JF Ptak Science Books
(Click image to enlarge; the other four pages are located in the "Continue Reading" section, below.)
This paper is one a small archive of background and draft papers and proposals by the Vannevar Bush group working on the question of the control of atomic weapons and the formalization of the American position regarding the use and control of atomic weapons, October 1945-February 1946. This archive consists of 38 documents relating to the development of U.S. atomic policy, with contributions by President Harry Truman, Secretary of State James Byrnes, Dr. Vannevar Bush, (future AEC director) Carroll Wilson, Alger Hiss, I.I. Rabi, William Shockley, Frederick Dunn, Joseph E. Johnson, Leo Pasvolsky, Philip Morrison, Col. Nichols, William McRae, Admiral W.H.P. Blandy, George L. Harrison, and others.
- The Economics of Atomic Bombing, by William Shockley. 5pp, typed, carbon sheets. Provenance: Dr. Caryl P. Haskins, while working for Vannevar Bush, ca. 1945. Very good condition. $4500
I have written elsewhere on this site about Vannevar Bush and the coming atomic/nuclear arms problem--as perhaps one of the pre-eminent scientific minds in the Roosevelt/Truman administrations, Bush and others foresaw the development of the atomic arms race in 1943, and by 1945 Bush became a fundamental thinker and advocate on the problem. The items in this archive are low-formal background papers, drafts of proposals, informal studies, as well as mature statements of thought that would become implemented in the core of U.S. policy regarding the spread and control of atomic weapons. They are generally carbon typescripts and necessarily of extremely limited distribution, generally have no letterheads, occasionally carry the authors’ full names (although sometimes only initials are used).
The William Shockley paper was written towards the end of 1945 and is on five pages and runs about 1500 words, and is an extension of work he had already been doing for Henry Stimson with Quincy Wright on evaluating the combinations of casualties that would lead the Japanese to surrender3. He begins this paper with a logical statement of the issue of the economics of conventional and atomic bombing, ending with the sentence “For atomic bombing destruction is still more cheap”. What Shockley is getting to is the overall cost of the amount of destruction caused per square mile, and the conclusion that he draws over these five pages is the destruction caused by the atomic bomb is 1/100th the cost of conventional bombing per square mile destroyed (“atomic bombing is probably 10 to 100 times cheaper than ordinary bombing”).