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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Lynn Davis, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Lynn Davis was a staff member on the Senate intelligence committee and the National Security Council before serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Plans under the Carter administration. In the latter position she focused on NATO, nuclear and arms control issues. She begins by recalling the Helmut Schmidt speech that initiated the Euromissiles debate, and the U.S. reaction. Describing the High Level Group, she recounts the range of European concerns that dominated politics at the time, such as the reliability of the U.S. nuclear umbrella. What began as narrowly focused concerns broadened into discussions of the future of NATO nuclear strategy, a process she goes into in some depth. Along the way she gives her views of the dual track decision, explaining how it came to be adopted. She then discusses the time period from a personal perspective, including how it felt to be a woman, rare at her level, making high-level decisions about weapons. She explains the differences in view between those who saw nuclear weapons as war-fighting means and those who looked at them as deterrents. This is followed by her response to the critique that Pershings showed that the U.S. wanted to keep the war zone centered in Europe, away from the United States. She also describes the shift in views over time in the West about the SS-20 and the threat it posed.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Zero Hour
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Interview with Lynn Davis, 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 and Soviet Secretary Gorbachev sign the INF Agreement to eliminate an entire class of nuclear weapons from Europe. No one had expected the European Missile Crisis to end this way.

The story begins in 1979, when the Western Allies were worried about the Soviet Union’s buildup of SS-20 nuclear missiles aimed at Western Europe. Under pressure from the Carter Administration, NATO issued a threat, if the SS-20s were not removed, NATO would install new American missiles in Europe. The threat revived the dormant anti-nuclear movement in Western Europe, giving them an anti-American tone. In 1981, President Reagan made a proposal that the US would cancel deployment of the missiles if the Soviet Union would dismantle all the intermediate range missiles it had pointed at Europe. This was the “zero-zero” option. The Soviet Union was entering a period of change with three leaders dying in three years. In 1986 Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev offered to accept the “zero-zero” option and in 1987 the INF agreement was signed.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


United States
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Nuclear weapons
Flexible response (Nuclear strategy)
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Cruise missiles
Pershing (Missile)
SS-20 Missile
Nuclear arms control
International relations
Great Britain
Schmidt, Helmut, 1918 Dec. 23-
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Davis, Lynn E. (Lynn Etheridge), 1943- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Lynn Davis, 1987,” 10/15/1987, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Lynn Davis, 1987.” 10/15/1987. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Zero Hour; Interview with Lynn Davis, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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