INT: What was the worst moment of the Cold War for you?
HY: Well, I'm not sure what the worst moment was. there certainly were some moments that I was very impressed by. The first Russian atomic bomb, then the early Russian thermo-nuclear bombs were unpleasant. The Sputnik was certainly a very bad moment, one which I tried to exploit in terms of getting more money for my laboratory, but nevertheless a shock. Then the end of the moratorium. We thought we were getting somewhere with getting the arms race under control with the Eisenhower-Khruschev moratorium in '58, the end of that, Khruschev's bringing that to a sharp end in '61. The Cuban Missile Crisis. And maybe in terms of bad shocks, that was the last one. I think that although Brezhnev was, from the point of view of the Russians, caused a lot of problems, there was this difficult, there was this bad period of stagnation, economics and so on and although he is the one who built up the big missiles, the large deployment of big missiles, nevertheless, once Brezhnev took over, the ugliness of the Stalin period was gone, the eratic nature of the Khruschev period was gone and we were in a period of greater stability. So, I think that, that although it took time to recognise, what Brezhnev was and what he stood for, nevertheless, things began to look up, even in those days, even though they were accumulating missiles at at a great clip. I felt that the situation had turned around and that it was going to work out all right.
INT: Was the Cold War necessary?
HY: Well, it's impossible to say whether it was necessary, but in my view, the Cold War grew out of Soviet bad behaviour in Eastern and Central Europe. Without that, we might have avoided the Cold War. Given the Soviet occupation, military and political occupation of Poland, of Hungary and other countries further east, I think the Cold War was inevitable because that was ultimately unacceptable to the West. Now the particular ways that developed and the turns it took and troops in Germany and so forth, the development of weapons, that could have all followed different courses, but I think what I just called it, you know, Russian bad behaviour in Eastern and Central Europe, the Soviet military and political occupation is the root cause of the Cold War. There were other contributing factors, the Korean War and the whole question of the role of China, but the European thing I think was the thing that could not be resolved in any simple way. In my view, the Russians had to get out of Central Europe in order for the Cold War to end and that's exactly what did happen. Now the nuclear arms race derived from the Cold War and American fears about what the Russians were doing and also as our way of counteracting Soviet conventional superiority. We would have built nuclear weapons if they never built a single nuclear weapon. We built nuclear weapons to balance what we saw as their conventional superiority. I do think, and I've thought so since virtually 1960, that we over-reacted and that the arms race could have been conducted at a lower level and that it was American technological exuberance as much as anything else that led to the dynamism and the large scale technological arms race we had. But we would have gone for technological arms. We would have used hi-tec as our way of balancing their man power. And as a way of avoiding a universal draft of young men and the spending all the money that would be necessary to match the Russians conventionally. So, we turned to hi-tec for good and legitimate reasons, totally inevitable that we would do that. The only thing that wasn't inevitable was that the scale of the technical arms race could have been lower if we had not been quite so exuberant and if we had been a little more steady with respect to how we reacted to various events in Russia.
INT: Excellent answer. Very final question. Leaping right back to the beginning of the interview, something I meant to ask you earlier was, was there much of a sense of competition between you and Los Alamo... Livermore and Los Alamos?
HY: There was a very strong sense of competition between Livermore and Los Alamos from the very start. In fact, even before we opened the doors at Livermore, there was opposition to the whole idea of Los Alamos. Now that opposition had two quite independent roots. One was the tension between Edward Teller personally and the Los Alamos management all of the whole top management of Los Alamos. He was attacking them in a personal way for being unimaginative, stuffy, you know, not doing the job that was necessary, holding things up, all sorts of negative ideas that Teller was very public about. Wherever he could get a hearing, in the Pentagon, in the Senate or anywhere else, he was explaining what a bum job they were doing at Los Alamos. So, and Livermore was established in part because Teller thought there ought to be a second laboratory. Teller's ideas about a second laboratory were not accepted in Washington untilnest Lawrence came along and thought that the second laboratory was a good idea and said I, Lawrence, will take the responsibility for establishing this laboratory. That's when we set it up. And then Lawrence gave me the specific job of actually doing it, getting the people, getting the money, getting the programmes going and so forth. But, so one of the reasons for the rivalry was essentially the personal relationship between Teller, the polarity between Edward Teller the man and Los Alamos the laboratory at the other end. Then besides that, they simply at Los Alamos felt that they didn't need competition. Even the calm and straight forward arguments for Livermore was that competition's a good thing, that the situation's worse than we thought before and so we need to expand the programme and the best way to do that, set up another laboratory. That was a plausible thing to call for. It's equally plausible that Los Alamos should no, that's not necessary, if you want to have a bigger programme, give us more money and we'll make you a bigger programme. So there was the rivalry... there was the natural rivalry between the older laboratory and another laboratory set up specifically to compete and then there was the very special rivalry that focused on Edward Teller and his role and behaviour.
INT: Did you feel that when you were doing your tests in the Pacific and in Nevada that you were out to get bigger bangs than Los Alamos?
HY: Well, in Nevada, we were not out to get bigger bangs. We were actually exploring... the possibility of smaller nuclear weapons, smaller in terms of the investment that it took to build 'em and of the yield, and even more, we were exploring not so much the design of specific weapons, as of new kinds of reactions, on which to base these weapons. So our first two experiments in Nevada, we were expecting very low yields. Now the yield was much lower than we expected, and it was so low that the tower was not fully destroyed. For the very first time, a nuclear bomb had been exploded on a relatively low tower and the bottom of the tower was still there, after the explosion. And because of this rivalry and because of the, you know, you'd have to say almost bad blood at least, between many of the people at Los Alamos and Livermore, they really found a lot of joy in the small size of these explosions and they were willing to laugh whenever in any context, in any place. Then, to make things worse, out at Eniwetok, our first nuclear explosion actually fizzled. It was meant to be a two stage thermo-nuclear explosion and it simply fizzled. I mean, the second stage didn't got, it was the only the first stage exploded and that was the first time that had happened. And we were exploring again new ground. We were trying to fulfil the promise that we'd all made that Livermore will explore a different part of the the regime of technical possibilities than what they were already doing at Los Alamos and we simply reached too far. But the two small explosions at Nevada were intended to be small. The small explosion at Eniwetok was a fizzle. But we recovered from it, is what happened. ... Lawrence never lost faith in us and because he didn't lose faith in us at Livermore, the young gang out at Livermore, including Harold Brown who later became Secretary of Defence and other people who later played important roles in Washington, because Lawrence didn't lose faith in us, he managed to keep Washington support going and we recovered nicely. Eventually.
INT: Herbert, thank you very much indeed...