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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Clark Clifford, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Clark Clifford was special counsel to President Harry S. Truman from 1946 to 1950. In the interview Clifford conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age: “The Weapon of Choice,” he looks back at key moments of the Truman presidency, including the 1948 Berlin blockade—the first major East-West confrontation in which Western policymakers were required to grapple with choices that risked war with the Soviet Union, a power seen as capable of overrunning Western Europe. Clifford recalls assessing the risk of an unexpected escalation of tension if moves made by the West were perceived as provocations. He heralds the decision to airlift supplies to Berlin in order to fracture the Soviet blockade, although at the time, few believed the airlift could fully supply the city. He recalls his role in drafting what became known as the Truman Doctrine, a founding speech of the “containment order” in which the administration generalized its obligations to Greece and Turkey into a commitment to resist Soviet expansionism wherever it occurred. Following his work on the Truman Doctrine, Clifford helped formulate the Marshall Plan speech, which outlined a program to aid in the rebuilding of a devastated post-war Europe. This speech was part of the United States’ search for a new economic order at home and abroad. As the president’s top policy adviser, Clifford was on hand for Truman’s private reactions. They included shock, disappointment, and hopefulness, as well as anxiety about entering the nuclear age as hostilities with the Soviet Union were deepening and the electorate was becoming increasingly war weary.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Weapon of Choice, The
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Interview with Clark Clifford, 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

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


Great Britain
Nuclear weapons
Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
United States
Soviet Union
Berlin (Germany)
Nagasaki-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Berlin (Germany) – History -- Blockade, 1948-1949
Forrestal, James, 1892-1949
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
Nuclear arms control
World War II
United States. Congress
Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971
Lilienthal, David Eli, 1899-1981
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Stalin, Joseph, 1879-1953
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
New York City, NY
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Clifford, Clark M., 1906-1998 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Clark Clifford, 1986,” 04/24/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Clark Clifford, 1986.” 04/24/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Clark Clifford, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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