After the United States detonated two nuclear bombs over Japan in 1945, two strands of antinuclear activists emerged. In addition to traditional pacifists like Quakers, atomic scientists and pro-world government advocates each advocated for an end to the use of nuclear weapons. But towards the end of the decade, both groups lost momentum as ordinary people became more interested in the possibilities of nuclear energy and the idea that the US could use its nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Truman’s Loyalty Order of 1947 made federally employed scientists afraid of being labeled Communists. The United World Federalists were plagued by financial problems and chased out of existence by McCarthyism. (Katz, 1986, pp. 2, 9-11; Wittner, 1993, pp. 325-327).
But in 1957, widely respected humanitarian Albert Schweitzer gave a speech condemning atomic bombs, a Congressional Subcommittee on Radiation of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy held hearings that brought the issue of radioactive fallout to the public’s attention, and 2,000 scientists signed a petition that demanded an international agreement to end nuclear testing. The time seemed right for a new antinuclear movement. (Katz, 1986, pp. 16-18).
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By Catherine Falzone, 2012. Adapted from Nuclear New York archive with permission.