I’m finishing my clutter clearing and just came across a note I made in March 2008. My father, Hubert P. Yockey, became an experimental nuclear physicist at the University of California at Berkeley during World War II, studying under Robert Oppenheimer and Ernest Lawrence. (My parents met in Tennessee working on the Manhattan Project.)
Dad doesn’t tell a lot of stories about that time because the work was classified, but I think we were watching a documentary on Oppenheimer discussing his involvement with the Communist Party. This reminded Dad that one of Oppenheimer’s students was a fervent Communist. It wasn’t a crime, so he couldn’t be jailed. But his loyalties were in question and the fate of the world was hanging in the balance. It wouldn’t have taken much mischief in that program to tip the scales disastrously for the U.S. and the Allies.
So what did they do?
Dad said the local draft board solved the problem brilliantly. They drafted the student Communist in the Rad Lab and sent him to boot camp. When he completed boot camp, the Army flunked him and made him take it again, and again, and again, and so on, until the end of the war. As Dad said, “It was as good as prison.”
Related: Funny story from my father about the Berkeley Communists’ reaction to the 1939 Nazi-Soviet pact.
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