The movie Oppenheimer has opened to critical acclaim:
Lindsey Bahr associated Press Film Review -
Christopher Nolan’s 'Oppenheimer' is truly a spectacular achievement, in its truthful, concise adaptation, inventive storytelling and nuanced performances from Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon and the many, many others involved —- some just for a scene.
Romain Cheyron, a French journalist wrote:
Oppenheimer' is, for me, the best Nolan. Striking, dense, intense. The film, via the main character, doesn't let go of you, from the first to the last second. A powerful rise and an incredible last hour. Cillian Murphy is absolutely stunning.
He added in a follow-up tweet, "The sound, the music, the dialogues, the emotions never stop:"
The sound, the music, the dialogues, the emotions never stop. There is (almost) no moment of respite, we are totally transported in the spirit of Oppenheimer during the three hours that we do not see pass.
Let me start out by saying that I am not a Christopher Nolan fan because to me Batman movies are not meant to be allegorical manifestos on our political history. The Black Knight Series sent many conflicting tropes that critics were quick to point out.
Mike Archibald a prominent film critic said it best when in commenting on the Dark Knight Series as follows:
Nolan and company feel the need to play catch-up with the last installment, set up the next ones, craft an intricate web of conflicting motivations and actions, smite our eyes and box our ears with breathtaking aggression...and then they want to stuff in Robespierre, Occupy, and other signifiers. To what extent is our engagement with these politics a capitulation—both to the filmmakers' half-fulfilled pretensions and to the absurd cultural climate wherein superhero movies more or less own the mantle of serious mainstream filmmaking?
I am hoping that Nolan’s message, if any in Oppenheimer, is true to man’s legacy of science and compassion. Oppenheimer's reputation was besmirched by Edward Teller in the 1953 hearings where Oppenheimer's security clearance was revoked. It was not until President John F. Kennedy awarded Oppenheimer the Enrico Fermi Award in 1963 that the American Public started to realize that the man was a hero and not a villain. The red baiting in America that brought Oppenheimer down will hopefully be contrasted with the Legion of Honor award by France in 1957 and his election to the Royal society in Britain in 1962. His compassion for mankind should come shining through in this film as it is an easy target for Universal Studios and Nolan.
In December of 2022 the U.S. Department of Energy ceremoniously restored Oppenheimer’s security clearance. We can only hope that the film is as good as “Darkest Hour.”
You can find Oppenheimer in Book I as part of the Manhattan Project but here are some excerpts from Book II Finding Designated Ground Zero where some of his less heralded but equally as important work on Project Vista is analyzed:
Finding Designated Ground Zero - Book 2
Excerpt: pages: 32-34
January 29, 1953 – 0900 Hours Cabinet Room – West Wing National Security Council Meeting The White House, Washington, DC In attendance: President Dwight D. Eisenhower, presiding Vice President Richard M. Nixon Charles E. Wilson, Secretary of Defense John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State Arthur Fleming, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare General Omar N. Bradley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William M. Fechteler, Navy Chief of Staff 33 ~ Finding Designated Ground Zero ~ General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Air Force Chief of Staff General J. Lawton Collins, Army Chief of Staff Harold E. Talbott, Secretary of the Air Force Robert B. Anderson, Secretary of the Navy Robert T. Stevens, Secretary of the Army General Matthew B. Ridgeway, Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Curtis E. LeMay, Commander, Strategic Air Command Representatives of the Central Intelligence Agency (names redacted) President Eisenhower called the meeting to order.
“I don’t have to tell anyone in this room about the seriousness of the special intelligence estimate we received from the Central Intelligence Agency just a few days ago. Dr. Caleb Young, who has been the Chief Science Officer at the CIA since its inception in 1947, has prepared final drafts of the documents in front of you. Over the years, he has been quite prescient. He believes there is a credible threat of a Soviet attack. You received his twenty-page summary yesterday. I trust you all digested it before you read the sports pages.” There was some uneasy laughter, but every head nodded. “He will go over the written material and then give an oral presentation, after which he will take questions. Dr. Young.” As Caleb approached the wall-sized map he had prepared for this briefing, it occurred to him how offended some of the attendees might be. His summary of Project Vista excoriated the Air Force for its view regarding its primary functions— strategic bombing and interdiction of incoming Soviet long-range bombers. Their refusal to adopt Robert Oppenheimer’s proposal to devote even a minimal amount of their budget and assets to tactical delivery of smaller nuclear ordnance in support of ground troops left a gaping hole in the options available to the President if the Soviets chose to start a limited war anywhere along the East-West divide in Western Europe. Eisenhower would have to choose between an all-or-none response when it really didn’t have to be that way.
Excerpt: pages: 41-44
Caleb Young Addressing the NSC January 29,1953
Project Vista was a broad joint academic and military study involving fifty preeminent outside scientists populating fifteen study groups.” This guy is not lacking in self-confidence, Eisenhower thought. “We produced a final report proposing solutions for the defense of Western Europe. It employed existing conventional forces augmented by tactical nuclear weapons. The dominant military view of the Air Force and Navy was that successful strategic nuclear bombing was the goal to be attained as a response to Soviet aggression involving an invasion of NATO space. The study revealed the opposition that US citizens and their representatives in Washington, DC, had for dependence on strategic bombing. The study concluded that the only realistic way to deliver tactical nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future on critical targets was through the development of ten Air Force attack wings. The other conclusions were as follows.” Caleb leaned toward his binder as if to read, although Amory and Eisenhower knew he’d memorized the entire report. “I’ll begin,” Caleb said. The Air Force wings should be outfitted with the Mark VII bomb with yields from 8 to 61 kilotons. With its weight of less than 1,700 pounds, the Mark VII could be carried under the wings of F-84G Thunder jets and the Navy’s fifty specially modified F-2H-2B Banshees, as well as the English Electric Canberra. It was critical for NATO forces to control the air war above the area of hostilities. Consequently, the fifty air bases supporting Soviet Bloc jet fighters along the frontlines received first targeting priority, followed by forward supply depots. While a Strategic Attack would cause irreparable harm to countervalue targets, it would not stop the Soviet Bloc’s ability to wage war because the SAC did not have adequate mapping to target the Soviet Union’s counterforce targets. All of NATO’s European population centers would face immediate nuclear retaliation. Strategic bombing would not stop the Soviet Union’s armies’ advance before it had conquered all of Europe. Caleb looked up. “This study was signed off by numerous influential scientists, including Robert Oppenheimer. On December 6, 1951, at the Fontainebleau Hotel in Paris, Professor Oppenheimer met with President Eisenhower, who was SACEUR at the time. General Norstad attended. Oppenheimer argued for a measured and flexible response to a conventional Soviet attack. He did not see the need for an automatic strategic bombing campaign or for a general war. If the conventional forces in Europe received support involving tactical nuclear weapons delivered by ten attack wings utilizing a low-altitude bombing system, there would be no need for a strategic bombing campaign.”
Caleb paused for effect. “Finish this up in ten, Dr. Young,” Eisenhower said. Eisenhower knew everything about Project Vista and wished he’d pushed harder for it. It was a secondary war plan he could have used if the Soviets pushed forward in Western Europe. The Vista group did not reach any agreement because General Norstad cited budget constraints and pointed out the impossibility of preparing a new crash program involving the creation of ten tactical air attack wings in twenty-four months. “I do not have a crystal ball,” Caleb said. “That’s as far out as I can imagine.” Even though the Air Force suppressed the Project Vista report by recalling it in January 1952, General Eisenhower was authorized by the Joint Chiefs to begin planning for the use of tactical nuclear weapons. In the summer of 1952, General Norstad set up a special study group under Colonel Harold Watson. It met at Wiesbaden Air Force Base in Germany and operated under the code name Whiskey. The study resulted in the targeting of several key Soviet counterforce targets by tactical nuclear weapons. But the Air Force fought the plan, and it wasn’t as robust as Eisenhower wanted.