My parents were pretty social when I was growing up in the ’60s and ’70s and I felt pretty comfortable around their friends. They were fun and interesting people. It’s bothered me in recent years that I couldn’t just look at an old picture and remember exactly who some of these people were. They came from all kinds of backgrounds. They were either neighbors, people Dad worked with or flew with, folks Mom knew from church, etc. Yesterday, I ran across the pic below. For some reason, the brain was working very clearly and I was able to remember the names of almost everyone in the picture. That’s my Dad in blue, between his flying buddy Dick Law and Dick’s wife. Dick tragically died in a flying accident in Connecticut shortly after this was taken. I also recognized Glenn & Isabel Marker in the pool. Don’t know much about them. But the man in red in the upper right may truly be one of the most interesting people of our lifetimes! I didn’t really know that until last night. I remembered his name… Norb (short for Norbert) Gagen. With that name came something else… a recollection that he had something to do with government intelligence. So, like any good researcher, I plugged in his unusual name. Wow… did I find some cool stuff out about our family friend Norb!
From the “Singleton Argus” 23 Aug 1948: “TWO MEN GUARDED FIRST ATOM BOMB
Only two men guarded the atom bomb which demolished Hiroshima in July 1945 in its journey across the United States. They were Norbert Gagen and Len Jomison, Counter-Intelligence officers. The Director of Counter-Intelligence used only two men because a company of troops would have attracted attention. The sealed railway car was labelled merely “High Explosives.” Gagen says that they were delayed at a railway junction and urged the yardmaster to hurry up because they had a “hot” shipment. The yardmaster scoffed: “You think your shipment is ‘hot?” pointing to a car-load labelled “torpedoes,” he added: “That’s what I call ‘hot!” A few days later the bomb fell on Hiroshima.”
Then there was this from the “Stars and Stripes” 21 Feb 1948: “Vet Steals Atom Secrets With Greatest of Ease. NEW YORK, Feb. 20 (UP)- Norbert Gagen, ex-soldier, said yesterday in Varsity Magazine he broke into Oak Ridge in 1943 every day for a week and stole atom bomb papers each time. Using a gold badge he bought in a pawn shop to slip past guards, he stole documents, took pictures, prepared maps, compiled notes, asked questions and wrote a report on Oak Ridge a half-inch thick, he said. Gagen was an Army Counter-Intelligence Corps agent. His job was to break into Oak Ridge to test security precautions, and he did it so often the guards began to salute him.”
Could this not be one of the most interesting men of the 20th century?! And to think I was able to startle him when I threw my frisbee into the crowd just as Mom snapped this pic! Fisher