NEW YORK — Benjamin Bederson turned past the page in the diary from long ago, the page he had burned a hole through, and mentioned things he had done since that summer of 1945.
“Was an experimental atomic physicist,” he said. “Worked as a professor at New York University, taught almost every course in physics, was editor-in-chief of the American Physical Society and helped usher physics journals into the electronic age.”
He left out the part about helping to usher in the atomic age — the part about testing the ignition switches for the atomic bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on Aug. 9, 1945. The part about having been one of the lowest-ranking soldiers assigned to the Manhattan Project, the huge research-and-development effort that delivered the first atomic devices, and as a corporal or a private in his early 20s, one of the youngest. The part about having been one of the few soldiers sent to key spots at key moments as the work progressed.