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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with David Packard, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard, was the Deputy Secretary of Defense from 1969-1971. He begins the interview discussing the findings of the Packard study on the U.S. strategic posture, one of the results of which was an eventual shift in official thinking away from the notion of superiority to one of sufficiency. The general consensus at the time was that Mutual Assured Destruction was the only realistic approach, he notes. He touches on a number of discrete subjects, including the vulnerability of ICBMs, the idea of hard silo defense, and the challenges of adopting a declaratory policy of launch on warning. The interview also deals with several aspects relating to the ABM system, including its possible role as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the Soviets. The SALT treaty is another focus: Mr. Packard's hopes for the treaty beforehand and his reactions afterwards (he views it as not a "terribly significant event"), as well as other aspects of the negotiating process and its ramifications. These avenues of discussion fall within the larger framework of Mr. Packard's attitudes toward the Soviets, the dynamics of the arms control process, and the nature of the arms race.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
One Step Forward
Program Number



Interview with David Packard, 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

Soviet and American nuclear forces reach rough nuclear parity in the 1970’s. Each side, pursuing its own interest, negotiates the first successful arms control agreement, SALT I.

In May 1972 President Nixon found himself in Moscow delivering a message of peace and friendship. Nixon announced the first major superpower arms control agreements, SALT I and the Anti-Ballsitic Missile (ABM) treaty. Nixon described his feeling about negotiating with the Soviets. “I didn’t trust the Russians. But I recognized that ... there was no alternative but to have some relationship of ‘live and let live’ between the two superpowers.” Two years after the historic meeting in Moscow, Nixon was forced to resign due to Watergate. ABM silos in the United States were shut down but the production of ballistic missiles armed with multiple nuclear warheads (MIRV’s) contributed to a massive increase in weapons in both the United States and the Soviet Union.



Asset Type

Raw video

Media Type


Carter, Jimmy, 1924-
Nuclear weapons
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks
United States. Dept. of Defense
Brown, Harold, 1927-
Soviet Union
Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994
United States
Smith, Gerard C.
Kissinger, Henry, 1923-
Nuclear arms control
Rogers, William P. (William Pierce), 1913-2001
Nitze, Paul H.
Antimissile missiles
Helms, Richard
Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles
United States. Congress
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff
Mutual assured destruction
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Soviet Union. Treaties, etc. United States, 1972 May 26 (ABM)
War and Conflict
Global Affairs
Packard, David, 1912-1996 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with David Packard, 1986,” 11/10/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with David Packard, 1986.” 11/10/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; One Step Forward; Interview with David Packard, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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