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Groves Seeks Evidence Against Szilard, July 4, 1945

Source: U.S. National Archives, Record Group 77, Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, Manhattan Engineer District, decimal files, "201 (Szilard, Leo)."

As Szilard circulated his petition, General Groves sought ways to take action against him. On July 4, 1945, Groves wrote to Frederick Lindemann, Lord Cherwell.

Lindemann, who was Winston Churchill's science advisor, had known of Szilard's ideas on the nuclear chain reaction long before the discovery of fission. As head of Oxford's Clarendon Laboratory, Lindemann had been Szilard's employer from 1935-1938.

Groves inquired about a meeting Szilard had requested with Lindemann when Lindemann visited Washington D.C. in 1943. If Szilard had mentioned secret information to Lindemann during this meeting, Groves could have charged Szilard with violating the Espionage Act.

Lindemann's reply, and his attached account of the meeting, also are reproduced here in full.



                                         4 July 1945
The Right Honorable
The Lord Cherwell
War Cabinet Offices
London, England

Dear Lord Cherwell,

I wonder if it would be taxing your memory unduly if I were to ask 
you to write me briefly the subjects of your discussion in your 
meeting with Dr. Leo Szilard in May of 1943, when you were in this 

Dr. Szilard, as you will recall, worked in the Clarendon Laboratory 
during the years 1935 to 1938.

Frankly, Dr. Szilard has not, in our opinion, evidenced wholehearted 
cooperation in the maintenance of security.

In order to prevent any unjustified action, I am examining all of 
the facts which can be collected on Dr. Szilard and I am therefore 
seeking your assistance.

I am looking forward to the day when I will be able to see you again.

                                           Sincerely yours,

                                           L. R. GROVES
                                           Major General, USA

                        TOP SECRET


                                 12th July 1945

My Dear General,

Thank you for your letter. I was very glad to hear from you again 
and to have a talk with Major Traynor who looked after me so well 
last autumn.

I am sorry to hear that Szilard has been indiscreet. As you may wish 
to attach it to your file I have put my recollections of our 
conversation on a separate sheet. As you know he worked in my 
laboratory at Oxford and always had rather a bee in his bonnet about 
the awful implications of these matters. I cannot say that I really 
took his conversation very seriously, but I think the attached 
statement gives a fair account of its general tenour.

I think from all accounts that success in your great project is on 
the verge of being achieved. I hope I may add my congratulations on 
the unequalled effort in which you have played such a remarkable 
part. If I could manage it, I should very much like to come over to 
America again before the year is out and if so I should look forward 
to seeing you again. But perhaps you will be able to get away 
yourself and come over here for your long promised visit before then.

                                 With kindest regards believe me
                                 yours very sincerely

P.S. I hope your daughter's tennis is making good progress.

                        TOP SECRET



When I spoke to Szilard in Washington in 1943, he was, so far as I 
can remember, mainly concerned with a topic which has inflamed so 
many scientists' minds, namely what sort of arrangements could be 
made to prevent an arms race with all the disastrous consequences to 
which this would lead. I do not recall that he offered any solution, 
although when we had discussed the same matter in Oxford before the 
war he had advocated some agreement between scientists not to lend 
themselves to any application of nuclear chain reactions to lethal 

My impression is that his security was good to the point of 
brusqueness. He did, I believe, complain that compartmentalism was 
carried to undue lengths in America, but on the other hand, when I 
asked him about some point - I forget what - deriving from our work 
in Oxford he replied that he was not at liberty to discuss it as he 
had passed into the employment of the American Government. We did 
not, so far as I can recollect, have any further conversation on 
technical processes, but he kept harking back to his general anxiety 
about the future of the world.


Copyright Notice: These documents are believed to be in the public domain. Their transcription and formatting as an e-text, however, is copyright 1995-1998 by Gene Dannen (gene@dannen.com).

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