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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Thomas Moorer, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Adm. Thomas Moorer was Chief of Naval Operations from 1967-1970 and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1970-1974. Much of the interview deals with SALT I and associated issues. He begins by offering his views of the impact of the Soviets’ attaining essential nuclear parity and of Nixon’s intentions to enter into an era of negotiation with Moscow. His main concerns at the time related to ABM issues. His primary objectives for SALT were to retain equality; deal with ABM matters; and limit Soviet offensive systems. He strongly advocated developing an ABM system for the U.S. and opposed giving up MIRVs. As a military man, he believes it is in American interests to negotiate. The interview then goes into detail about the SALT negotiations, including his concerns about SLBM numbers. He recalls telling President Nixon that he would support the treaty under three conditions – that the U.S. build the B1 bomber and the Trident missile, and guarantee adequate verification procedures. He recalls Senator Henry Jackson’s proposed amendment and his insistence on personnel changes after SALT I. While he objects to members of Congress influencing personnel decisions in that way, he acknowledges that Nixon’s need for Jackson’s support gave him that power. The discussion moves to the role of nuclear weapons; his belief in the need to continue to improve and upgrade American arsenals; and the purpose of arms negotiations. He comments on Nixon’s possible political motivations in setting the timing of negotiations with Moscow in 1972. He lists the effects of SALT I on America’s military posture and his concerns about SALT II. In his opinion, detente is an acceptable concept as long as the Soviets keep up their obligations.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
One Step Forward
Program Number



Interview with Thomas Moorer, 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

Soviet and American nuclear forces reach rough nuclear parity in the 1970’s. Each side, pursuing its own interest, negotiates the first successful arms control agreement, SALT I.

In May 1972 President Nixon found himself in Moscow delivering a message of peace and friendship. Nixon announced the first major superpower arms control agreements, SALT I and the Anti-Ballsitic Missile (ABM) treaty. Nixon described his feeling about negotiating with the Soviets. “I didn’t trust the Russians. But I recognized that ... there was no alternative but to have some relationship of ‘live and let live’ between the two superpowers.” Two years after the historic meeting in Moscow, Nixon was forced to resign due to Watergate. ABM silos in the United States were shut down but the production of ballistic missiles armed with multiple nuclear warheads (MIRV’s) contributed to a massive increase in weapons in both the United States and the Soviet Union.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Antimissile missiles
Nitze, Paul H.
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Trident (Weapons systems)
Soviet Union
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Nuclear arms control
United States
Nuclear weapons
Rockwell B-1 (Bomber)
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
Israel-Arab War, 1973
Rowny, Edward L., 1917-
Kennedy, Edward M. (Edward Moore), 1932-2009
Jackson, Henry M. (Henry Martin), 1912-1983
Allison, Royal Bertram
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
United States. Congress
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Moorer, Thomas H., 1912-2004 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Thomas Moorer, 1986,” 12/03/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Thomas Moorer, 1986.” 12/03/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with Thomas Moorer, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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