There was another Kennedy war hero, no less than JFKbut not so recognized by history: the captain Joe Kennedy he was an aviator in charge of suicide missions to say the least, that is to say to pilot planes transformed into bombs and jump with a parachute after having triggered them. In one of these missions, however, the plane exploded too soon and the aviator’s body was never found.
Tired Mountain instead he was a baseball player whose fame was inversely proportional to the number of games he played: a graduate – he had also studied at the Sorbonne -, able to speak a dozen languages, the son of a Jewish family in New York, he became a secret agent . He began, in the thirties, during a trip to Japan, shooting and photographing cities, buildings, everything that the West knew little, using a camera hidden under the kimono. Then, when the winds of war blew, he gave all that material to the United States. And he became a spy.
Samuel Goudsmitamong others, he was a Dutch physicist, but he turned into a scientist with a helmet and military uniform, sent on a mission around Europe, even in occupied France, with a specific task: Hitler had to be beaten in the nuclear race. Yes, because that was the great obsession in the middle of the Second World War: the decisive arms race between the Teutonic “Uranium Club” and the Manhattan Project in the Nevada desert. Stopping the atomic bomb with the swastika was the mission of Operation Alsos, something that was much more than undercover, to be honest it could be the passport to imprisonment or death: scientists, soldiers, sportsmen, spies, all in command. of the colonel Boris Pash – one who at eighteen was already a veteran of the Russian civil war, he “white” forced to flee from the Bolsheviks – in the Brigade of bastards.
E “The Brigade of Bastards” (Adelphi, 32 euros, translation by Luigi Civalleri) is the writer and physicist’s book Sam Kean | which tells of this mission of a handful of men: intriguing and fast like a spy story, fascinating like a war novel, but we must never forget that it’s all true.
Alongside the field missions, and this is the greatest merit of this book, there is the novel of science between the two world wars, especially in the field of the infinitely small, of the atom. There is Marie Curie’s daughter, Iréne, who with her husband Frederic Joliot – they too were awarded a Nobel Prize – is among the first to identify that curious behavior of particles which, if well calculated and recognized – but here the “boys of Via Panisperna” tripped -, would have led to nuclear fission and its applications.
A fast pace that of Kean, who uses the form of the novel for a book that is not pure history but not even scientific disclosure: it is literature.
THE BASTARDS BRIGADE
Author: Sam Kean
Prezzo: 32 euro