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

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Norris Bradbury was a physicist who served as Director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and worked on the Manhattan Project. In the interview he discusses the work at Los Alamos after the end of World War II. He describes the challenge of rebuilding the laboratory in a peacetime environment, when most staff wanted to get back to their academic and industry positions. He describes the research that went into making smaller fission bombs with larger yields, and work on hydrogen bombs and other nuclear developments deemed necessary to stay ahead of other countries’ nuclear programs. He specifically describes the pressure of Operation Sandstone. He explains the difference between working under civilian and military commands, and also the balance that was eventually struck with the Atomic Energy Commission, which featured both types of organization in the form of the General Advisory Committee and the Military Liaison Committee. The discussion turns to strategy, specifically the question of whether the INF treaty has the effect of decoupling of Europe from the United States. Among the key issues discussed in connection with the military-civilian was that of custody of nuclear weapons. Another topic covered in the interview is Operation Sandstone, designed to boost the yield and shrink the size of those weapons. Dr. Bradbury also covers issues relating to congressional pressure and the impact of the Soviet bomb test. The interview closes with a discussion of the effect of the leadership changes in the USSR on American policy-makers.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Weapon of Choice, The
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Interview with Norris Bradbury, 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.



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Raw video

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Brezhnev, Leonid Il?ich, 1906-1982
United States. Navy
Nuclear weapons
Nichols, Kenneth D. (Kenneth David), 1907-
United States. Air Force
Soviet Union
Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Lilienthal, David Eli, 1899-1981
Groves, Leslie Richard
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Teller, Edward, 1908-2003
Nagasaki-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. General Advisory Committee
United States
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 [2],” 03/17/1986, GBH Archives, accessed November 30, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Norris Bradbury, 1986 [2].” 03/17/1986. GBH Archives. Web. November 30, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Norris Bradbury, 1986 [2]. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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