GBH Openvault

War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Glen Martin, 1986 [2]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


General Glen T. Martin was Divisional Commander of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) from 1955-1958, and Deputy Director of Air Force Plans at the Pentagon from 1958-1962. In this interview, he begins by describing NATO's "sword and shield" concept, then discusses details of the Air Force's bomber programs and strategic targeting policy. He defends the bomber force as an essential part of the triad, despite attempted restructuring by some in the Pentagon. He also explains how weapons procurement estimates are calculated. He describes changes in targeting policy, from counterforce, or prioritizing military targets, which he prefers, to urban targets, using the threat of destroying major cities as a deterrent.

License Clip
Got it
War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
At the Brink
Program Number



Interview with Glen Martin, 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

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


B-58 bomber
United States. Air Force
B-70 bomber
United States
Nuclear weapons
United States. Air Force. Strategic Air Command
Nuclear warfare
Mutual assured destruction
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Martin, Glen T., 1944- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Glen Martin, 1986 [2],” 04/21/1986, GBH Archives, accessed September 21, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Glen Martin, 1986 [2].” 04/21/1986. GBH Archives. Web. September 21, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; At the Brink; Interview with Glen Martin, 1986 [2]. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
If you have more information about this item, we want to know! Please contact us, including the URL.