The Scientific War Work of Linus C. Pauling Narrative  
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Taking Action
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After World War I began, the United States remained virtually uninvolved in the combat for nearly three years. As the conflict in Europe continued to escalate, prominent U.S. citizens began speaking out against the nation's isolationist approach. Theodore Roosevelt, a former U.S. president, and Leonard Wood, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff from 1910 to 1914, launched what was known as the Preparedness Movement, demanding that the U.S. government begin planning for entrance into the war. Despite these efforts, it was not until two years later that the U.S. Congress began war preparations through the National Defense Act of 1916. The U.S., though ultimately triumphant, was severely hindered by its lack of trained soldiers, low stockpiles of combat-ready weapons, and outdated strategies.

While the World War I Preparedness Movement had been largely unsuccessful, Bush believed that it was conceptually sound. For a similar strategy to be effective, he knew that better organization would be necessary. During World War I, he had been deeply concerned by the lack of cooperation between the U.S. military and civilian scientists. This war against Germany would require technology and tactical maneuvering on an almost unfathomable scale. For that, military men and scientists would have to work together.

Bush was determined to prod his government into action. After consulting with his fellow CSAL members, it was decided that Bush would be the spokesperson for a preparedness movement not altogether unlike that supported by Teddy Roosevelt. He lived in Washington, D.C. and, through his position as chairman of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and his work on various Congressional committees, was known amongst the capital's elite. And so, in the spring of 1940, he began his campaign. He made personal calls, solicited help from friends and colleagues, and did his best to navigate Washington's complex political structure. What the country needed, he said, was a civilian-operated research group capable of developing technologies and weapons in preparation for the United States' entry into the war. This group would need to be well funded, well supplied, autonomous, and staffed with the best scientists the country had to offer.

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See Also: Letter from Linus Pauling to Leslie Sutton. September 11, 1939. 

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Informal portrait of the Pauling family. 1941.

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Letter from Linus Pauling to Leslie Sutton. April 2, 1940.

"We were agreed that the war was bound to break out into an intense struggle, that America was sure to get into it in one way or another sooner or later, that it would be a highly technical struggle, that we were by no means prepared in this regard, and...that the military system as it existed...would never fully produce the new instrumentalities which we would certainly need."

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