WGBH Openvault

War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Gordon Arneson, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Gordon Arneson was Secretary of the Interim Committee on Atomic Energy under the Secretary of War, (1945), a member of the United States delegation to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission, (1946-1948), and a special assistant to the undersecretary (1948-1950) and then the secretary of state (1950-1954). He was sometimes called the State Department’s “Mr. Atom.” In the interview he discusses the United States’ development and deployment of nuclear weapons. He starts by describing the War Department and the Interim Committee on Atomic Energy during World War II, including personal recollections of Henry Stimson. He explains their attempts to work cooperatively with the Soviet Union, despite many people’s reservations, and their discussions on how best to demonstrate America’s nuclear capabilities, which ended with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He describes international collaboration in the development of nuclear weapons, particularly with the British, and how those relationships fell apart in the post-war years. He touches on a number of other topics, including the U.S. policy of containment after World War II, followed by the hurried development of a hydrogen bomb in response to the first Soviet nuclear tests; the role of American military capabilities in State Department planning after the war; the Berlin crisis of 1948; and others.

License Clip
Got it
War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Program Number



Interview with Gordon Arneson, 1986

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

Amid the violence, fear and desperation of World War II, nuclear weapons are created and used for the first time.

“Dawn” traces the development of the first atomic bomb, from 1932 with the ominous rumblings that led to World War II and the ground-breaking scientific experiments that led to the bomb. Atomic physicist Victor Weisskopf explains, “we did not think at all that this business would have any direct connection with politics, or with humanity.” The frantic rush by American scientists who feared the Nazis were ahead of them and the first nuclear explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945 are described by eyewitnesses. Physicist Philip Morrison was ten miles away from the blast and will never forget the heat on his face. “Dawn” concludes with the failure of the first attempts to reach agreement on international control of atomic weapons after the war.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Baruch Plan (1946)
Gordon, Lincoln
Matthews, H. Freeman, 1899-
Fuchs, Klaus
Korean War, 1950-1953
Attlee, C. R. (Clement Richard), 1883-1967
Byrnes, James F. (James Francis), 1882-1972
Lilienthal, David Eli, 1899-1981
World War II
Teller, Edward, 1908-2003
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Groves, Leslie Richard
Berlin (Germany) -- History -- Blockade, 1948-1949
United States. Atomic Energy Act of 1946
Compton, Arthur Holly, 1892-1962
Bradley, Omar Nelson, 1893-1981
Soviet Union
Nagasaki-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Nitze, Paul H.
International relations
Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967
Nuclear energy
Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971
United States
Nuclear weapons
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Stimson, Henry L. (Henry Lewis), 1867-1950
MAUD Report (1941)
Sherfield, Roger Mellor Makins, Baron, 1904-
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
Great Britain
Harriman, W. Averell (William Averell), 1891-1986
Gromyko, Andrei Andreevich, 1909-1989
Kennan, George F. (George Frost), 1904-2005
Hydrogen bomb
Marshall, George C. (George Catlett), 1880-1959
Washington, DC
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Arneson, Gordon (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Gordon Arneson, 1986,” 03/02/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 25, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_47E2CBDA68F2438E8E5083A78AFA1B30.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Gordon Arneson, 1986.” 03/02/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 25, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_47E2CBDA68F2438E8E5083A78AFA1B30>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Gordon Arneson, 1986. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_47E2CBDA68F2438E8E5083A78AFA1B30
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.