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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Kenneth Nichols, 1986 [1]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Kenneth Nichols served as Director of U.S. Army Research and Development, worked on the Manhattan Project and was the Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces Special Weapons Project. He begins by discussing the impetus behind the Manhattan Project as well as the early difficulties that cropped up with regard to setting priorities and organization. He offers a personality portrait of the project Director, Gen. Leslie Groves (above all, he was “abrasive”), and describes his relations with the scientists involved. Oppenheimer’s hiring, despite security concerns, is also discussed, leading to comments about the state of relations with the Soviet Union and contemporary fears of the influence of communism. Dr. Nichols also touches on the subject of U.S. nuclear collaboration with the British and on the high level of secrecy governing the project. He goes into detail on the complexities and problems the program faced at each of its facilities, and recounts the changed attitudes of some of the scientists after the war. His view of the morality of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs is that there was nothing to distinguish them from the earlier fire bombings of Japanese cities. The interview closes with discussion of the decision-making relating to deployment of the first two bombs, the construction of a third bomb, and finally the fact that he is not surprised that nuclear weapons have never been used militarily since then.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
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Interview with Kenneth Nichols, 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

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.



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Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory
Lawrence, Ernest Orlando, 1901-1958
Lilienthal, David Eli, 1899-1981
Norstad, Lauris, 1907-1988
Groves, Leslie Richard
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Styer, Wilhelm D. (Wilhelm Delp), 1893-1975
United States
Nuclear energy
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
World War II
Nagasaki-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Stimson, Henry L. (Henry Lewis), 1867-1950
Soviet Union
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
Great Britain
Manhattan Project (Organization)
Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965
Nuclear weapons
Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974
Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967
Conant, James Bryant, 1893-1978
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Nichols, Kenneth D. (Kenneth David), 1907- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Kenneth Nichols, 1986 [1],” 03/04/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Kenneth Nichols, 1986 [1].” 03/04/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Kenneth Nichols, 1986 [1]. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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