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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Art Lundahl, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Art Lundahl founded the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center. In the interview he discusses the role of photoreconnaissance and photointerpretation in the Cuban Missile Crisis. He starts by describing the surprise of discovering offensive missilery, not just defensive missiles, in Cuba. He describes his briefing of President Kennedy, who he recalls was cool and determined. He explains the sense of pride the photointerpreters had in their work during the crisis, keeping the president as up to date as possible. They viewed it as their way of contributing to history. Lundahl emphasizes that photoreconnaissance has proven an effective method for tracking threats to national security, and has served as a major source of military intelligence since World War II. He credits their work during the missile crisis with changing the way the U.S. political leadership engaged with it, especially in the Nuclear Age. He describes the process of photointerpretation, demonstrating how images that might seem unimportant to a layperson can mean a great deal to the trained eye.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
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Interview with Art Lundahl, 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

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.



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Raw video

Media Type


Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Farmer (Jet fighter plane)
Photographic reconnaissance systems
Photographic interpretation
Stevenson, Adlai E. (Adlai Ewing), 1900-1965
United States
World War II
Dillon, C. Douglas (Clarence Douglas), 1909-2003
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
U-2 (Reconnaissance aircraft)
Fishbed (Jet fighter plane)
Nuclear weapons
Aerial photography
Intermediate-range ballistic missiles
Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968
Soviet Union
United States. Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, DC
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Lundahl, Art (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Art Lundahl, 1986,” 02/21/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Art Lundahl, 1986.” 02/21/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Art Lundahl, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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