Thomas Powers received the Pulitzer Prize in national reporting in 1971. He is the author of several books, including The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA, and most recently the novel The Confirmation. He lives with his family in Vermont.
The biographer of CIA director Richard Helms ( The Man Who Kept the Secrets , LJ 10/1/79) has written an easy-to-read, well-researched book on the Nazi quest for an atomic bomb. The Allies rightly feared such German scientists as Werner Heisenberg, held by many to be one of the world's greatest physicists, who for reasons still perplexing refused to leave Germany after Hitler's rise. Yet there was no viable German bomb project, merely a small-scale research endeavor that failed in several attempts to produce a self-perpetuating chain reaction. Powers makes a highly credible attempt to assemble known facts from a history shrouded in secrecy and the ambiguity resulting from the destruction of many relevant documents and evidence. However, the book is somewhat marred by the author's tendency to wax philosophical, raising as many questions about the German bomb as he attempts to answer. Recommended for academic and general collections.-- Thomas G. Anton, Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago
In this important study, Powers addresses one of the lingering mysteries of WW II: why Germany, with its able scientists, material resources and the support of high military officials, failed to build an atom bomb. Throughout the war Allied authorities, fearing that the Germans would ``get there first,'' took steps to thwart their apparent efforts toward that end: the commando raid that destroyed the heavy-water plant in Norway, for instance, and the scheme to assassinate preeminent physicist Werner Heisenberg. Powers also describes how the Allies learned that the Germans never even came close to producing the Bomb, and he examines the popular theory that German scientists concocted a postwar story of moral compunction to excuse their failure. Sifting through the evidence, Powers concludes that Heisenberg did not exercise passive resistance but actually ``killed'' the Bomb program by convincing the authorities that it was unfeasible. But the question remains: why did Heisenberg not take credit for his heroic action? Powers is author of The Man Who Kept the Secrets. Photos. BOMC, History Book Club and QPB alternates. (Mar.)