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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Eugene Carroll, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Adm. Eugene Carroll (USN, Ret.), became Deputy Director of the Center for Defense Information where he spoke out against the reliance on nuclear weapons and other defense-related issues. In the interview he discusses U.S. nuclear military strategy and his views on the necessity of nuclear disarmament. Recalling his days as a pilot in the 1950s, he describes how the Navy turned conventional planes being used in the Korean War into nuclear-capable aircraft, and vividly recounts the lengthy and complex training procedures for delivering nuclear weapons accurately and in such a way as to allow the aircraft to escape the blast. He touches on the detailed plans of the Navy, Air Force, and Army for nuclear war, and how the services integrated nuclear weapons into their strategies. He discusses the rise and fall of massive retaliation doctrine, and offers his views on the financial wastefulness of maintaining large nuclear arsenals. As for their military value, he recounts that it was while standing watch on the decks of aircraft carriers waiting for the onset of hostilities that he came to the realization that fighting a war with nuclear weapons was a terrible option. While at the Naval War College, he wrote a treatise expressing his belief that the Navy should abandon its nuclear mission, but was told by one of the Navy’s top officers that to do so would mean that the Navy would lose most of its budget to other services. In other words, Adm. Carroll notes, it was a function of inter-service rivalry. There was “[n]o other logical explanation.”

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Bigger Bang for the Buck, A
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Interview with Eugene Carroll, 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

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


Korean War, 1950-1953
Soviet Union
Massive retaliation (Nuclear strategy)
Nuclear weapons
Military weapons
United States
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear disarmament
United States. Navy
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Carroll, Eugene (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Eugene Carroll, 1986,” 03/10/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed October 24, 2016, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_DC220F28BBD9490D8FA2EAFF65906417.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Eugene Carroll, 1986.” 03/10/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. October 24, 2016. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_DC220F28BBD9490D8FA2EAFF65906417>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Eugene Carroll, 1986. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_DC220F28BBD9490D8FA2EAFF65906417
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