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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Antonia Chayes, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Antonia Chayes served as the Assistant Secretary and then Under Secretary of the Air Force during the Carter administration, with responsibilities including political management of the MX program. She describes dealing with the environmental impact of the MX Missile system and having to ensure that the National Environmental Policy Act requirements were met. She describes the opposition the system received from western states, the Mormon Church, and the Reagan campaign. Ms. Chayes explains the Carter Administration’s approach to creating and implementing the MX Missile system and some of the mistakes they made. She describes some of the players during this process, including individual members of the public she recalls as colorful participants in the sprawling debates over the administration’s basing plans.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Reagan's Shield
Program Number



Interview with Antonia Chayes, 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

President Reagan introduces the controversial Strategic Defense Initiative, an idea he believes will make nuclear weapons”Impotent and Obsolete.”

In 1983 President Reagan envisioned a Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) that could intercept and destroy Soviet strategic ballistic missiles before they reached the United States. Skeptics dubbed the idea “Star Wars.” It was hard for Reagan to accept the idea of deterrence based on mutual destruction. He believed SDI offered a solution. His science advisor George Keyworth says SDI was “thoroughly created and invented in Ronald Reagan’s own mind and experience.” According to defense scientist Ashton Carter, “The concept is fine. What is not fine is implying to the public that the solution to the nuclear puzzle is at hand.” SDI became the focus of a national debate about nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy, and a stumbling block in strategic arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. The final months of the Reagan Administration brought a drastic reduction in the scope and size of SDI efforts.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Intercontinental ballistic missiles -- Mobile basing
Laxalt, Paul
Rockwell B-1 (Bomber)
Dutson, Susan B.
Reagan, Ronald
United States. Air Force
Moyers, Bill D.
Van Cleave, William R.
Garn, Jake
United States. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
United States
Weinberger, Caspar W.
Turner, Stansfield, 1923-
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Trident (Weapons systems)
Garland, Cecil
Mormon Church
Environmental protection
Garwin, Richard L.
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Midgetman Missile
Drell, Sidney D. (Sidney David), 1926-
United States. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
Brzezinski, Zbigniew, 1928-
MX (Weapons system)
Military weapons
Warnke, Paul C., 1920-2001
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Chayes, Antonia Handler, 1929- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Antonia Chayes, 1987,” 12/15/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Antonia Chayes, 1987.” 12/15/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Reagan's Shield; Interview with Antonia Chayes, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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