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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Sidney Graybeal, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Sidney Graybeal served on the Defense Policy Board, and was on the negotiating team for the SALT I agreements. In the interview he discusses his role in providing intelligence during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. He describes the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba, and explains the collaborative efforts of photo-interpreters and intelligence analysts to determine the type of missiles and their operational status. One of the sources of information analysts exploited, he notes, were the photographs of missiles frequently paraded through Red Square. Soviet spy Oleg Penkovsky was another important source. He describes briefing President Kennedy and Secretary of Defense McNamara at the first Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM) meeting, and explains the importance of telling them exactly what he did and did not know. He describes the subsequent intelligence gathering and the steady pace at which the Soviets drew closer to operational readiness. While no one was certain if the nuclear warheads were in Cuba or mated to their missile bases, he believed they were; however, he was not alarmed by the prospect of a nuclear attack because he expected the Soviets would try to avoid that at all costs.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Europe Goes Nuclear
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Interview with Sidney Graybeal, 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

France and England rush to acquire their own nuclear weapons, NATO worries about the threat from the East, and Europe becomes the most nuclear-saturated place on Earth.

British and American scientists worked side by side to build the first nuclear bombs. “There was a strong desire on the British side for that collaboration to continue into peacetime. There was no such desire on the part of the United States,” recalls British diplomat Roger Makins, Lord Sherfield. Britain decided to proceed on its own and in 1952 joined the US and the Soviets in what pundits would call “the nuclear club.” General Charles De Gaulle, president of France, wanted to join the club, too, and not rely on the US for nuclear protection. Prestige was also an issue. In 1960, France exploded its first atomic weapon. Since World War II the Soviet Union had had a superiority in conventional forces in Europe. NATO countered by deploying thousands of nuclear weapons. “They were accepted as being perfectly reasonable weapons to use in a tactical battle in continental Europe,” said Sir Richard Powell of the British Defense Ministry.



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Raw video

Media Type


Wheelon, Albert D. (Albert Dewell), 1929-
U-2 (Reconnaissance aircraft)
United States
Intercontinental ballistic missiles
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994
Aerial photography
McCone, John A. (John Alex), 1902-1991
Nuclear arms control
Nuclear weapons
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
Lundahl, Art
Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968
Bundy, McGeorge
Cline, Ray S.
United States. Central Intelligence Agency
Soviet Union
Photographic reconnaissance systems
McNamara, Robert S., 1916-2009
Dillon, C. Douglas (Clarence Douglas), 1909-2003
Photographic interpretation
Intermediate-range ballistic missiles
Pen'kovskii, Oleg Vladimirovich, 1919-1963
Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Graybeal, Sidney (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Sidney Graybeal, 1986,” 02/20/1986, GBH Archives, accessed May 24, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Sidney Graybeal, 1986.” 02/20/1986. GBH Archives. Web. May 24, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; Interview with Sidney Graybeal, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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