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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Wolf Graf von Baudissin, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Wolf Graf von Baudissin, who helped establish some of the concepts of the modern German Bundeswehr, became a Commandant of the NATO Defense College from 1963-1965, then served as Deputy Chief of Staff at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in the late 1960s. He discusses some of the issues he confronted in the course of setting up the Bundeswehr, including dealing with the existence of tactical nuclear weapons and arguing for a strategy of forward defense. He describes certain differences between his views and those of other allied countries. For example, most of his colleagues initially preferred massive retaliation over flexible response, and he goes on to defend the latter as a concept. More broadly, he cites national differences and traditions as obstacles to NATO coordination, although he considers the United States’ diminishing commitment a bigger concern. He comments on the impact of France’s withdrawal from NATO’s military command and on the buildup of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, which he ascribes to actions by the U.S. military. He describes the general shock that greeted the NATO exercise “Carte Blanche,” which presented the prospect of “nuclear war under conventional conditions.”

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
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Interview with Wolf Graf von Baudissin, 1986

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

France and England rush to acquire their own nuclear weapons, NATO worries about the threat from the East, and Europe becomes the most nuclear-saturated place on Earth.

British and American scientists worked side by side to build the first nuclear bombs. “There was a strong desire on the British side for that collaboration to continue into peacetime. There was no such desire on the part of the United States,” recalls British diplomat Roger Makins, Lord Sherfield. Britain decided to proceed on its own and in 1952 joined the US and the Soviets in what pundits would call “the nuclear club.” General Charles De Gaulle, president of France, wanted to join the club, too, and not rely on the US for nuclear protection. Prestige was also an issue. In 1960, France exploded its first atomic weapon. Since World War II the Soviet Union had had a superiority in conventional forces in Europe. NATO countered by deploying thousands of nuclear weapons. “They were accepted as being perfectly reasonable weapons to use in a tactical battle in continental Europe,” said Sir Richard Powell of the British Defense Ministry.



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Raw video

Media Type


Warsaw Treaty Organization
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Adenauer, Konrad, 1876-1967
Lemnitzer, Lyman L. (Lyman Louis), 1899-1988
European Defense Community
United States
Great Britain
Hockaday, Arthur
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Baudissin, Wolf, Graf von, 1907-1993 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Wolf Graf von Baudissin, 1986,” 11/28/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 28, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5B6BF005FF414127B4E3460681A588F9.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Wolf Graf von Baudissin, 1986.” 11/28/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 28, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5B6BF005FF414127B4E3460681A588F9>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Wolf Graf von Baudissin, 1986. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5B6BF005FF414127B4E3460681A588F9
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