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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Howard Stoertz, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Howard Stoertz was the National Intelligence Officer for the Soviet Union at the CIA. In the interview he discusses the estimates of Soviet nuclear capabilities made by U.S. agencies in the late 1950s that generated fears of a missile gap in favor of the Soviet Union. He describes how the intelligence community arrived at those exaggerated estimates, largely due to a lack of accurate information but also to certain assumptions about Soviet goals. A much more accurate picture began to emerge by the start of the Kennedy administration with the advent of satellite photography and intelligence provided by Soviet spy Oleg Penkovsky. In the course of the interview, he comments on the roles of several key figures – including the Alsop brothers, Sen. Stuart Symington, Thomas Lanphier, and Allen Dulles. One of the lessons he draws from the experience is that the politicization of intelligence can create significant problems for the country.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Bigger Bang for the Buck, A
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Interview with Howard Stoertz, 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

For the destructive power they deliver, nuclear weapons are cheap and efficient. In the 1950’s the United States begins to rely on nuclear, rather than conventional, weapons for its defense.

As nuclear policy evolved during the Eisenhower Administration, three factors combined to produce a new American reliance on nuclear weapons: pressure to control the federal budget (the “bigger bang” argument); competition as each branch of the American military adapted nuclear weapons to its mission; and Soviet bluffs that fueled American fears about a “bomber gap” and later a “missile gap.” On October 4, 1957, Sputnik, the Soviet satellite that was the first to orbit Earth, shocked Americans and delighted the Soviets. A month later, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2 with a dog on board. Both the Soviets and the Americans knew that a booster capable of carrying a dog into space could also deliver a nuclear warhead across a continent in 30 minutes.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


United States. Air Force. Strategic Air Command
Aerial photography
Pen'kovskii, Oleg Vladimirovich, 1919-1963
United States. Army
United States
Photographic reconnaissance systems
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
United States. Central Intelligence Agency
Dulles, Allen, 1893-1969
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Soviet Union
Nuclear weapons
Symington, Stuart, 1901-1988
United States. Air Force
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Lanphier, Thomas
United States. Navy
Edicia Sputnik
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Alsop, Joseph, 1910-1989
Washington, DC
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Stoertz, Howard (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Howard Stoertz, 1986,” 03/10/1986, GBH Archives, accessed July 13, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Howard Stoertz, 1986.” 03/10/1986. GBH Archives. Web. July 13, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Howard Stoertz, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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