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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with William Golden, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


William Golden was a banker by profession who became integrally involved in the development of U.S. science policy. He served as an assistant on the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), working closely with Lewis Strauss. The interview focuses extensively on Strauss’s activities and views, including on the following: the role and objectives of the AEC, the establishment of long-range nuclear detection, the push to develop the hydrogen bomb, the beliefs of members of the General Advisory Committee, and concerns over Soviet espionage. He praises Strauss’s “vision, initiative, and persistence.” Golden also discusses the important Sandstone nuclear test in 1948, the “guilt” factor affecting the views of a number of scientists who worked on the original atomic program, and the tensions between Congress’s Joint Atomic Energy Agency and the AEC.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
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Interview with William Golden, 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

France and England rush to acquire their own nuclear weapons, NATO worries about the threat from the East, and Europe becomes the most nuclear-saturated place on Earth.

British and American scientists worked side by side to build the first nuclear bombs. “There was a strong desire on the British side for that collaboration to continue into peacetime. There was no such desire on the part of the United States,” recalls British diplomat Roger Makins, Lord Sherfield. Britain decided to proceed on its own and in 1952 joined the US and the Soviets in what pundits would call “the nuclear club.” General Charles De Gaulle, president of France, wanted to join the club, too, and not rely on the US for nuclear protection. Prestige was also an issue. In 1960, France exploded its first atomic weapon. Since World War II the Soviet Union had had a superiority in conventional forces in Europe. NATO countered by deploying thousands of nuclear weapons. “They were accepted as being perfectly reasonable weapons to use in a tactical battle in continental Europe,” said Sir Richard Powell of the British Defense Ministry.



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Raw video

Media Type


Soviet Union
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. General Advisory Committee
Lilienthal, David Eli, 1899-1981
United States. Congress. Joint Committee on Atomic Energy
Baruch, Bernard M. (Bernard Mannes), 1870-1965
Hickenlooper, Bourke B. (Bourke Blakemore), 1896-1971
United States
Berlin (Germany) -- History -- Blockade, 1948-1949
Strauss, Lewis
Operation Sandstone, Marshall Islands, 1948
Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967
Ulam, Stanislaw
McMahon, Brien, 1903-1952
Groves, Leslie Richard
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory
Teller, Edward, 1908-2003
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Czechoslovakia – History -- Coup d’etat, 1948
United States. Atomic Energy Act of 1946
Enewetak Atoll (Marshall Islands)
Acheson, Dean, 1893-1971
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
Fuchs, Klaus Emil Julius, 1911-1988
Pike, Sumner T. (Sumner Tucker), 1891-1976
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Golden, William T., 1909-2007 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with William Golden, 1986,” 04/15/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with William Golden, 1986.” 04/15/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with William Golden, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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