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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Frank Camm, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Gen. Frank Camm was a nuclear planner for the United States Army. In the interview, he describes the development of the Army's nuclear weapons doctrine, including that of flexible response. He starts by recalling the process of adapting the Army to the use of nuclear weapons in the 1950s, noting that at first the Army did not get its "fair share" compared to other services. Once the Soviet Union began to achieve nuclear parity in the 1960s, the U.S. military had to restructure, which resulted in the flexible response doctrine. He describes how often the decision over the deployment of nuclear weapons was governed more by its political implications than by the military aspects, which is why such a large number of nuclear weapons were deployed in Europe, even after the advent of the Kennedy administration, which did not support the use of so many nuclear weapons. Gen. Camm believes that flexible response constitutes a strong deterrent since it ensures that retaliation would happen immediately rather than waiting for clearances to be granted. He also believes that having stronger conventional forces will deter the Soviet Union from using their own conventional strength against NATO. He goes on to explain the implementation of flexible response, which occurred over time, and took longer for some branches than others; it was especially slowly implemented in the Air Force, which was outfitted almost entirely with nuclear bombs, creating a discontinuity between Army and Air Force strategies. Gen. Camm concludes the interview by describing the Kennedy administration's implementation of Permissive Action Links on nuclear weapons, which gave decision makers code-based control over those weapons.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
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Interview with Frank Camm, 1987

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


Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Taylor, Maxwell D. (Maxwell Davenport), 1901-1987
Polaris (Missile)
United States. Air Force
Tactical nuclear weapons
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
Soviet Union
Korean War, 1950-1953
United States. Air Force. Strategic Air Command
Flexible response (Nuclear strategy)
Nuclear weapons
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
United States
United States. Army
United States. Navy
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Nuclear warfare
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Washington, DC
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Camm, Frank A., 1949- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Frank Camm, 1987,” 12/12/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Frank Camm, 1987.” 12/12/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Frank Camm, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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