Bernstein, Barton J. "Oppenheimer and the Radioactive-Poison Plan," Technology Review 88
(May/June, 1985), pp. 14-16.
A letter, recently declassified, has shown that top U.S. scientists considered a plan to
mass-poison hundreds of thousands of civilians during the war years. The plan was to poison half
a million using fission byproducts. The basic idea was, according to this article, Enrico Fermi's
and what we know of the whole plan is this letter from J. Robert Oppenheimer to Enrico Fermi.
The important thing about the letter: it strongly suggests that Oppenheimer and Fermi had no
basic moral objection to the poisoning of a half-million civilians.
The letter is described by Frank Oppenheimer, Robert ‘s brother, as "bloodthirsty." But in its
context it is clear: there was a war on the these scientists were interested in contributing to a
favorable outcome for the allies.
The idea "...foundered on substantial technical problems and the reluctance of top military
personnel to divert resources from the A-bomb."
There is no doubt that at least the following people knew of the project: Oppenheimer, Teller,
Vannevar Bush, Leslie Groves, and Joseph Hamilton, then an associate professor of medical with
the Radiation Laboratory at the University of California. It was Hamilton who was responsible
for several of the infamous "radiation experiments" now being evaluated by a Presidential