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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Robert Walquist, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Robert Walquist was a senior executive at TRW Corporation who was closely involved with research on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). He recalls that defense contractors generally reacted with surprise at President Reagan’s speech announcing SDI. He goes on to explain some of the inner workings of defense contracting, how a company gets involved in a new government program, how it works with government laboratories and other institutions, and how it handles changing budget levels. He notes that SDI in some aspects has built on research – on lasers, for example – that has long been underway. He describes the current state of play on the laser test program with which TRW is involved, and what the next steps will be if the government chooses it over a rival program. He believes a space-based defense system will never be perfect but would provide protection for the population it serves.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Missile Experimental
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Interview with Robert Walquist, 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


Abrahamson, James A.
United States. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
United States. Congress
TRW Defense and Space Systems Group
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory
Reagan, Ronald
Defense contracts
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
Antimissile missiles
United States
Lawrence Livermore Laboratory
Soviet Union
United States. Dept. of Defense
Strategic Defense Initiative
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Walquist, Robert (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Robert Walquist, 1987,” 12/08/1987, GBH Archives, accessed July 23, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Robert Walquist, 1987.” 12/08/1987. GBH Archives. Web. July 23, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Robert Walquist, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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