Title:                      ALSOS

Author:                 Samuel A. Goudsmit

Goudsmit, Samuel A. (1947). ALSOS. New York: Henry Schuman

LCCN:    47011609

D810.S2 G6 1947



  • Published in Britain with the title, Alsos: The Failure in German Science [London: Sigma]

Date Updated:  April 29, 2016

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

The Alsos mission was to determine how far the Germans had progressed in the building of an atomic bomb during World War II. It was organized on the recommendation of General Groves, head of the U.S. Manhattan Project; and Goudsmit was its scientific chief. This is his personal account. He has a special interest in examining why the Germans failed, and a good deal of space is devoted to this question. This preoccupation is understandable for a scientist who had been in Germany on a fellowship in the 1920s and had prewar personal and professional ties with many of Germany’s top physicists. Goudsmit’s general account of the mission’s work should be supplemented by that of Pash, The Alsos Mission[2], which is much more operational and intelligence oriented than this. Pash believes another objective of the mission was to keep German scientists from falling into the hands of the Soviets: if it was, Goudsmit does not mention it. Related are anecdotes on the cover story of the mission and that of the Manhattan Project, which proved transparent to the “clan” of scientists. An early and interesting work on aspects of the scientific war.

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[3]

Although quite dated, an interesting and worthwhile look at a scientific intelligence project: the determination of how much the Germans knew of our atom bomb and the extent of German progress in this field. The study was conducted by a joint scientific-military team that followed immediately in the wake of the Allied armies invading Europe in 1944. Dr. Goudsmit was the leader of the civilian scientists in this joint effort. One of the few books in the scientific and technical intelligence field. (see also Pash, The ALSOS Mission, note 2 above).

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[4]

Goudsmit was scientific chief of the ALSOS Mission, a mixed military-civilian scientific intelligence unit designed to accompany Allied forces into Europe to seek out information on German scientific military developments, especially positive evidence on progress in atomic weapon development. Goudsmit describes the doctrine developed in choosing places, institutions, and people as targets to be located and exploited. Should be read in conjunction with The ALSOS Mission by Pash[5] (cited below).

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, p. 215

[2] Pash, Boris T. (1969). The ALSOS Mission. New York: Award House

[3] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, D.C. : Defense Intelligence School, p.

[4] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., pp. 108-109

[5] Pash, Boris T. (1969). The ALSOS Mission. New York: Award House


This entry was posted in Atomic Bomb, Science and Technology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to ALSOS

  1. Pingback: The ALSOS Mission | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  2. Pingback: Moe Berg | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  3. Pingback: Uranium Trail East | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

  4. Pingback: Scientific and Technical Intelligence, Chapter 10 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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