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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Randy Kehler, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Randy Kehler is a pacifist activist and leader of the National Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. His interview covers the movement's experiences during the Reagan presidency, having originated in western Massachusetts in 1979 and gained improbable, sudden national prominence in the midst of a shift to the right in national politics. He recalls some of the milestone events – the June 12, 1982, disarmament rally in Central Park, New York; the referendum in Fall of 1982; and the May 1983 when Congress passed the freeze resolution by a 2-to-1 margin. The Reagan administration's influence on the movement is discussed at length. Ironically, Reagan's arms buildup helped boost the movement while his charge of KGB infiltration was puzzling. However, after the administration softened its military rhetoric and resumed the START talks, members of the movement began to have the sense of being coopted. Subsequent support from Senators Kennedy and Hatfield provided a major boost, but Reagan's 1983 Star Wars speech, which Mr. Kehler at first did not take seriously, turned out to be a highly effective maneuver to the detriment of the movement. The tide continued to turn against the freeze during the 1984 presidential election campaign, which featured major disappointment in the tepid backing of the Democratic candidates. Looking to the future, he characterizes the Reagan era as an "almost hysterical ending" to one period, which he hopes will give way to a new paradigm of "common security."

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Missile Experimental
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Interview with Randy Kehler, 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

Does the United States really plan to use nuclear weapons? Or is their only purpose to deter others from using them? These questions fuel debate over the Mobile Missile known as the MX.

The MX was designed in 1975 to counter the threat of large accurate missiles being bult in the Soviet Union. General Russell Dougherty of the Strategic Air Command recalls, “We had to have some more warheads ... with more accuracy. That was the rational for ... the MX.” It faced ten years of difficult questions in Congress, withing the military and from civilians. Was the missile meant to deter a Soviet attack or to survive one? One question led to another. There was one practical question: where to put the 200,000 pound 100 foot long missiles? In 1983 Congress approved production of 100 MX Peacekeeper missiles and based the first 50 in existing Minuteman silos.



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Raw video

Media Type


Forsberg, Randall
Kennedy, Edward M. (Edward Moore), 1932-2009
Peace movements
Nuclear weapons
Strategic Defense Initiative
Nuclear disarmament
Reagan, Ronald
Mondale, Walter F., 1928-
Hatfield, Mark O., 1922-2011
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Antinuclear movement
United States. Congress
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Kehler, Randy (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Randy Kehler, 1987,” 11/10/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 8, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Randy Kehler, 1987.” 11/10/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 8, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Randy Kehler, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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