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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Aloysius Casey, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Aloysius Casey was a Lieutenant General in the U.S. Air Force Systems Command, and the director and commander of the Ballistic Missile Office. In the interview he describes the development of the MX Missile in response to the Soviets’ hardening of their silos. He explains the debate over basing modes for the MX Missile under both the Carter and Reagan Administrations, noting that the Air Force reviewed over 30 possibilities in order to assure the public of their determination to find the best option. The modes included a tunnel system, hardened silos, proliferated silos, dense pack, and ultimately the Minuteman silos. Gen. Casey explains various technical aspects of the issue, including the differences between horizontal and vertical basing, and states that the government’s aim was simply to find the best mode that was also politically acceptable, which he notes was especially difficult considering the amount of land some of the basing modes would require. Ironically, the approach backfired to a degree, as the public began to think of the MX as a missile the Air Force had no idea what to do with. He lays out the current deterrence situation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and believes that survivability, using whatever basing mode ultimately gets chosen, is key to maintaining deterrence.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Reagan's Shield
Program Number



Interview with Aloysius Casey, 1987

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

President Reagan introduces the controversial Strategic Defense Initiative, an idea he believes will make nuclear weapons”Impotent and Obsolete.”

In 1983 President Reagan envisioned a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) that could intercept and destroy Soviet strategic ballistic missiles before they reached the United States. Skeptics dubbed the idea “Star Wars.” It was hard for Reagan to accept the idea of deterrence based on mutual destruction. He believed SDI offered a solution. His science advisor George Keyworth says SDI was “thoroughly created and invented in Ronald Reagan’s own mind and experience.” According to defense scientist Ashton Carter, “The concept is fine. What is not fine is implying to the public that the solution to the nuclear puzzle is at hand.” SDI became the focus of a national debate about nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy, and a stumbling block in strategic arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. The final months of the Reagan Administration brought a drastic reduction in the scope and size of SDI efforts.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Nuclear arms control
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Soviet Union
United States
Deterrence (Strategy)
Woolsey, R. James, 1941-
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Reagan, Ronald
Scowcroft, Brent
Deutch, John M., 1938-
Mavroules, Nicholas
United States. President’s Commission on Strategic Forces
Unites States. Congress
MX (Weapons system)
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Turner, Stansfield, 1923-
Smith, Larry
Aspin, Les
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Minuteman (Missile)
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Casey, Aloysius G. (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Aloysius Casey, 1987,” 12/21/1987, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 26, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_B0F96367E8F140ECA3D984B2FACD0A01.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Aloysius Casey, 1987.” 12/21/1987. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 26, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_B0F96367E8F140ECA3D984B2FACD0A01>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Aloysius Casey, 1987. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_B0F96367E8F140ECA3D984B2FACD0A01
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