Study Guide

Bomb: The Race to Build-and Steal-the Worlds Most Dangerous Weapon Chapter 4

By Steve Sheinkin

Chapter 4

Tradecraft

  • President Roosevelt forms the Uranium Committee (way to come up with a creative name, Roosevelt), a group of military leaders and scientists. It consists of sixteen different teams around the country and has a budget of six thousand dollars, so progress is slow. Einstein once again writes Roosevelt and urges him to pick up the pace.
  • Harry Gold is a twenty-eight-year-old chemist from Philly. He's a pretty nondescript guy, modest, nice, and, oh yeah, a spy involved in what J. Edgar Hoover calls the "crime of the century."
  • A buddy, Tom Black, who helped him get a crucial job during the Great Depression, introduces Gold to communism. Well, more like indoctrinates him into communism, abusing how grateful Gold is to him for getting him the job.
  • Despite Black's best efforts, Gold resists officially joining the Communist Party. However, in 1934, Black asks Gold for a favor: The Soviet Union needs to learn the cutting-edge chemical processes Gold's factory is performing, so if Gold could pass that information to Black it would really help the Soviets build a better society.
  • Gold, who has a self-described "almost puppy-like eagerness to please," jumps at the opportunity to help the Soviets, as well as his friend to whom he owes so much. He doesn't see how this information could hurt, and this is how he becomes a Soviet spy.
  • Every few weeks Gold travels to New York City to pass off plans and formulas for making industrial chemicals. His contacts then go off to make copies, come back with the originals, and he heads home and returns the papers. Easy peasy.
  • By the time WWII begins, Gold has given the Soviets just about all the information he's privy to, and he's sick of all the espionage. He's also starting to be disillusioned about the "worker's paradise" his buddy Black described to him.
  • In fact, Stalin has just signed a pact with Hitler in which they agree not to fight each other.
  • When Gold tries to stop spying, his contact, Fred, not only orders him to get a job at a weapons factory (with information worth stealing), but also threatens to expose him if he ever tries to walk away. Oh good.
  • Gold's next contact, Sam, is bit nicer. He educates Gold on tradecraft—the art and science of espionage—teaching him things like never to use your real name or address (um, duh?), to sit at booths to hide exchanges, and to sit by the doors in the subway in order to make a quick exit.
  • Gold asks Sam what's up with Stalin being all buddy-buddy with Hitler. Sam tells him that it's all a ruse, and that Stalin is just stallin' (bad pun totally intended). He needs time to build up their military strength, and then they will take out Hitler faster than he can say "Heil."
  • Meanwhile, Hitler and his army have just taken France, the Netherlands, and Belgium. Great Britain is withstanding horrific bombing raids every night, and while the U.S. is supplying the British with weapons, they're also trying to stay out of the war.
  • In early 1941 Sam tells Gold they don't need him anymore. He is thrilled, and he starts imagining the life he will have now that he no longer has to be so duplicitous.
  • In June, Hitler negates the treaty with the Soviets by launching a massive blitzkrieg deep into Soviet territory.
  • Whoops—the Soviets realize they still need Harry Gold. Now he's going to be a courier, relaying information from spies in American factories back to NYC and his contact, Sam.
  • Sam's real name, by the way, is Semyon Semyonov. He is a KGB (the Soviet intelligence agency) spy, and he takes Gold's info and brings it to the KGB office, cleverly hidden in the third floor of the Soviet consulate, where it is translated into code and sent directly to Moscow.