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The debate had been intense for months. But then on Tuesday, January 31, 1950, after hearing the recommendation of his Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, Harry S. Truman made one of the most far reaching decisions of his or any presidency. As the world learned that same day, the United States was to proceed with "work on all forms of atomic weapons, including the so-called hydrogen or superbomb." The announcement was one of a chain of startling events, an onrush of bad news, all in less than a year, that left Americans reeling. The previous summer, China was overwhelmed by the Communist forces of Mao Tse-tung. That September came the stunning news that the Russians, too, had an atomic bomb; and after this, the revelation that one of the physicists on the Manhattan Project was in fact a spy for the Russians. And now the arms race of the Cold War was to move to a level of cost and horror dwarfing anything in past experience, even the atomic bomb. Our film is a chilling drama covering ten years and made especially riveting by the presence of several of the scientists who played key roles. It is not often in a documentary film that one senses such a range of intellectual virtuosity and moral struggle, of genius, fallibility, and sheer terror. Nor should we let ourselves imagine that the peril at the heart of it all is only a thing of the past. Race for The Superbomb.
"It is still an unending source of surprise to me to see how a few scribbles on a blackboard could change the course of human affairs." Stanislaw Ulam.
Narrator: August, 1945. At an American air base in the Pacific, scientists fromLos Alamos - a secret weapons lab - watched closely as an intricate, new device disappeared into the hold of a B-29. The following morning, the solitary bomber approached the port city ofHiroshima in Japan. Three days later a second atomic bomb destroyed Nagasaki.
Edward Teller, Physicist: In Los Alamos on the whole it was pure joy. We succeeded. Hans A. Bethe, Physicist: The first impact was: That's beautiful. We have won the war and we have ended the war. And then the second reaction was -- the destruction of Hiroshima which we saw in photographs was so absolutely overwhelming that my conclusion was it must never happen again. Richard Rhodes, Writer: It was a terrible thing to have signed one's name to. As one of them said, our beautiful physics, which had seemed like such an almost religious science commitment before the war, should have been put into the deepest and darkest part of human existence, it really horrified them. Narrator: But before long, scientists in the United States and the Soviet Union would begin a frantic race to build an even more terrible weapon--the hydrogen bomb--a weapon of virtually unlimited power. It was a race that would push the world to the edge of a nuclear catastrophe. Title: "Race for the Superbomb" Narrator: In the fall of 1945, the troops were coming home. Newsreel: "One of three B-29 bombers arrives at Chicago airport after a 5,996 mile, nonstop flight from Japan." Narrator: Among the soldiers returning from the Pacific was the architect of the air war against Japan, Major General Curtis LeMay. When he saw his native midwest, LeMay was amazed by the "difference between the bomb-blackened ruins of our enemies' cities and the peaceful Ohio landscape, untouched and unmarred by war." Back home with his family, LeMay considered the lessons of the war: "If you love America," he said in a speech a few weeks later, "do everything you can to make sure that what happened to Germany and Japan will never happen to our country." In New Mexico, the scientists, too, were ready to go home. As he prepared to leave Los Alamos, the lab's director, Robert Oppenheimer, addressed his colleagues:
"When you come right down to it, the reason that we did this job is because it was an organic necessity. If you are a scientist you cannot stop such a thing." Like many of the lab's leading scientists, Hans Bethe was eager to move on: "We all felt that, like soldiers, we had done our duty," he wrote, "and that we deserved to return to the work we had chosen as our life's career, the pursuit of pure science and teaching." One scientist who did not share in the happy mood was Bethe's colleague and friend Edward Teller. Like Bethe, Teller had fled fascist Europe before the war--but growing up in Hungary, he had learned to fear the Soviet Union as much as Hitler's Germany. Rhodes: Underneath it all--and I think this is perhaps the tragedy of Edward Teller--was the deep fear of Russia and of the Soviet Union and of totalitarianism, which he had seen as a child in Hungary destroy his country and nearly destroy his family. Narrator: The threat felt during his youth in Budapest was still on Teller's mind as he argued that the work at Los Alamos should continue. During the war the goal of the Manhattan Project had been to build the atomic bomb--a bomb based on the fission--the breaking apart of heavy atoms, like uranium. But now that the war was over and the bomb built, Teller tried to enlist the help of his colleagues in developing an even more advanced weapon, the hydrogen bomb. Teller: Practically all of my friends and acquaintances have said: "We have done a lot in 1945, let's do no more." And I knew that at that time, by splitting the uranium nucleus, we have only barely started, that much more could be done in the hydrogen bomb and I was unhappy to stop it. It was unnatural to stop it. Rhodes: Teller, at a scientific level, was an intense enthusiast. A very emotional man, but also an extremely brilliant man. But brilliant, as one of his colleagues Stan Ulam would write later, not so much at the basic simple level of the most original work in physics, but more fascinated with more complicated things. And here was something that was orders of magnitude more powerful and sophisticated than the atomic bomb. Like the sun, the hydrogen bomb would gain its energy from fusion--the melting together of the very smallest of atoms--the atoms of light elements, like hydrogen. Teller hoped to use the enormous heat of an atomic blast to set off a fusion reaction in hydrogen--and so create a bomb of practically unlimited destructive power.
Historian: Americans ended the war with a bang. and you would have a big explosion. And the bomb. against another target. It was presumably more complicated than that. But no one knew whether the hydrogen bomb would work. basically in the spirit of putting away your fur coat in mothballs. Vladislav Zubok.In the spring of 1946. Let's get it all down on paper so we can set it away. "Give the place back to the Indians. Where they were was what has been called the Super--Teller called it the super -. Fuchs proposed a complicated new scheme to improve Teller's design. The future of Los Alamos looked uncertain. produced profound depression in Moscow. a refugee from Nazi Germany who had worked on the Manhattan Project. Rhodes: The Super Conference was called at Los Alamos in April of 1946. as you know. Narrator: The wartime alliance between the Soviet Union and the United States was turning cold.a super bomb-which was essentially a pipe filled with liquid deuterium--which is a kind of hydrogen--with an atomic bomb screwed to one end. the atomic bomb was seen as a direct threat. Narrator: Suddenly. the modest nuclear program already under way in the Soviet Union acquired great importance. For several days the scientists debated the super. They had done a certain amount of work. so impressively. Zubok: The fact that the Americans used the bomb meant a lot. Narrator: Among the scientists attending the conference was physicist Klaus Fuchs--he. Los Alamos organized a conference to take a closer look at "the super". too. . but that basically was the design. And this is where we are at this point. There'll be a record. and Fuchs returned to Europe to help develop nuclear weapons in England. Everyone was leaving. Teller soon left Los Alamos for an academic appointment. as Teller's idea had come to be known. perhaps against another enemy. In the Kremlin. Like most of the lab's leading scientists." joked Oppenheimer. The idea was that the bomb would heat the deuterium hot enough to start thermonuclear burning--a fusion reaction--and the burning would proceed up the pipe. That meant that they were ready to use it again.
David Holloway. and that's what Stalin did. of course. which is to focus on certain very high priorities. because he didn't even wait for. and channel resources into those. for instance. they followed plans supplied by several spies working inside Los Alamos. and at the same time to neglect the welfare of the mass of the population. To take resources for the atomic project meant to leave people starving. So you have tens of thousands of people involved in construction work and in mining who are prisoners of the Gulag. Historian: In August. In Moscow. Holloway: Lavrentii Beria was one of the most sinister and cruelest people in a pretty sinister and cruel leadership. So it was a classic example of what the Soviet State could do quite well. Narrator: To save time. Holloway: . to let the country to lick its wounds just a little bit. he chose Lavrentii Beria. Igor Kurchatov--Beria's chief scientist--was sufficiently alarmed to form a new team. But Fuchs didn't know. in fact two weeks to the day after Hiroshima. the spy who provided the most useful information was Klaus Fuchs. Electricity was cut off. Narrator: Stalin was making his quest for the atomic bomb a national priority. is to make great use of prison labor. Zubok: And it's amazing. the chief of his all-powerful secret police. He rushed immediately into this project. Beria ordered his scientists to build an exact copy of the American atomic bomb. In 1948--meeting his Soviet contact in a London pub--Fuchs also passed on a detailed description of Teller's idea for the super. 1945. As it turned out.Stalin signs a decree which turns it into a crash program. To direct the vast new enterprise. And by virtue of his kind of control or place in the police apparatus he had more effective instruments in his hands for extracting resources from the economy than anyone else. if the Americans were actually building an H-bomb. And we know that whole regions in the Urals and Siberia were left without electricity for weeks. One. Laying the basis for a program to build a Soviet bomb as soon as possible. for a year.
" Sakharov later commented. High explosives surrounding the "Layer Cake" would be used to implode and ignite an atomic bomb at the center of the device... By the summer of 1948." Narrator: For more than eight months." Essentially. We take one layer of uranium and then another layer--and between them. Sakharov developed a new idea for the hydrogen bomb. or sloika in Russian. he proposed taking a layer of one element--it does not have to be uranium necessarily. the allies supplied the city from the air. Soviet scientists had to finish their atomic bomb. The atomic explosion would then set off a fusion reaction in the deuterium. including Andrei Sakharov.Kurchatov brings in people who have not been involved in the atomic project. "But the third time. Archival: "The Soviets claimed that technical difficulties caused the stoppage." In a matter of months. And he turns to Igor Tamm. the first industrial-scale reactor was about to start producing plutonium. Everyone was impressed with Sakharov's new design. Narrator: Sakharov alternated several layers of light and heavy elements. but before they could hope to build the Layer Cake. a very well-known physicist. Narrator: Tamm quickly assembled a group of his most promising students. the so-called "Layer Cake". the truth was that they were trying to force the Western allies to surrender their position in Berlin and the weapon was hunger. The crisis erupted in Berlin when Stalin cut all road and rail links to the Western sectors of the divided city. the United States and the Soviet Union--allies just three years before-appeared headed for war. we'll place a layer of deuterium. Vitalii L. Physicist: So Sakharov came up with the idea for what was called the "Layer Cake. Before long. you could take lead--but let's use uranium because it's heavier. Stalin would have his bomb. Twice before Sakharov had turned down offers to join the nuclear program. In the Ural mountains. The stand-off in Berlin . Ginzburg. Holloway: Sakharov comes up with an idea for a different kind of design for the thermonuclear bomb. "nobody bothered to ask my consent.
In the fall of 1948. All . we had to build a deterrent force. Rhodes: It's a truism of people who really understand violence that you hit the enemy with everything you've got. was a-. LeMay's first war plan was ready. And by the time I left it three years later. Narrator: LeMay believed that in the nuclear age strategic bombing alone would be decisive. he was a real softy. Strategic Air Command: The 22nd. when I first went to it.he loved the guys that worked for him and flew for him. no limits to our air power. whether you're in a fist fight or whether you're--you're in a war. "There must be no ceiling. inside. "was to build a force so professional. They had been assigned to the outfit. In other words." Edmundson: He has such a reputation for being an iron-ass.was a hodgepodge of people and airplanes. He -. and that therefore you couldn't hold off the enemy while you built the bombs you needed to defend yourself. And it had to be good. He suffered deeply when they didn't come back from missions. it was a-. James V." LeMay stated. Narrator: By 1949. Edmundson. Lt. Curtis LeMay was put in charge of SAC--the Strategic Air Command--with orders to shape up the Air Force unit responsible for atomic attack." he declared. you knew that he was. "The Air Force must be allowed to develop unhindered and unchained. so strong." Rhodes: LeMay understood that atomic weapons would be decisive. It called for attacks on 70 Soviet cities using 133 atomic bombs during the first few days of war. Gen.S. You had to have everything in place on day one. so powerful that we would not have to fight. hard. And you hit them up front and you take them out with overwhelming force before they have a chance to get you. a tough. because there would only be the first day and the second day. A lot of my people were untrained. but they'd never been in a B-29 before. and then it would all be over. Narrator: "My goal.pushed the U.it was a going Jesse. We could hardly keep the airplanes in commission. thoughtless man. The concept was dubbed "killing a nation". military to get ready to fight a new enemy. If you really knew him. and maybe the third day. no boundaries. And he knew that incompetence is what killed people.
" he said." added the President. now the big enemy. Stalin would have kept his secret. He did not expect Americans to detect this bomb. the big. He did not know that such a technology existed. And that was a very important turning point for foreign policy. Under those circumstances. I mean. citizens began to think that they. created a special squadron with special technology on the planes. Zubok: It was a shock for Stalin as well. Narrator: But President Harry Truman was skeptical: "This isn't just another weapon. the fact that one bomb could essentially destroy a city. Now we really have to think about the possibility of war. but also in the sense of American vulnerability. weather plane flying off the coast of Siberia brought back alarming evidence. On the other hand there was this terror that. could be attacked by an atomic bomb. we will never use it again if we can possibly help it. Igor Kurchatov and his team of scientists traveled to the steppes of Kazakhstan to complete preparations for their first atomic test." In the summer of 1949.we know that the Americans. "People make a mistake when they talk about it that way. before the debris starts flying. But. Hit the dirt. Which is amazing. Get behind the nearest and . "I know the Russians would use it if they had it. Laura McEnaney. You only had one chance. almost by chance. Elaine Tyler May. powerful enemy now has the same weapons that we have. too. you only had one punch. Air filters on the plane had collected radioactive debris suggesting a recent atomic explosion. Americans -. a specially-equipped U. As he said later. we knew this was going to happen. You have seconds before the shock wave will hit you. well. It was just a matter of time. President Truman was slow to accept the news.those basic principles of violence were multiplied a million times over by the fact of nuclear weapons.S. he simply couldn't bring himself to believe that "those asiatics" had built something as complicated as an atomic bomb. So if they hadn't done it in time by. Historian : On the one hand it was: Well. A few weeks later. Archival: "Without warning you are startled by an intense flash of light. and 50 bombs. I mean. Historian: The explosion of the atomic bomb really meant that the United States lost its monopoly. a country. not just another bomb.
political outcry to do something. Goodpaster. Eisenhower Aide: We began to see that there could be many hundreds. "They may attack at the earliest opportune moment." the report warned." McEnaney: There was public outcry. Move towards the nearest doorway. even several thousands of these weapons and that they could be delivered in ways that would absolutely devastate a targeted country. When the proposal reached the White House it was the first time Truman ever heard of the super. Teller: . but there was definitely public pressure for Truman to do something. Or get behind the couch or other large.best shelter--a ditch. Agnew. or a stairway. Narrator: In Washington--behind closed doors--the administration reviewed its options. Physicist: And there were some of us even advocated that we should go to Russia and just bomb them. corridor. It wasn't clear what. Gen. Check for fires. Narrator: A Pentagon report predicted that the Soviet Union would build an atomic stockpile large enough to attack the United States. This was an air burst. What could be done to stay ahead of the Russians? On Capitol Hill. just keep doing it to keep them from developing anything. Archival: "Civil defense bulletin: This city has just undergone a surprise atomic attack. Teller's plea for the hydrogen bomb suddenly gained support." Harold M. to act. a depression of any kind--but get down!" Narrator: For the first time. Andrew J. Or get under a bed or table. Archival: "Duck and cover! Duck and cover!" Archival: "You have seconds. heavy object. Americans could imagine being the target of a nuclear attack.
I was skeptical from the beginning and in the course of conversations with other friends. Narrator: The administration turned to senior scientists for advice. they condemned the very idea of the super: "It is clear that the use of such a weapon cannot be justified on any ethical ground. a new word. a committee--lead by Robert Oppenheimer--took up the issue of Teller's super. It is necessarily an evil thing considered in any light. now that the Soviets have broken our monopoly.In '49 the question occurred. In late October. I'm proud of it. We're not sure we know how to make one. I became convinced that it was a bad idea. to make sure that we have a sufficient armament and deterrent. Narrator: . It should be done. That particularly incensed Teller. only a limited number of excellent people were asked. After two days of intense debate." Bethe: Teller was convinced that we must make the hydrogen bomb. who'd used it to destroy two Japanese cities." I was the only one who said: "It can be done. Rhodes: Out of that meeting came a recommendation basically saying: We don't think it's a good idea to--to rush into a hydrogen bomb. Teller: I believe that having argued for the hydrogen bomb in 1949 at an important juncture helped keep the world safe. Narrator: Two of the committee's most prominent physicists. "The fact that no limits exist to the destructiveness of this weapon makes its very existence and the knowledge of its construction a danger to humanity as a whole. Mindful of the devastation seen in Hiroshima. shall we go ahead with it? And at that time. Here are these people who had built an atomic bomb. Isidor Rabi andEnrico Fermi." Rhodes: It used the word "genocide". And those unanimously said: "No more. calling his weapon a genocidal weapon. Let's instead increase and accelerate our production of atomic bombs. went even further. only five years old at that time." they wrote. the scientists' conclusion was unanimous.
Congressmen stood and cheered. 1950. At Los Alamos." insisted the Joint Chiefs of Staff. President Truman announced his decision. Narrator: To help build the Layer Cake. Headlines of Fuchs' arrest Bethe: I was deeply shocked and astonished. He had joined the party during his student days in Germany to fight against the growing threat of theNazis. Fuchs' sister had committed suicide by . the scientists switched to a wartime schedule--a six-day work week. Narrator: Fuchs admitted being a Communist. John Lewis Gaddis." In January. Holloway: After Truman's announcement at the end of January 1950 Beria gives the final kind of authorization to go ahead to the production and testing of the sloika design in the Soviet Union. the Soviet leadership responded at once. The race for the superbomb was on." warned a prominent Congressman. the H-bomb was back in the headlines: Klaus Fuchs had been arrested for spying. Sakharov was ordered to leave Moscow and move to a secret weapons lab two hundred and fifty miles east. "if a possible enemy possessed the bomb and the United States did not. Narrator: When the news reached Capitol Hill. In Moscow. there would be worse agonies if the Russians got it and we didn't have it. the pressure on Truman was increasing. Rhodes: He and his family had worked helping Jews escape Nazi Germany. Historian: In the end. "If we let the Russians get the super first. Act II Narrator: Just two days after Truman's decision." "The United States would be in an intolerable position. he goes ahead and does it simply on the grounds that whatever agonies may be involved in building this weapon.Through the fall. Klaus Fuchs had been such a good physicist. He made several important discoveries while he was at Los Alamos but he never talked about his private life. "catastrophe becomes all but certain.
that made me feel. Some of the scientists who had argued against the hydrogen bomb. refused to get involved. And not just marginally so but it never got started at all. Narrator: At Los Alamos the crash program was making little progress. to say the least. So Fermi would look at the data and he and Stan Ulam would talk for a few minutes and then they would think further. As a scientist I had to know what can be done. But at the same time I had no question. a man like Fermi told me. Garwin: . Enrico Fermi came back for the summer--hoping to prove that the super couldn't be built.jumping in front of a train when she was being chased by the Gestapo. Narrator: The first breakthrough came when Stanislaw Ulam. Narrator: In London. likeHans Bethe. Rhodes: And that simply added further weight and a terrible sense of dread to the whole dilemma of what to do about the Soviet atomic bomb. So they had to simulate it on paper. Fuchs was convicted in a trial that lasted less than two hours. uncomfortable. So it was a very. developed a method to simplify the enormously complex calculation. you wouldn't know whether it was wrong because your design was wrong or whether it was wrong because there was no way to make this happen anyway. But others agreed to help. He and Fermi would finally be able to figure out whether Teller's idea for the super would work. Rhodes: It had always been a clear necessity with the hydrogen bomb to calculate the progress of the explosion. computers were mostly young women who would take a problem and fill in a spreadsheet with one number after the other. I hope you won't succeed. Garwin. because now we knew that they knew what we knew about how you build a hydrogen bomb. and you tested a design and it was a dud. using hand-cranked Marchant or Friden calculators. York. because if you didn't have a kind of a paper version of what was going to happen. and at the end of the day they would have another case or two tocalculate. Physicist: In those days. Richard L. Teller: When. Herbert F. very much mixed up with the whole issue of Nazi Germany and fascism. The British government was reluctant to call witnesses who would reveal the full extent of the damage. And that's how it was with the calculations that Fermi and Stan Ulam were doing. Physicist: All of the calculations were showing that the existing ideas about how you would introduce the energy led to a situation in which it fizzled. a Polish-born mathematician.
you can hope that the calculations aren't right. we were surrounded by barbed wire and were not allowed to leave. So. we must find reliable approaches that were sure to work. Zel'dovich quickly relieved some of the tension. Built on the grounds of a former monastery. Goncharov. Rhodes: Teller is divided." Sakharov later wrote. even during my vacations I couldn't visit my parents and relatives. Physicist: The conditions were fine. But the contact with Sakharov. Von Neumann. Narrator: The U. Narrator: In Princeton the mathematician John von Neumann was trying to run the same set of calculations on a prototype digital computer. At the Soviet weapons lab. Teller: They cast doubt on a scheme. But I felt that at that time. we understood that it was necessary for the good of the country. I got involved in interesting. the program to build Sakharov's "Layer Cake" was making progress. soon confirmed Ulam's results.Although. The rest of the world was far. an old friend of Teller's. Narrator: "We saw ourselves at the center of a great enterprise on which colossal resources were being expanded. Arzamas-16 was a top-secret facility that didn't appear on any map. there were contradictions: On the one hand. "We never questioned the vital importance of the work. And there were no distractions. But of course there was the computer back in Princeton. somewhere beyond the two barbed wire fences." Goncharov: Certainly. Tamm. . And since they weren't total--they were kind of samples--it was always possible to imagine that some malevolence on Ulam's part was what was really wrong here. if you are optimistic. Bethe: I remember very distinctly Teller's attitude during that time. spitting out the same numbers. absorbing work. that something will save you. this helped our complete concentration on the work. on the other hand. He wants to blame Ulam for somehow distorting the calculations. you see? That was a heavy burden and it simply tormented me at first. and I think that Edward Teller was decidedly optimistic for a long time.S. but what struck me as very unpleasant and what weighed heavily on me for the first year was the realization that we were not allowed to leave the place even for a vacation. German A. program to build the hydrogen bomb was clearly in trouble. They did not do more. He was very desperate and it seemed to most people that Teller's original idea of making a hydrogen bomb would not work. far away.
they worked as enthusiasts without sparing themselves." General LeMay says: "Okay.000 mark. coalition. North Korean forces--with Stalin's tacit support--launched an all-out attack against South Korea. we bombed Seoul. and he said: "Eddy. When we ran out of factories we started in on bridges.N. I got a call from General LeMay. is your outfit ready to go?" And I said: "We sure are can go.Zubok: They sacrificed their health and their lives themselves. You got three days." . 1950." LeMay remembered. We bombed everything in North Korea that was worth bombing. Bitter winter weather plus an enemy which outnumbers them more than three to one have taken their toll. oil refineries and manufacturing plants. the Korean thing popped. when we got word that the Chinese "volunteers"--in quotes--had come across the river and were joining the fight. Backed by a U. Edmundson: It seemed like the war was over and we were on the way home. We bombed around the Pusan perimeter." Narrator: To his superiors at the Pentagon General LeMay proposed firebombing the principal cities in North Korea. Narrator: On June 25. they. Archival: "United Nations troops are obliged to fall back on all fronts in the face of attacks by Chinese Reds estimated to number a half million. it's pointless to talk about their living in luxury while the rest of the country died of famine. Narrator: The Chinese intervention caught the allies by surprise. Edmundson: In '50. the Communist forces were in full retreat. "Screams of horror arose when I made this suggestion. It was the first war in which both sides faced the risk of atomic attack. all the way up to the Russian border. No. the United States intervened. General LeMay. Edmundson: We were flying out of Kadena air base in Okinawa. Already casualties among the American members of the UN forces have risen to beyond the 30. The Truman administration chose a more limited approach. It's. Narrator: By the fall of 1950.
Rather than proving decisive. "unless this action is undertaken as part of an overall atomic campaign against Red China. Rhodes: It was a physics experiment. Narrator: In the Pacific. saying: "Well. why don't we use them again? We used them in World War II and they worked and ended the war. it was the process of designing "George" that finally pointed the way to the H-bomb. Don't think it's a bomb. Before leaving Los Alamos. We're working on this.S. But there are a lot of Chinese. But at least we're working on this. close to a capsule of hydrogen fuel. At the moment of detonation--in a fraction of a second. the U. Narrator: Ironically. the atomic bomb had helped to produce a stalemate. Washington. Gaddis: Truman is worrying a great deal about the circumstances in which the United States could use atomic weapons. but you've called into question the entire credibility of the bomb on a worldwide basis. effort to build the hydrogen bomb was still stuck. very angry." he wrote. you know. And what if you use five or six or ten or twelve of them. before the whole assembly blew itself apart--the shell would confine the radiation from the atomic blast long enough to .Tyler May: Many Americans were very. this is something we can do. As the fighting wore on. Why don't we use them now and save American lives and put an end to this conflict? Goodpaster: In the fall of 1950 when I was serving with the joint advanced study committee we actually studied what might be done with the use of nuclear weapons in Korea. You obviously could blow up a lot of people if you used it. He placed an atomic bomb inside a heavy shell. LeMay reached a similar conclusion: The use of atomic weapons in the Far East "would probably not be advisable at this time. Almost a year after Truman's decision. and the Chinese just keep coming? Then you have not only failed in the immediate context of the Korean War. Narrator: In a report to the Pentagon. The experiment-nicknamed "George"--that would at least allow them to collect data on a fusion reaction. both he and Stalin were careful to avoid any action that might lead to a nuclear confrontation. we've got these bombs. But it was also a way of saying: Okay. Fuchs had modified Teller's design. because it's not. scientists from Los Alamos were preparing to conduct an experiment." But Truman did not want to risk a larger conflict. Teller's concept for "George" was similar to an idea first proposed by the spy Klaus Fuchs.
The people who did the work at Los Alamos understood that that would be a catastrophe. was scheduled for the fall of 1952--not soon enough for Teller. "is the day when I found him at noon staring intensely out of a window in our living room with a very strange expression on his face. felt that he should be in charge of building it. He would come up with a new idea every day. Narrator: The first test of the Teller-Ulam design. which then was so clear that when I managed to explain it to the other advanced people they agreed. I was convinced that this was the way to go. 'It's a totally different scheme. setting off a fusion reaction. York: I have this vivid memory of Teller going to the blackboard and just with a few strokes drawing a cartoon that was: "This is how you make a hydrogen bomb. at last. The key to Ulam's idea was what he called "lenses"--material surrounding the fuel capsule to magnify the energy of the neutrons to achieve extreme compression of the hydrogen. he realized. Narrator: For almost ten years. Teller: I think I found the right solution. code-named "Mike". as soon as I heard the Ulam-Teller concept. were not ideal to implode the hydrogen capsule." Ulam's wife later wrote. Bethe: I was convinced. and want it immediately put into effect. Teller added the final piece: Neutrons.' he replied. Teller suggested using radiation instead--in effect combining Ulam's idea with the design for the "George" experiment. It was mathematician Stanislaw Ulam who came up with a better idea.heat and compress the hydrogen fuel. either at the time or that evening. Rhodes: Teller.' 'What work?' I asked. Now. getting a little bit of the shivers because I realized: That was it. But George was not a practical design for an H-bomb. 'The super. He said: 'I found a way to make it work. placed the components of his bomb inside a shell. . and it will change the course of history. Teller had been the most ardent advocate of the super." And I remember. but he proposed using neutrons from an atomic blast to generate enormous pressure on the hydrogen fuel. his goal seemed within reach. "Engraved on my memory. not surprisingly since this was his discovery. too. As soon as he heard Ulam's idea.'" Ulam.
Teller: I believe the disagreement was based on the point. we're in the thermonuclear era. For the sake of all of us and for the sake of our country I know that you join me in wishing this expedition well. From a control room near "Mike.." Narrator: Back in California. Through the helium. and weighing some eighty tons. A plywood tunnel packed with helium balloons stretched nine thousand feet to a neighboring island. on the "Mike" test. it would give Los Alamos a bad name. Narrator: "Mike" was surrounded by a battery of diagnostic devices to record the explosion. The break with Los Alamos would cost Teller a chance to witness the first test of his idea. the construction of "Mike" was under way--documented in a classified government film. "Mike" was purely and simply a laboratorytype experiment. Edward Teller waited to see if Mike was successful. Garwin: Teller accused the leadership of Los Alamos of not working wholeheartedly on the hydrogen bomb. Archival: "Twenty-one feet high. three... "Mike" was not a weapon. Put on goggles or turn away. If the reaction goes." Rhodes: It had 300 or 400 kilograms of liquid deuterium in a big tank and it had to be kept cooled down to minuswhatever. and he walked out. if he did not succeed. eighty inches in diameter. four.. It was this immense and very exuberant engineering project. Teller helped set up a rival weapons lab. In the Pacific. Archival: "This is the first full-scale test of a hydrogen device. six." Archival: "It is now 30 seconds to zero time. two. it was far removed from anything resembling one. close to absolute zero. that the director of Los Alamos knew that the hydrogen bomb among scientists was unpopular. on the grounds of a former air base." "Seven. Narrator: In Livermore. Do not remove goggles or face burst until ten seconds after the first light." television cameras relayed images of the dials and gauges to the command ship thirty miles south of ground zero. He knew. He had found a way to observe . California. gamma rays and neutrons would streak towards instruments set up to record the beginning of thermonuclear fusion. one . fiver.
a survey team set out to take a look at ground zero. this is Red Leader. over. and destroy the very structure of a civilization that has been slowly and painfully built up through hundreds of generations.000 feet. then I took the whole film and had it developed. or. All test islands seem to be swept clean. Stalin was dead. no one knew. the radioactivity was so intense that the pilot quickly turned back. "It moved so slightly that I was not sure whether I just thought it moved or whether it actually had moved. On a slowly rotating strip of photographic paper a seismograph recorded the slightest movement in the ground below. And I at once wired to a friend a coded message where I have invented the code. Nothing there but water. While the test in the Pacific remained a tightly-guarded secret. Teller was waiting for the shock wave from the Pacific to reach California: "At exactly the scheduled time I saw the light point move. if the Soviets were building an H-bomb. "could extinguish millions of lives at one blow." The president's words were addressed to Moscow. if they had one." Red Leader approached the mushroom cloud. what they might do with it. Moscow was thrown into turmoil." The first hydrogen device exploded with a force of ten megatons--more than eight hundred times the power of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima." Teller: I knew it was a success. President Truman--who had ordered the strike against Hiroshima--spoke publicly of the dangers that lay ahead: "The war of the future. Elugelab is completely gone. Such a war is not a possible policy for rational man." Narrator: Two hours after the "Mike" test. just as predicted. "Two-six approaching ground zero. and what appears to be a deep crater. . Request here to dog two." warned the president. But in Washington.the test from afar: In the basement of the Geology Department at Berkeley. lest I miss the real event." Teller remembered. Act III Narrator: In March 1953. When the plane entered the stem of the cloud at 42. So I stayed around for another ten minutes. he sat in a darkened room. There was the signal. staring intently at a tiny dot of light. Near the test site. The total message was: "It's a boy!" Archival: "Charley one. He had ruled the Soviet Union for almost thirty years.
Though not nearly as powerful as the American breakthrough tested nine months earlier. but their own legitimacy. Apparently it would be of comfort to them. Hans Bethe drew a strikingly accurate picture of Sakharov's design: "It was alternating layers of uranium and lithium deuteride compressed by high explosives. But it is not. had yet to discover the true super--the bomb of virtually unlimited power. "but for me. newly-elected President Dwight ." The Soviets. this could be dangerous for the people living in the area.Zubok: The country was in profound shock and did not know what would happen next. put an end to Beria's influence. I was struck by the change-I looked old and gray. just two weeks after the test of the Layer Cake. Narrator: Lavrentii Beria. Narrator: The test of Andrei Sakharov's "Layer Cake" was scheduled to take place four days after the hasty proclamation. But within a few months. how focused they were just on the mechanics of the bomb itself. But there was this perception on many levels that without Stalin other great powers might crush us and might use some chink in the armor to penetrate." wrote Sakharov. To warn its enemies. using in fact. A last-minute evacuation of thousands of civilians. small enough to be dropped from an airplane. a coup lead by Nikita Khrushchev. made necessary by the expected power of the blast. and then only at the last minute does one of the scientists. In August 1953. Narrator: "Of course. The government considers it necessary to announce that the United States does not hold a monopoly in the production of the hydrogen bomb. on getting that right. the American publication on nuclear weapons effects point out that. hey look. Los Alamos assembled a team to analyze the fallout from the Soviet test. anxiety about potential casualties was paramount. we worried about the success of the test. still in charge of the secret police and the Soviet nuclear program. I think. if that were the truth." Sakharov's Layer Cake worked. Catching a glimpse of myself in a mirror." Zubok: They used this bomb to boost their political position and to boost not only the moral of their people. the new leadership made a dramatic announcement. only added to the tension at the test site in Kazakhstan: Holloway: It shows. Almost immedately. now assumed a dominant role in the Kremlin. claiming to possess an H-bomb before the weapon was even tested: "The United States is said to have a monopoly on the hydrogen bomb. Bethe concluded. it had one key advantage: It was a usable weapon. There was an almost paranoid sense.
cutting back on the amount of spending for nonnuclear weapons and relying more heavily on the nuclear deterrents to protect American global interests. Each item of clothing and each color . To keep peace negotiations on track. carried an implied threat by placing SAC's newest bomber close to the Soviet and Chinese border. Very cramped for the crews. And the missions were long. code-named "Big Stick". Narrator: LeMay made sure that the mission did not go unnoticed. in effect.Eisenhower decided to stage his own nuclear show of force. with atomic weapons and ready to go. Edmundson: The B-36 really wasn't much fun to fly. was a warning to the North Koreans and the Russians and the Chinese not to try anything funny when we were sitting around the peace table. the press was on hand to report the event. while the hostility cessation papers were being signed. make overt and direct threats. crews at the airplanes. that it had paid off. And yet I was very proud of it. Gaddis: And the fact that the cease-fire occurs. Narrator: The mission. Eisenhower called on LeMay's bombers. and go to Okinawa and sit on the alert. Narrator: "Rows of mannequins are set up out in the open.they used to say it was like sitting on your front porch and flying your house around. be prepared to use atomic bombs to break down this psychological taboo that distinguishes nuclear weapons from other weapons. and the fact that it is not violated. In Korea. It's like -. that we ought to just treat them as being like any other weapon. I think. caused Eisenhower to believe that this strategy worked. Gaddis: And so they make it a general strategy of. When the giant bombers landed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Gaddis: The idea is that one should use the nuclear capability. Stalin's death had broken the stalemate--and both sides finally seemed willing to end the conflict. Edmundson: We stayed at Kadena and sat on the alert. It's a gigantic thing. And the B-36s being there. the nuclear superiority that we had. It wasn't a pleasurable assignment in a lot of ways. Edmundson: Our mission called for me to take 20 B-36s with nuclear weapons on board. It was big on the outside and small on the inside. facing the blast. because the B-36s could hit targets within Russia that could be touched in no other way.
" With the new emphasis on nuclear arms. in another room there was a family dinner party. from baby food to adult food. the kinds of food one would eat. Injury. the atomic test program of the Federal Civil Defense Administration. and they exposed them to blast. a mass of rubble and debris. "Operation Cue"." McEnaney: And it asked American families to think about themselves not just as friends." McEnaney: They called them mannequin families and they dressed them up in JC Penney clothing and they positioned them in various rooms of the house. House number one nearest ground zero--almost complete destruction. America. four. If you didn't prepare you have only yourself to blame for being wounded or killed. I need hardly tell you that I was anxious to learn all I could about the various types of houses to be tested. And this really introduced a military purpose and practice into American family life. June Cowen: "I was especially interested in the food test program. Archival: "Five. reporter: 'I arrived at civil defense headquarters the day before the explosion was scheduled to take place and checked in at once with the official who was to brief me about the test. typical appliances one would find in a home.was carefully selected to give much needed survival information. one. Narrator: "Remember this dining room group? Effects of an atomic blast in the house farthest from ground zero. Yet. perhaps death in a tangle of debris--the result of being unprepared. Each film. And in one room there was a child taking a nap. smaller atomic tests in the Nevada desert now became public spectacles--as the administration set out to teach the American family survival skills for the nuclearage. in the lean-to shelter you discover indications that a human being might have survived the blast with simple protection. but as warriors of a cold war. this appealed to me. each brochure was a morality tale.'" "Mannequin families supplied by private industry will represent Mr. McEnaney: And they equipped each of these homes with refrigerators. two." McEnaney: These were sort of like morality tales. and Mrs. and one of the things they did they placed families hiding underneath shelters. family members. . As a mother and house wife. zero. neighborhoods. as seen by June Cowen. three.
Rhodes: One by one. more to the point. Oppenheimer act in a way which for me was exceedingly hard to understand. to find a reason to accuse him of espionage. Teller: You know. decided to act. I was under oath.S.Narrator: The threat of nuclear war caused some leading scientists to renew their opposition to the H-bomb. Lewis Strauss. and Rabi testified. nuclear planning. To this extent I feel that I would like to see the vital interests of this country in hands which I understand better. who had never worked on the super. Bethe testified. Narrator: In April of 1954. In a secret report. Rhodes: As soon as Strauss became chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. In Washington Oppenheimer's persistent criticism hit a nerve. Teller testified. all the players in this complex tragic story come back on stage and make their speech and play their part. I was called to testify about Oppenheimer. tried to talk him out of it. and therefore trust more. condemned the idea of aiming hydrogen bombs at enemy cities. I took my testimony very seriously. Oppenheimer stood accused of earlier left-wing sympathies and. Bethe: I spent an hour with Edward Teller before his testimony. or at least of bad advice--which is in fact what he was accused of. Agnew: I guess there are politics people in Washington who felt he was getting too big for his britches in a policy advising sense." he warned. he moved to lift Oppenheimer's security clearance. Transcripts of the hearings were leaked to the press and Oppenheimer's humiliation became . Robert Oppenheimer raised serious questions about the wisdom and morality of U. the newly appointed chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission." The AEC did not renew Oppenheimer's security clearance. and they went after him. Oppenheimer. in effect ending his role as an advisor to the government. In the summer of 1953. Narrator: At the hearing Teller said: "In a great number of cases I have seen Dr. "We are ignorant of the consequences of inflicting massive destruction and heavy civilian casualties in a brief period. and significantly and really tragically. but it was to no avail. the AEC held secret hearings to review the security clearance of its most prominent scientist. of opposing the development of the hydrogen bomb.
it was also my circle of friends. with the cortex convolutions. We ran these balloons up to see which way the wind was . a camera recorded the enormous blast. Rosenbluth. York: It was unprecedented to have an explosion go that high--way up into the stratosphere around 100. and became what Yeats once called "a smiling public man. His friends all say that. But the heat just kept coming. because the heat doesn't go off.000 feet. American scientists headed back to the Pacific. a bad decision. Bethe: I thought that Teller would lose a lot of his friends. And he made. It looked to me like what you might imagine a diseased brain. Rhodes: He retreated to the Institute for Advanced Study. In minutes the mushroom cloud reached an altitude of more than 15 miles. Physicist: I think we were about 30 miles away. And it was really scary. 200 miles from ground zero. Act IV Narrator: At the very moment Robert Oppenheimer stood accused. 1954. and it just kept rising and rising. Narrator: Oppenheimer wasn't the only one harmed. just kept coming on and on and on. Marshal N. I didn't expect that it would go this far. or a brain of some mad man would look like. in this case. and so on. the surface." But he was destroyed. Narrator: The explosion was twice as large as expected--forty times more powerful than Sakharov's Layer Cake. And you had the feeling that the cloud was on top of you. where we knew very little about the weather.front page news. The first test--code-named "Bravo"--took place on Bikini Atoll in March. where he was the director. They would now test prototypes of an H-bomb small enough to be dropped from a plane. You know. And it just kept getting bigger and bigger. Agnew: And something I'll never forget was the heat. And I am sorry for Edward Teller. Teller: I lost the cooperation with most of my colleagues in America and for me the profession was more than a profession.
"Bravo" broke into that.blowing. the AEC summarized the effects of the fallout. usually not severe. we don't have to explain what is going on. One fisherman later died. In a film kept secret for decades. the fish are given a clean bill of health. 'out of control' and with other exaggerated and mistaken characterizations. but the knowledge was very sparse in those days. A majority of those receiving the heaviest radiation reported some transient nausea on the first or second day and some loss of hair was a frequent symptom. The fish shipped from Japan must undergo rigid inspection by food and drug officials before being allowed entry. Strauss: "The first shot has been variously described as 'devastating'. somehow the Russians will be able to exploit this and so we are not going to tell you. York: No other program outside of intelligence ever had the kind of secrecy surrounding it that the nuclear program had. AEC chairman Strauss was forced to respond. predominantly on the scalp. Newsreel: "Another byproduct of the stupendous mid-pacific blast unfolds in San Francisco where tuna fish supposedly made radioactive during the test are scrutinized by federal agents armed with Geiger counters for signs of contamination. It was a very large blast in the megaton range." Narrator: In Washington. In this case. It is terribly secret. Archival: 229 Marshall Islanders and 28 American service personnel were evacuated to Kwajalein for survey and treatment. back of the neck and feet. Narrator: A few hours after the "Bravo" test radioactive fallout hit several inhabited islands in the area--but two days passed before the task force took action to rescue the affected population. a Japanese fishing vessel. I would not wish to minimize it. and if we do explain. You know. but at no time was the testing out of control." York: I thought some of the stuff coming out of Washington was pretty silly. Narrator: The story of "Bravo" and its aftermath began to leak out a few weeks later when the "Lucky Dragon". They began to talk about radiation . Most of Marshallese in this category developed multiple skin lesions. the administration maintained its silence. returned home from the Pacific. The boat's crew of twenty-three was suffering from severe radiation sickness. Narrator: At first. and everybody became used to that.
Narrator: "The explosion of about 100 large hydrogen bombs". that a nuclear war. designed to some how put a happy face on it. You know.exposure in terms of sunshine units. In the discussion that followed. the American military also used smaller atomic blasts to learn how to survive a nuclear war. Igor Kurchatov. Kurchatov wrote. One of the dumbest phrases to come down the pike in a long time. H minus five hours. on the impossible. could lead to the end of all life on earth. At the Nevada test site. Archival: "Aircraft are instrumented to record the strains and pressures inflicted upon them. All the necessary measuring equipment was installed. 30 to 40 minutes later troops. both on foot and in tanks. all of them wearing gas-masks. Gen. who was in charge of the exercise. Larionov. Holloway: Kurchatov and three of the other leading scientists in the project write a short report for the leadership in which they say. Maj. but Russian scientists were stunned by its force. before these men got their assignment for this operation they had many misconceptions about the bomb and its effects. We're trying every angle and every gadget we can to find out what really does happen when an atomic bomb kicks out fiercely at the world around it. using an actual atomic bomb. Like all too many people both in and out of the military. said that the results showed none of the troops who passed through the contaminated zone had been exposed to high enough levels of radiation to warrant fear of this weapon. Soviet Army: In 1954 we conducted a training exercise near the village of Totskoe in the Urals." Archival: "Shot day. And so an atomic war was not as frightening as the imperialists would have us believe. especially a war using thermonuclear weapons. entered the contaminated zone. scientific director of the Soviet nuclear weapons program. It's a very stark document. Narrator: The Kremlin leadership shelved Kurchatov's report--and the Soviet military soon staged a dramatic exercise that challenged the scientists'conclusion. "will be sufficient to create on the whole globe conditions under which life will be impossible. Camp Desert Rock. Valentin V. Some of . warned of the new danger. essentially. Narrator: In the Soviet Union the official news agency downplayed the "Bravo" test. Some of them thought they would never again be able to have families." Holloway: What's really interesting about it is that it cuts absolutely against the official Soviet line. Marshal Bulganin.
the heat will give you the equivalent of a severe sunburn. Many of them were afraid." Archival: "May I have you attention. Narrator: In the Soviet Union. Sakharov's team had been looking for ways to improve on the Layer Cake. Remain in your holes until the command "raise" has been given at H plus three seconds. . Narrator: The scientists at Arzamas recognized at once that the enormous force of the "Bravo" explosion signaled a breakthrough. and many leading people believe that. Only a few weeks after the "Bravo" test. There couldn't be the slightest gap. After the walk through we move back out of the contaminated zone to our parking area. we absolutely had to do the same thing. We had to have everything the Americans had. Now there is confidence. Sakharov received the title "Hero of Socialist Labor" as well as the Stalin Prize. Teller: We like to believe.them expected to glow for hours after the bomb went off. not by much. the American military came to an upbeat conclusion: Archival: "In the minds of many of the men there was doubt and fear before. And so as soon as new information arrived about the work in this or that direction. And observe a few basic precautions. if we won't give away our secrets they will remain secrets forever. the success of the Layer Cake brought rich rewards to Andrei Sakharov and several other leading scientists. look down and stay down!" Archival: "Raise!" Narrator: Like their Soviet counterparts. Use a little common sense. At the age of 33. I think we were ahead of the world. Everyone kneel down in your foxholes. If you stand up too soon. the Soviet scientists hit upon the same idea of radiation implosion--the concept first developed by Teller and Ulam: The Soviet Union now knew how to build the superbomb. But there was little time tocelebrate: Goncharov: An absolutely insane task was set for us not to lag behind the United States by one iota. And so can anyone else who goes through this kind of operation. We made it. he became the head of the theoretical department at the Arzamas weapons lab. Now he enlisted additional help in a frantic effort to catch up. confidence that comes only with experience. They had never taken the time or invested the effort to learn the facts about what to do in case of atomic warfare. Just treat it with respect rather than fear.
you immediately think of times of war. you could see the white jet trail in the sky. had been killed by falling debris. The plane was flying at the altitude of twelve to fifteen kilometers. Narrator: The celebrations were soon overshadowed. the windows and doors had been blown out. It seemed that it was right above our heads because the angle was quite steep--and that made the situation tense. all of it on a huge scale. Stones were flying. It felt as if the place had been hit by an air raid. of having completed our task.. How not to start thinking of one's responsibility at this point?" The test left a lasting impression on Sakharov and Kurchatov. something in you changes. Goncharov: I remember when we arrived back at our hotel. That this beautiful. Someone brought alcohol. Goncharov: Taking part in the test of the two-stage bomb made a greater impression on me than anything else in my entire life. There were several claps of thunder and the ground was shaking. At the moment of the explosion we were standing and we covered our face with our hands as instructed. Then we had this impressive view of the fireball. the mushroom cloud. The rest is just the essentially trivial problem of figuring out how to make the physics into machines. The heat was unbearable. when you feel the reek of splintered bricks. when you see how the shock wave blows away buildings like houses of cards. we dropped to the ground.Rhodes: They weren't secrets. Some one was hit by a large rock. Thunder. All of this triggers an irrational yet very strong emotional impact. a soldier and a two-year old girl. "When you see the burned birds who are withering on the scorched steppe. Sakharov approached ground zero soon after the blast: "When you see all of this yourself. Two people. Narrator: In November 1955--a year and a half after "Bravo"--the Soviet version of the H-bomb was ready. We all understood that.. And when the shock wave approached us. complex device--and that's what it was from a physicist's point of view--had worked was a triumph of science. Immediately. They were physics." he wrote. . We started celebrating immediately. But our joy was indescribable. it felt as if you had put your head into an open oven. Both men became deeply troubled by the consequences of their work. when you sense melted glass. We took out all our supplies. Narrator: Unusual atmospheric conditions created a powerful shock wave that hit towns more than fifty miles from ground zero. There was a sense of fulfillment. of course. What was shocking was that this great scene was unfolding in absolute silence.
html Gaddis: I think it's very important to remember that both the Soviet Union and the United States were countries that had been traumatized by surprise attack: the Americans with Pearl Harbor. say. All these things that essentially militarized a very peaceful democracy. and when I realized that I was able to sleep again. Each crew was trained to attack a specific Soviet target. I'll be at such-and-such a number. johngaddis. too: "When I was appointed First Secretary of the Central Committee and learned all the facts of nuclear power I couldn't sleep for several days. You lived for it. When you'd go in. which is to have a huge military establishment in peacetime. And it required the United States to do something we had never done before." the number of the restaurant. or even that night. . You knew that they might blow the whistle at any time. Narrator: Beginning in 1954. and when I come off of mobile.S. the H-bomb had become a symbol of doom: Hailed just a few years earlier as the weapon to save the world from communism the super was turning into the ultimate nightmare. "Then I became convinced that we could never possibly use these weapons. and the Russians with the German attack of June 1941. no preliminary motions would be wasted. "I'm going to be mobile. Narrator: To guard against surprise attack. if we actually did go to war the very next morning. wing commanders were never permitted to be more than three rings away on the telephone. you had a radio in your car that you'd be on. Narrator: LeMay's plan was clear: "My determination was to put everyone in SAC into this frame of mind: We are at war now! So. But now that both sides had the H-bomb there was no place to hide. saw the danger. and when they did. to have the whole stockpile in hand." he wrote.Nikita Khrushchev. the new leader in the Kremlin. and the--the possibility that you might get a phone call while you were there. That preoccupation with the possibility of surprise attack is always there. that's where you were going. That experience never leaves them throughout the Cold War. LeMay kept his planes--some now armed with H-bombs--on constant alert. group commanders. If you wanted to go out for dinner." Rhodes: It was a totally new concept of how to fight a war. It was a way of life. regular alert exercises were held in cities across the U. Unit commanders. you'd let them know who you were. Edmundson: The biggest thing in your life was your wartime mission." By 1955.
I am sitting here with my children." McEnaney: So instead of "duck and cover". Tyler May: One of the reasons that people are beginning to protest against the whole civil defense apparatus is the recognition. I am not going anywhere. I looked around and there is not a soul around. that it was silly and sheer folly to expect that shelters could protect people from such powerful weapons. but to make people believe that they can survive a nuclear war. there is no way to imagine surviving. Archival: "All cars in the downtown area must follow the green lights. Not to save lives. the size of the population that would go homeless. There is a traffic plan for the evacuation of the city. Goodpaster: There was concern running all through the Eisenhower administration about the panic effects. Archival: "Keep your radio tuned to this frequency. And they said: "You are going to have to take shelter. it wasn't civil defense per se. on a target area. given the advances in technology and given the advent of the hydrogen bomb. as they referred to them. that this is pointless.McEnaney: The idea was during the early years of the Eisenhower administration that shelter was not going to work. They wanted civil defense in order to make sure that the American people would not be too frightened. the slogan was "run like the wind". what the size those bombs were. what the size of the population would be that was killed. They will lead you out of the danger area by the quickest route. individually or as a nation. This is my park. They would decide how many bombs. Narrator: In New York City the protests began with isolated acts of civil disobedience. And the civil defense guys come. Janice Harrison: The sirens were going. what I discovered is. in the event of a nuclear holocaust with weapons of this magnitude. York: When I finally got dealing with people at the White House level." McEnaney: Basically Operation Alert was a war game. the breakdown of law and order that would occur. It was a hypothetical attack on a city or." I said: "No." . especially after the hydrogen bomb. Who would exercise any kind of control or support for the people? Those were some of the things that we would test out during these exercises. No.
' Narrator: In private." Holloway: On the American side with the build-up of nuclear forces you see an increasing belief in the possibility of a knockout blow against the Soviet Union. And so the Soviet interest then becomes to try to preempt an . Tyler May: It wasn't the first time that women have used the banner of motherhood to protest political realities. as he said." the president told his advisors. And even President Eisenhower would participate. and on the Soviet side you see an increasing fear that the Americans might try a knockout blow. there was no defense against the hydrogen bomb.Narrator: The protests made headlines in the New York press. an absurdity or a form of insanity. so there shall be no interruption in the business that must be carried on. no matter how many times they set up a mass feeding exercise. "We are piling up these armaments because we do not know what else to do to provide for our security. So when you start to have mothers protesting. The first time the government has abandoned the capital since it was burned in the war of 1812. The following year. you began to hear from him that any idea of nuclear war would be. The chief executive heads for a secret retreat. it was very powerful. Narrator: "The United States is piling up armaments which it well knows will never provide for its ultimate safety. Narrator: But Operation Alert continued. they continued to practice it in this kind of ritualized way. Goodpaster: Once the hydrogen weapon was available. Eisenhower admitted the exercise was futile. thousands of women brought their children to the same park to demonstrate against the alert exercise. Newsreel: "President Eisenhower leads the way in a test evacuation of the entire executive branch. But it had a very important resonance at a time when motherhood was so glorified. no matter how many times they tested a communications system." Eisenhower: 'We're here to determine whether or not the government is prepared in time of emergency to continue the functions of government. but it was a form of mutual suicide. McEnaney: No matter how many times they studied panic. Nevertheless. That no longer was war an extension of policy by other means.
even the dignity of the enemy--to the degree that that's possible in war--was preparing to slaughter an entire population of another country? Never mind the fact that the fallout from this killing of a nation would come back to us and kill most of us as well. Narrator: Both countries continued to prepare for the worst: By 1960 the SAC war plan called for the launch of more than 3. Larionov: Of course. I know that's anomalous. But the thing is. Gaddis: This could not be more at odds with Eisenhower's own thinking about the consequences of nuclear weapons.000 separate targets in the Communist Bloc. while at the same time allowing SAC and General LeMay to be piling up thousands up weapons and devising war plans that would involve the use of these weapons simultaneously. even if you strike first. Epilogue Narrator: Now that the race to build the super bomb had ended without a clear winner. He later became a leading advocate of the Strategic Defense Initiative which promised to protect the United States from the very weapon he had helped invent. was the one way to avoid an all-out nuclear war. Edmundson: We felt that the only way we could assure that it didn't happen was to have the capability here. more accurate means of delivering nuclear weapons to their targets. Edward Teller found strong support for his argument that nuclear superiority held the key to the nation's survival.American attack. . And how Eisenhower could sit there and think in those very progressive terms. the focus shifted to a new race to develop faster.000 nuclear weapons--including hundreds of hydrogen bombs--from bases around the world to attack in the first few hours of conflict 1. to deter the Russians from doing that. we felt. the one who strikes first--especially if it is a preemptive strike--gains the advantage over the other side. Edmundson: It was the use of these weapons and the becoming proficient with them and the planning to use them at their maximum capability. you will perish together with the defeated side. That is the paradox of our time. In Washington. Rhodes: But what does it mean that a country that believes in human dignity. that really. is very difficult to fathom. in SAC. technically. but we couldn't think of any other way to keep it from happening. and having the honor and the American ethics of not doing it yourself.
" Long after the collapse of the Soviet empire. was even harder than building it . Getting rid of the super. "One B-58 can load that concentrated firepower and convey it to any place on the globe. it seemed. the United States and Russia continued to maintain several thousand nuclear warheads on constant alert. and let it sink down. like Teller. clinging as a fierce child against its mother's belly carries all the conventional bomb explosive force of World War II and everything which came before. he reflected on the unimaginable power of the hydrogen bomb: "That beautiful devilish pod underneath. continued to work on nuclear arms. and bruise the stars and planets and satellites listening in. He became the most prominent and outspoken advocate of human rights and democracy in his homeland. in his memoirs. and let it go off. He never questioned his belief in large-scale strategic bombing. but increasingly he found himself in conflict with the Soviet regime.Andrei Sakharov. Curtis LeMay retired from the Air Force in 1965.
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