Report and letter signed by ‘Opie’ attract auction interest ahead of Oscars

MEREDITH, N.H. — Interest in the late scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer has extended beyond the Oscars this weekend to a historic signed report and letter.

RR Auction in Boston is taking bids on the rare 1945 report, as well as a letter signed by “Opie” that describes the nuclear bomb as a “weapon for aggressors.” By Saturday, bids for the report had topped $35,000 while the letter was closing in on $5,000. The auction ends Wednesday.

The movie “Oppenheimer” is a favorite to win best picture and other accolades at the Academy Awards on Sunday after winning many other awards in the runup. Directed and produced by Christopher Nolan, the film is the most successful biopic in history, after raking in nearly $1 billion at the box office.

The report details the development of the bomb and is signed by Oppenheimer and 23 other scientists and administrators involved in the Manhattan Project, including Enrico Fermi, Ernest Lawrence, James Chadwick and Harold Urey.

RR Auction said the report of about 200 pages was written prior to the testing of the first bomb at the Trinity Site in New Mexico and was released to news media days after the 1945 attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Called the “Smyth Report” after author Henry Smyth, the full title is “Atomic Bombs: A General Account of the Development of Methods of Using Atomic Energy for Military Purposes Under the Auspices of the United States Government, 1940-1945.”

Also up for auction is a one-page typed letter signed by “Opie” to Stephen White of Look magazine in 1952. Oppenheimer is commenting on a draft article that White sent him, which details Russia’s growing stockpile of nuclear weapons.

Oppenheimer tells White he should “print it” and refers him to a previous written quote in which he says the methods of delivery and strategy for the bomb may differ if it is ever used again.

“But it is a weapon for aggressors, and the elements of surprise and of terror are as intrinsic to it as are the fissionable nuclei,” Oppenheimer writes.

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