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Grothus’ last stand: Peace activist seeks to mark history

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By Carol A. Clark

A renewed sense of urgency drives well-known pacifist Edward Grothus to secure a site to erect massive twin monuments he designed to commemorate the historic role Los Alamos has played in the Nuclear Age. 

Cancer has returned to the 84-year-old, recognized in Los Alamos and around the world for his political activism on the side of peace and nuclear disarmament. He is working harder than ever to find a home for what he calls his “doomsday stone” monuments.

“These Rosetta Stones for the Nuclear Age are  important to the history of Los Alamos and the world,” Grothus said. “Los Alamos is rightfully proud of the work it has done at the laboratory. Their work ended WWII and saved millions of lives. Memorializing Los Alamos as the foundation of the Nuclear Age is a historical fact.” 

Nearly two years ago, Grothus located a supplier in China. He commissioned the twin granite monuments, which rise some 42 feet into the air and weigh 40 tons each. They are topped with black granite spheres measuring 1 meter in diameter and inscribed with the hex-pent design that resembles the shape of the high explosive charges in an atomic bomb.

The structures have centrally located cavities designed for stainless steel cylinders to enhance earthquake stability. The cylinders measure 2 feet and 4 feet with 1-inch thick walls with end caps, which can be used as time capsules. 

The twin monuments bear the following inscription: “Welcome to Los Alamos, New Mexico, the United States of America, the city of fire. Our fires are brighter than a thousand suns. It was once believed that only God could destroy the world, but scientists working in Los Alamos first harnessed the power of the atom. The power released through fission and fusion gives many men the ability to commence the destruction of all life on earth.

“The first atomic bomb was designed and built here. It was at Trinity Site (33 degrees, 44 minutes, 38 seconds North latitude and 106 degrees, 28 minutes, 29 seconds West longitude) on July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 a.m. that the first nuclear bomb was detonated. Trinity Site is 2 degrees, 8 minutes, 29 seconds and 153.2 miles southwest of Los Alamos. Two cities in Japan, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by single atomic bombs on August 6 and 9, 1945, bringing an end to WWII. 

“Now 62 years later, Los Alamos, obedient to the almighty Pentagon, carries on its awesome, assigned mission to assure continuing nuclear capability. Nuclear power may never be realized. It is only in Los Alamos that the potentials for unimagined, fantastic good and demonstrated, horrendous evil are proximate. There is no assurance that man will pass safely through the Nuclear Age to a benign Solar-Hydrogen Age.” 

The inscription is written in 15 languages including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

The monuments also bear large peace signs surrounded by an inscription in Latin that reads: “Semper Fabricate Numquam Consumite,” which translates to “Always Build Never Destroy.”

Attempts to donate the historical structures, which are valued at nearly $500,000,  have been rejected and they remain stored in cargo containers in which they were shipped from China in 2006 and 2007. 

Last year, Grothus offered to donate them to the local Art in Public Places Board for placement somewhere in Los Alamos County. At their June 13 meeting, board members voted 4-to-0 to decline his offer. 

In the minutes from that meeting, Chair John Hofmann is recorded as saying he did not feel that the obelisks fit in with the other art that the county has, adding that he could not visualize where the board could recommend putting them that would enhance the surrounding location. 

Former board member Tara Voit stated she did not feel the county had an appropriate landscape where the obelisks would fit in and be aesthetically pleasing. 

Board member Paula Barclay called Grothus’ offer generous and explained that she looked at acquisition policies to see how the donation might fit in. She stated she felt the obelisks represent a political statement and that is not the board’s function, adding that several people expressed their opposition to having them on county land. Barclay suggested a site on private property or in Santa Fe might be more appropriate.

Grothus, who will be interviewed by CBS later this month, hopes someone or some entity, will come forward with an ideal location somewhere in the world on which the historic monuments can be erected.

“This is so important and time is of the essence,” he said. “I want to place these monuments someplace where people from around the world will see, visit and appreciate them.”

Grothus spent 20 years working at Los Alamos National Laboratory, mostly as a technician in the R-Site, GMX-4, weapons development group. He resigned Dec. 1, 1969. 

He opened the Black Hole Surplus Store and Museum at 4015 Arkansas, he said, to recycle laboratory equipment into peaceful endeavors. 

He has dedicated the last 40 years of his life to speaking for peace and against nuclear weapons and war. 

Grothus can be contacted at edgrothus@aol.com.