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Haakon Maurice Chevalier (September 10, 1901 — July 4, 1985) was an author, translator, and professor of French literature at the University of California, Berkeleymarker best known for his friendship with physicist Robert Oppenheimer, whom he met at Berkeley in 1937.

Early life

Chevalier was born September 10, 1901 in Lakewood, New Jersey to French and Norwegian parents.


In 1945, he served as a translator for the Nuremberg Trialsmarker.

He translated many works by Salvador Dalí, André Malraux, Louis Aragon, and Victor Vasarely into English.

Relationship with Oppenheimer

Chevalier met Oppenheimer in 1927 at Berkeley while he was an associate professor of Romance languages. Together, Chevalier and Oppenheimer, would found the Berkeley branch of a teachers' union, which sponsored benefits for leftist causes.

Chevalier was accused of approaching Oppenheimer in 1942 and seeking information about nuclear power for the Soviet Union on behalf of George Eltenton. This encounter would later become one of the key issues in Oppenheimer's security hearings in front of the House Subcommittee on Un-American Activities in 1947 which resulted in the revocation of his security clearance. The June 29, 1954 decision of the United States Atomic Energy Commission decision states:

The dissenting opinion of Henry DeWolf Smyth attached to the decision states:

According to Chevalier's letters from the 1960s, both he and Oppenheimer joined a secret unit of the American Communist Party composed of Berkeley professors . In one letter from July 1964, Chevalier informs Oppenheimer that he was planning to write about their membership in the same unit of the Communist Party from 1938 to 1942 in his upcoming memoir, promising to "do his best" to respect Oppenheimer's wishes if he objects. Oppenheimer did in a letter to Chevalier, which denied his membership, and a few weeks later Chevalier wrote that he had decided not to reveal Oppenheimer's membership in a letter to Lou Goldblatt, another member of the unit. In March 1965, according to the Oppenheimer papers at the Library of Congressmarker, Oppenheimer talked to a lawyer about the possibility of enjoining the publication of the memoir.

Chevalier is interviewed in The Day After Trinity (1981), an Oscar-nominated documentary about J. Robert Oppenheimer and the atomic bomb.

Later life and death

After the House Subcommittee on Un-American Activities hearing, Chevalier lost his job at Berkeley in 1950 and was unable to find another professorship in the United States and thus moved to Francemarker, where he continued to work as a translator.

Chevalier returned to the United States briefly in July 1965 to attend his daughter's wedding in San Franciscomarker.

Chevalier died in 1985 in Parismarker at the age of 83. The cause of death was not reported.

Chevalier's letters, discovered after his death, form the basis for several books about Oppenheimer.


  • 1932. The ironic temper;: Anatole France and his time. Oxford University Press. ASIN B00085MTLU
  • 1934. AndreÌ Malraux and "Man's fate": An essay. H. Smith and R. Haas. ASIN B00089VCSC
  • 1949. For Us The Living. New York: Alfred A. Knopp. ISBN 1-4179-8987-4
  • 1959. The Man Who Would Be God. Putnam; [1st American ed.]. ASIN B0006AW3DG
  • 1965. Oppenheimer: The Story of a Friendship. New York: George Braziller, Inc. ASIN B0006BN686
  • 1970. The last voyage of the schooner Rosamond. Deutsch. ISBN 0-233-96247-6


  • Malraux, André. 1961. Man's Fate. Random House Modern Library. ASIN B000BI694M
  • Aragon, Louis. 1961. Holy Week. G. P. Putnam's Sons. ASIN B000EWMJ3A
  • Dali, Salvador. 1986. The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí. Dasa Edicions, S.A. ISBN 84-85814-12-6
  • Maurois, Andrei. 1962. Seven faces of love. Doubleday. ASIN B0007H6IX4
  • Michaux, Henri. 1963. Light Through Darkness. Orion Press. ASIN B0007E4GJ0
  • Vasarely, Victor. 1965. Plastic Arts of the Twentieth Century, Volume 1. Editions du Griffon. ASIN B000FH4NZG
  • Fanon, Frantz, A Dying Colonialism 1965


  • Broad, William J. September 8, 2002. Father of A-bomb was Communist, book claims. New York Times. A7.
  • Gray, Gordon. 1954. In the matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer: transcript of hearing before Personnel Security Board. U.S. Govt. Print. Off. p. 4-6.
  • Herken, Gregg. 2002. Brotherhood of the Bomb: The Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence, and Edward Teller. New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
  • New York Times. July 11, 1985. Haakon Chevalier, 83, Author and Translator. Section B; Page 6, Column 4; National Desk.
  • Washington Post. July 11, 1985. Metro; Deaths Elsewhere. C7.


  1. Broad, 2002.
  2. Strauss, Lewis L., Zuckert, Eugene M., and Campbell, Joseph. 1954, June 29. " Decision and Opinions of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in the Matter of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer ". Avalon Project At Yale Law School.
  3. De Wolf Smyth, Henry. 1954, June 29. " Decision and Opinions of the United States Atomic Energy Commission in the Matter of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer ". Avalon Project At Yale Law School.
  4. Herken, 2000, p. 29-32.
  5. Federal Bureau of Invesitgation. FOIA Index for Haakon Chevalier.
  6. Washington Post. July 11, 1985.

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