War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Robert Sprague, 1986
Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.
Robert Sprague was Co-Director of the United States Presidential Commission on Defense under Eisenhower. In the interview he discusses his role in preparing the Gaither Report. He describes his views on the vulnerability of the U.S. Strategic Air Command (SAC). He describes General LeMay, head of SAC, as his "role model of a general," especially for his gung-ho attitude towards defending the U.S. from Soviet nuclear attack. He describes his attempts to persuade government officials, including President Eisenhower in a private meeting, that SAC needed greater retaliatory capabilities, in addition to the Gaither Report's recommendation for fallout shelters. He describes the reactions of Eisenhower and other officials, who did not respond as the members of the Gaither Report Steering Committee wanted, as well as the reactions of those Steering Committee members (William Foster and Paul Nitze, according to Mr. Sprague) who leaked information from the report to the public. He explains the way the development of the U-2 reconnaissance plane changed the nature of U.S. intelligence gathering, and its impact on Soviet ICBM development.
- War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
- Bigger Bang for the Buck, A
- Program Number
Interview with Robert Sprague, 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
For the destructive power they deliver, nuclear weapons are cheap and efficient. In the 1950’s the United States begins to rely on nuclear, rather than conventional, weapons for its defense.
As nuclear policy evolved during the Eisenhower Administration, three factors combined to produce a new American reliance on nuclear weapons: pressure to control the federal budget (the “bigger bang” argument); competition as each branch of the American military adapted nuclear weapons to its mission; and Soviet bluffs that fueled American fears about a “bomber gap” and later a “missile gap.” On October 4, 1957, Sputnik, the Soviet satellite that was the first to orbit Earth, shocked Americans and delighted the Soviets. A month later, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2 with a dog on board. Both the Soviets and the Americans knew that a booster capable of carrying a dog into space could also deliver a nuclear warhead across a continent in 30 minutes.
- Asset Type
- Media Type
- Nuclear weapons
- United States
- National Security Council (U.S.)
- United States. Air Force. Strategic Air Command
- Korean War, 1950-1953
- United States. Army
- LeMay, Curtis E.
- Wiesner, Jerome B. (Jerome Bert), 1915-1994
- Photographic reconnaissance systems
- Rand Corporation
- Goodpaster, Andrew Jackson, 1915-2005
- Land, Edwin Herbert, 1909-1991
- United States. Central Intelligence Agency
- Fallout shelters
- Soviet Union
- Dulles, John Foster, 1888-1959
- Herter, Christian Archibald, 1895-1966
- Kahn, Herman, 1922-1983
- United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Intercontinental ballistic missiles
- Nitze, Paul H.
- Wohlstetter, Albert J.
- Civil defense
- United States. Air Force
- Gaither, H. Rowan (Horace Rowan), 1909-1961
- Foster, Bill
- Cutler, Robert, 1895-1974
- U-2 (Reconnaissance aircraft)
- United States. Navy
- Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
- Williamstown, MA
- Global Affairs
- War and Conflict
- Sprague, Robert C. (Robert Chapman), 1900- (Interviewee)
- Publication Information
- WGBH Educational Foundation
- Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Robert Sprague, 1986,” 03/05/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023, http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_C37CC19886C0489E9E03B58A7A151E33.
- MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Robert Sprague, 1986.” 03/05/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_C37CC19886C0489E9E03B58A7A151E33>.
- APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Robert Sprague, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from http://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_C37CC19886C0489E9E03B58A7A151E33