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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Roswell Gilpatric, 1986 [3]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Roswell Gilpatric was the Deputy Secretary of Defense 1961-1964. In this interview, he recalls the Hot Springs, or Missile Gap, speech he delivered in Europe on October 21, 1961, a speech with two purposes: to convince the Soviet Union that the United States was ready to take on the threat in Berlin, and to persuade its NATO allies to accept the flexible response doctrine. He describes Secretary of Defense McNamara’s difficult relationship with the Air Force over such contentious issues as the latter’s request for funding for a large Minuteman missile system. He points to this and other examples of the difficulties created by inter-service rivalries. A painful moment he recalls is of being treated as a turncoat for siding with McNamara despite having previously served as Secretary of the Air Force.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
At the Brink
Program Number



Interview with Roswell Gilpatric, 1986 [3]

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

In October 1962, the Soviet Union and the United States are at the brink of nuclear war, the 13 most harrowing days in the nuclear age.

“I remember leaving the White House at the end of that Saturday and thinking that might well be the last sunset I ever saw,” recalls former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara of Black Saturday, the day the Cuban missile crisis pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war. Aleksandr Alexseev, Soviet ambassador to Cuba at the time, recalled, “We and the Cubans decided that, in order to avoid a United States invasion, we should supply Cuba with missiles.” The US effort to overthrow Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs was an expression of President Kennedy’s disbelief about the missiles in Cuba while it surprised Soviet leader Khrushchev according to his speechwriter,Feodor Burlatsky. Major General William Fairborne, speaks about how “We loaded whole blood and a hundred coffins onto the carrier Iwo Jima.” Looking back on those 13 days, former Secretary of State Dean Rusk reflects, “...we’ve got to find some way to inhabit this speck of dust in the universe at the same time.”



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


United States. Navy
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Goldberg, Arthur J.
Yarmolinsky, Adam
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
International relations
United States
Berlin (Germany)
United States. Dept. of Defense
LeMay, Curtis E.
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
United States. Air Force
Bundy, McGeorge
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Military weapons
Soviet Union
Nuclear weapons
Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Gilpatric, Roswell L. (Roswell Leavitt), 1906-1996 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Roswell Gilpatric, 1986 [3],” 03/07/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 25, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_CFC8D60D3C9D4D90AABA04D4ECFE40EF.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Roswell Gilpatric, 1986 [3].” 03/07/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 25, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_CFC8D60D3C9D4D90AABA04D4ECFE40EF>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Roswell Gilpatric, 1986 [3]. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_CFC8D60D3C9D4D90AABA04D4ECFE40EF
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