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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with David Powers, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


David Powers was the Special Assistant and Assistant Appointments Secretary to President Kennedy. In the interview he describes Kennedy throughout the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. He starts by depicting the President and his brother, Robert, after the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961, noting the significance of the failure so early in Kennedy's term and its effect on his handling of the later crisis. He goes on to talk about the day-to-day happenings during the missile crisis, during which Kennedy was campaigning for mid-term election candidates. He recounts multiple personal interactions with the President during those 13 days, and recalls memorable comments the President made to him. Mr. Powers found particularly notable Kennedy's utter lack of fear of death, following his experiences in World War II, and his overriding concern for the fate of children during the crisis. He describes the resolution of the crisis, and the positive effect it had on Kennedy. He also depicts the relationship between Kennedy and Khrushchev, and notes that the president's proudest accomplishment was signing the Nuclear Test Ban treaty.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
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Interview with David Powers, 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

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.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


United States
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
Harlech, David Ormsby-Gore, baron, 1918-
Capehart, Homer E. (Homer Earl), 1897-1979
Nuclear weapons
Burke, Arleigh A., 1901-1996
United States. Central Intelligence Agency
Dobrynin, Anatoly, 1919-2010
Dulles, Allen, 1893-1969
Gromyko, Andrei Andreevich, 1909-1989
Castro, Fidel, 1926-
Macmillan, Harold, 1894-1986
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Political campaigns
Sorensen, Theodore C.
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
LeMay, Curtis E.
Keating, Kenneth B. (Kenneth Barnard), 1900-1975
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994
Onassis, Jacqueline Kennedy, 1929-1994
Bundy, McGeorge
Photographic interpretation
Photographic reconnaissance systems
Anderson, George Whelan, 1906-1992
Soviet Union
Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968
Taylor, Maxwell D. (Maxwell Davenport), 1901-1987
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
O’Donnell, Kenneth P., 1924-1977
Salinger, Pierre
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Powers, David F. (David Francis), 1912- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with David Powers, 1986,” 02/28/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with David Powers, 1986.” 02/28/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with David Powers, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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