11 oktober 1939: uranium Union Minière belangrijk, schrijft Sachs aan Roosevelt

ID: 193910111499



October 11, 1939

Dear Mr. President:

With approaching fulfillment of your plans in connection with revision of the NeutralityAct, I trust that you may now be able to accord me the opportunity to present a

communication from Dr. Albert Einstein to you And other relevant material bearing on experimental work by physicists with far-reaching significance for National Defense.

Briefly, the experimentation that has been going on for half a dozen years on atomic disintegration has culminated this year (a) in the discovery by Dr. Leo Szilard and Professor Fermi that the element, uranium, could be split by neutrons and (b) in the opening up of the probability of chain reactions, - that is, that in this nuclear process uranium itself may emit neutrons. This new development in physics holds out the following prospects:

1. The creation of a new source of energy which might be utilized for purposes of power production;

2. The liberation from such chain reaction of new radio-active elements, so that tons rather than grams of radium could be made available in the medical field;

3. The construction, as an eventua1 probability, of bombs of hitherto unenvisaged potency and scope: As Dr. Einstein observes, in the letter which I will leave

with you, "a single bomb of this type carried by boat and exploded in a port might well destroy the whole

port together with some of the surrounding territory!"

In connection, then, with the practical importance of this work - for power, healing and

national defense purposes - it needs to be borne in mind that our supplies of uranium are limited

and poor in quality as compared with the large sources of excellent uranium in the Belgian Congo

and, next in line, Canada and former Czechoslovakia. It has come to the attention of Dr. Einstein

and the rest of the group concerned with this problem that Germany has actually stopped the sale

of uranium from the Czechoslovakian mines it seized. This action must be related to the fact that

the son of the German Under-Secretary of State, Karl von Weizsaecker, had been an assistant at

the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin

to come of the great physicists now resident in this country who are carrying forward these

experiments on uranium.

Mindful of the implications of all this for democracy and civilization in the historic

struggle against the totalitarianism that has exploited the inventions of the free human spirit, Dr.

Szilard, in consultation with Professor E. P. Wigner, head of the physics department of Princeton,

and Professor E. Teller of George Washington University, sought to aid this work in the United

States through the formation of an association for scientific collaboration, to intensify the

cooperation of physicists in the democratic countries - such as Professor Joliet in Paris, Professor

Lindemann of Oxford and Dr. Dirac of Cambridge - and to withhold publication of the progress in

the work on chain reactions. As the international crisis developed this summer, these refugee

scholars and the rest of us in consultation with them unanimously agreed that it was their duty, as

well as desire, to apprise you at the earliest opportunity of their work and to enlist your


In view of the danger of German invasion of Belgium, it becomes urgent to make

arrangements - preferably through diplomatic channels - with the Union Miniere du

Haut-Katanga, whose head office is at Brussels, to make available abundant supplies of uranium

to the United States. In addition, it is necessary to enlarge and accelerate the experimental work,

which can no longer be carried out within the limited budgets of the departments of theoretical

physics in our universities. It is believed that public-spirited executives in our leading chemical and

electrical companies could be persuaded to make available certain amounts of uranium oxide and

quantities of graphite, and to bear the considerable expense of the newer phases of the

experimentation. An alternative plan would be the enlistment of one of the foundations to supply

the necessary materials and funds. For either plan and for all the purposes, it would seem

advisable to adopt the suggestion of Dr. Einstein that you designate an individual and a committee

to serve as a liaison between the scientists and the Executive Departments.

In the light of the foregoing, I desire to be able to convey in person, in behalf of these

refugee scholars, a sense of their eagerness to serve the nation that has afforded them hospitality,

and to present Dr. Einstein's letter together with a memorandum which Dr. Szilard prepared after

some discussion with me and copies of some of the articles that have appeared in scientific

journals. In addition, I would request in their behalf a conference with you in order to lay down the lines of policy with respect to the Belgian source

of supply and to arrange for a continuous liaison with the Administration and the Army and Navy

Departments, as well as to solve the immediate problems of necessary materials and funds.

With high regard,

Yours sincerely,

/s/ Alexander Sachs

The President,

The White House,

Washington, D.C.

Land: USA