Three Soviet spies in the Manhattan Project are well known – Klaus Fuchs, David Greenglass, and Ted Hall. Fuchs and Greenglass were known publicly in the 1950s, but Hall’s story came out only in the 1990s.
Now more documents have been declassified, and Harvey Klehr and John Earl Haynes, who have done much to illuminate Soviet spying during that time, have found a fourth Soviet spy. They have found his path from the United States to East Germany and then Russia in 1952, escaping from possible arrest. Their article in the CIA’s “Studies in Intelligence” lays out what is known about him.
The spy’s name is Oscar Seborer. His story intersects with the FBI’s Project SOLO, in which they turned two members of the Communist Party in the USA. Their communications with Moscow seem to indicate that Seborer furnished information on the atomic bomb project, where he was a technician.
Seborer seems to have operated separately from the other spies, and his reporting seems to have been more to the GRU (Soviet military intelligence) than the civilian KGB. The two intelligence agencies have historically competed.
Klehr and Haynes have uncovered a fair bit of information about Seborer’s family, but not much about what he did at Los Alamos or what information he gave to Moscow. Maybe someone reading this knows something about the Seborer family or, as they called themselves in Russia, the Smiths.
Cross-posted at Nuclear Diner.
You and Silverman bring interesting stuff.
The Smiths and not the Jennings? I’m tres disappointed.
Fascinating tale, thanks!
And how we have the tRumps’s as russian spies – yet the thug party is happy with this arrangement. Times do change … putin’s own orange fart cloud.
I’ve heard the story that the stolen bomb secrets were not used for the development of the Soviet bomb. Rather they were withheld by Stalin so that he could check to see if his own scientists were bullshitting him.
@Mike Furlan: That’s not true. The first Soviet bomb was built from Manhattan Project plans. They knew it would work.
@Cermet: Better Russian than Democrat. Trumpsters know Putin will interfere in our elections and don’t care. Just like Trumpov they welcome it. Russian stooges, the lot of them.
@Mike Furlan: In Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, Richard Rhodes reports that in fact it was Igor Kurchatov, head of the Soviet A-bomb program, who held the Los Alamos material but refused to share it with his scientists. “The Beard” believed that ijust copying the Americans would cost them down the line – their scientists wouldn’t really understand what they were doing & would never be able to build anything beyond a Fat Man. It was Stalin who was pushing hard for an ASAP bomb, & amazingly, Kurchatov – who seemed to have no fear of the Vozhd – managed to convince him that his method would be better in the long run.
Aording to Yulii Khariton, one of the Soviety scientists, whenever they’d bring “The Beard” results, he’d look them over, then turn to a safe behind his desk, extract a compendium of papers, compare the two, & say either “good work” or “not quite, you need to go back and rethink this.” Khariton said they all assumed the papers Kurchatov consulted had been obtained from the USA by espionage.
Read Dark Sun – it’s probably the best book out there about atomic bomb development except for Rhodes’ earlier The Making of the Atomic Bomb, which won a Pulitzer & which I’ve read cover to cover (800+ pp) four times now, it’s that good.
(Edited to fix names)
@Cheryl Rofer: Again, according to Rhodes – who researched Dark Sun extensively after the breakup of the USSR, including interviewing surviving members of Kurchatov’s team – they may have ended up building “Joe-1” as a near-copy of Fat Man, but Kurchatov insisted that his scientific team reach the same conclusions on their own, as a basis for further development. If you have any evidence to the contrary, I’d like to see the references.
Not Roger Hollis?
O/T so, apparently we need to collect ALL the Guzmans ourselves?
@trollhattan: Saw that on the local news last night, seems to be the case. Once we do, we get a free gallon of gas*.
*For the older jackals who remember gas station promotions of the late 60’s.
I’m holding out for the steak knives. :-)
And S&H green stamps.
@trollhattan: Smart man, those are worth more than a gallon of gas.
@NotMax: Sorry only Blue Chip stamps are available with this offer.
Plaid stamps don’t get no respect.
The steak knives weren’t all that bad a quality, although the handles were kind of brittle. IIRC, offered at a steep discount at Sinclair gas stations for buying X number of gallons.
@NotMax: Real glass glasses, with Tony the Tiger decal.
Wait, if Tony the Tiger is Kellogg’s Frosted flakes tiger, then what is the name of the Esso tiger?
I have no idea.
J R in WV
We had towels and glasses from gas stations, who ever had the lowest price, what they were giving away.
Today I’ve had several calls about my i-Cloud account being hacked, press #1 to talk to a technician to deal with your hack. I often dangle these fraudsters on the phone line for as long as I can, which as an old software geek was usually a long time. I have been upgraded to a supervisor in the “Security Office” several times, and have made them curse me before hanging up.
Today, after about 5 different automated calls, I pressed 1 to be connected to a technician, who thanked me for calling their security center. I told him that he had called me, and thanked him for the work he was doing today.
He asked if I had a computer, and I said yes, of course, and he asked me to enter apple.com. After a hesitation, I told him I didn’t use Apple at all, that I used Unix mostly. He asked me to do something else, that they needed to work to protect my bank account. I do not do banking over the internet at all.
So I told him that, and then I said “You guys are so funny~!” and hung up. I couldn’t stand it any longer. I hope that gets me taken off their auto-dialer.
I remember many years ago we were on a family vacation trip and there were 4 gas stations on each corner of a small town. There were free glasses, and towels, and the gas was $0.19 a gallon.
It was the lowest I have ever seen, and I didn’t understand very well when Dad told me it was a gas war, that they were trying to use low prices to drive the other stations out of business, so that then they could raise the price as high as they wanted. Now, of course, I understand, and the whole economy if like that old time gas war, lure people in until you can raise the price of everything enough to break their back.
I remember when S&H green stamps had a redemption center in town, with nothing I wanted…
People can start with this one:
The Soviets copied or reverse-engineered the B-29 bomber as the TU-4. There were a handful of B-29s which made emergency landings in the Soviet Union, which was not at war with Japan at the time. The TU-4 gave the Soviets a nuclear-capable bomber with long range in the late 1940s.
@trollhattan: How did Trump not brand knives? Selling them could have been Trump University’s study-abroad program…except that’s what trips to the strip club were probably called
@Uncle Cosmo: It’s a long time since I’ve read “Dark Sun,” so I can’t dispute with you what it said. But how do you think that the RDS-1 design turned out so similar to the Fat Man? Check out the photo here, for example.
I am sure that Kurchatov checked his people’s work against the American material he had in hand. But he and his scientists were working to get a bomb as quickly as they could. It wouldn’t have been smart to hold back the American plans for some kind of game. Although Rhodes may have interviewed Russian scientists, people may have stories that are important to their identities. I can’t find an explicit discussion on the web, but here’s something:
“Dark Sun” was published in 1995. Other material has surfaced since then. I’ll stick with my understanding.
Apparently, unlike other advertising tigers, it never earned a name.
@VOR: Long range in their day (~5000 km), but not long enough to reach targets in CONUS from the USSR farther away than Seattle, even from Kamchatka.
(During the Berlin Blockade, as a show of force, USA sent Silverplate [i.e., A-bomb-capable] B-29s to the UK. Only upon their arrival were they near enough to the USSR to represent a credible threat to bomb the bejeezus out of them if they got any friskier. [Though, as is now known, they deployed without their nukes.])
@Cheryl Rofer: Just to be clear: The story that the Soviet scientists did the work and Kurchatov checked it against closely-held American information is a way for those scientists to be able to believe they did the work, all by themselves. It may be a deliberately developed story, or it may have developed among the scientists themselves. But it would not be surprising if they believed something like this and it was not true.
@catclub: Puta. As in “Puta Tiger N. Yurtank”. ;^p
Any relation to Foss L. Phule?
The Soviets copied or reverse-engineered the B-29 bomber as the TU-4.
A couple of apocryphal stories on this —
The engineers were told to copy the B-29 exactly and did so, to the point of replicating several bullet holes in the plane.
They could engineer everything reasonably well except for the plane’s giant tires. They surreptitiously procured these from war surplus in the US.
Cheryl, this is great information. The Seborers were my mother’s second cousins (their grandmother was my great grandfather’s sister), although they were much older and she doesn’t remember them. I had dug up some of the same information on my own a few years ago while I was doing genealogical research, including the FOIA’d FBI records and the references in the Vasileev codebooks, but nothing as well structured as what’s in the linked document.
A couple of other interesting factoids about the Seborers: The article mentions Oscar’s brother, Max, whose second wife was Abraham Lincoln Brigadier Celia Posen. Posen’s first husband was the Daily Worker correspondent and radical writer George Marion, who was later blacklisted before dying in 1955.
Also, the Seborers’ parents are from the same Polish shtetl, Przasnysz, as Hyman Rickover (although Rickover moved to Makow shortly before he and his family emigrated).
There is a declassified CIA memo on the Seborer family posted on the CIA website.