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Interview of Herbert York by Dan
Ford on 2004 July,Audio and video interviews about the life and work of Richard Garwin, 2004-2012,Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,College Park, MD USA,www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/40912-23
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In this interview Herbert York discusses topics such as: Richard Garwin, Edward Teller, hydrogen bomb, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, nuclear weapons, Antiballistic Missiles (ABM), JASON, President's Science Advisory Committee (PSAC), Permissive Action Links (PAL), command and control system, Harold Brown, satellites, global positioning system (GPS), nuclear test ban treaty. York's wife, Sybil York, occasionally participates in the interview as well.This interview is part of a collection of interviews on the life and work of Richard Garwin. To see all associated interviews, click here.
[Start of recorded material]
Okay, we’re back on track.
Teller belittled people whom he didn’t like, and the primary reason for not liking people is that they were — that they thought arms control was a good idea. He had other dislikes, too; but that was his number one. And he simply belittled people, and what I mean by that, to be clear — and again, I’m more sensitive in my own case than others, but I saw it; he did it over and over. He would say — he had to acknowledge that I was the first director of the Livermore Lab; but, but the only thing he would credit me with was being a good manager. You see, you know, he wouldn’t give me — he wouldn’t say anything else about my role in the laboratory.
The same with Bethe. He would acknowledge that Bethe was the director of the theoretical division, but you know, and that he’s a great physicist, but he wouldn’t, uh, he wouldn’t give Bethe anywhere near the credit that he should have for contributions, even at that time.
The, the, the thing that was noteworthy about the testament was that, uh, he was, with respect to Dick, it wasn’t belittling him; it was building him up.
Yes. The reas- I, I’ve always …
And, and the question is, was …
… was that buildup accurate or not.
It was attacks on — it was part of his attack on other people. Dick, uh, did something, you know — Dick did a lot, was very important to the program. But Teller hated the fact that Marshall Holloway was, was head of the program and that Bradbury was the head of the laboratory. So giving Dick extra credit for, for Jughead, for the hydrogen bomb work, was Teller’s way of attacking Bradbury and, and Holloway and some others. But it’s unfair to Dick to — in a sense — to point that out, because he did a lot; but, but the reason Teller foc- I — well, I, I think the reason Teller says such good — I, I, now that you remind me, I remember that — was simply that he was getting at other people.
Eh. Because, I mean, the, the specific thing that, that Teller said was that when — not Dick’s first visit, but his second visit in, I think, 1951, which would have been after George …
Mm hmm. That was in — that was May 8th …
… That the specific assignment given to Dick was to design some experiments to see if the radiation implosion theory was correct, and that what Dick did — what he — was, instead of trying to design an ex- an ex- an experiment was, that he came up with a working design for a full-scale bomb.
Yes. Other — there were a lot of other people working on that, and it’s hard to parse — to parcel out the, the, the, the credit; but Teller made sure that none of the other people got any.
So I mean, in that sense, Dick was a f- Dick was a foil. I mean, that’s not the right word, but Dick did do a good job. You see, that’s, that’s where I’ve always had trouble with this particular event. But Teller is essentially making sure that, that Holloway, Bradbury, and, and Carson Mark, and others at Los Alamos, don’t get any credit for it. And they were all deeply involved. You know, who exactly did what, I mean, I, I, I’m — I don’t — I don’t remember and doubt that anybody does; but, but the transition from Mike went — it went two different ways. One was to e- emergency capability called “Jughead.” Are you aware of …?
Well, let me come back to that. And the other was the, uh, uh, what became the series of tests in this — in February — February, March, ’51; the — Shrimp and other de- devices. Well, Jughead, uh — let me — I’ll just tell you this. Uh, there — it may be that, that, this never [sic] been quite fully — yeah, I, I — it’s well known, but it may not — and there’s no reason it shouldn’t — be known. But uh, but uh, that period after Mike, there was a feeling that — you know, that was when the Ru- we were pretty sure the Russians were going to go ahead and do something, and we didn’t know what.
And so we prepared what was called an emergency capability, and this emergency capability consisted of a very small number of very large weapons which, which were — it, it — there were two different varieties of them. One was called “Jughead,” and Jughead was a liquid bomb. I mean, it’s often said, the Russians like to say, that we didn’t weaponize Mike. Mike was not a real weapon. But in fact there was a weaponized version of Mike, and Dick had a great deal to do with that. And it was prepared — it, we, it was, it was enormous. And uh, and uh, it could only be carried by a B-36.
But there was — we, we prepared a strategic — and emergency capability for — to deliver big thermonuclear weapons in the period in between Mike and Bravo. You know, Bravo was the — Bravo was February 28th or March 1st. You know, that series when a whole — when a, a lot of, a lot of versions of hydrogen bombs were tested. But the United States ordered up an emergency capability. It included a liquid bomb that all — you know, the — I don’t re- …
“Liquid bomb” means …?
Well, a direct takeoff from Mike.
You know, Mike was liquid.
I mean you, you — do you understand that distinction?
Oh. Well, that’s terribly important. Now let me try and explain it to you.
I’ll give a little tutorial. Mike — the fuel in Mike was liquid deuterium. You know, an isotope of hydrogen, because hydrogen is, you know, hydrogen’s a liquid only at extremely low temperatures. It was a very complex device in terms of the cryogeny alone. I mean, it was — there were many complexities, but Mike, the fuel in Mike, and Mike itself, had to be refrigerated to an extremely low temperature; and that required a lot of heavy and complicated apparatus [sic]. So Mike was a liquid. Jughead was a copy of Mike and also a liquid. Bravo was a — was dry. Bravo was lithium deuteride, and, and the, the … And, and because, because it’s a, it’s a salt-like material, it’s much easier to deal than the liquid. So it’s just — it’s purely a matter — it’s partly just a matter of practicality. Actually …
It didn’t require all the cryogenic …
It doesn’t require any. And the Russians — all of — the Russians have always made a thing out of the fact that, that because Mike was — because Mike was liquid, it wasn’t a, “a real bomb.” Their bomb, which came in August of ’54, they claim, was the first deliverable hydrogen bomb. Well, it just isn’t true. We made — and, and as I say, Garwin was a key person in this — we made a liquid version. We made a deliverable version of Mike.
: There’s that.
Okay. And, and, and uh, uh, which included a huge refrigerator, because it was — still had liquid deuterium. The, the question of why we used deuterium in Mike and lithium in, in, in what was then called “Bravo,” you know, that’s a sort of a complicated story, having to do with theory and practicality, and so on. Everybody knew, even at the time of Mike, that lithium deuteride was an alternate fuel that had at least this &mdash had at least this benefit of not requiring refrigeration. Turns out, it has other benefits, too. It’s better fuel all around.
But Teller was sort of the guiding light, and it, it probably is, a m- to some extent, a measure of his stubbornness that Mike, Mike used deuterium. Um, you know, it was more — it was — he may have thought it was more calcul- it’s, it’s, it’s a mystery I don’t think you can ever get to the bottom of. I mean, if anybody knows, it’s Bethe. Bethe will be 99 shortly. Why did Mike — why didn’t that group wait to use lithium? Because it was already well known, and the Russians did use it. So they — see, and Bravo used it. So the first application of lithium was Bravo, which was a big experimental device, in the — in, in February, ’54. I’ll get these dates right. The Russian shot was August, ’53. So it was actually earlier. But, as I said, it wasn’t that we didn’t know about lithium, we just started out this other way.
Uh, we did we know at the time that the Russians were working on a hydrogen bomb?
No, we didn’t know. We didn’t — well, you know, we didn’t know in detail. But, but we assumed they were for good reason, and, and you know, it was a sound assumption. Whether there was a — whether there was some — so, so that whatever the facts about what we knew, you know, from intelligence in detail, we knew, on the basis of a sound — sound assumptions anyway. You know, it would have been — it would not have been sensible to assume that they weren’t working on it.
What, what were the — what were the sound assumptions?
Uh, it’s — simply, it is the obvious next step, and we know in retrospect. I mean, K- there’s a biography of Kurchatov, who was head of the Russian program. And after the very first test in 1949, in his biography — I’m not sure it’s reliable, but — his biography. It’s written by a good friend of his, so I think it is reliable. He tells everybody to go take a short holiday, and then we’ll get to work on the next step. And, and it’s clear when he says “next step” — I forgot how he says it. T- talking about hydrogen. Now that — we didn’t have that biography. Uh, this is now, retrospect. That was written well afterwards. But we knew — you know, the, the — it was pretty loose, but they were, they, they had some of the leaders in the kind of cry- in the cryogeny that’s relevant to making thermonuclear weapons.
Mm hmm. The Russians did.
Yes. So if you’re thinking liquid, they didn’t go the liquid route. But I mean, you know, that’s what we’re thinking at the time. I’ll give you two books. I, I’ve writ- I’ve written a book myself on the Russian — that, that a large — that has everything you could write in — when I wrote it, which was long ago, you know, the middle ‘60s — no, a little later — on the Russian program. Now since then there’s been much better stuff. I mean, Rhodes has written — Rhodes — Rhodes’ stuff is really great. And then there’s a historian up at Stanford. You must know who I mean.
David Holloway, who has also done r- really great stuff on the Russian program. But I wrote the first thing, and got — managed to get it cleared — about the Russian program, comparing it with our own. And let me just say that the assumption they were going ahead with a hydrogen bomb was very widespread. The, the — at the highest levels, among scientists as well as politicians, the assumption was not very well based on, on facts. It was based on what we knew about ourselves and what we thought we knew about them. And so, and so, you know, uh, we didn’t really know as much as we thought we knew; but we were right anyway.
We do know that the Russians actually started working on the hydrogen bomb before president Truman said that we were going to — I mean, d- by — we’re talking weeks or months. Small deal, but, but uh, the Russians were already working on the hydrogen bomb before Truman ordered high priority program here. Now, you could say we were already working on it, ‘cause Teller was — Teller w- had his mind on it all the time. And uh, and that was the whole point of George was to somehow or other get us there.
It — I, I guess what I was trying to — I haven’t read the Rhodes book. I, I will, obviously. But …
Well, it’s the best thing there is.
Yeah. But I was just, you know, from, from what I, from what I know from some of my own research, I was just trying to think back to the — what the circumstances were, and I guess one of the things I, I wrote …
McCarthy — McCarthy is — was one of the circumstances.
…but, but I, I wrote a book about the nuclear power program …
… and just one of the background things that I had learned, in, in, in, in that was that, uh, right after World War II, when the Manhattan Project was, uh, disbanded, um, um, one of the biggest state, uh, secrets was that there was nothing in the cupboard. The — in the test shot, and in …
… in the two bombs in Japan. That used up …
No, there was one more coming along. Would have been — would have been a month later.
Yeah, but the, they, the — at one point the number was zero, and the, and the numbers were quite small. Uh …
I don’t think the number was that — I think the number, the smallest number, was one.
After Nagasaki, there was a bomb on the way. There was a third bomb on the way out there.
It, it would — and it would have been just a few weeks later. But you’re right. The, the …
In that sense, Nagasaki was a bluff. The purpose of Nagasaki, four days after, after Hiroshima, was to persuade the Japanese we just had all these we could, you know, we, we had plenty. And Truman even said that the — I mean, they — the tr- the Japanese have got to know that we’ve got all we need. So maybe it was zero, but I think it was one. But that’s neither here — that’s, if it — you know, the other one was within a month, the third.
But, but Dick, Dick was telling me when, when he first went to Los Alamos in 1950 …
… he was allowed — the, the system was, you know, you’d go into the classified …
… library, and you read for a couple weeks and find out what the technology is, and what was going on. But he said one of the few things he couldn’t read about, uh, was how many weapons there were in …
… in the stockpile.
Yes. That — that went right up to 1960. McNamara changed that.
Right through Eisenhower’s — the, the way — that, that was — even, I was the director of the Livermore Laboratory, and my job was to work out designs that would use less material so we could have more bombs. I mean, that was a major, major part of what the whole program was during the 50s: Making cheaper and, and turn — eh, so we could have more. But I never knew the size of the stockpile, and I don’t think Bradbury did, either.
So even you …
I never knew the size of the stockpile. I could easily make all kinds of guesses about it, ‘cause I did have a feeling for how much plutonium there was, and all of that; but no, the way they handled it — I don’t know about Eisenhower, but in the Truman days — see, I was on the Manhattan Project, which is — being six years older than Dick makes a difference. With Truman, they, uh, they would bring him, uh, two sheets of paper. One of them just list [sic] the bombs by type that we have in the stockpile, and the other is the number, the — and the blanks. And the other sheet of paper has the numbers on it. And Truman agreed to not keep the one with the numbers. So in Truman’s personal files, there was, there was a, a stockpile document; but it didn’t have the numbers. And it was not until Bob McNamara came along that he, that we started talking about the numbers. By that time, I was no longer there.
Uh, but, do you have any idea today that — you know, circa 1950, what the size of the stockpile was?
Oh, very small. You know, it — you know, I — whether it’s a dozen or a hundred, I’m not sure, because it’s rapidly changing. You pick it — you pick a year and …
: Mm hmm.
… you know. And furthermore, even the definition of “ready” is difficult, because in — there was a period when the, the basic design involved a device where the core was kept separate from the high explosive.
And where most of them were s- you know, where nearly all of them were — the first, the first small group was in a — I think they were all stored together down near Albuquerque, in a, in a, in a deep underground — well, not so deep underground. Associated with Sandia Base.
So the number was very small. It was not until the Russian hydrogen — the Russian bomb in four — in — it was in fall ’49 that the numbers started, that people became frantic. And, and it — you know the, the point about that — let me say something. The — it’s been presented as if it was a big surprise when the Russians made their first explosion in 1949. Now, it was an extremely unwelcome event, and it was a surprise to a lot of people; but the people who were in the program right after the war, people’s — the best estimate of when the Russians would get a bomb was four years, which is exactly — turned out to be right. But — and that was 1949. But beginning in about 1948, instead of saying, “It’ll be in 1949,” they started saying, “It’ll probably be in a few years.”
So they — once, once they got within a year, they got cold feet. I mean, you know, the intelligence people were — they — but Winston Churchill said ’48. So I mean, it was not a surprise in that sense. It, it’s often been presented as a surprise, because two key figures — Vannevar Bush, or Vannevar Bush, and General Groves — each said, “It’ll be a very long time. They can’t do it. Those Asians can’t do it.” Called the Russians “Asians.” And, and Groves said they couldn’t do it. Bush was smarter, and Bush said, “They can’t do it unless they give it the highest priority,” which was exactly what they did. So Bush and, you know, Bush and Groves said, “nobody’s … long time.” But, but Bethe and other — a lot of people on the record, you know, the public was asking all kinds of people. And so there are a lot of public statements, and they all li- and, and right after the war, the, the most common guess was ’49. As I say, Winston Churchill said ’48, again on the record.
Well I, I guess you just …
But then when it happened, even so, it’s a terrible surprise. And everybody — and there was a, there was a feeling of — th- the — there was — our reaction was frantic. You know, I mean there was — there really was too much hysteria. I, I, I probably was, to some extent, part of it. Same with Sputnik. The — it, it gave — it was such an unpleasant surprise that it gave rise to a hysterical reaction.
I was just trying to imagine in my own mind the, the, the sentiment, the general sentiment of, you know, about 1950 when, you know, when, when Dick and other people were, were working on the, the bomb, and the, the thing is that — the fact that the, the arsenal was in fact so small.
We didn’t think of it as small. You only say — you, you and other people say it was small because you know how big it is.
Indeed. But …
But you know, at, at — 20, the idea of 20 or 100 atomic bombs, that’s an enormous arsenal, in terms of what had gone before. So it wasn’t so small. It’s only so small in retrospect. Von Neumann made a remarkable statement, and I think I quoted it somewhere, so you can find it when I give you that. And, and he made it around ’53 or four. It’s, it’s, it’s after all this has happened, after Bravo and you, you know, we started accumulating all these hydrogen bombs. Von Neumann says, “You know, we’ve been thinking about these things as if they were rare. They aren’t rare anymore. We’ve got to change the way — we’ve got to change the way we think about ‘em.”
So, you’re right. You know, I’m confirming what you said. We did think of them as rare, but nevertheless we also thought 20 or 100 was enormous number. We thought both of those things at once, and von — it was von Neumann in a, in a classified — it’s, it’s been published. It was at a classified meeting of the Air Force Science Advisory Board. He was chairman. Von Neumann was chairman of their nuclear committee. I was probably there. I’m, I’m quite sure I was member at that time. I don’t remember it firsthand. I only remember it from reading after the fact, but he said that. He said, “You know, we’ve been, we’ve been thinking about it as if they were rare and just for use in extraordinary special purposes. They’re not going to be rare, and you should change the way you think of ‘em.”
So von Neumann was one of the many people who, who was pushing the idea of, you know, of tactical uses, and not necessarily the — in extremis, deterrent, the deterrence only that we, that people commonly speak of. Many people talk about them as being useful only in c- the sense of deterrence, but it was way back in 1950, 1950 people started thinking about uses other than deterrence, or at least other than the strategic form of deterrence, you know, where you, you go for the big cities. They were thinking of them in terms of military targets. As soon as you do that, you move away from the idea of deterrence.
Well, I mean, I was surprised, um, uh, or — I take that back. As I did my, my research on the command and control system …
… I kept seeing, at NORAD and — whatever. I mean, you know, idiot things, like …
… telephones don’t work and blah, blah, and when I was taking the Boy Scout tour …
… you know, you can see the, the, screens and all the colored lights and so forth for — about the status of the different elements …
… of the early warning system. And so I asked, “What do the colored lights mean,” and blah, blah, and you know, red means it’s not working, green means it is. Amber means there’s some doubt. So I just st- stood there and copied down the status of the …
… I said, “One moment, please.” And I — whatever. And, you know, half the system was red lights …
… et cetera.
That’s why, you see — another small difference between Dick and I: We, we both agree that ABM is a bum idea, and it won’t work; but Dick’s always looking for a solution, how to make it work. And, and, and all the arguments about decoys and so forth, which — where I, you know, Dick, Dick goes into it more deeply that I do, but I agree with him.
But I insist on something else, which Dick never seems to quite agree with me on, and that is, it won’t work anyway. It’s not just the decoys, and all of that. It’s essentially what you’re saying. You’re asking — you’re asking after N years of peace time, to have this system work at the right millisecond, and it just can’t be done. I mean, there’ll be too many amber lights and red lights, or the guy’ll be in the head. You know, something — it just can’t work. I — be- because we’re, we’re, when, when — complicated things with no precedent fail. It’s — you know, we had all those failures in the space program that I lived through in the, in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s. It just was too new.
You know, the — getting back to ABM, there’s never been a te- there have been hundreds of tests of ABMs in which you fire from California out to Kwajalein, and other tests, other proving grounds too, but test out to Kwajalein. Hundreds of — I don’t know. Hundreds of — one or two hundred. Not a single one — there’s never been a single one where the defense wasn’t cued. I mean, either there’s a beacon on the thing when it comes in, saying, “Here I am,” or — not always. But even when it doesn’t have a beacon, they know exactly when it’s coming. And that’s why they have — even with that they have hardly any intercepts. But once you take that beacon off, there’s no hope of its working at all. They can’t do it. They can only intercept a missile that we launch from California at a known time. That — the, the question, “Can you shoot a — can you hit a bullet with a bullet?” The answer is yes. If you set every — if you rig everything right. Well …
One of, one of Dick’s long-term — and my interests too — that’s where we’ve spent a lot of time together is, is on this whole question of ABM. He — you mentioned Star Wars, but that’s just one minor — that’s just one sort of dramatic interlude.
Well, uh, can we get back to the …
… Jughead …
… Jughead business. Uh, how many Jugheads were made?
Just a small number. I don’t remember.
Oh, that’s right. You said it was a small number of very big …
Well, they were — they were … Mike was 10 megatons, and I suppose Jughead was probably 10 megatons also. I’m not sure what it would — you know, I don’t — since it was never fired, I mean, I don’t know what modifications there were. Jughead was a direct takeoff of Mike, but since it flew instead of sat on the ground, you know, in s- it had some differences. So I don’t really know in detail what those were.
Oh, M- Mike sat on the ground? It wasn’t dropped from an airplane?
Oh now. That, that’s the point of the cryogeny, and it’s …
… it’s the point of the Russian boast that says we didn’t — that wasn’t the first hydrogen bomb. It couldn’t — oh, no. It — you, you can get — it — in Rhodes or anywhere on this …
You will easily read it weighed, you know, a hundred — 50 tons, a hundred tons, some enormous amount, with its big cryostat. I mean, the, the ga- the refrigerating device, that’s where all the weight was. Well, it itself was, I don’t know, 20,000 pounds. That is — Jughead, maybe, maybe 40,000 pounds. I mean, it’s — it was huge.
That’s why it took a B-36.
And the — was, was Mike the device that they used the Styrofoam in for the first time?
I don’t think Styrofoam was in Mike.
Be- because, because somebody had told me that, that Styrofoam was initially classified, that it was something that was invented ….
Well, it might have been. Oh, no. That — I don’t think that’s right. I mean, the, the — it — there, there was, there was always questions. You, you — do you, do you have a good feeling for what the radiation implosion is? I mean, that’s what this — what we’re talking about all the time.
Well, explain it to me.
You’ve got a, you’ve got a … This — you find this even in — there’s an article by Teller in the American Encyclopedia about 30 years ago. Because you have a primary bomb that emits a lot of energy in the form — all kinds of forms. And one — part of the energy is emitted as x-rays. That energy goes — there’s a — in fact, the original idea, the, the Teller-Ulam explosion is you, you put this — you take a big case, big heavy case. Ulam talked about a bomb in a box. It’s huge, you know. I mean, this is, this is the diameter in those days. And, and you put a, you put a hot — you put an ordinary atomic bomb at one end. That’s the primary. It explodes. It produces an enormous amount of energy. Because it’s in a heavy case, even though it’s an atomic bomb, for microseconds, the energy stays inside. It takes time to get out. So it, it flows down through some channels and surrounds the secondary with this energy.
Now the question of what you put in the channels: There are lots of alternatives, but it was, uh, difficult to work it out at the beginning, and that’s where things like Styrofoam and so on come in. But wouldn’t give a — I, you know — and for sure there was a lot of fretting about Styrofoam at some time, but it’s a trivial — it — you know, it’s not a big deal.
Did they use a refrigerator company?
Did the — for the type of cooling and, and stuff, when you say it was a big refrigerator …
It’s a super refrigerator.
This is — was the technology of ordinary refrigerators…?
No, no, no. It’s way beyond that.
It’s way beyond that.
Well, you — ‘cause you have to go to 400 below zero. I mean, so it’s, it’s no — it’s a refrigerator only in the — you know, it’s a — you …
Yeah. But it … But the technology was known, and one of the places it was known was in Moscow. I mean, they had some good cry- they had good cryogeny in Moscow, and since people were thinking hydrogen and liquid hydrogen, it’s part of the hysterical reaction. They must be doing it. Now they were, but the basis for saying so was pretty weak. You know, it’s a case where we were right, but the basis for claiming — for, for saying so was not, not really very well developed.
Mm hmm. And I guess you said Dick was involved in, in, in Jughead.
Yes, uh, uh, centrally.
Mm hmm. Did he …
It’s part of this — when you quoted earlier, you quoted Teller as saying how much Dick had to do with the transition from Mike. Jughead’s a part of that. This is part of that story. The story is, in one sense, bigger than what Teller is describing, ‘cause he doesn’t mention Jughead. And this emergency capability was a big deal at the time. On the other hand, it’s also broader because of things Teller leaves out, which is the contributions of these other people. Teller was determined, and all of his life he was determined, to belittle Los Alamos and its leadership, in different ways. I mean, Oppenheimer, Bethe, in the earliest times, and then especially — Teller had to admit that Bethe was a great physicist, and the two of them saw each other almost every year until they became too old.
Usually Bethe came to California every winter, and when he came to California, he usually went up to Livermore or the bay area to see Teller. That, that stopped 10 years ago, but I mean, it, it persisted until they were well in their 80s.
Mm hmm. Did — Teller died recently…
You know …
A couple years ago. Within a couple years.
And after Jughead, what, what was Dick’s next nuclear weapon?
Well, you know, their — I’m not quite sure what …
… what happened next, ‘cause, uh, I uh … Well, I, I just don’t know, because that’s the period — see, Jughead — those things, uh, Mike and so on, were ’51. The, the George shot was, was May ’51. Jughead and those things were before that. No, after it. Sorry. Of course. Mike was November ’52, elec- almost election day. And exactly — I, you know, I, I saw Dick but not a lot in the period. I, I saw him intensively ’50, ’52, while we were working on George. Then when I became director of Livermore, I was completely absorbed in that side of the program. Dick was not much involved in that. You know, nowadays, Dick’s a regular feature up at Livermore, but he wasn’t then. But he was still going down to Los Alamos, and I don’t know, uh, what he was doing.
Uh, I, I can’t re- I have no memory of seeing him in that period. The, the earliest I can remember seeing him again is, in, in — uh, uh, after 1960. I — and I don’t know how soon after 1960, when JASON was getting started, but I’m not even sure — maybe you would know — whether Dick was one of the original …
He was not one of the founders of JASON.
Okay. But he came very soon.
And I know we saw him, and, and he was involved — I was in The Pentagon for three years, and I did see him during that time, but not much. Maybe I didn’t. I’m not even sure of that. Then, uh, not, not only be- but, so my main contact with him since them has been, has been JASON connected. Yeah, I didn’t remember his being — you see, the re- JASON started two — there’s, there’s two starts to JASON. There was a — there was a meeting of a group of people — you, you know, Garwin-like persons; he could have been there — called “Project 137,” and I sponsored that when I was in The Pentagon. And that worked over a lot of ideas, and out of that, and, and some other routes, came the idea of, specifically, JASON; which would be, uh, continuing, continuing. Project 137 was a one-time thing. JASON was a conversion of that to a — to an ongoing thing. And Dick must have joined very early. Do you know?
Uh, I think he … Formally joined … Not until 1966.
There, there was some …
But that’s five or six years.
Yes. But there was some desire not to have some — because he was at IBM — not to have someone from a corporation.
Well that — I guess, I guess he was the first who wasn’t purely academic. Yeah.
Yes. It had something to do with — but I think somehow he participated in the meetings, even with what …
Yeah. Now there are others. I mean — but still rare. They’re still mostly academic.
And one of the other things that I, that I read about was that — I think it was a PSAC committee on the, the PAL system.
I probably met him there, too.
I, I think he was in — well, he was the chairman of the … um …
Yeah. Well, you know, uh, uh, uh, see, I was — I was a member of the original PSAC in 1950s. We started in December, 1957, well before — we — it — about three years before Wiesner. It was — it was in the time of Killian and Kistiakowsky. And, uh, I joined in ’57, and I remained — I was a member on my own. Then I was — then I was an ex officio member for a couple years. Then I was off. And then I was a member again between s- from ’64 through ’67, so say ’64 to ’68. And it was in that period that Dick started being active.
So that’s — we probably met each other, you know, next in connection with PSAC and, and his getting onto JASON is probably connected with his being — I — you know, I don’t — but, but Dick, Dick became sort of the, the, the — he was the most widespread of all the consultants. I’m not sure what the right word is, but he had more — he f- he had more separate consultancies related to these things than anybody, I think.
Mm hmm. And what — as far as the PAL system is concerned, when, when I wrote “The Button,” I really didn’t go into the …
I just …
… took it for, for granted that it existed, and I was sort of surprised that, I think whatever the PSAC committee that he was on, working on PALS, was like 1960 or, or something.
It might have been a little later, but okay.
Or it might have been a little later. And the thing is, I guess, mo- the question that it brought up in my mind, which I had never raised before was, ‘Well, what was the, uh, system before PAL?’
You might just as well ask, ‘What was it after?’
You know, the — you don’t know whether PAL was ever installed everywhere. You know, you — you’re not going to find out. I mean, that’s — you see, the Navy has always said — the Navy fought PAL. There were PALs on some of the land-based systems, but PAL never became universal as far as I know. It just means permissive action link. And, and, and so all PAL is is a way of, is a way of turning — it’s — but it was always a permissive action link. I mean, it required the permission of one person. One person — one person had to give permission, or the firing orders, to another person. What PAL did was, was create hard — hardware for that purpose.
But there was always a — and administrative permission at the permissive action link, and we never — I don’t know to this day — I’m not sure I even can be clear about what they did with it and what the Russians did, because with them, they did a lot of things in an entirely different way from the way we did them. I mean, the way they maintained discipline was, they had — from the Mos- from the, from “The Center,” as they called Moscow — from The Center to the place where the weapons were, there were three separate administrative lines. There was the Communist Party, there was the military, and there was the Secret Police. Each of them connects The Center with the missile site, and each of them is constantly checking up on the others, and the poor guy at the end, you know, ‘Don’t do anything wrong, or else …’
You know, so that’s — so that’s — you know, that’s a permission — permissive action link, but not hardware. I mean, it’s a — it’s radio communications and rules. So the PAL — but what, what PAL meant was to take that and make — turn it into hardware, and typically, you know, you’d have a — you’d have some kind of an electronic lock, and the person had to get word from The Center what the — what the code was. If he punches it in wrong twice, he — then it won’t accept it. You know, the — and, and, and the — and not only that, but the bombs are surrounded by a case or a net, or — there’s all sorts of ways of doing this so that you can’t, you’ can’t go around it like you would if you were stealing a car. After all, you know, the, the keys are permissive, actually. Doesn’t stop people from stealing cars.
So they’re much more clever with the permissive action link, but, but the Navy would always tell you — would never, would never say, I mean, even at the highest levels, they’d always say that, ‘Well, you know, if the time comes, we can do what we have to do. Don’t bother with — and that’s always what LeMay would say. Whatever else was going on, he’d say, “Then the president would have to give the order. When the time comes, we’ll do it, you know. We’ll know what we have to do.” And, how will you know that it’s time? “We’ll know.” You know, I mean …
Well, and one, one, one of the things ….
Did you ever write about him? Or — ‘cause you know, New Yorker had stuff on …
Uh, I, I, I have a little bit about LeMay, and uh — I mean, one of the things is, I, that I started to say before when, when I was looking at all these weaknesses in the command and control system, you know, I said to myself, at, at some point, I said, well, I said, “These things really aren’t, um, weaknesses, um, if your real strategy is to make a preemptive attack.” And it became quite clear that that was LeMay’s strategy was. He …
Yeah, but he, he waffled, you see, even in his own mind. It wasn’t really preemption. It’s just, we’ll know when it’s time to go.
We’ll, we’ll, we’ll have enough strategic warning …
Yeah, we’ll know that do — and — or, or he would say, “I want to be able to tell the president, “Yes, we’re ready to go.” You know …
But, but, I mean, at, at, at some point I …
When the president asks him.
But at, at, at some point I, I talked to a, a, a very, very senior, uh, person, who at one point edited what went into the football, and so forth.
They didn’t — it wasn’t a football for, you know — that’s a latecomer. But okay.
Yeah. But, uh, but then I — and, and I, and I, I, I talked to some intelligence people, and I was interviewing them on the subject of Soviet strategy, and you know, was it correct that the Soviets had a doctrine of preemptive attack and, you know, all this, and, and intelligence people said, “Yes, yes, yes. We have the …”
You see, that might or might not be true, but that is what American intelligence would assume, independent of the facts.
Yes, but the …
And with, and with certainty.
But the, the interesting thing about this was that the, the person I was talking with, who had worked on intelligence — but he also worked in our own plan. And he, he just said to me in passing, and he said, you — and, and he said, “Our own plan is a mirror image of theirs.” And, ‘Are you saying “our plan” as a preemptive attack?’
Well, preemptive doesn’t imply not permission.
Oh, no. I understand. You know …
… you know, this — the president …
… principle ….
Well, people have always known, on both sides, that you survive a lot better if you go first. They’ve always known that, and it’s always been in the front of their minds. So no matter what language they use, or what the plan actually says, the knowledge that going first is, eh, terribly important — that’s what really counts.
And when, when I was writing the book, I was talking to the, some, some Pentagon consultant, and, uh, he told me about a — there was a conference. I think it was at TRW.
Um, and, um, he said there was a whole discussion of the, of the design of the …
… next generation of weapons and next …
… generation of intelligence systems, all for the purpose of facilitating preemptive attack; and, and he gave me a copy of, of a letter, which was written by the former commander in chief of, of SAC, all about preemptive attack …
… and, and so forth; and there was a MITRE session, or something, on the MX, and there was some undersecretary of defense. I think his name was DeLauer. Uh …
Yeah, I know DeLauer.
who spoke there, and he spoke about the use of the MX for preemptive attack.
But let me tell you: That’s not necessarily connected to the president. All the people you’re talking about, including DeLauer and even General LeMay, doesn’t [sic] really know what the president has in mind.
The president doesn’t tell ‘em.
So, you know, there’s, there’s — nobody knows. I mean, it’s, it’s not just that it’s super secret, so you don’t know; there isn’t anybody who knows what would really happen. Uh, in my view, it, it, it, it — and it’s a genuine unknown, you know, the, the … I, I knew to some degree. I, I’ve talked with eight different presidents, and only six of them about things having to do with deterrence, and they really don’t know what they would do. I mean, it’s — you know, they know what the RAND Corporation and MITRE Corp- told ‘em they should be doing, and that they’re ready to do; but that’s not necessarily what they would do. And it’s not clear they would do anything.
Even if attacked. Let me tell you an interesting poll — some interesting polls that related to that. You know, you can never ask these presidents. Well, you can always ask ‘em after they’re finished with the job. There are number of — there are a number of public opinion studies on the question of retaliation, and there’s a very delightful one done at, at … done — Sandia paid for it, and there were lots and lots of questions the stockpile, but the final one — and they had three different publics. They had the public, they had the peaceniks, and they had the st- the scientific and engineering staffs at the weapons labs. So three different publics. You ask ‘em, ‘What do you do if — if the Russians attack, would you retaliate?’ And the — you know, everybody in the military, and the Russian military too, would have — says, “Yes, we’ll do our duty. This — our program … We will do our duty.”
But you ask the, you ask the peaceniks, and about two thirds of them say, “No, don’t bother to retaliate.” One third say, “Yes, get the bastards.” You ask the Los Alamos and Sandia staff. Two thirds of ‘em say, “Yes, retaliate,” but one third of them say, “Don’t bother.” And then the general public is 50/50.
So the question is, even retaliation, much less preemption — let me tell you: No president I know would ever have authorized preemption. They would have all — I th- I’m quite sure they would have all r- taken the risk. I mean … Eisenhower’s view I have a fairly clear idea about, and it was that if one hydrogen bomb falls on an American city — now, he’s thinking, you know, when he — what’s the hydrogen bomb? Well, it’s a multi-megaton device. I mean, that’s what it was in those days. So it kills a million people. If one hydrogen bomb falls on an American city, that would be prima facie proof that the prior American policies had been wrong, never mind the policies of the person who fired the bomb.
I mean, so the, the, the — all the — if you talk to the military, you get one set of ideas. If you talk to the — sort of the strategic theorists, you get another set of ideas. The, the strategic theorists have always been a pain to me, ‘cause they’re bloodless. They always talk about, you know, a million casualties, a hundred million casualties. It’s all numerical. There’s no blood when the defense intellectuals talk about it.
Well, I, I, I’ll send you a copy of my book, because the, um, the, the thing that I’m proudest of is the last page.
Give me — tell me.
Uh, because — and I sent it to different technical …
… technical specialists to, uh review; but the, the comment that I got back from a number of them, though you get a whole t- technical, technical comments; but the — one of the encouraging comments is, was, “Don’t change the last page,” because I had been discussing preemption and all the think tank business, and — but — and I’ve interviewed think tank people, and w- national security advisors, and all, and all these people, and — but I, I kept saying that, “Well, alright, you have this — and this doctrine of war fighting and limited attacks and blah, blah,” and I said, “But if you attack their command and control system and try to decapitate the system — that seems to be one of the, the great fads,” I said, “How do you negotiate the conclusion of the war?”
Yeah, but you wouldn’t — whether you attack it or not, you won’t negotiate.
Who, who, who do you talk with? Uh, what, what do you use?” And all of the strategic … ‘Oh, well, we’ll get through somehow or other.’ And so I, I summarized all this, and the — I said that, I said, “The best, uh, official — the best explanation I could find for the US nuclear strategy was that if it ever comes to a nuclear, uh, war, you know, we’ll just fall off that bridge when we come to it. There was no more organized …
Mm hmm. Well, it can’t be. That’s, that’s the part of unprecedented.
As I said, as far as I know, the — pr- presidents believed that one is just unacceptable. It’s not a question — but I’ve — but at, at another level, it is acceptable. The, the Herman Kahns and people like that compare — talk about surviving 10 million or t- 100 million casualties, and I’ve sat in conferences with four-star people in which they insisted if their casualties are greater than ours, we’ve won, even if it’s 10 million here. You know, as long as it’s 20 million there, that’s okay. Or the — or the Air Force — you see, it has to do with — these doctrines — the doctrines are all after the fact. They’re not hope. But there is hardware, and there’s a general thinking. I mean, there is, there is the knowledge that going first pays. There is the knowledge that, that — of the — that, the idea of deterrence. I mean, the general idea of deterrence. I mean, the object is to make it so it doesn’t happen. I mean, that’s the goal.
But, but, but eventually there’s hardware, and the hardware is what determines everything. And it’s, and it, and it is not necessarily connected with these ideas very strongly. The I- or, the ideas come afterwards. The size of the forces, for instance, never had any — the theories about deterrence never had any influence on the size of the forces. People like Enthoven, who was, even, an assistant secretary of defense for a while, thinks it does, ‘cause McNamara gave him the job of working it out. But you know, when, when Enthoven derived the size of the minuteman force, he got the same answer that we had started with five, 10 years before. That is not a coincidence. It had nothing to do with the size. I mean, what he — all of his great work …
And McNamara, when he concluded, he asked for a study on, on Soviet — on what it would take to destroy such and such a percentage of Soviet industrial power and manpower. But he already knew the answer, but they went through a long calculation that it would take 400. But I mean he, he didn’t care was it 400 or 100, or 4000, he knew he had a lot more than that. So they went through the study. It’s … Anyway, the, the you know, a, the, you — another one, Senator Russell, who used to be head of the Armed Services Committee in the senate long ago, said, “If there’s just two survivors, I want them to be American.”
Didn’t care — but they do that. I mean, the …
Did Dick play any role in this whole debate about nuclear strategy, or, or was he limited to the…?
Well, yes, he did, but, but it was …
I know on the ABM he did, but on, on …
It was — no, I don’t think so, except that he probably was present when the — he was certainly present, as I was and other people you’ll see in JASON, present at meetings where these things are discussed. You know, the Air Force Science Advisory Board will talk about these things. Uh, you know, to argue about the strategy, and, and PSAC. You know, it’s, it’s not as if the president says, “What should strategy be,” and PSAC thinks about it.
But in the course of just doing its general business, whether it’s a study on PALS or whether it’s a study on, you know, penetration aids or some — you always end up talking about the strategy as part of it. I mean, you — it, it’s never a pure technical problem. So Dick was, no doubt, present at many, many high-level serious discussions about tra- about strategy. But none of them, probably, were discussions in which somebody says, “What should the strategy be,” and then this group was thinking about it.
You know, it’s derivative, all — always. It’s rare. It’s rare for these technical advisory committees to actually get into the ultimate policy.
Yeah, but I, I, I guess one, one of my questions is, was it a, was it a, a flaw in the way he permitted himself to be, uh, used by the government that he didn’t, uh, inject himself more into …
He probably did.
… questions of high strategy? Uh …
He probably did, but uh, that doesn’t mean anyone was listening, but he probably did.
No, I think Dick does have views about those things. I mean, it — uh — all of us in that — you know, it’s a relatively small group. I don’t know how many people’s in it. All of us have views about the technology and about the policy and the strategy, but some put higher emphasis on one end and some higher emphasis on the other, and Dick is so good with the technology and the mathematics behind the technology that that’s what people — you know, that’s his strongest point, and that’s what people are looking … When they ask Dick for his opinion, that’s what they’re, that’s what they’re hoping he’s basing it on, so that when he gets, you know, take, take a more recent thing that he was involved in. There was this, this thing where Rumsfeld, uh, you know, uh, had, had chaired a committee on the strategic, on the strategic missile threat. You know, just before the Bush election.[January to July 1998]
When — and it was Rumsfeld and others, and Dick was the — he may have been the only solid scientific member. I mean, they — I’m not sure who all they were. I mean, it’s a public committee, so you can find out. And the question was, the question was, ‘How soon could a lot of other countries get, create, a, a strategic missile capability?’ Now they worried particularly, especially, about North Korea; but they’re thinking about others, too. Now, that committee came up with an answer that, boy, is there a real threat. That’s why we need to get, immediately, going with ABM. Uh, as I — I mean, I’m not sure I have this right, and I don’t know how to tell you to get it right; but I’ll tell you what I think: That that — so that committee, with Dick on it, concludes that the missile — strategic missile threat’s been seriously underestimated. You know, that, that is the, the other country beyond China, Russia, and so on. And we’ve got to do something about it, and the something we have to do is build ABM. That’s, that’s the intellectual basis of the current ABM program, and Dick was on that committee.
Now Dick would not have recommended building ABM, but he couldn’t help himself from saying, “Yes, the North Koreans, you know, if they do everything the, the way I, the way I tell — I would tell them to do if I was over there, they could make a threat. So, you know, it gets — so, yeah. And that, you know, that discussion leads to policy. Now it isn’t even the policy that Dick would have recommended.
That, that don’t have the capability to have a, you know, dissenting opinion or individual views?
Well, the question wasn’t, ‘Should we build an ABM?’ the question was, ‘Can they, you know, evaluate the threat?’
After the — I mean, it was obvious to anybody, the reason for evaluating the threat was, was to tell you — was to guide the next, the, the decision which would follow from that. But Dick, being the consummate technologist, does sometime — well, Drell does that, too. I mean, with respect to the test ban, uh, they had a study. It wasn’t about the test ban. It had to do with, ‘How difficult is it to be sure that the weapons are safe as well as reliable? Um, and isn’t it, isn’t it terribly to be sure that it’s safe? Can’t have ‘em blowing up on a base or anything. That’s pretty critical.’ And the — but once you decide that, then how do you know they’re safe? Well, by testing them.
Now at the end, you know, there’s a sort of — the last paragraph, that says, that says, “This is a very serious problem, this safety problem. You’d better pay attention and do something about it.” Now somewhere, like at the very end, there’s a paragraph or as sentence that says, “But this doesn’t mean that if the president decides there should be a test ban, we can’t ha- we can’t have a test ban.” But nobody’s ever — reads that part.
All they read is all the stuff that says, “This is a serious problem, this safety problem.”
Uh, I, I….
He got snookered.
I, I, I talked with Sid Drell last night, and he was explaining this nuclear stewardship …
Well, he knows a great deal. He’s the …
Yeah, he’s very good at it. He knows it very well.
And on the one hand, it, it strikes me as very impressive. On the other hand, I remember, um, uh, you know, talking to Kistiakowsky once about the, the problem of …
… maintaining these weapons, and what happens to them over, over time, and, and so forth. And his answer was, “Just let them rot.”
Yeah. Yeah, Sid would never say that, you see, and, and the safety thing, uh — it is, you know, it’s true. You want them to be safe. But, but you should not turn yourself inside out, I mean, in order to accomplish that. I mean, it shouldn’t be — it, it’s given much too high a priority, and Sid gives it too high a priority, because it does have policy consequences, and you know perfectly well what they are. It’s a major argument for resuming testing, when, you know, it’s that argument that right — right now, that argument, that argument is bubbling furiously but below the surface, and if it bubbles up above the surface, then safety will be a key issue. And quoting back to this study, Drell — he wasn’t — I, I don’t — he may have been the chairman. Johnny Foster and, and Charlie Townes were the other two on it. I don’t know who was chair. Maybe — it might have been Sid was chair. I’m not sure.
I, I think Drell’s attitude — I’m just reading in between the lines — was that, ‘Hey, I’ve de- designed a forensics program, and all of this detailed stuff,’ to moot the issue of testing. We can know well enough, uh …
Well, I know, I know some — he did a great deal.
He’s a major contributor.
And so that — I think he feels that this moots the issue of testing, but in fact …
It does to a large degree, but this question of safety is, is a loophole.
And then, by safety, you’re talking about, just …
The, the fact that, you know, you don’t want — that there could be an accidental explosion in peacetime. Uh, there have been more than 20 cases in which it was close.
Uh, it never happened. There’s never been one in any country, but, uh, but it was close. And there’s been a lot of study of them. The c- it’s called “Broken Arrow.”
Uh, there is a … And there, there’s a lot of public stuff about Broken Arrow. I don’t know what, where — you know …
I, I …
I find in Google …
Yeah, I know, Google’s …. But in — if there were, uh, an accident …
But the technologists do get, do get snookered that way.
Oh. That — well, because my question was that, if there were an, an accident, um … It’s just — has, has somebody put some bounds over, you know, what, what size it could be?’
Well, that’s the key.
I, I mean …
No, that’s key. That’s right.
Because if it’s a kiloton explosion …
The trouble is, it’s nowhere near that.
The rules are designed to prev- the rules take as the goal, I mean the procedures take as their goal, something like four pounds. I mean, it’s very small. If there was an accident at that level, it wouldn’t hurt anybody. I mean, the high explosives would hurt more people than the radiation. But the rules, the — the rules themselves, I mean, the goal is greatly exaggerated.
You said four pounds?
Well, I think that’s what it is. A kilogram, or two kilograms, or something like that. It’s said in terms of the number of fiss- I, I, you know, I, I, I’m … I’m a little rusty on that, but these are very small explosions that they’re trying to prevent.
That’s not worth it. I mean, the bar …
Well, you see, that …
… the bar should be considerably higher ….
Yes. But, well, when you think about it, you think about bigger ones. You know, it’s just that what they’re, what they’re working towards, and what they say you design for, and what you have to — you know, the reason — what you have to be sure to this extent — that won’t give four pounds. I think it’s four pounds.
It’s extremely small. It’s much smaller than would hurt anybody, more than the fire — see, the, the picture is always that there’s a big fire at an airport, or an airplane, you, you know, and the fire gets to the bomb and burns through the permissive action link; that things like that happen, and that’s what makes it go off. Or it’s a bullet. You know, it’s a saboteur. And uh, and what happens if the bullet ignites the high explosive where — and there’s — now you have a very — it’s not at all spherical implosion, but st- still an implosion possible, and what about that? Does — it’s — pushes the plutonium into a funny shape. Well, but, you know, will it go off?
And that’s what they’re fighting, you see? That’s — I’ll — and, and when — right now, test ban, as I said: Below the surface there’s a lot of agitation for it. Nuclear weapons have dropped in importance. You know, there’s this big nuclear weapons establishment, but once you get outside of that, neither the people who dislike nuclear weapons nor the people who like them are as fervent as they were, you know, 10 years ago. So the people who want to test, the opposition’s weaker; but people don’t want to go to the trouble. You know, I — it’s, uh, you’d have to — you’d, you’d be rocking the boat, and there’d be a political price, and so let it — forget it.
Yeah. Uh, and … I mean, one question I have about Dick, just, just, uh, globally, is — now he works on all of these different things, and he works on them because people ask him to.
Yeah, and because he’s interested. I mean, he’s self starting, but yes. People ask him to.
But, um, is he really too thinly spread? Would he be better to, uh, have …?
I don’t think so. Uh, there’s different ways to k- you know, the, the, it would be different. You know, he might be just as good less, less spread; but he wouldn’t be — it, it would be impossible to say whether that would be better. I wouldn’t say so. He’s, he’s, he’s, he’s — he has such tremendous — his capability is so great that he can spread himself thinner than most people and still be effective. But, you know, it would be — he, he’d probably be different. There’s a, there’s another dimension. If he had ever taken a, a direct responsibility, that would be different again.
I think that’s a bigger difference than the one you made, how broad …
… how broad to spread yourself. There’s a bigger — the difference between being a consultant and — or an advisor on the one hand, and being in authority on the other, that’s a big difference. He may not appreciate that. See, Drell’s never been an authority, either.
He’s always an advisor.
If you ask — if you ask a question: ‘Who’s the most influential physicist, uh, at the present time, in terms of, say, defense policy,’ people would tell you either Drell or Garwin; but they’re wrong. It’s Brown. But they don’t think of him, you see? But Brown has access even to this White House, and even to this Pentagon.
And they take seriously what Harold has to say, Harold Brown …
… has to say about strategy and so forth. He’s by far the most influential physicist.
Or talk — ask about what member of the National Academy. Again, somebody will name Sid or, or, or, or Dick. But it’s Harold.
They just don’t think of him, because he doesn’t, he doesn’t do it as a physicist. But Harold started as a physicist, and he got into all of this that way, and he’s — first knowledge of all these things — Harold, Harold designed two- stage weapons at Livermore.
Good. I, I didn’t know that he, uh, had such a technical background.
When I set up Livermore, Johnny Foster was in charge of one-stage weapons, and Harold Brown — I, I appointed him. I — Harold Brown was in charge of two-stage weapons.
Two, two-stage means thermonuclear?
But Harold served 12 years in senior positions in Washington, and he’s regard- he’s, he’s regarded — he’s — and, and republicans and democrats equally regard him as, as a super — as a, as a worthy advisor.
And who does he work for now? Is he just independent?
Uh, well, he’s almost — yes, he, he, he works mainly as a consultant. He was, until very recently — well, he’s on a lot of boards, like AT&T, and you know, Xerox. I don’t know. IBM. And then he was a partner in one of the big investment firms.
I can never think of their name. It’s one that originated in Germany before the war.
Warburg, or …?
Yes. You got it. There’s two Warburg firms in America, and he’s Warburg Pincus.
Oh, well, yeah.
And he was a — he still works for them. He’s still probably, you know, he, he travels a lot. He does a lot of their foreign judgments, makes their foreign ju- judgments of international fi- finance. But he’s been — since he left The Pentagon, very soon after he left The Pentagon, he went with — he got hooked up with them and became a full partner.
To, to lead us out of the nuclear weapons for a while, uh, one of the other, um, things that, that I didn’t know before I started doing research was, was Dick’s involvement with, uh, GPS.
Yeah, he was involved with everything. I mean, that’s — it’s not so much that he was involved with GPS as that of course he’s involved with GPS. I mean, that’s right up his alley. Yes. I mean, you know, that, that’s — that’s actually fairly ex- you know, that’s not so simple to understand, and Dick understands it, uh, easily. But, oh yes, he does — he does cryptography, too.
Mm hmm. Uh, what was his main involvement in GPS?
Oh, I don’t know for sure. I, I don’t know for sure. It, it — he was not at the beginning. And, you know, well, that is to say, he may have been at the beginning of what’s now the particular device called “GPS,” but the idea of using satellites as artificial stars for navigational purposes …
… that started in the late ‘50s, before Dick was into this sort of stuff, at the Applied Physics Lab at Johns Hopkins; and it had an entirely different name. It was just, you know — and, and GPS is, is, is substantially different from those early ideas, but it’s — nevertheless it’s — but GPS is the oldest of all satellite applications. It — there is a — I’ll tell you. You might be interested in looking it up. In 1868 — I mean, that’s not a mistake — 1868, there is a story, and it’s either — I think it’s in Harper’s; I’m pretty sure it’s Harper’s magazine — called, “The Brick Moon,” and it’s a, it’s a, it’s quite elaborate. It ran, you know — it’s turned into a small — he turned it into — his pub — turned it into a small book. And it’s about building satellites for navigational purposes. [“The Brick Moon,” by Edward Everett Hale, The Atlantic Monthly, 1869]
Before they knew about how to launch a satellite. You know, I mean …
… it’s not launched with a rocket. It’s launched with a huge set of flywheels, and of course long before wireless communications; but each of those problems, the book solves separately. The communications problem is done by making the satellite inhabited, and the people on the satellite have signal flags …
… and telescopes.
So it’s a communication satellite that is — it’s a navigation satellite with communications to the ground.
That sounds hilarious.
That, that sounds hilarious. I, I should get the movie rights to it.
Well, actually they’d be free since it’s, you know….
Yeah. It’s — the book — the story was written by, by — I get this wrong. It’s either Edward Everett Hale, or it’s Edward Everett [sic], you know.
And he’s a relative, but there are two people that are, uh … that are involved in the Abraham — in the Lincoln times, you know, eighteen six- debated Lincoln, or made — he’s the other guy, made, made the other speech at Gettysburg, or something like that. It’s a well known writer. And this thing is out of the blue. But it, it’s based on the idea that, on Saturn you’ve got these rings up there. It’s based on the idea that lat- longitude is hard. You know, latitude you can get from the sun and all that, but longitude’s — how are we going to do longitude? Well, if we had a big ring like Saturn, you could see it from the ground, tell where you are.
So we’re not going to have a ring. We’re going to have a satellite, and it’s called “The Brick Moon” because he knew that it would have to be tremendous velocity, and that getting out above the atmosphere — I think he realizes it would be above — it would continue, once you got out of the at- and be — getting through the atmosphere is a problem. So he made it out of brick… so, so it would stand the heat. But that’s the original navigation satellite in 1868.
Now, GPS incorporates all those ideas. You know, GPS not only tells you where it is, but it tells you what time it is, I mean, so the exact time is an important feature. But it’s this crazy 1868 satellite. That’s what all these signal lights are. It’s … There’s, there’s this English — Arthur Clarke. He likes to — he, he loves — he always claims he invented the communications satellite, and he probably did write one of the earliest modern papers. It’s part of science fiction, really.
But this, this 1868 satellite is a communications satellite.
And really, it’s RAND ideas involved in satellite communications.
The earliest, the earliest involvement of the American military in satellites goes back to nineteen-four- 1946, when Curtis LeMay was involved in the research program, and he ordered the newly formed RAND Corporation, which was being formed, to study satellites. The first RAND report is called — and — “A World-Circling Spaceship.” That’s RAND report number one, and it talks about using them — incidentally talks about using them for navigation, but of a very special sort. They, they talk about using them for reconnaissance, but then they say, “No, it’ll be too small.” They just didn’t have the imagination — get big enough to have a big telescope.
They — so they said, “But what it would be good for: You can broadcast signals from it to missiles, you know, intercontinental missiles, and you can use the, the, the — you know, those signals from the satellite, as part of the — as part of the guide- as part of the — some of the, the information can be used for guidance. So that’s, that’s another GPS, except it’s extremely narrow. It’s just to guide missiles. But that’s in — it’s, it’s — it must be unclassified now. For years that report existed ‘official use only,’ and they wouldn’t lift it. They wouldn’t go the rest of the way, but I think it’s generally available, and it’s the very oldest RAND report.
It would be fun to get, and, and I knew a fellow. He was at Harvard, and I think he was at a, a doctoral program at, at Harvard, for more than 10 years, and he could …
He could never finish his, um, thesis, and finally Harvard booted him out, and he, he went to, to RAND. ‘Oh, whatever happened to …?’ But he, he was totally …
Do you remember his name?
Uh, uh … Mark.
I can’t — but he’s married to a friend of my, my sister’s. But he was, he was totally gonzo about creating an artificial moon and living on it personally.
Um, um, uh …
He — that, that — a little cramped, but …
I, I’ll have to check.
No. But RAND — the RAND Corporation was the first unit of the military to f- to make serious — to seriously study satellites and their uses, and it goes to 1946.
Mm hmm. Has anybody written the history of the GPS?
Ah, there’s a — there’s actually a documentary film.
See, it had a different name. I mean, in other words, there were, there were satellites being used for navigation before GPS. Maybe the name is Navstar. You …
Okay. But anyway, the program that they did at A- at APL, Applied Physics Lab, Johns Hopkins University. I think the Navy was a sponsor. But it’s the very first program of that sort where big money is being dispensed, long after this L- RAND report. The RAND report’s 1946. The APL program I’m talking about is late 50s, more than 10 years later. But there’s a — there’s actually a documentary which APL put out.
Good. And JPL still exists?
Ah, that APL put out.
A, APL? And APL still exists?
I think so. Applied Physics Lab, Johns Hopkins University. I’m pretty sure it’s just still in there. You know, I don’t — you don’t hear much about it. It probably doesn’t do much that’s terribly consequential. I don’t know what they do nowadays.
No, it, it, it, it, it’s just that, uh …
But they made a documentary about 10 years ago on that program.
Hm. So, be- because the, the thing is, every time I — Google is fine, but every time I look up something, it says, ‘Oh, so-and-so was the inventor of this,’ and you find out, well, not exactly.
The Aerospace Corporation was a major player in GPS. I don’t know — I don’t know who all the major players were, but you know, the, the fact that Dick was in it is inevitable.
I see. S- somebody — I haven’t — there’s some — some …
It’s hard to imagine Dick not being in GPS, I have to tell you.
There was some fellow at RAND — I have his name here somewhere. Oh, yeah. Ivan Getting.
Oh yeah. Well, he was …
…. Raytheon. Raytheon.
Yes. But he was president of the Aerospace Corporation.
Oh, he was.
Yes. He was the president for 20, 25 years. He’s the founding president. He died only just a couple years ago, here. He would’ve known Dick. I don’t think Dick and he were close. I’m, I’m not aware of any connection between them. They must — I’m sure that they talked with each other. No doubt about that. Dick talked with everybody. But I don’t think Ivan relied much on Dick or vice versa.
I, I guess …
It’s Ivan Getting. Uh … It’s the Czech version of the name.
Oh, I see … be very careful of this. But in, in terms of um, um, the, the scientific community general, or the various people who have their feuding partner, um, Teller certainly did.
Well, that was a special case.
He was a, he was a [sic] Olympic-caliber feuder.
But does, does Garwin have a foil or bunch of foils, or …?
I don’t think so. He’s rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, but it’s either — it’s usually trivial, or, or it’s some high-ranking officer. Early on, Dick could sometimes be a little — you know, he put them down. When they did something stupid, Dick would let them know it; but that’s sort of from the past. So there are people who have had brushes with him.
And … But they have to do primarily with the fact that he, he, like most people that are real smart, he doesn’t — he, he can be hard on fools, and impatient with them, and so I don’t know anybody — I don’t know anybody who doesn’t like him. I know — I know a lot of people who would just as soon not work for him. You know, that’s a different story. But I don’t know anybody who doesn’t both like him and admire him. But there must be some, but I don’t know who they are.
Mm hmm. I mean, I, I’ve met — um …
There are some who don’t like him a lot, you know, but I don’t know anybody who dislikes him.
I, I’m, I’ve met some, uh, people who are just terrified of him. I mean, they, they’re afraid to present their ideas, and this, that, and the other thing, for fear that ….
Well, in in the past, he could be very hard on people, but uh, I — he’s, he’s, he’s changed a lot. I mean, he, uh — he is 76.
Hmm. Good. Well, are, are there any other Garwin-related topics that, that come to mind?
Well, no. He, he’s … He’s been everywhere. I think, you know, JASON may be his — for many years may have been his main base, but I’m not even sure of that. He’s had so many other, uh, you know, many other elements of entre, both — in everything. I mean, intelligence as well as, as well as the development of gadgets like GPS and hydrogen bomb, and all that stuff. He just is very good at all levels of technology. I’ll tell you a story about him. Uh, I — that, that will illustrate him twice over. One of these I think he’d be amused by. The other he might misinterpret, but I’ll tell it.
I was the chief negotiator on the comprehensive test ban negotiations in the Ca- in the latter part of the Carter administration, and Dick was into arms control, just like he’s into everything. And — but I was the United States ambassador dealing with, uh, the Russians and the Brits, and Dick came through Geneva several times, and I — visited me, and I just took advantage of him – talk about late, latest ideas about these things. And my house — I mean, the government pr- you, you all, you tax payers provided me with this magnificent house on Lake Geneva. But the furnace wasn’t working ver- right. And the guy who was in charge of all the American diplomatic activities in Geneva — well, the — sort of the, the custodian of all of this, not a diplomat himself, says, “Don’t touch the heating system!” “Don’t touch it!” You know.
So Dick — we had — we were having Dick for dinner, and, and I happened to tell this to Dick. I mean, we’ve got this terrible heating system. They said, “Don’t touch it.” So, Dick says, “Let me see.” So Dick and I went down to the basement. I’d never bothered even to go down there, you know, look at the — and Dick — and it, it’s, it’s just characteristic of the way he approaches these things. Basically, his hands are behind his back. He’s looking, you know, at all the pipes running around. It’s a big furnace down there. Big house, big furnace; and it’s got these pipes running all around with valves. Dick is … And just in a few moments, his m- you know, it’s — saying either nothing or maybe “hmm, hmm,” he turns a couple of these valves. It’s all fixed. It’s all fixed. [laughs] Like that.
But that’s, you know, the — it — that he — that’s not a fix situation. So low-tech. I mean, it’s not just esoteric tech. My — but I want to explain something here about — I want to explain: Who is Garwin? I would say, if you, for example, wanted to know, how does a Xerox machine work, ask Dick. He’ll know. Or, how does a digital camera work? He’ll know. But the, but the same thing — we, you know, those all — I don’t know if you know about The Secret World, but there are these things called ‘tanks’ where you can go into a confined place, and it’s fixed so that nobody can listen to you, either optically — either acoustically or electronically.
So I invited Dick — Dick — you see, my — I had a delegation of about 20 people from joint chiefs of staff, secretary of defense, CIA, all the agencies, these atomic energy people. They’re my, they’re my, they’re my delegation. So I invite Dick to meet with the delegation and tell them his views. And several of — a couple of them were long-time colleagues, and guy representing the joint chiefs of staff was a major general who had been at Kirtland Air Force Base, and he’d been in the headquarters of the atomic — Department of Energy, and so on.
And uh, that — we’re in there, and, and I asked Dick to give his views about what we were doing: Negotiating a test ban. And Dick just says, you know, in the course of a short talk, he — Dick says that we can monitor it adequately, and it’s in our best interests. And General Giller says to Dick, “How do you know that, Dick?” Dick looks astonished: “I’ve thought about it,” he says. You know? In anybody else, it would almost be a joke; but with Dick, it’s not. I — that is how he knew. He’d thought about it. I mean, anybody else would cite — you know, get a citation, or, ‘That study,’ or, ‘The RAND study,’ whatever, you know. Dick: “I’ve thought about it,” he said. And I remember Giller, you know, sort of could hardly contain himself. I mean … But he knew it was right. But that’s just out of, you know, probably a single day in Geneva, Dick is fixing my furnace and telling Giller that he knows the test ban can be monitored because he’s thought about it.
Well, I remember my friend Henry Kendall. Um, uh, he — I, I would …
Both, both of those stories, I think, are original. I don’t think you’ll find them in ev- if you want Garwin anecdotes …
Huh. I mean, like, Henry would come to my house. If, oh, if a kn- a knife wasn’t sharp, oh!
Is, is that right?
You know, or he’d see, you know, a, a pot. The handle was, was loose. I mean, he couldn’t bear to see a piece of equipment …
Is that right? I …
… that wasn’t functioning.
Yeah. I didn’t know Henry any, anything like the way I know Dick. I mean, I knew Henry, but not very much. Henry and I were on a c- an interesting panel. It was the panel that Hazel what’s-her-name, who was undersecretary of energy …
Hazel … O’Leary.
Yeah. She set up a very complicated panel under the leadership of the guy from Motorola, Galvin. And it — about 20 people. I’d known Henry before, but, but that’s the last time I saw him. He and I were together on their national security subpanel. The question is, how should, uh, how should the Department of Energy reorganize or deal with all of the national — all of the national, uh — the committee served no useful purpose. Partly Hazel’s fault. I mean, you know, she was so out of tune. She may have some interesting or even occasional good ideas. She was really out of tune with the nuclear world. There.
It’s a posture question. A posture question.
Well, I have a lot of back trouble.
I’ve never seen it.
Well, it’s of some use, I guess.
It’s — I remember John O’Leary, who was her husband.
I didn’t … then …
Yes. He was the, um, the director of licensing of the Atomic Energy Commission in the ‘70s, I guess.
And, uh, Henry and I — Henry had started this group called “The Union of Concerned Scientists,” and when I was just out of college, I was the executive director.
Oh, you were involved with that?
Oh, I was the executive director …
Are they still here?
… for 10 years. Um.
And Henry and I wrote several books and articles about nuclear safety problems and, and, and whatnot. But at one point — this was ’73,’74 — we were invited to lunch at the Cosmos Club by this John O’Leary, and we were suing the Atomic Energy Commission at the time, and you know, …
So I didn’t know: Did they want to negotiate or what, what would that be like?
And so, we, we accept, and you know, we, we, we, we see them, and he has a, a big, a big black, um, suitcase like, like this, and we have lunch; and he said that he wanted to, um, thank us for, uh, what we were doing, because he said that the, the Atomic Energy Commission’s regulatory program was an enormous mess, and if it hadn’t been for the outside, uh, you know, pressure that we were, uh, bringing, there would be no possibility of getting any type of, um, reform. And he said, “You people need more, uh, ammunition.” He said, “You’re almost getting it right as to some of the problems.”
Mm hmm. Mm hmm.
So he said, “Take this, um, bag home.” He said, “I don’t want you to phot- photocopy it, but you may read it and give it back to me.” And it was study after study …
… of things that were, were going on. And so, I don’t know we were such boy scouts, but since the instruction was that we wouldn’t photocopy it, we didn’t. We had a typist, or several typists …
… sit down and just re- reproduce the, um, the whole thing. But, it, it was — it was entirely curious, and you know, uh, that — I mean, like when, when we started, um, uh, you know, publishing our reports about reactor safety problems, I mean, Henry was under the impression, ‘Oh, this is something the government didn’t know about,’ and that once they saw this, they would react and, you know, fix things up. He had no objection to nuclear power in principle, just, you have to do it right. But of course, instead they just, you know, denied that there was any problem. And in fact their own scientists had pointed out everything that we had already pointed out …
… in spades, but the, but the political and economic momentum was just too, too great. Um, and I guess this brings me to the question about Dick in, in terms of, um, um, the, the very suggestions that he’s, he’s made. Um, I …
About, you know, what percentage of them have been acted upon, or, or how many …
… important recommendations are just sort of sitting, sitting there languishing. I know things like about the, the air traffic controls.
It’s a huge mess. It’s been a huge mess. Could have been fixed up, uh, uh, decades ago.
See, even, even a consultant like Dick. Nearly everything he says has been said by somebody else; maybe not so clearly, maybe not in the same collected — you know, take the air traffic. May be that — his report is, is unique in the sense it covers more ground more accurately than — but other people, the problem — everything in there, somebody’s talked about, and maybe in a disjointed way. So when you ask, has his advice been acted on, it’s just impossible to say. That’s, that’s — part of when I was making distinction between a consultant and an authority has to do with that. And that’s — a person who’s in authority does rather rarely, but you know, make a final decision which sticks. It’s very hard to judge, uh, how much, how much advice.
But you know, the — you — it doesn’t just depend on the quality of the advice. With Dick, that’s — with Dick’s advice, the quality is, you know, way up there. But it depends on the circumstances, and uh, you knew Wiesner, you said. You talked with Jerry. By the time Jerry became president’s advisor, the bloom was already off the rose. It was Killian who had … who … And, and then Kisti [sic] too, who really did have the president’s ear. The president wanted to know. I mean, the pre- Eisenhower — eh, eh — Eisenhower knew how to take good advice, and he knew when he needed it, and he knew he needed it right then, and he knew — and he was very quick at deciding who was reliable, and — Eisenhower now — who’s not. And he decided that, you know, Kisti [sic] and Killian were.
And I happened to come in just at the tail of that. I mean, there was a time, brief time, when PSAC was new, and I was a member of the very first — when there was just three of us, that — we had personal and business situations. We could work full time. It was Kisti [sic] and me and Killian. And so for three or four weeks there, we just — night and day, on this space program, missile program, and then getting ready for the test ban issues and the organization of space, the, the content of the program, and just — just the three of us, and then with other people coming in, working all this out. And, and it came out pretty much the way we thought it should, both in terms of program content and in terms of how it was organized. So it had, you know, it — on the other hand, I can’t say that the program — while it would have been different if I hadn’t been there, it might have been just as good or better.
And as far as the organization, it was a fairly plausible organization. I mean, it was the right way to go: Build on NACA by adding elements from the Navy and the, and the Army, you know, and giving it a new name, a new rank, and so on. So, you know, the — e, e, e, but even then, you know, that was a natural thing to do, so that — we did all that, but it would have been done any — now there I was an advisor, but in the White House, when the president wants the advice, it has a, a little more consequence than usual. But it’s hard to know. You know, later on, uh, just a few months later, he asked PSAC, ‘Would a nuclear test ban be in the best interests of the United States, and could it be monitored?’ And 17 of us went off to Puerto Rico, Ramey Air Force Base, to think about that.
And we said, “Yes.” But that’s just what the president wanted us to say. Now, that’s not why we said “yes,” but you know, what was our influence on that? Well, we’ve backed him up. Without us, he might’ve gone — he would have gone more cautiously.
But the first test ban failed anyway, you know. We did back him up. He did get a test moratorium. We were the only people backing him up. There was nobody else in the government who supported the president on a test ban except the 17 members of the president’s — you know, Bethe and I and Jimmy Doolittle. That Jimmy Doolittle. Rabi. Purcell from Harvard. If you were, you were — UCS was at Harvard at that time.
Ed Purcell was one of ‘em, a key person, Ed was. And uh, and uh, without us to — telling the president what he already knew, what he felt he knew, he might not have gone ahead. That might not have made a difference, because as I say, he, he did get a moratorium, a test moratorium, put in place to provide the right kind of political background in which to negotiate a treaty. The treaty — we couldn’t negotiate the treaty. Never could.
But the moratorium held for a couple of years, but uh, you know, what difference did it make? It’s hard to say. It might have been — it might have made — the failure of the first moratorium might have been negative in its overall aspect, you know, influence on nuclear test ban. I don’t think it was, because Kennedy immediately picked it up as something, ‘cause Wiesner was — well, Wiesner was there, and Wiesner — we — it was a passion of Wiesner’s, along with others.
… but all of these, uh …
But what difference did it make? You know, hard to say.
All, all of these steps have complex repercussions. I remember Kisti [sic] saying the worst thing that ever happened for arms control was the atmospheric test ban, because it, it did nothing to …
Yes, I know he said that. I, I — yeah, I never agreed with George on that. I mean, I know that very, that very issue. There’s a lot of point to that, but if you know Rathjens …
Yeah. Well, I think Rathjens said the same thing; but Rathjens and Kisti [sic] were good friends, so if … But Rathjens generalized it much broader: That things like the, the arms control negotiations actually were harmful, not for the reasons that Teller and Perle said, but because they, they, they actually legitimized things. Once you said you were going to limit weapons of such and such a number, you couldn’t — then, then the real arms controllers are the people with the money, who — it’s all too expensive. Got to spend less. They were cut out of it, you see. The — they might have cut the number …
… for budgetary reasons. But once we agree that SALT … with the numbers, we’re — they — you couldn’t get below. I mean, they not — it’s like the Great Wall of China. I just saw an interesting remark. It didn’t keep the barbarians out of China, but it did keep the Chinese out of north Asia. Well, because, you know, the indirect thing. I mean, nobody wanted to, nobody wanted to get outside the protection of the wall, because it mostly protected from barbarians, just not when they were really determined.
But, uh, the, the gr- but this question of what’s productive and what’s counterproductive — it’s impossible to say. I’m faced with that in a trivial way now. My daughter and son in law and so on have just come from Hong Kong, and they’re, they’re, you know, they’re all for forcing the Chinese to continue with what they promised to do with regard to direct elections with the Hong Kong legislature. It’s not at all clear that that’s the, the ultimate result of agitation in Hong Kong. Somewhere about now is when there, there’s got a big — they’ve got a big, you know, huge rally scheduled in Hong Kong. It’s just about now. Is that going to hurt or help? Will that really help? Because the Chinese are — the, the thing they’re most sensitive about is having foreigners tell ‘em what to do, whether it’s the pope or the Chinese Catholic Church, or it’s the British complaining about the Chinese failure to follow through on an agreement.
So anyway, but my — it’s the same. My daughter and my son in law are all — and, and I, I, I’ve got some friends in Hong Kong through them, some activist friends. It’s not clear to me that activism is going to produce a positive result, in that — especially in that case. But I, but I think in general that you’ve got to go, you know, you — you — the alternative history you’re never sure about, whether it would have been better not to do that. See, George is right that it took the heat off. I mean, that’s true. By, by solving the environmental problem, which is where a lot of the focus was, and he and I did agree on that: That’s the wrong focus. I mean, the arms, the arms race question: That’s what’s important about the test ban.
It’s not the fallout. Well, that was important, but that’s way secondary. But by solving the fallout problem, indeed, it did take the heat off. But the reason I’m sure he’s wrong is that I continued in that for many years. I mean, in one way or another, in the test ban business. There never was a time we could have gotten a test ban through the congress. There might have — you know, maybe there was a tiny window, but I don’t think so. I mean, it just — it just never — it takes a two-thirds vote. There was never a time when we could have gotten a two-thirds vote. There — it wasn’t Henry Kendall, but somebody else in UCS. You can thi- I’m sure you know the name. There was a physicist there who was very active with UCS. He was an officer in UCS, and he was very active on test ban issues.
Oh, Kurt Gottfried?
No. Before, before Kurt was involved. But he and I used to argue. I … He would say, “You know, you’re just not pushing hard enough.” Well, in fact, Kisti [sic] became very angry with me when I was the negotiator, that he felt I wasn’t, you know … ‘Just do it,’ I mean, as far as Kisti [sic] was concerned. There’s nothing that could be done. The, uh, the votes were never there, and not even close. You remember Alan Cranston? If you’re in that — if you’re in the, you know, peace business, you might — senator from California.
Oh, senator. Yes, yes, yes.
I — when I was negotiating on the test — I would, I spent half, I spent a lot of time in Washington, first of all to work, doing my part in trying to get the right instructions out of Brzezinski. That’s part of the problem, too. I mean, he was just against it. President wanted it, but not Zbig. But, uh, uh … Where was I headed with this? ‘Cause … Oh, yes. I’d talk with Cranston, and I would go to talk with him, see if I c- couldn’t get a little support for the test ban negotiations from out of him, from somewhere. And uh, and the, the SALT negotiations are going on at the same time. And, and two or three times, I met with Alan. He told us he had this thing in his coat pocket, a list. It was long piece of paper, and it was a tally. Must be a standard format in a sense — the names of all the senators.
And with check off on how they stood on SALT.
And I would say, “Alan, you know, let’s get thinking about the test ban.” He’s pull his thing out, and he would say, “Don’t have a two-thirds vote on SALT.” Or, “We don’t have a sure two-thirds …” See, the way the United States government is — the way the security establishment approaches these things, SALT has always — it’s, it’s always been — it’s usually been easy to get a majority behind SALT. It’s never been possible to get a majority behind the test ban, other than the partial test ban. And ABM’s right in the middle. I mean, it’s close. I mean, you can — under the right circumstances, you can have a ban on ABMs, but it’s just right there; and it hasn’t changed in 50 years. I mean, those three things: You can get a — you can — SALT can win. Test ban can’t win, and, and ABM is right in the middle with regard to the political possibility, and it hasn’t, it hasn’t changed since Eisenhower times.
It’s just — it’s part of the present problem. It’s why, you know, half the people think the war’s a good idea, and half don’t. I mean, there’s this approach to defense that’s gung ho or doubtful you know, and, and that — it’s a 50/50, in the US. And I don’t see that it’s going to change. This is going to — this may turn out so badly that, when you add it up to Viet Nam, it’ll prevent another one; but it may not turn out that badly. They may be able to make this transition.
Well, that’s not [sic] a lot to do with Dick. I, I think — I, I’m very — I think it’s a great — Dick’s just right for this sort of thing. Lots of information, lots of activity. A very valuable contribution. I mean, I think Dick’s made a major — the, the sum total of what Dick’s done or tried to do has been, is, is much more — is better — you know, very — he’s good. It’s right up there at the top, somewhere near the top. So it’s a good idea.
Yeah. Well, I, I think, I think for me it’s going to be …
But it’s a hard one, because he, it’s really — he is — it’s so diverse.
It, it’s so diverse, and, um … uh …
Yeah, you mentioned air traffic control, that there was a supersonic transport.
Yeah. Well, because I knew the, the, the re- the reader will put up with a certain amount of background technical information to understand the story, but if the story covers 50 things, the readers will ….
Yeah, but you have to write it soon enough so that we can read what you said about Lois, because she’s been a wonderful, or, you know, support for Dick.
Yeah. Well, I’m, I’m going to, um, uh, interview her. Uh, I’m not …
You ever met her?
Oh, I’ve met her a few times, but I …
… interview her …
… uh, tomorrow, and …
Oh, are you?
I think she, she was a bit shy when — because I was at the house a few times interviewing …
You mean back east?
No, no, no. Over here.
And, and I think she was a bit shy, because I said, “Oh, well, you know, we have to schedule a time when I can, when I can talk with you.” And …
It’s like the security people when I would get by — I have a lot of clearances, so they’re — they used to always be reviewing it. They seem to run out of money. I haven’t been reviewed in quite a while, but they would always interview Sybil, you know.
Yes. Well, did, did you use that to bargain for anything? I think that was pretty …
That was your …
No, actually he says that it’s … Well, he’s, he’s, he’s just simply a, a run-of- the-mill genius. Well, he’s so very bright, but at the same time, he’d make a nice next-door neighbor.
Especially if you’ve got any kind of problem with your furnace.
Well, yes, that’s right.
Or your car. He can do cars.
Uh, he, uh … I have a grand — one of my granddaughters is a best friend, you know, quote — in big quotes — one of his granddaughters, Kendra, who will be here soon. This particular granddaughter of mine makes best friends in just a matter of hours. But she and Kendra really have enjoyed each other in the past, and my daughter Rachel knows — well, both Lois and Dick.
Yes. Our, our daughter this — of this particular granddaughter — lives — she, her family lives in Hong Kong for 18 years, so every summer they would come over for the month of July, that sort of thing.
Get away from the heat.
And one summer, three years ago, she came with her two girls, and Herb had just been diagnosed with leukemia, acute myelogenous leukemia, and they were going to do great things with chemotherapy and, uh, and children, you know, carry all kinds of bad germs, and his immune system was at the bottom.
And so we could have Sophie, the older one, who was only a year and a half older, but that was a critical older. And so she knew enough not to come close to him. But Qing you know, she’d, she’d know, but she’d forget. And so she went basically from the airport in LA to Lois and Dick Garwin here in La Jolla, ‘cause it was JASON, and stayed there until Herb was sent back in the hospital.
And then she’d come here. But it, it was a couple of weeks that — so that’s the kind of, uh, really down-to-earth nice people …
Mm. No, I, I met — had only — I met Dick maybe a half a dozen times over 30, 30 years, but I had never been to his home or, or whatever; but — and I remember — I mean, Henry Kendall was really — he wasn’t intimidated by many people, but he was quite intimidated by Dick, and I remember — I think it was like — like this was the first time I met Dick. Henry had like a five- minute appointment to talk with him on some, some matter, so I just went along, et cetera. And, and Henry was just petrified about it, because if Dick didn’t agree with what …
And it was something very technical, then, you know. Some big experiment was going to be all screwed up.
But then when I was writing this book about command control, I, I went to interview him, and I was petrified, and uh, uh, just because Henry was.
And but, but, when, when I actually got to sit down and, and talk with him, he could adjust the discussion to my level of, of technical understanding, and he was enormously, uh, helpful. And I sent in the manuscript of the book, and I got back a 15-page memo …
… with, you know …
… line by line … You know, he said, he said, “I think this is a very good book, and here are some, you know, suggestions.” And whatever.
I was amazed at the, the level of generous assistance …
That I got.
Well, you never know. You know, that’s right.
I, uh, was on an airplane with him, and I don’t know what we were talking about.
And uh, I asked him a question, and he answered it. And then I asked him another question, and he said, “What you need to do is …” And then — but he didn’t have the information there. And so, by the time we got home, there was an email for me, from him, with the — right when — he had just made a note of it right then, and done it. And after all, it was a very, uh — you know, unimportant for someone of his intellect, one might say. You wouldn’t think that he would bother with things like that. But he will.
See, he stands out as a smart person among other very smart people. He stands out. I mean, he’s as close to unique … (phone rings) Hello. This is California Sleep Research, so I ought to listen, but nevertheless …
Oh, yeah. Well, they, they do — see, I just say, “No, I’m sorry “
But he says, “Don’t …” When he starts out, “Don’t panic.” You know, it’s a recording, it’s a re …
It’s a — oh, I see.
Trying to keep me — trying to prevent me from hanging up. “Don’t panic.”
No, I’m, I, I’ve been remarkably impressed by his efficiency.
Because just in the month or so I’ve been working on this, you know, if he says he’s going to send something, psshht.
It, it arrives the next hour or, or whatever.
Was he, um, uh, not Emilio Segrè.
Was he a student of Fermi?
Yeah. Fermi — I think Fermi says he was his best student, or has said that. Did say that.
Mm. And that’s quite a ….
When I got the Fermi Award, which Dick — and Dick was there, just a couple years ago — I re- I remarked on how Dick was really my uncle, because, because, uh, my PhD supervisor was Fermi’s first student, and Garwin was either his last or close to the last. And so, you know, we had Fermi for the grandfather, and then there’s Segrè who’s my Dr. Father, a term sometimes used by Europeans. And then, Dick’s, Dick’s the, the brother of Dr. Father. So, Dick’s my uncle. I wonder if he remembers I said that. You have to say something, and I didn’t want to say anything deep.
That was over three years ago.
Yeah. Just before my leukemia.
The Christmas before.
The December before, or something.
Mm hmm. We count everything from that.
Well, uh, the, the leukemia — have you, uh, put that behind you?
Well, as far as you can tell. I mean, I have three years, and … without …
He’s in clinical remission, … chemo.
For three years. Three years — in another couple weeks, it will be three years since I was in clinical remission.
That’s excellent. My, my — I had a …
It was — I had acute myelogenous leukemia.
I, I had uh, a brother who had, uh, another type of acute …
There are four varieties of leukemia.
He had some type of hairy cell leukemia.
Oh, yeah. Mm hmm.
Yeah. That’s another — yet another. There are four main varieties, and I think the hairy cell is something else again. But I mean, you know, I’m not quite sure.
But he, he, he was, um, he was quite lucky, because, you know, he, he came very, very, uh, close, but in, in, in his case, um, they removed his, uh, spleen, and that put it into …
Yeah, things, uh, fix …
… re- remission, and it stayed in, uh, re- remission going on 18 years.
Yeah. Well, that is remission. I mean …
Well, three, three years isn’t quite, but close. Uh, but, uh, well, I, I just had this — what was then standard chemo, which is very hard on you, but, but nevertheless, in my case, it produced remission.
And I get my — I’m — sometime next week I’ll get my blood checked, and then about two — in another two months, I’ll be checking in with my oncologist for one more time — well, one more, uh — it won’t be the last time, I hope, I hope. Well, for sure it wouldn’t be the last time, because even if it comes back, I’ll be dealing with it.
Well, thank you very much.
You’re, you’re welcome, and I’d be glad to keep in touch, you know. We can …
It’s been a great pleasure. No, I, uh …
I, I think it’s a very worthwhile project, and I, and I hope you’ll do a very good job. I mean, I think it deserves — Dick deserves a good job, and I’d be glad to help you accomplish it.
Okay. Well I, I will …
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