Nathan Safferstein died on Tuesday at his home in the Bronx at the age of 92. Safferstein was known for being a counterintelligence agent who worked on the Manhattan Project.
He was involved in the creation of the first atomic bombs, which were dropped on Japan to end WWII. Safferstein was taken from his job at a supermarket when he was 21 and put into the program.
He was taken to New Mexico, where he worked on the top-secret project. Safferstein was responsible for eavesdropping on the phone calls of scientists and engineers to make sure they were not leaking secrets.
The counterintelligence agent also delivered bomb-making uranium and top-secret messages. Safferstein also engraved his signature into the Little Boy bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945. He did so while guarding the bomb on the island of Tinian before it was loaded up.
When speaking about the trip to New Mexico, Nathan Safferstein recalled, “It seemed like a thing out of a Bond movie.” His group met with Major Peer DeSilva, who explained to them the mission, as well as the bomb’s specifics. He recalled being told that they would be working on a bomb that could cause intense devastation. If could cause a crater 80 to 100 feet deep and about five to 10 miles long.
Many of the scientists and workers who participated in the Manhattan Project didn’t know they were working on an atomic bomb. But Safferstein knew. Along with the nuclear plant in New Mexico, the Manhattan Project bombs were also built at Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington State.
The second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9. Both bombs completely devastated the cities. Japan surrendered six days later. While Nathan Safferstein was urged to stay in counterintelligence after World War II, he chose civilian life. He returned to working in supermarkets and became president of Storecase Corporation. He started a Long-Island based Supercast store, along with a spinoff.
The majority of Safferstein’s activity with the Manhattan Project remained a mystery to his family for years. Kevin Safferstein’s caust of death has not been released.