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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; A Sharper Sword and Stronger Shield

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


An informational film which emphasizes the importance for the continual modernization of the Army for effective national defense. The film portrays the Army's efforts to forge "A Sharper Sword and Stronger Shield" to preserve the peace or win a future war. The presentation describes the pentagonal organization and structural flexibility of the modern Army, new tactical concepts, and technological advancements in weapons and equipment. The presentation then goes on to show the new type of Army weapons, both nuclear and conventional, and the latest developments in air support. A simulated task force then demonstrates the employment of new combat techniques, weapons, and equipment.

License Clip
War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Education of Robert McNamara, The
Program Number



A Sharper Sword and Stronger Shield

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 the 1960’s Secretary of Defense Robert Mcnamara confronts the possibility of nuclear war and changes his views on questions of strategy and survival.

McNamara was Secretary of Defense for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961 to 1968. By the 1960’s the Soviets’ increased nuclear capabilities raised disturbing questions. What would the United States do if attacked? American strategy had been “massive retaliation.” But, as McNamara explains, it became increasingly apparent to the Soviets that the US was unlikely to respond. If the United States did launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, the remaining Soviet forces would destroy the US. McNamara’s Defense Department developed a new strategy. “Flexible response” was based on a “ladder of escalation” from conventional to nuclear options. But by 1967, McNamara, who tried to create rules for limited nuclear war, concluded, “The blunt fact is that neither... can attack the other without being destroyed in retaliation. And it is precisely this ... that provides us both with the strongest possible motives to avoid a nuclear war.”



Asset Type

Stock footage

Media Type


United States. Army
Military weapons
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Rights Summary

In perpetuity ; Public Domain Rights Holder: NAFB

Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; A Sharper Sword and Stronger Shield,” 01/01/1959, GBH Archives, accessed May 13, 2021,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; A Sharper Sword and Stronger Shield.” 01/01/1959. GBH Archives. Web. May 13, 2021. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; A Sharper Sword and Stronger Shield. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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