Robert Meeropol





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STILL OUT ON A LIMB

Thank you Klaus Fuchs

September 18, 2015

Tags: Klaus Fuchs, pre-emptive atomic attack

Remember Klaus Fuchs? He was the German-born world-class atomic scientist, a member of the British contingent at Los Alamos, who transmitted the data necessary for the Soviet Union to build a copy of one of the bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan. He was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for violating Britain’s Official Secrets Act, and served nine before returning to his native East Germany upon his release.

An article a friend sent me recently reminded me of him. The article,, published in August, was entitled, “Post WW2 World Order: US Planned to Wipe USSR Out by Massive Nuclear Strike.” Based on secret documents made public through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) releases, the article reports that the United States military developed schemes in the late 1940’s to destroy the Soviet Union with a pre-emptive nuclear strike. One of these, the 1949 Dropshot plan, “envisaged that the US would attack Soviet Russia and drop at least 300 nuclear bombs and 20,000 tons of conventional bombs on 200 targets in 100 urban areas, including Moscow and Leningrad.”

Apparently the Pentagon was not deterred by the prospect that such an attack would cause tens of millions of civilian casualties, but rather by its inability to rapidly manufacture enough atomic bombs. By 1948 the US only had 50 atomic bombs in its arsenal. And in late 1949, the Soviets’ successful test of their first atomic device put another monkey wrench in their plans.

My knowledge of my parents’ case provides insight into these events. In the 1970’s my brother and my legal actions forced the release of thousands of documents relating to the development of the USSR’s atomic bomb. We learned from these files that while any atomic information transmitted by David and Ruth Greenglass was of no value, the information Klaus Fuchs provided was.

Researchers ultimately determined that Russian scientists were following a slightly different course from their US conterparts. However, in order to fool and deter the United States, the Soviet team used Fuchs’ information to copy our bomb and test it quickly, even though it was the only one they had at the time. This deception worked, tricking the Pentagon into thinking the USSR had greater atomic capabilties than it actually had. The possibility of a Soviet atomic counter-strike gave the American militarists pause, although secret first strike plans existed into the 1960’s, and who knows what they are cooking up today.

It is hard to imagine what the world would be like if our government had dropped 300 atomic bombs on Russia. Certainly prevailing mid-latitude westerly winds would have carried massive amounts of fallout to Europe, the United States and Canada. The atmospheric debris might even have been thick enough to trigger a nuclear winter. It is far from certain how many of us could have lived through such a Pentagon produced hell on earth.

It makes me wonder if we have Klaus Fuchs to thank for our survival.

Selected Works

Memoir
"Bravery is rare. Tyranny is commonplace. Both define the life of Robert Meeropol, son of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. In his heart-wrenching, honest memoir, Meeropol recounts the emotional terrors of his childhood, the kindness of Abel and Anne Meeropol-who adopted him and his older brother after their parents' execution-his struggle to vindicate his parents, and his own political activism, culminating in the creation of the Rosenberg Fund for Children, which he now directs."
Publisher's Weekly
"one of those rare books everyone should read"
–Joyce Carol Oates

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