Robert Oppenheimer’s life post-World War II, focusing on his time on the remote island of St John in the US Virgin Islands. After being a national hero for his role in developing the atomic bomb, Oppenheimer faced political fallout, leading him to build a home on what is now known as Oppenheimer Beach. This refuge became a place of anonymity and reflection until his death, and the article further delves into Oppenheimer’s complex relationship with the island, his ongoing anti-nuclear stance, and the island’s current status.
- J. Robert Oppenheimer’s Seclusion: After becoming a pariah due to his objections to the hydrogen bomb and the suspicions of disloyalty during the Cold War, Oppenheimer chose to escape to St John in the US Virgin Islands. He built a simple cottage where he spent many months every year until his death in 1967.
- Island’s Historical Connection: Oppenheimer fell in love with St John, and his decision to relocate there was influenced by its anonymity and his increasing anti-nuclear stance. He also believed it would be one of the last places affected by nuclear fallout.
- Legacy and Family Tragedy: Oppenheimer’s relationship with the island continued after his death, as his ashes were scattered in Hawksnest Bay. His wife’s ashes were scattered in the same spot, and their daughter, Toni, ended her life in the beach house, leaving the property to the people of St John.
- St John Today: Nearly 70 years after Oppenheimer’s arrival, St John remains remote and protected, with two-thirds of it being a national park. Oppenheimer Beach remains a locals-only secret and one of the most beautiful beaches in the USA.
- The Oppenheimer-Rockefeller Connection: The conservationist Laurence Rockefeller, who visited St John two years before Oppenheimer, bought most of the island and donated it for the creation of the Virgin Islands National Park. This connection adds another layer to the island’s historical significance, making it a site of both natural beauty and cultural importance.