Jane Vaynman"There is no fighting in the War Room"

Studio 360 is featuring a radio show about the bomb, with guest Richard Rhodes, who is, as always, awesome.

The show starts off with a short bio of J. Robert Oppenheimer, which is a bit too simple and sentimental, but has a few interesting points about how his life, and the myths that have grown around it, lend themselves to drama, including a BBC documentary in 1980’s and more recently, the opera Dr. Atomic which premiered in San Francisco last year.

It goes on to an interview with Rhodes, and while many of the comments we have heard or read before, there a few great bits I found interesting. Rhodes talks about the unique period after the end of World War II and the Soviet A-bomb test in August 1949. It was a period when the US felt on top of the world. Even Edward Teller, whom history remembers as vehemently anti-communist, pushing for the next big weapon, was during this period proposing a world government.

Rhodes also describes where “duck and cover” came from:

Duck and cover was invented by Admiral Strauss in the Atomic Energy Commission to give people a sense that there was something they could do, when everyone knew very well there was nothing whatsoever you could do.

The segment is mostly about the effect of the bomb on pubic consciousness through music and film. Of course, they do a section on Dr. Strangelove. Also, there is an incredibly creepy clip from a song, called “Atomic Cocktail.”

It’s the drink that you don’t pour
Now when you take one sip you won’t need anymore
You’re small as a beetle or big as a whale-BOOM-Atomic Cocktail.

Splashes ice all around the place
When you see it coming, grab your suitcase
It’ll send you through the sky like airmail-BOOM-Atomic Cocktail.


  1. yale (History)

    An excellent site for all things Cold War (pictures, films, music, etc.):


  2. Alex (History)

    That time period between 1945 and 1949 is one of the most remarkable in terms of the way that American scientists and politicians talked about the bomb, arms control, and international politics. The existence of the bomb was known, but what it meant, what it was, and what to do with it was not.

    By about 1951 most of the ways of talking about the bomb had become much more rigid, what we would today call the early Cold War model of the bomb, and the stripping of Oppenheimer’s clearance in 1954 is just the final nail in the coffin of the “scientists’ movement.” But before the first Soviet bomb (and before Klaus Fuchs, and the Rosenberg trial, and the Korean War, and McCarthy, etc.) people felt there were so many more options in the air.

    (Though everyone probably knows this, the best film on Oppenheimer is, hands-down, Jon Else’s “Day After Trinity.” Though it too tends to be a bit overly sentimental at some times — the “Oppenheimer as a martyr trope” is both simplistic and misleading, in my opinion — the interviews with the scientists are amazing, as is the entire presentation of the old footage).

  3. hass (History)

    Isn’t it ironic that the “lesson” we’ve learned from the Cold War is NOT that all nuclear bombs are bad & we should get rid of nuclear weapons. Rather the lesson learned apparently is that only big bombs are bad but “user friendly” mini-nukes are good. From “Love the Bomb” to “Love the mini-nuke”

  4. cenoxo

    The proper Dr. Strangelove quote (from Peter Sellers as U.S. President Merkin) is “Gentlemen. You can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!”

    See FilmSite’s synopsis at http://www.filmsite.org/drst2.html

    With nuclear warfare comedies, it’s important to get the punchline right the first time. You might not have a second chance.