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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Andrew Goodpaster, 1986 [1]

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


As staff secretary to President Dwight Eisenhower from 1954 to 1961, General Andrew Goodpaster was the person most privy to Eisenhower’s thinking and key decisions during his White House years. Goodpaster began his long affiliation with Eisenhower as a staff officer under his leadership of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), and he went on to become the president’s right-hand man on security matters. Goodpaster’s interview conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age: “A Bigger Bang for the Buck” provides an intimate portrait of Eisenhower’s leadership style and approach to policymaking. He describes how the president handled immense pressure to intervene in South and Southeast Asia as well as demands for a crash military buildup in the wake of bomber-gap and missile-gap reports. Goodpaster recalls that Eisenhower always saw Europe as vital to U.S. interests and repeatedly advocated strengthening the European alliance. Goodpaster describes the inter-service rivalries that led Eisenhower to reorganize and centralize the armed forces, reflecting his general belief in systematic, integrated planning. The administration ushered in what came to be known as the “New Look” to sustain containment over the long term at a tolerable cost. Goodpaster describes a president confident in his military judgment despite the criticism that his administration endured. The introduction of “massive retaliation” became the most controversial policy of the Eisenhower administration, and the downing of a U-2 spy plane dealt the gravest injury to his presidency. Goodpaster returns several times to the impact that the introduction of thermonuclear weapons had on Eisenhower’s thinking, fueling the president’s strong interest in “Atoms for Peace,” limited arms control, and negotiation.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Bigger Bang for the Buck, A
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Interview with Andrew Goodpaster, 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

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.



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Raw video

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Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Massive retaliation (Nuclear strategy)
Nuclear arms control
United States
Chiang, Kai-shek, 1887-1975
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Alsop, Joseph, 1910-1989
Atoms for Peace (U.S.)
LeMay, Curtis E.
Military-industrial complex
First strike (Nuclear strategy)
Civil defense
Nuclear weapons
Washington, DC
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Goodpaster, Andrew Jackson, 1915-2005 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Andrew Goodpaster, 1986 [1],” 03/15/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Andrew Goodpaster, 1986 [1].” 03/15/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with Andrew Goodpaster, 1986 [1]. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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