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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Randall Forsberg, 1987

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Dr. Randall Forsberg was executive director of the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies, a think tank she founded in 1980 with the aim of reducing the risk of war and minimizing the burden of U.S. military spending. In the interview she conducted for War and Peace in the Nuclear Age, Forsberg describes the genesis of the movement, which was born from the failure of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) II and from public awareness of the development of a new generation of war-fighting systems. Forsberg describes the reach of grassroots activism at the height of 1982’s national Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, which called for a bilateral, verifiable halt to new production of nuclear weapons. She traces the town-by-town growth of the anti-nuclear petition, which began in 1980 with the four-page document “Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race,” and the referendum process that fanned out across the nation but remained largely ignored by the national media. Forsberg details the negative reaction by President Ronald Reagan’s administration and the ensuing support on Capitol Hill, which passed a freeze resolution. This was followed just weeks later by congressional approval of the MX missile by an equally large margin—a vote that Forsberg says “tore up the movement.” Soon afterward, President Reagan suddenly announced the Strategic Defense Initiative—a program that Forsberg critiques at the end of her interview—and he agreed to negotiate with the Soviet Union, which was a key goal of “Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race.” The lasting impact of the nuclear-freeze movement, says Forsberg, has been a shift away from public protest and toward grassroots, long-term education. She concludes that this new “institutionalized peace movement” will re-emerge more informed and cohesive than the last, with the determination to change “the direction of the permanent peacetime policy of the United States.”

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Missile Experimental
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Interview with Randall Forsberg, 1987

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

Does the United States really plan to use nuclear weapons? Or is their only purpose to deter others from using them? These questions fuel debate over the Mobile Missile known as the MX.

The MX was designed in 1975 to counter the threat of large accurate missiles being bult in the Soviet Union. General Russell Dougherty of the Strategic Air Command recalls, “We had to have some more warheads ... with more accuracy. That was the rational for ... the MX.” It faced ten years of difficult questions in Congress, withing the military and from civilians. Was the missile meant to deter a Soviet attack or to survive one? One question led to another. There was one practical question: where to put the 200,000 pound 100 foot long missiles? In 1983 Congress approved production of 100 MX Peacekeeper missiles and based the first 50 in existing Minuteman silos.



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Raw video

Media Type


United States
Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies (U.S.)
Peace movements
Nuclear arms control
Nuclear weapons
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
Gorbachev, Mikhail
Vietnam War, 1961-1975
Strategic Arms Limitation Talks II
Soviet Union
United States. Congress
Democratic Party (U.S.)
Reagan, Ronald
Republican Party (U.S. : 1854-)
Antinuclear movement
Strategic Defense Initiative
Cruise missiles
World War II
Cambridge, MA
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Forsberg, Randall (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Randall Forsberg, 1987,” 11/09/1987, GBH Archives, accessed May 24, 2024,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Randall Forsberg, 1987.” 11/09/1987. GBH Archives. Web. May 24, 2024. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Missile Experimental; Interview with Randall Forsberg, 1987. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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