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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Jerome Wiesner, 1986 [2]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Jerome Wiesner was a Science Advisor to Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson and an arms control advocate. In the interview he discusses the Kennedy Administrations nuclear policy. He explains the consequences of the Kennedy campaign relying heavily on a missile gap that it turned out did not really exist. He also explains President Kennedy’s views on nuclear weapons, and to what extent they affected his policy. He also talks about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, speculating on the reasons the Soviet Union put missiles in Cuba. He also discusses the ways the Cuban Missile Crisis set the stage for the partial test-ban treaty, and gives possible reasons that a comprehensive test ban could not be agreed upon, especially the domestic political pressures both Kennedy and Khrushchev were facing.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
Program Number



Interview with Jerome Wiesner, 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

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.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
Intermediate-range ballistic missiles
Nuclear arms control
United States. Air Force
Soviet Union
Kaysen, Carl
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
Edicia Sputnik
United States. Dept. of Defense
Nuclear weapons
Antinuclear movement
United States. Central Intelligence Agency
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
United States
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
United States. Congress
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Wiesner, Jerome B. (Jerome Bert), 1915-1994 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Jerome Wiesner, 1986 [2],” 03/27/1986, WGBH Media Library & Archives, accessed December 19, 2018, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_E3CCFA5A4A1148579C7FB7FF0FA961EB.
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Jerome Wiesner, 1986 [2].” 03/27/1986. WGBH Media Library & Archives. Web. December 19, 2018. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_E3CCFA5A4A1148579C7FB7FF0FA961EB>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Jerome Wiesner, 1986 [2]. Boston, MA: WGBH Media Library & Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_E3CCFA5A4A1148579C7FB7FF0FA961EB
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