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How do you signal a limited war?


The doctrine of limited war
John Wheeler Scientist
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After the war, the great defense contractors slowed down a bit, and the slow-down was provoked in good measure by a cut of the government budget. I think that some people felt that Eisenhower had been responsible for that slow-down and for what was called a gap in the missile defense. But as things turned around and there was an upswing, John von Neumann was drawn in as an advisor on an advisory committee, and he recommended that every defense contractor allot a certain percentage of the contract to advanced research. So here were these defense contractors, and I found myself asked to be a consultant to Convair and to general dynamics, and I've forgotten what else. But at any rate, the Convair group was steered by Marvin Stern, an imaginative and dynamic young man who later wrote a book with George Gamow called One, Two, Three, Infinity. But Marvin Stern knew that the Korean War presented special problems. And he thought that a committee should do a study on a doctrine for a limited war. So he got together Morgenstern and Chalmers Sherwin, who had been involved in airplane design, and Henry Kissinger and me. We met a day and a half, every month and a half, for a year and a half, in southern California, and we came up with this report on a doctrine for a limited war.

John Wheeler, one of the world's most influential physicists, is best known for coining the term 'black holes', for his seminal contributions to the theories of quantum gravity and nuclear fission, as well as for his mind-stretching theories and writings on time, space and gravity.

Listeners: Ken Ford

Ken Ford took his Ph.D. at Princeton in 1953 and worked with Wheeler on a number of research projects, including research for the Hydrogen bomb. He was Professor of Physics at the University of California and Director of the American Institute of Physicists. He collaborated with John Wheeler in the writing of Wheeler's autobiography, 'Geons, Black Holes and Quantum Foam: A Life in Physics' (1998).

Duration: 2 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: December 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008