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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Norris Bradbury, 1986 [1]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Norris Bradbury was a physicist who served as director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1945-1970. In the interview he describes the research and development of nuclear fission weapons, and the challenges the Laboratory faced in the late 1940s after the end of World War II, including the priority of building smaller weapons. He describes the development of the hydrogen bomb as a sort of inevitable necessity, a fact that represented a quandary for Robert Oppenheimer at the time. There was no way to expect universal agreement not to build this bomb, so he and his colleagues were forced to continue his research and development, despite growing anti-nuclear sentiment in America. He explains that the support of the federal government and military in nuclear testing was helpful to their research, although the ideas themselves would have continued to develop even with no support. He explains Edward Teller’s research and the subsequent creation of the Livermore Laboratory, which he says functioned in tandem with Los Alamos, each laboratory testing different ideas and reporting back to the other. He defends Klaus Fuchs’ actions, saying that it was in fact his loyalty to the country and his hatred of the Nazis that caused him to share information with the Russians, since he did not think the United States was helping enough in the fight against the Nazis. He calls the Oppenheimer hearings “a very sad occasion.” He concludes with a discussion of overcoming the challenges of maintaining momentum at Los Alamos after World War II, which included maintaining contact with the rest of the scientific community.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Weapon of Choice, The
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Interview with Norris Bradbury, 1986 [1]

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.



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Raw video

Media Type


U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Hydrogen bomb
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. General Advisory Committee
United States
Fuchs, Klaus Emil Julius, 1911-1988
Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967
Nuclear fission
Nuclear weapons
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Teller, Edward, 1908-2003
World War II
Lawrence, Ernest Orlando, 1901-1958
Soviet Union
Lilienthal, David Eli, 1899-1981
New Mexico
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Bradbury, Norris, 1909-1997 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Norris Bradbury, 1986 [1],” 03/17/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 27, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5B0B12B1B21842C0A89A17690063704A.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Norris Bradbury, 1986 [1].” 03/17/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 27, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5B0B12B1B21842C0A89A17690063704A>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Norris Bradbury, 1986 [1]. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5B0B12B1B21842C0A89A17690063704A
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