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Hopkins to review role of atom bombs in WWII

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By Carol A. Clark

The argument that nuclear weapons were essential to ending WWII is the topic of a talk by physicist John C. Hopkins at 7 p.m. Friday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hopkins recently discussed the controversial subject at his Los Alamos home during a taping of the local science program, “Behind the White Coat: Conversations with Los Alamos Scientists.” The interview will air on PAC 8 in May.Hopkins opens his discussion with comments about the Manhattan Project and existing confidence in the success of bringing WWII to an end in July of 1945.“I argue that nuclear weapons were essential to ending WWII before a planned fall 1945 U.S. invasion of the home islands of Japan,” he said.Hopkins describes the facilities in the Pacific used for staging the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and puts the nuclear destruction in the context of ongoing conventional bombing.The Japanese defense strategy, as related to statements by key Japanese leaders regarding the rationale for Japan’s surrender, also is discussed by Hopkins, who also looks at how many bombs the United States could have had available, had the war continued.In closing, Hopkins presents a perspective on Robert Oppenheimer’s view of the morality issue surrounding nuclear bombs.Hopkins brings a unique insight to his talk because of his more than three decades of work at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the field of nuclear weapons and deterrence issues.During the first third of his career, Hopkins worked in applied nuclear physics research. Fifty of his technical writings were published during that time and he was elected to fellowship in the prestigious American Physical Society.The second third of Hopkins’ career was spent in nuclear testing, primarily as program leader.Hopkins spent the final third of his career as the leader of nuclear weapons development and finally as leader of the entire nuclear program at Los Alamos.“Through most of this period, I was involved in national security policy issues,” he said. Hopkins went on to serve as director of The Center for National Security Studies at Los Alamos. He also served as an associate director at the laboratory before retiring in 1993.Just prior to his retirement, Hopkins was a visiting scholar at the University of California’s Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation where he edited a book on the nuclear policies of Britain, France, and China.For more than 40 years, Hopkins has served on governmental and international boards and panels. He is a former member of the Chief of Naval Operations’ Executive Panel for the United States Navy.Hopkins also participated in a National Research Council panel that examined the future of deterrence. Their findings were published in 1997 by the National Academy Press under the title, “Post-Cold War Conflict Deterrence.”In addition to serving on senior review committees for LANL, Hopkins has been a technical advisor to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency in both Washington, D.C., and Geneva. He also has worked closely with the U.S. state, energy and defense departments.Hopkins has been a member of the Cosmos Club of Washington, D.C., since 1979. He resides in Los Alamos and has two grown daughters.Hopkins’ talk on Friday is open to the public.Editor’s note: Monitor County Editor/Senior Reporter Carol A. Clark produces and hosts “Behind the White Coat: Conversations with Los Alamos Scientists,” which is sponsored by Los Alamos National Bank and broadcast on PAC 8 TV and UCTV.