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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Glenn Kent, 1986 [1]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Lt. Gen. Glenn Kent spent most of his career, beginning in 1953, in Air Force planning, and research and development. He rose to become Director of the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group in 1972. In the interview he describes the formation of the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff (JSTPS), which aimed at creating the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) for employment of nuclear weapons. He describes the Air Force's efforts to further this goal, and the reservations of the other military branches, especially the Navy. He also explains how the Air Force calculates weapons requirements, and responds to the contention that it allocated too many weapons to each target, and could have managed with far lower numbers.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Education of Robert McNamara, The
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Interview with Glenn Kent, 1986 [1]

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

In the 1960’s Secretary of Defense Robert Mcnamara confronts the possibility of nuclear war and changes his views on questions of strategy and survival.

McNamara was Secretary of Defense for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1961 to 1968. By the 1960’s the Soviets’ increased nuclear capabilities raised disturbing questions. What would the United States do if attacked? American strategy had been “massive retaliation.” But, as McNamara explains, it became increasingly apparent to the Soviets that the US was unlikely to respond. If the United States did launch a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union, the remaining Soviet forces would destroy the US. McNamara’s Defense Department developed a new strategy. “Flexible response” was based on a “ladder of escalation” from conventional to nuclear options. But by 1967, McNamara, who tried to create rules for limited nuclear war, concluded, “The blunt fact is that neither... can attack the other without being destroyed in retaliation. And it is precisely this ... that provides us both with the strongest possible motives to avoid a nuclear war.”



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Raw video

Media Type


United States
United States. Dept. of Defense
Nuclear warfare
United States. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
United States. Navy
United States. Army
Single Integrated Operational Plan
Kistiakowsky, George B. (George Bogdan), 1900-1982
Nuclear disarmament
Enthoven, Alain C., 1930-
Gates, Thomas S.
Rathjens, George W.
Nuclear weapons
United States. Air Force
Washington, DC
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Kent, Glenn A., 1915- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Glenn Kent, 1986 [1],” 03/13/1986, GBH Archives, accessed June 25, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Glenn Kent, 1986 [1].” 03/13/1986. GBH Archives. Web. June 25, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Education of Robert McNamara, The; Interview with Glenn Kent, 1986 [1]. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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