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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with David Jones, 1986 [2]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


David Jones was a general in the U.S. Air Force, who served in the Strategic Air Command as an operations planner, then as General Curtis LeMay’s aide. He went on to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1978-1982). In this interview he discusses the Air Force’s policies and attitudes during the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s. He explains the USAF’s unease with the young civilian defense analysts, or “whiz kids,” brought into the Pentagon at that time. Of all of the changes made by Secretary of Defense McNamara, the cancellation of the B-70 was what most upset SAC and the Air Force. He vouches for the versatility and accuracy of the Air Force’s bombers, and reacts to the cancellation of various bomber programs. He describes the change in strategic doctrine away from mutually assured destruction and towards targeting Soviet military sites. He argues that to support this doctrine the Air Force required all of the missile capability it had requested, and calls the compromise of 1,000 Minuteman missiles rather than 3,000, a mistake. He believes that it was the credible threat that the U.S. could destroy substantial Soviet military capabilities, rather than the notion of mutually assured destruction, that gave weight to Kennedy’s position during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Bigger Bang for the Buck, A
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Interview with David Jones, 1986 [2]

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

For the destructive power they deliver, nuclear weapons are cheap and efficient. In the 1950’s the United States begins to rely on nuclear, rather than conventional, weapons for its defense.

As nuclear policy evolved during the Eisenhower Administration, three factors combined to produce a new American reliance on nuclear weapons: pressure to control the federal budget (the “bigger bang” argument); competition as each branch of the American military adapted nuclear weapons to its mission; and Soviet bluffs that fueled American fears about a “bomber gap” and later a “missile gap.” On October 4, 1957, Sputnik, the Soviet satellite that was the first to orbit Earth, shocked Americans and delighted the Soviets. A month later, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2 with a dog on board. Both the Soviets and the Americans knew that a booster capable of carrying a dog into space could also deliver a nuclear warhead across a continent in 30 minutes.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Nuclear weapons
United States
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Mutual assured destruction
United States. Air Force
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
United States. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
Soviet Union
United States. Air Force. Strategic Air Command
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Jones, David C., 1921- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with David Jones, 1986 [2],” 06/28/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed April 22, 2019, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5FDB1545443B427888C90E7B15F3783A.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with David Jones, 1986 [2].” 06/28/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. April 22, 2019. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5FDB1545443B427888C90E7B15F3783A>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with David Jones, 1986 [2]. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_5FDB1545443B427888C90E7B15F3783A
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