The Nuclear Spies: America’s Atomic Intelligence Operation against Hitler and Stalin

Cornell Univ. Pr. Sept. 2019. 248p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781501739590. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781501739613. POL SCI
Houghton (historian, International Spy Museum; Nuking the Moon) offers a detailed account of Allied success and failure: correctly assessing and hindering Axis efforts to produce an atomic bomb during World War II, while at the same time failing to understand Soviet capabilities or preventing them from penetrating the Manhattan Project. The real value of this book is the organizational history of American efforts, detailing how U.S. agencies failed in their efforts against the Russians. The United States drastically reduced its mighty postwar military and intelligence capabilities because of budgetary constraints, bureaucratic politics, and the mistaken belief that the USSR could not quickly catch up to American progress. Thus it came as a shock to Westerners when the Soviets exploded their own atomic bomb in 1949. While well documented, the book lacks photos and maps.
VERDICT This easy-to-read academic book will appeal to those interested in World War II intelligence and atomic history; a strong pairing with Sean Kean’s The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies Who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bomb.
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