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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Joseph Volpe, 1986 [2]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Joseph Volpe was the General Counsel for the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He begins this second interview relating several problems the AEC faced at its inception, starting with congressional opposition to David Lilienthal's appointment as Chairman, and including matters of security, developing sources of uranium, the basic question of control of atomic energy, and other issues. He describes differences between Lilienthal and Gen. Groves over such matters as withholding information about the nuclear stockpile and civilian control of atomic energy. Problems also arose with criticisms against Lilienthal personally by Senator Bourke Hickenlooper, whose characterization of the issues Mr. Volpe found misplaced. The interview then turns to Gen. Groves' underestimate of how soon the Soviets would develop the bomb as well as to the debates over the hydrogen bomb, including Lilienthal's and Robert Oppenheimer's positions on this and related topics. Finally, he offers a lengthy take on the Oppenheimer case, which he calls tragic.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Weapon of Choice, The
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Interview with Joseph Volpe, 1986 [2]

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

The United States and the Soviet Union, former allies, become adversaries in a “Cold War,” and nuclear weapons become the weapon of choice for both sides.

From 1947 to 1953 the threat to use nuclear weapons became the principal currency of conflict. During the Korean War, Texas Congressman J. Frank Wilson said, “We are dealing with mad dogs ... we must treat them accordingly. I urge the atomic bomb be used if it can be used efficiently.” Against this background, President Harry Truman made crucial decisions that affected the history of the Nuclear Age. The United states deployed the B-36, a huge intercontinental bomber. It started mass production of atomic bombs. In 1952, the US exploded the first hydrogen bomb, a quantum leap in destructive force. Less than a year later, the Soviet Union exploded its own hydrogen bomb.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


United States
Lilienthal, David Eli, 1899-1981
United States. Congress. Joint Committee on Atomic Energy
Hydrogen bomb
Hickenlooper, Bourke B. (Bourke Blakemore), 1896-1971
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. General Advisory Committee
Strauss, Lewis
Groves, Leslie Richard
Soviet Union
Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Tactical nuclear weapons
Nuclear weapons
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Volpe, Joseph, Jr. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Joseph Volpe, 1986 [2],” 03/03/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 16, 2018, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_29278FE785F84B1A9A08F7DC1F22D74C.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Joseph Volpe, 1986 [2].” 03/03/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 16, 2018. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_29278FE785F84B1A9A08F7DC1F22D74C>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Joseph Volpe, 1986 [2]. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_29278FE785F84B1A9A08F7DC1F22D74C
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