Atomic Energy; for good or for extermination – that was the big question hovering over the world in 1948. The Soviet Union was making ominous gestures and there was cause to suspect the Russians had the Atomic Bomb. But the question of Nuclear energy was on everyone’s minds. Could it possibly be used for peaceful purposes, or was it destined to be used in a war?
Nobody really knew at the time – we were just coming out of a devastating war, Europe was slowly being reconstructed. The Communist influence was being felt throughout the world. Many felt The Soviet Union were going to pose a threat, and fears of Communist infiltration of the political systems of these recovering nations was a very real possibility, as was evidenced by the growing popularity of the Communist Party in France and Italy.
Unrest and economic uncertainty were rampant throughout Europe, and accusations of Communist infiltration in our own government were surfacing, with many accusing the State Department of harboring Communists within its ranks.
We were heading into potentially paranoid territory, with calls from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill to begin investigations. What they were hoping to accomplish wasn’t clear. We were living in a place of fear – fear of another war, fear that The Soviet Union would start another war.
The United Nations had been wrestling with the subject. It had spent the previous two years in an attempt to curb what they called The Mass Killer: The Atom Bomb. Almost giving up, they had nonetheless persevered and talks were again resuming. The Soviet Union had proposed a unilateral destruction of America’s stockpile of nuclear weapons and establishing an International Control Authority. As much as there was support for some Atomic regulation, the deterrent which the Atomic Bomb represented almost made the thought of another war unconscionable. And perhaps that might have been a good thing.
Here is a discussion, part of the NBC Radio series Chicago University Roundtable from October 1948 with the subject of Atomic Energy And The United Nations.
Considering recent events and saber-rattling over North Korea, some insights as to the historic nature of this problem might be useful right about now.
Have a listen.