In my youth, I wrote stories about the possible destruction of the beautiful planet on which I lived, deceiving readers into thinking that I was an embittered old man. I leaped into the future as far as I could see, and I saw creatures coming from other worlds with the weapons to destroy the world around me. I was haunted by the screams of my father, who had to kill other men in hand-to-hand combat in the global war that ranged from 1914 to 1918.
In 1943, I was drafted into the American army to stop Hitler and his murderous followers from conquering Europe. I was trained to shoot and stab other men, just as my father had been trained in his generation. I was selected as a war correspondent to write about the atrocities suffered by other men in bloody battles where they had lost their arms and legs, and sometimes their brains and testicles. I lived through glorious days after I came home unwounded, but I had to face the grim realities created by scientists who had acted on the wild possibilities I had envisioned in my science fiction stories.
In 1932, I had published a story titled “Red April 1965” about a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union—and I was confronted early in April of 1965 by a madman who rushed into my office screaming about the imminent occurrence of such a war on the very date when I had predicted it. The war did not happen then, but I still had a deep fear that atomic bombs would destroy our civilization.
In 1948, I wrote speeches for President Harry Truman, who had used nuclear weapons on Japan to save the lives of thousands of civilians and end the Second World War as quickly as possible. After his action, the world embarked on a nuclear arms race, which has continued for many years. Life on earth is under the fiery threat of annihilation.
In 1982, David Krieger asked me to join him in founding the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, a nonprofit educational organization, which has become a voice of conscience for the community, the nation, and the world. Its message is that nuclear weapons threaten the future of all life on our planet, and that it is the responsibility of all of us, working together, to end this threat forever. Nuclear weapons were created by humans, and they must be abolished by us. Peace in a world free of nuclear weapons is everyone’s birthright. It is the greatest challenge of our time to restore that birthright to our children and all future generations.
In 1983, I was invited to go to Moscow by the Council of Citizens, a nonpartisan organization based in New York. In Russia, I was given an opportunity to speak to 77 Soviet leaders in the Kremlin. I urged them to take the initiative in getting rid of nuclear weapons. I said that I hoped my own government—the U.S. government—would do that, but I was afraid that American leaders would not do it.
The Soviets listened to me, and my speech was quoted in Pravda. I was interviewed by Radio Moscow, but the Soviets told me that if they discarded their nuclear weapons, they would be regarded as “weak” in many parts of the world. I felt that my mission to Moscow did not have the positive results I had hoped for.
Now, I believe that a worldwide initiative by women has the best possibilities of ending the nuclear threat. Courageous women are making a difference in all nations; in fact, many countries have elected women to the highest offices in their governments.
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has many notable women on its board of directors, its council of advisors, its associates, and staff. Its development and progress is largely due to the generosity and activities of these women.
The Foundation’s financial survival was largely dependent on the gifts of Ethel Wells, a Santa Barbara resident. In the 1980s, the Foundation coordinated an International Week for Science and Peace. Mrs. Wells reasoned that scientists were at the heart of creating constructive or destructive technologies, so she contributed $50,000 for a prize for the best proposal for a scientific step forward. The winning proposal came from the Hungarian Engineers for Peace and called for the formation of an International Network of Engineers for Peace. A short time later, the engineers joined with a group of like-minded scientists and established the International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility. That organization continues to thrive with a large list of supporters.
In 1995, friends of Barbara Mandigo Kelly, my wife, established an annual series of awards through the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation to encourage poets to explore and illuminate positive visions of peace and the human spirit. These awards are offered to people in three categories—adults, young persons 13 to 18 years old, and youth 12 and under. Thousands of poems have been received from people of all ages, from all over the world. The prize-winning poems have been published in book form, in anthologies and on the Foundation’s website.
For many years, the Foundation offered prizes, financed by Gladys Swackhamer, awarded for essays by high school students all over the world, who shared their thoughts on nuclear policy and peace issues. Many of these essays have been published in magazines in many places, and the authors include many young women from a wide variety of backgrounds.
The necessity for cooperative action was highlighted recently in an article published in the Wall Street Journal signed by four men who have served in high positions—George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Senator Sam Nunn. They expressed the belief that “We have arrived a dangerous tipping point in the nuclear era, and we advocate a strategy for improving American security and global security….We are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe.” [Emphasis added.]
I think the time has come for the formation of a Women’s Task Force for Nuclear Peace, composed of leaders of women’s organizations with millions of members around the world. The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation is prepared to work in cooperation with these organizations to awaken humanity to the urgent need of preserving life on earth.