

      The quoted statement also suggests that Lauria is ignorant of the need to enrich (that word again!) uranium before it can be used in a bomb or reactor (or subsequently bred into plutonium in a reactor), so it certainly didn’t sit in a warehouse on Staten Island “until it was ready to be used” in the bombs, whatever that even means.

      • Zachary Smith
        August 10, 2016 at 10:38 pm

        In defense of Mr. Lauria, that was a minor slip. His stubbornness about the enrichment issue is a bit more surprising.

        It really is admirable to condemn the mass murder of humans. The problem arises when the choice comes down to “atrocity” or “atrocity x 10”. What I presently know about the situation at the end of WW2 causes me to believe that was precisely the choice at the time.

    • Harold
      August 11, 2016 at 2:52 pm

      That the bomb was dropped to send Russia a message is an ex-post-facto explanation that is likely a canard, according to WW2 historian Max Hastings. A more mundane, not to say banale (and dispiriting), explanation is that Truman wanted to justify the huge expense of the Manhattan Project to his constituents by demonstrating that it worked — that, and what Hasting’s calls “the inexorable logic of total war”, which involved the racist assumption that Asians are not really people and their sufferings do not matter, though as Hastings points out there was ample racism on both sides. I find Hastings’ explanation plausible. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/jul/30/japan.secondworldwar

  14. Harold
    August 11, 2016 at 2:48 pm

    That the bomb was dropped to send Russia a message is an ex-post-facto explanation that is likely a canard, according to WW2 historian Max Hastings. A more mundane, not to say banale (and dispiriting), explanation is that Truman wanted to justify the huge expense of the Manhattan Project to his constituents by demonstrating that it worked — that, and what Hasting’s calls “the inexorable logic of total war”, which involved the racist assumption that Asians are not really people and their sufferings do not matter, though as Hastings points out there was ample racism on both sides. I find Hastings’ explanation plausible. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/jul/30/japan.secondworldwar

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