Open main menu

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

Oppenheimer's relationship with Chevalier, and Chevalier's relationship with a possible recruiter for Soviet intelligence, figured prominently in a 1954 hearing of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission on Oppenheimer's security clearance. At that hearing, Oppenheimer's security clearance was revoked.

Early lifeEdit

Chevalier was born September 10, 1901 in Lakewood Township, New Jersey to French and Norwegian parents.[1] When he was in his twenties he felt attracted by the romantic aspects of seafaring and embarked as a deckhand on one of the last commercial sailing ships, the four masted US schooner Rosamond for a voyage to the southern ocean and Cape Town. He left a vivid and nostalgic testimony of this very end of the age of sail in his book The Last Voyage of the Schooner Rosamond.


In 1945, Chevalier served as a translator for the Nuremberg Trials. He translated many works by Salvador Dalí, André Malraux, Vladimir Pozner, Louis Aragon, Frantz Fanon and Victor Vasarely into English.

Relationship with OppenheimerEdit

Chevalier met Oppenheimer in 1937 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.[2]

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, and Oppenheimer's belated reporting of it, would later become one of the key issues in Oppenheimer's security hearings in front of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1954 which resulted in the revocation of his security clearance.[3]

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

Later life and deathEdit

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 France, 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 Francisco.[4]

Chevalier died in 1985 in Paris at the age of 83. The cause of death was not reported.[5]


  • 1932. The ironic temper: Anatole France and his time. Oxford University Press. ASIN B00085MTLU
  • 1934. André 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


See alsoEdit


  • 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. ^ Haakon Maurice Chevailer, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Accessed February 9, 2011. "Haakon Maurice Chevalier was born on September 10, 1901, at Lakewood, New Jersey."
  2. ^ Broad, 2002.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation. FOIA Index for Haakon Chevalier.
  5. ^ Washington Post. July 11, 1985.

External linksEdit