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Over the years I have read many books about the Manhattan Project and biographies mostly of and about the various scientists on the project. This book is about a man that was mentioned frequently in passing in the various books but nothing in-depth. This book is more of a biography of General Leslie R. Groves (1896-1970) than a history of the Manhattan Project.
Norris cover Groves early life, his life at West Point, graduating 4th in his class and after graduation going into the Corp of Engineers, he also explains how Groves developed his exceptional organizational skills and administrative skills. The author covers Groves' time overseeing the building of the Pentagon.
Norris states Groves was responsible for choosing the three key sites, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, and Hanford and for the construction of the buildings at these sites. The author bogs down the book with too much information as how many miles of corridors there we’re and how many windows etc.
At the end of the book Norris covers Groves’s role in the Cold War. Norris was meticulous with his research and had access to all the detailed information on daily activities, meetings, phone calls and so on kept by Gen. Groves’s secretary Jean O’Leary. The book is well written but does bog down at times. I found the book most fascinating.
If you are interested in World War II history or the Manhattan Project this would be an interesting book for you to read. The audio book is long 23 hours, Peter Johnson narrated the book.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
The book is titled Racing For The Bomb and it seemed reasonable to assume that it discussed the period from Leslie Groves appointment to head the Manhattan Project to the dropping of the bomb or, perhaps, from the first serious decision to try to build the bomb to the dropping of it.I bought this book because I was interested in learning more about how the Manhattan Project was run and how it ended up producing an atomic bomb in only 3 years, a period much shorter than anyone would have expected. Instead this book turns out to be a biography of General Leslie Groves and, of course, spends a great deal of time on Groves' family and his family life. Indeed less than half of the book (approximately 10 1/2 hours) covers the period when he was in charge of the Atomic Bomb program during World War II.
Much of the book that covers the early Groves' life is spend discussing his father's career as a minister and then an Army chaplain as well as his brothers and sisters and their lives. While a standard part of a general biography I found much of this information to be extraneous and dull since it had no bearing on the period of the Manhattan Project and its aftermath, although the period convering his attempts to gain entry to West Point, his life there and his early life as an Army Engineer were more interesting and had a great deal of bearing on how and why he ran the Manhattan Project as he did.
That portion of the book covering his appointment to head the Manhattan Project through the construction, testing and dropping of the bomb were very interesting and covered much more than I would have expected. While there is little discussion of the technical problems involved, there is a great deal on what had to be done to support the project, the interaction between Groves and the scientists doing the research work, surprising information about the effort those associated with the project exerted in Europe to prevent Germany from developing the bomb (until they learned how far behind Germany was) and the effort to round up atomic scientists as the Allies swept toward Germany after July 1944. There are also details of events I never heard of, like the transportation of "Jumbo" to the Alamogordo test site, a very interesting subject in itself.
One of the most interesting parts of the book for me was the coverage on the political events leading to the actual dropping of the bomb. Mr Norris make clear tht there was no real decision to drop the bomb, just the lack of a decision to not drop it, but I found the coverage of the politcal discussions leading up to the actual dropping of the bomb fascinating.
The coverage of Groves' life after the end of World War II seemed anticlimactic and some of the events, like his antagonism toward David Lilienthal, was simply sad. The author makes a very good case that Groves was instrumental in the construction of the bomb and that without him the development effort would have taken much longer and many lives would have been lost in the invasion of Japan.
I felt that the narration of the book was acceptable, but not inspired, and that the book was far too long and too detailed for what I expected it to be. A more aggressive editor might have improved the book by cutting out a great deal of information that was not pertinent, but the book is OK, if not great, as it is.
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