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

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Frank Roberts was with the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office starting in the late 1930s, and served as Ambassador to the USSR from 1960-1962. He begins with a recollection of Neville Chamberlain's (and his own) views of the United States and USSR during World War II, as well as Churchill's attempts to get the U.S. into the war, and Churchill's relationship with Roosevelt. Before the end of the conflict, he recalls, the British Prime Minister had decided Stalin would not be an ally for long, largely because of Soviet actions in Poland. He explores each of the great powers' expectations for the Yalta summit. No one was surprised, he says, by the USSR's close ties to Eastern Europe after the war; the question was only whether their control would be "brutal," and he recounts examples of "crude" Soviet attitudes that he witnessed personally. Other detailed commentary covers George Kennan and his impact on Western policy-makers; British attitudes toward strategic bombing during the war; Soviet reactions to Hiroshima; and Western demobilization after the war. Turning to nuclear matters, Mr. Roberts discusses the U.S. monopoly and its effects on diplomacy, as well as the impact of the atomic bomb on notions of war, especially at the time of the Berlin Blockade and Czechoslovak coup of the late 1940s when the Soviets had a major advantage in conventional forces. He also addresses the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and U.S. containment policy, then – without excusing Stalin's actions – explains Russian thinking behind creating a cordon sanitaire in Eastern Europe.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
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Interview with Frank Roberts, 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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United States
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
Yalta Conference (1945)
Soviet Union
Kennan, George F. (George Frost), 1904-2005
Warfare, Conventional
Eden, Anthony, Earl of Avon, 1897-1977
Stalin, Joseph, 1879-1953
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Czechoslovakia -- History -- Coup d’etat, 1948
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Berlin (Germany) -- History -- Blockade, 1948-1949
United Nations
Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965
World War II
Byrnes, James F. (James Francis), 1882-1972
Chamberlain, Neville, 1869-1940
Great Britain
Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
London, UK
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Roberts, Frank, Sir, 1907- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Frank Roberts, 1986 [1],” 03/21/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Frank Roberts, 1986 [1].” 03/21/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Dawn; Interview with Frank Roberts, 1986 [1]. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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