Summary: Filling in background to Part 1, which detailed the current U.S. president’s die-hard commitment to nuclear power for warheads as well as civilian energy, this second essay in the series explores Donald Trump’s lifelong fascination with exotic weapons of mass destruction due to the early influence of his uncle, John George Trump, an electromagnetism and radioactivity researcher at MIT, who was closely connected with inventor Nikola Tesla, nuclear contractor Westinghouse, and the spooky Office of Naval Research.
Donald Trump’s quixotic advocacy of independent nuclear-weapons programs for South Korea and Japan, along with Saudi Arabia, have stunned the U.S. intelligence community and rattled media pundits. The fierce reaction inside the Beltway to his presidential campaign remarks in support of nuclear-weapons proliferation later prompted him to deny ever blurting out such an unpopular idea, even though his heretical statements remain indelible:
– March 2016, Trump to Anderson Cooper at CNN: “Wouldn’t you rather, in a certain sense, have Japan have nuclear weapons when North Korea has nuclear weapons?” Trump then added “Saudi Arabia, absolutely.” (He did not specific if this was to counter the potential nuclear program of Iran or the Israeli arsenal of warheads.)
– In April 2016 to Chris Wallace at Fox News Sunday: “In many ways, the world is changing. Right now, you have Pakistan and you have North Korea and you have China and you have Russia and you have India and you have the United States and many other countries [that] have nukes. . . . . Maybe they (South Korea and Japan) would be better off [being included] with nukes, yes, including [sic] with nukes.”
– In May, in response to Wolf Blitzer at CNN about whether he was prepared to let Japan and South Korea build and deploy nuclear weapons, Trump replied: “I am prepared to, if they’re not going to take care of us properly, we cannot afford to be the military and police for the world.”
While Washington insiders shook their heads in disbelief as if Trump’s advocacy of nuclear proliferation is delusional or even criminal, there is a real-world precedent for his strong-held opinion to encourage foreign nations to manufacture and possess nuclear weapons rather than expect American soldiers to constantly shed their blood on their soil over disputes that do not directly affect the United States.
Roots in a Past Foreign Policy Split
Trump’s views on providing weapons instead of soldiers to foreign allies is firmly rooted in the Guam Doctrine spelled out by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger in November 1969, when domestic opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War compelled the White House to start withdrawal of U.S. troops under the new program of Vietnamization of the war, which reversed the discredited Kennedy-Johnson policy of military escalation.
At an earlier two-day San Francisco summit with South Korean President Park Chung Hee, in August 1969 (which remains a missing chapter from the public record), Nixon understood there was a quid pro quo for removing US troops out of South Korea as part of the draw-down of forces in Asia. Reciprocity required his administration to permit and secretly aid Seoul to develop an independent nuclear-weapons capability along with missile development for independent strategic deterrence against North Korea and China.
The Nixon White House’s support for a South Korean nuclear strike force was not unthinkable at the time, given the U.S. obligation to compensate Seoul for the ultimately futile service of more than 300,000 South Korean troops with the (in)famous Tiger Division in Vietnam, 3,800 of whom were killed in combat, and the reluctance of the American public to ever again support a war in Asia. In addition, dictator Park complained that the Kissinger-Nixon diplomatic initiative to seek China’s support for a safe U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam was a high-stakes gamble that could easily go awry or be betrayed. Park feared that Beijing might take its rapprochement with Washington as a green light for Chinese domination over the entire Korean Peninsula.
Whatever illegal his actions regarding the Watergate and violent suppression of domestic antiwar protesters, we should in hindsight recognize that Nixon did what John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson had dared not, which was to end that senseless and horrific intervention in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. White House support for a South Korean nuclear initiative was a part of the terrible price for a misguided foreign intervention.
According to CIA records from the subsequent Carter administration (available from the Wilson Center; any notes from the Nixon era are absent, and presumably still deeply classified), South Korea did, in fact, launch a “massive” nuclear-weapons program from at least 1971 until 1974, when operations were forced to cease on orders of the incoming President Jimmy Carter.
Available CIA documents imply that France quietly supported President Park’s nuclear project, and that Seoul was negotiating to purchase a heavy-water CANDU reactor from Canada. No mention is made of clandestine American support for that project, which was prohibited under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) that, ironically, had been ratified and signed by President Nixon in November 1968.
[A brief outline on official secrecy: Nixon focused foreign policy decisions in his National Security Council (NSC) under Henry Kissinger, in order to bypass and marginalize the State Department and CIA, which were responsible for the mess in Vietnam. The pull-out from Vietnam required less-than legal methods and atrocities of a different kind, as in the mass elimination of participants in the Secret War in Laos. By default, his successor Carter had to keep on Kissinger as National Security Adviser, since he was the only man fully in the know, in order to untangle Nixon’s web of secret dealings. Since the Carter years, counter-proliferation has been a core principle, although fraught with flaws from actual U.S. policy,for example, the outing of anti-nuclear spy Valerie Plame. Donald Trump could help untangle these legacies by ordering full disclosure of all records from that troubled era, which continues to cast its long shadow over American policy.]
“Oh! What a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” (from “Marmion” by Walter Scott, and not Shakespeare)
Trump’s Uncle John
Admittedly we are left to reading between the lines, led on by Donald Trump’s tantalizing hints. Without access to classified records and realizing that it will be a cold day in hell before Henry Kissinger mutters out any bona fide facts (instead of his self-congratulatory factoids), I have reconstructed, quite tenuously, those parts of the clandestine American role in the South Korean nuclear-weapons project as they might relate to John G. Trump and his nephew.
In contrast to his national security adviser, Richard Milhouse Nixon could be refreshingly blunt, at least in private, about the unrelenting hypocrisy of government. There can be no doubt that he flung colorful expletives at the myopic bureaucrats in the Department of Energy (DOE), the Atomic Energy Commission (AEA) and the IAEA, along with State, the Agency and the rest of the self-serving elitists, while American power was melting down and the Paris Peace talks to end the Vietnam War dragged on as tens of thousands of soldiers lay dead or dying. Meanwhile, the wolves smelled blood and were waiting eagerly for their moment of opportunity.
As RMN put it: “If, when the chips are down, the world’s most powerful nation, the United States of America, acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.”
Hand out the shotguns and send the nukes to our good friends still holding the line, like the Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Desperate times call for regrettable measures.
When the high priesthood of nuclear energy chants the mantra of nonproliferation, what trustworthy hero then can be sent to Seoul or Islamabad? There’s that mild-mannered radiation engineer at MIT, who proved trustworthy enough to rifle through the Tesla papers for his government, a man of few words and many dangerous deeds like bushwhacking Hitler’s air corps. One of the inventors of radar, veteran defense engineer John George Trump with MIT had extensive knowledge of a key component needed to trigger a hydrogen bomb, which he had modified from the notorious “Death Ray” particle gun designed by the late Nikola Tesla.
At the time, however, the electrical engineering expert had reached his late 60s, and his frail wispy frame may have required some assistance from a young helper and bodyguard, the perfect candidate being his nephew, a strapping tall lad named Donald John Trump. A clandestine assignment was also an ideal way for the young fellow, just out of college and still in his 20s, to gain a deferment from the military draft. Plus Seoul had cheap beer and pretty girls, although visiting the exciting DMZ was off-limits for anyone on a sensitive secret mission.
Participation in a covert program to aid Seoul’s nuclear program would explain the chumminess of Donald Trump’s partnership with the Daewoo Engineering and Construction Corporation, which designed, built and funded the Trump World Tower at UN Plaza in the late 1990s, and also the three Trump World Seoul projects. Daewoo Engineering is also a major builder of nuclear power plants in South Korea. Old-style Asian gratitude and patronage would explain why Daewoo founding chairman Kim Woo-jung treated Donald Trump like a member of his own family, a way of expressing appreciation for the tireless contribution of the elder Trump to the safety of the Korean people.
A key point about Daewoo founder Kim Woo-jung is that his father was the primary school teacher of the ambitious boy Park Chung Hee in a poor village near Taegu during the Japanese colonial period. The friendship with Daewoo put Trump into the South Korean military dictator’s inner circle, which leads to one of the darkest mysteries of East Asia, which is the KCIA gunshot assassination of President Park Chung Hee. The date of the “executive action” (followed by the killing of his assassin, so reminiscent of the Kennedy-Oswald-Ruby affair in Dallas) occurred just before the November 1980 U.S. presidential election, when Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush unseated Jimmy Carter.
As CIA director under Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford, Bush Senior had to begin to untangle Nixon’s bonehead South Korean nuclear folly before it could be used as ammo by the liberal New York Times and the Navy intel crowd at The Washington Post. To rid the White House and CIA of naval intelligence veterans, Bush’s old teammates arranged the grounding (by “gritty sand” aka explosives) of the U.S. rescue helicopters for American embassy staff held hostage in Tehran.
Meanwhile, dictator Park and his illegal nuclear program were becoming a loose cannon that had to be pitched overboard or else Carter could exploit the South Korean nuke affair to trip up the Nixon-endorsed actor Ronald Reagan of GE family theater, who had no loyalties to Westinghouse or Tesla. Thus, a day in Dallas was arranged for a morning in Seoul.
Liberal or conservative, the bottom line at the CIA, Bush Sr. Included, was intense dislike of the pushy upstart Park Chung Hee, who didn’t know his place in the pecking order. Diametrically opposed attitudes toward Park’s nuclear ambitions may well be at the root of the grudge match between the Bush clan and Donald Trump, and why Nixon loyalist Trump dreads the CIA and hopes to wipe it out altogether.
Speak into Your Shoe, Agent Trump
How can I suggest, with some degree of confidence, that Donald Trump might have taken on a clandestine foreign assignment and has ever since been rewarded for it?
– First, his biography shows that massive doors just happeedn to open for him during the Reagan era and the nation’s publicity machinery promoted Donald Trump up there with the astute tech tycoon Bill Gates and 24-hour news pioneer Ted Turner as the three “Captains Courageous” of American capitalism. Trump, without the hype was your average urban real estate developer nowhere in the same league as the Pritzkers of Hyatt fame or the other Donald (Bren) with the Irvine Company. A hidden hand was at work in his favor, and it wasn’t the free market, now when Trump just by luck got bailouts on the brink of bankruptcy.
– Second, his middle name John is from an obvious namesake, the younger brother of his father, meaning that the hefty nephew would be eager to protect his frail elder in a place as dicey as Seoul in those days.
– Third, South Korea may not have been his first foreign assignment with his uncle because he had received an exemption from the military draft, meaning he performed in a more useful role for the U.S. government than as cannon fodder in Vietnam like his school chums.
– Fourth and most informative, because of the so-called “mentorship” from attorney Roy Cohn, the lead watchdog for counterintelligence inside New York City.
Whether Trump the younger went to Seoul or simply corresponded with his uncle is a valid question. I lean toward his physical presence there because of the extraordinary security surveillance and protection he received in New York during the late 1970s and early ‘80s from Roy Cohn personally.
The fiercely anti-communist Cohn kept a hawk eye on Trump (gay slang does not apply in this case) and such attention was certainly was not as a personal favor to the family-operated real estate business. A confidant of the late J. Edgar Hoover, Cohn was the not-so clandestine point man for FBI counterintelligence and the New York Southern District Attorney’s office, especially in regard to the Soviet allies in the diplomatic corps at the UN, which targeted their handsome human intel agents at homosexual American VIPs and news media moguls in Greenwich Village bars, those trenches of the Cold War.
With wire taps and stake-outs by his agents, Cohn in his dying years had to make sure that the boisterous and incautious Trump did not stumble into a honey trap or a financial blackmail scam hatched by the Soviet espionage service (which is why the insiders are still no nervous about his dealings with Russians and the Kremlin).
That the legendary Cohn was assigned as watchman and often chaperon for his incautious ward did not arise from Cold War paranoia, when in fact Soviet spymasters were targeting young Americans who showed leadership potential. One notable example is a Rhodes scholar named William Jefferson Clinton who was recruited by the notorious spy ring at Oxford to attend an international youth festival in Moscow, with travel expenses paid in full by the KGB.
The fact that his guardian was no less than Cohn, a living nightmare for the Soviets as the sworn enemy responsible for sitting down the Rosenbergs on the electric chair, indicates that Donald Trump may have committed serious lapses of security precautions, probably involving inappropriate female companionship from countries in Eastern Europe or Cuba.. One of the unanswered mysteries is Tesla’s missing designs, and whether those drawings were taken from Uncle John George Trump’s home and inadvertently forwarded to socialist Yugoslavia and then passed on to the Soviet military research apparatus.
Trump was probably also spotted in Korea as an American of draft age out of uniform and with a hairstyle unbefitting an infantryman. The existence of a South Korean nuclear program was first detected by pro-Pyongyang sympathizers in Seoul who relayed reports to the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), whose diplomats applied pressure on a befuddled State Department and the CIA via the Hungarian Ambassador to the UN. (The South Korean nuke program was the probable beginning of off-the-record contact between State and the North Korean Foreign Ministry, bothof them united in fury at Nixon.)
The State Department archives contain alarming messages about the South Korean nuke program from the Eastern Bloc, fax copies of which went straight into the round file inside the Oval Office. In contrast to any angry State, the cool-headed CIA record is absolutely mum about the South Korean program until after Jimmy Carter’s inauguration. In short, Nixon was up to his eyeballs in supporting Park Chung Hee’s nuclear quest and suppressed any leaks about his clandestine operation to transfer technology across the Pacific.
A Blessing from the Nixons
My initial suspicion that Donald Trump as a young man played a role in a secret nuclear-weapons project in South Korea was provoked by his two strikingly uneasy connections:
– First, there’s the otherwise inexplicable support from Daewoo Engineering and Construction corporation, which built Trump World Tower at UN Plaza in New York and then three Trump World developments in a suburb of Seoul, and for the fact that the same company builds nuclear reactors and operates the huge Wolseong N-power plant, which also has a tritium extraction unit, the core for any potential South Korean nuclear-weapons program.
– Second, effusive praise heaped on Trump by retired president Richard Nixon and former First Lady Pat Ryan Nixon in 1987, some 13 years after his forced departure from the White House due to the Watergate scandal.
The retired president personally typed a letter to the then 41-year-old Trump: “I did not see the (Phil Donahue) program, but Mrs. Nixon told me you were great. . . . As you can imagine, she is an expert on politics and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office, you will be a winner!”
That anointment made three decades ago was probably the longest shot ever called in any race. Considering the fact that Trump, at the time, was a real estate developer not in the least interested in politics and also a non-partisan voter, why would the former president and first lady be so eager to send a letter of endorsement? For one thing, Nixon was raising funds for his presidential library to be built at his birthplace in Yorba Linda, California, but that’s not all.
Yet, there’s more to it since Nixon’s tone in the letter was casual and cordial as if speaking to his own son. The ex-president had some undisclosed connection with Trump at an earlier time, likely during the White House years. In the early 1970s, at the prime of the Nixon administration, Donald Trump was in his mid-20s, a young lad fresh out of college, like thousands of other visitors who had group photos taken with Nixon and got his autograph. Why then would Nixon single out Trump after such a long interlude, had Trump not performed some extraordinary service during his presidency?
Still, the missing link to the Trump-Nixon connection, and to nuclear weapons production on the Korean Peninsula, was Uncle John.
Uncle John’s Lab
More than year before Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the creation of the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC), which sponsored the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb and the invention and development of radar (radio detection and ranging). The latter task was assigned to the new federal-funded Radiation Laboratory on the MIT campus (later renamed the High-Voltage Laboratory), headed by John G. Trump and his department head Robert van der Graaff.
John Trump rapidly became a leading expert on nearly the entire non-visible electromagnetic spectrum, from gamma rays released by radioactive isotopes to radio transmission signals and the microwaves used for detecting and guiding aircraft. During World War II, Trump worked on top-secret radar research in England, the front-line live testing ground against the Luftwaffe and the V-series rockets in the Battle of Britain.
The most precise wavelength for radar detection of aircraft at long distance was kept top secret and therefore designated with an “X”. This segment of the spectrum, still known as the X-band, is mostly allocated to NATO and the remainder reserved for air-traffic control and landings at civilian airports. Phased-array radar (which slants instead of rotating) is used also for missile tracking, as in the controversial THAAD interceptor system.
Many of the machines built by the MIT Radiation Lab closely resemble prototypes originally designed by the Serbian immigrant inventor Nikola Tesla, following his departure from Westinghouse after proving the superiority of AC current over the dogmatic Thomas Edison’s DC electricity system. The van der Graaff high-voltage generators, large metal spheres on which lightning danced, were strikingly similar to the earlier Tesla coils that collected high-voltage electricity and released x-rays. Tesla remained good-natured about copyists and praised the MIT devices, uncaring of whether his intellectual property had been copied without royalties and in many cases in denial of his role as inventor. While the genius Tesla could be called a lonesome inventor, John Trump was an organization man whose research was part of a combine.
The questionable ethics of John G. Trump came to a head two days after the impoverished Telsa’s death inside the New Yorker Hotel on January 5, 1943. As it turned out, John Trump and three officials from the Office of Naval Research were assigned by the Department of Justice’s Alien Property Custodian Office (Tesla was a naturalized American citizen and not an alien national) to examine all of Tesla’s notebooks. Trump’s cold comments cast doubt on his ethical principles, which were compromised due to his obedience to the state:
“His (Tesla’s) thoughts and efforts during at least the past 15 years were primarily of a speculative, philosophical, and somewhat promotional character,” but “did not include new, sound, workable principles or methods for realizing such results.”
In truth, Tesla’s latter day notes, along with the corpus of his life-work, are the fountainhead of astounding creative and novel technologies ever since, putting him alongside Leonardo da Vinci as one of humankind’s most inventive minds.
It’s a sad misfortune that Trump’s DNA does not contain some of Tesla’s genes. Still, Trump is clearly an admirer of the Serbian inventor, and probably so was his Uncle John, when he wasn’t fronting for the Feds who apparently feared as much as admired Tesla’s more threatening concepts. Super-weapons were, arguably, a good reason for keeping much of Tesla design under wraps, and perhaps Uncle John redeemed his soul by keeping the more dangerous inventions away from the Pentagon.
In passing, as noted by Dave Mosher for Business Insider, Donald Trump has used verbatim Tesla’s term “an impenetrable wall” to describe his plans for the Mexico border, the exact same expression from an FBI entry on the Tesla file: “TESLA’s only military invention was a method to which he once eluded [sic] but nevr [sic] fully described. This invention was a means whereby an inpenetrable [sic] ‘wall of force’ can be erected around the United States’ borders which would render helpless any military attack. TESLA disclosed the existence of his plan in 1934 and stated he intended to present it to the Geneva Conference but seldom referred to it afterward.”
Just come out with it, Don, spit it out. Who needs bricks and mortar, razor wire and steel slabs when the Mexicans can pay for an invisible impervious electromagnetic shield as impregnable as a condom? After all, youre the one who boasted: “Nobody builds walls better than me.”
Items from Uncle John’s files stored at MIT on research into whiz-bang technology sure must have made for a fascinating read for an impressionable young fellow who would have liked nothing better than to zap the bad guys who want to hurt America. John and Don, it’s sorta [sic] like Batman and Robin.
Holy Grail, Hydrogen Bomb
If John G. Trump was a patent liar, he had little choice due to the maniacal personality of his boss, the meticulous and overbearing bureaucrat Vannevar Bush (whose personality provided the character mold for all nerdy tech executives ever since). Given the Nixon support for South Korea’s nuclear program, I have to wonder whether John Trump, out of a sense of duty to humanity rather than to just his country, quietly withheld some of Tesla’s more dangerous designs for safekeeping away from the defense board. If so, Don Trump’s uncle may well have been an unsung hero and Donald should rightly proud of him for showing uncommon sense.
Tesla’s last major invention was the so-called Death Ray, a much-misunderstood technology. The device is actually a small-scale high-speed particle-accelerator, which was then the Holy Grail for nuclear physics and quantum research.
Contrary to Tesla’s dashed hopes, particle accelerators are efficient as weapons only in the vacuum of space or high orbit, since its ions collide with gases in the atmosphere, losing their punch as a killer weapons. His portable device for high-speed splitting of atoms into subatomic particles, however, had potential application in radioactive therapy against cancer (a field pioneered by John Trump) and, on the dark side, for use as an H-bomb trigger.
Tesla’s small accelerator can initiate the fusion of deuterium and tritium (types of heavy water with excess neutrons in their nuclei), a chemical reaction that releases a burst of energy powerful enough to detonate plutonium and uranium in a hydrogen bomb. And this is what John G. Trump would have been enlisted to do by Richard Nixon, to design a prototype H-bomb trigger for mass production by South Korea’s nuclear-weapons industry.
The trove of John G. Trump’s research papers confirms my estimate of the situation. The MIT engineer devoted many years on experiments using radiation to sanitize sewage sludge, which may sound harmless enough as a public service. Yet in other words, as the starter before moving up the biological ladder, he was testing the capability of Tesla’s Death Ray gun to mass slaughter living cells, i.e., bacteria. Close-up, the killer ray is powerful enough to sterilize the sanitation workers along with the slime.
Another point was the 1946 offer of a research grant from Westinghouse Electric to develop a radioactivity leak detector. That was the last mention of Telsa’s former employer. From the 1980s onward, the majority of reactors in South Korea were modeled on Westinghouse designs. Given the many takeovers of that company since then, it would be difficult now to trace his relationship to Westinghouse nuclear.
The Doctor Strangelove Complex
The nuclear engineers at the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), locatd in Daejon, the geographic center of South Korea, would have been amused by the boisterous Donald Trump, who could be expected to complain about the small size of hotel beds and spartan facilities in Asia. Many of those nuclear engineers went on to work for Daewoo Engineering, which participated in raising South Korea’s first nuclear energy plant at Kori on the east coast and then the large Daewoo Wooseong plant, which has all the elements required for a nuclear-bomb program including a tritium extraction facility. Some of them also took part in designing Trump World, where the bedrooms are king size, the bathrooms large enough to park a car, and the rooms luxuriously decorated.
From Uncle John and his South Korean hosts, the impressionable Donald Trump learned to love the Bomb, and even more than that, worship the unimaginable power of super weapons of the future, which now is our present. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump recalled that his uncle “would tell me many years ago about the power of weapons someday, that the destructive force of these weapons would be so massive, that it’s going to be a scary world.”
And that is exactly why the United States should have voted in support of the worldwide ban on nuclear weapons, supported by 122 UN member-nations, instead of clinging to that aging technology, which may yet annihilate life on Earth in an extinction event being foretold by the mass death of creatures along the Pacific current from Fukushima to the West Coast.
What really do you believe, Don, that you and your loved ones are magically immune to radioactivity? A high IQ and superior genes won’t save you from death rays. Act on Uncle John’s apocalyptic warning a bit more seriously, or you might just have to take the fall for starting Armageddon.
Despite that prophetic warning from the man he most respects, Trump could say nonchalantly after Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011: “I’m in favor of nuclear energy, very strongly in favor of nuclear energy. You know, it’s sort of interesting, somebody was explaining: If a plane goes down, people keep flying. If you get into an auto crash, people keep driving.”
Alright, and six years after that nuclear accident, people keep falling sick and dying, and that may soon include you, too, Don. When your hair starts dropping out in clumps, maybe you should charter one of Elon Musk’s spaceships to look over the real estate prospects throughout the solar system. And if Trump World Mars starts to go bust like Atlantic City, why not keep your promise to break the glass ceiling for women and hold the ultimate Miss Universe contest up on the Red Planet? Anything’s possible – you sure proved that.
Yoichi Shimatsu, Senior Advisor and Contributing Editor for The 4th Media, is a science writer who has conducted 12 field research journeys into the Fukushima nuclear exclusion zone since April 2011.