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Suspected Spy Tells Story After 50 Years As 19-Year-Old U.S. Physicist, He Told Soviets Atomic Secrets

Tue., Sept. 16, 1997

A retired American physicist long suspected of having spied for the Soviet Union in the 1940s has spoken out for the first time on his role in apparently helping the Soviets break an American monopoly on atomic weapons.

In two written statements to the authors of a new book on his case, Theodore A. Hall explained his motive and intentions in contacting a Soviet agent in 1944 when he was a 19-year-old physicist at the Los Alamos, N.M., laboratory where scientists were secretly developing the world’s first atomic bombs.

Hall, now 71 and living in England, did not admit in his statement that he committed any specific act of espionage. But he made clear that, at the time, he believed the world would be safer if Moscow had the bomb.

“During 1944 I was worried about the dangers of an American monopoly of atomic weapons if there should be a postwar depression,” Hall wrote in a statement.

Hall provided his statement to authors Joseph Albright and Marcia Kunstel for their book, “Bombshell: The Secret Story of America’s Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy.”

Historians have long believed that convicted spies David Greenglass and Klaus Fuchs had given the Soviets the first information on the “implosion principle” developed at Los Alamos as a new way to ignite an atomic bomb. Albright and Kunstel say their research shows it was Hall who divulged it first.

In late 1944, according to the book, Hall arranged a rendezvous in New Mexico with his old Harvard roommate, Saville Sax. Hall gave Sax a piece of paper on which he had written a description of the implosion principle. Sax took the paper to their Soviet control officer, Sergei Kurnakov, in New York.

Twice more in 1945, Hall gave the Soviets details of bomb development at Los Alamos, the book says. Later the Soviets called this information “priceless.”


 

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